In August, the big news from us was the introduction of Digital Check API 12.0, which introduced Mac OS X support for the first time on our current-generation teller and RDC scanners. That was a big step that opened the door into a new market, and we want to give our thanks for the words of support we’ve received from a lot of you.
Another major milestone that didn’t receive as much attention, but remains important nonetheless: API 12.0 also added official support for Windows 8, as well as expanded support for more versions of Linux.
Why wasn’t a bigger deal made of this? Well, first of all, no matter what people have to say about the latest version, Windows is the de facto uncontested leader in OS market share, and the leader by a wide margin. So we will always support the latest version of Windows — it’s not major news to people; it’s expected.
Second, since XP at least, successive versions of Windows have done a better job with backward compatibility. So if you had a device working on Windows 7, chances are it works on Windows 8 too, and it’s no big deal. That’s basically what’s been happening with our current-generation scanners — plenty of Windows 8 customers have been up and running for months even though support wasn’t “official” until recently.
Is Windows 8 the new Vista?
As a hardware and software developer, it’s not our job to show bias toward any particular operating system. But like everyone else in the business, we do need to pay attention to adoption trends.
When Windows Vista came out in 2007, it debuted to — putting it politely — “mixed reviews,” and adoption proceeded at a crawl until it was replaced by the vastly more popular, and stable, Windows 7. With its new and unfamiliar interface, it’s no secret that Windows 8 has experienced a similarly lukewarm reception in its first year. So, like many others, we’ve been forced to consider the question: Is Windows 8 going to be another dog, or has Microsoft fixed the shortcomings in the latest release?
The chart at right breaks down all Windows-based traffic to www.staging.digitalcheck.com in the most recent month. As you can see, Windows 7 dominates the market, with Vista and 8 making up relatively small slices, while XP holds on to nearly a quarter of the user base even 12 years after its release. Worldwide data show similar trends, albeit with only about 45 percent running Windows 7, while XP is still over 37 percent. The important part to note, at least for our purposes, is that Vista and 8 are still both struggling at about the 5 percent mark.
This is not a promising start for Windows 8. In fact, it’s downright ugly, even compared with the Vista launch. In its first year, Vista managed a 14 percent market share according to Microsoft, before topping out near 20 percent in 2009. That’s a bad sign for 8, which is limping along at one-half to one-third of Vista’s pace, depending on whose statistics you use.
What Happens Next?
Consumer feedback aside, Windows 8 has something else important in common with Vista: Each followed directly in the footsteps of another widely liked and stable OS. No matter what people thought of Vista’s new user interface, everybody already had XP and there wasn’t much incentive to upgrade unless you happened to be buying a new system anyway. The same thing is going on with Windows 7 and 8; there’s no reason to upgrade one OS ahead, just for the sake of upgrading. The one thing that might have tipped the balance for 8 was the popularity of touchscreens, but their adoption rate in the PC market remains well entrenched in the single digits.
The elephant in the room is the end of support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Who thought that 37 percent of people would still be using it today, and what are they going to do next? Obviously, Microsoft hoped that they would have moved on to a new OS or a new machine by now, but the fact is they haven’t.
Given that XP users have proven themselves unhappy about moving just because they’re told to, there are three likely outcomes: 1) They grudgingly move to Windows 8; 2) They grudgingly move to Windows 7 even though it is several years old; or 3) Microsoft blinks and keeps supporting XP until 9 is out. A large chunk of XP users may hold out until then anyway, supported or not, and many Windows 7 users may be ready for a new PC as well. So in the meantime, while Windows 8 will still power hundreds of millions of PCs before all is said and done, and it’s important to be ready for it, it seems like Windows 9 is really poised to be The Next Big Thing in operating systems.