In February 2012, Microsoft plans to release the public beta of Windows 8, its latest operating system designed to support Tablets and PCs, a new App Store, as well as a host of other additional features. This marks the first attempt by Microsoft to compete with Apple’s well established App Store, and the Android Market. Microsoft is differentiating itself by offering developers an App approval process which is rumored to be far less frustrating, as well as a taking a smaller share of the profits than its competitors (30% of all profits, rising to 20% after the first $25,000).

Chitika Insights reported on the announcement of Windows 8 and measured the corresponding level of activity seen by the yet-to-be-released OS, in order to determine the level of activity and potential user (comprised of developers, early adopters, etc.) interest in the new operating system as a platform for future software. Our last study released on September 26, 2011 found that Windows 8 market share (which includes the number of ad impressions seen from PCs running Windows 8 Developer Preview) among all Windows OS had jumped three fold compared to traffic levels at the point of release. Given the looming release of Windows 8 public beta, it seemed like the opportune moment to revisit the subject and see whether there has been an increase in activity among early adopters, helping set the stage for a successful launch in 2012.

To quantify the potential of increased interest in Windows 8, Chitika Insights analyzed a time series spanning December 4th to the 12th comprised of hundreds of millions of impressions. Looking at the chart below, the data reveals that the level of online activity seen for Windows 8 is measurably lower than it was three months ago.

So, what does this mean for the future of Windows 8?

With these changes just on the horizon, it would seem that the level of anticipation and activity within developer communities should be increasing, although due to low levels we observed, this clearly paints a different picture.

Such a low level of activity witnessed in Windows 8 in the months leading up to its beta release is troubling. Perhaps this can be taken as a proxy for a low level of involvement from the development community in the prior months. Another factor to consider is the lack of interest among desktop users, with complaints that the touch-based UI simply doesn’t work well with a mouse and keyboard. In addition, structural changes to the traditional Windows UI may rattle the bones of longtime users (such as the disappearance of the start menu). Furthermore, there are rumors that changes may be put in place updating the original windows file system to ReFS (Resilient File System, a system which will increase resilience to hardware and software errors on servers), but this most likely will not affect the average user.

This level of uncertainty is typical of a major product launch, particularly in the face of a foray into an increasingly competitive market. However, fear is not to be unexpected in the case of a major product change. It is too soon to tell whether the developments in Windows 8 will either limit its success, or further its grip on the OS market. Only time will tell.

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