Steven Sinofsky explains how the launch of the iPad stunned the Windows team and led to more failed Windows projects

by Surur
January 28, 2020

Steven Sinofsky was at Microsoft for more than 20 years but will always be remembered for the failed operating system, Windows 8, Microsoft’s response to the iPad.

In a series of tweets Sinofsky explained the impact the launch of the iPad had on the Windows team, which he led from 2009 to 2012, and hints at how this led to later projects to counter the threat.

Sinofsky explained that they knew a tablet computer was coming, but they expected this to be a pen-based Mac.

However, Apple abandoned its legacy platform, and decided to do a few things very well, instead of trying to be everything for everyone.

Building on a phone foundation also gave iPad things like 3G support for cheap, something which would cost a laptop hundreds to add.

He notes that the launch of the iPad set a high water mark for Windows sales which never really recovered since.

We note that Microsoft has never really regained that soul.

Though Sinofsky does not explicitly state this, this is likely the origin of Windows 8 and later projects such as the Andromeda and Polaris shells, which either ended in failure or were cancelled.

These projects added simplified shells on top of the Windows kernel, with Windows Core OS being a fuller implementation of the same idea.

The idea that a powerful base operating system could present a simplified user interface has haunted Microsoft for the last 10 years but has either been unachievable to repeatedly reject. It seems for Windows users known a full OS was underneath the covers, but is being hidden from them, has merely been a source of frustration rather than joy.

Steven Sinofsky eventually left under a cloud, after reports of his failed management of Windows 8 and likely related clashes with Steven Balmer. Windows 8 never reached more than around 10% market share.

Given that the projection that the iPad would replace the PC also did not come to pass, does it seem that tablets and PCs have reached a kind of detente where both sides will just keep doing what they are doing well, or will either side finally make a breakthrough and take over the whole market for large-screen computing devices? Let us know below.

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