Preston Gralla

Windows 8 will mean an "ugly" 2013 for Microsoft, no growth in its 30% PC-and-devices market share, says Forrester

October 23, 2012 10:11 AM EDT

The Windows 8 launch will be a rocky one, leading to an "ugly" 2013 for Microsoft, warns a report from Forrester. And Microsoft's overall share of the PC-and-devices market, currently at 30%, will remain static at least until 2016, the report adds.

Here's what Forrester analyst Frank Gillett, the author of a just-released report "Microsoft: The Next Five Years" had to say about the launch of Windows 8, according to Computerworld:

"This is a pivotal movement for Microsoft. But 2013 is going to be ugly."

The report notes that if you consider the entire market for computers and personal devices -- traditional PCs, tablets, and smartphones -- Microsoft's overall market share has plummeted from 95% to 30% because of its essentially non-existent presence in the tablet market, and anemic smartphone market share.

The report says that market share will stay static at least until 2016. It concludes:

"As a result of getting such a late start in both smartphones and tablets, Microsoft's share of all personal devices has shrunk to 30% in 2012, even as it ships a growing number of operating systems. The growth in tablets and smartphones will help offset incremental PC losses, maintaining about a 30% share through 2016. It can't grow much more without a much stronger showing in smartphones than we expect."

As to why 2013 will be "ugly," Forrester cites a number of reasons. It expects that consumers will be confused by Windows 8's dueling interfaces, that enterprises will stay away from Windows 8, that developers will struggle to write apps for the new operating system, and that consumers and enterprises will be baffled by four different Windows 8 architectures -- x86 for laptops and tablets, and ARM for laptops and tablets.

However, the report does say that by 2014, much of that confusion should clear as Microsoft works through the transition to Windows 8. By that time, Windows 8 will take hold. However, even when it does, Microsoft's market share in the combined PC-and-devices market still won't rise above 30% by 2016.

I think the report is on target, and is the clearest-eyed analysis yet of the potential short-term and long-term impact of Windows 8. The only surprise for me is that it expects Windows 8 to get a 30% market share of the tablet market by 2016, but that Windows Phone will still not have gained traction by then. I expect that given the high prices of Windows RT tablets Windows 8 tablets won't gain that much market share. And because carriers will likely push Windows Phone, I expect Windows Phone to gradually gain market share.

Those are relative quibbles, though. Overall, I agree with Forrester that Windows 8 won't change Microsoft's overall combined market share for traditional computers, tablets, and smartphones.