I recently watched a video of the Windows 8 Developer conference from September 2011. It's the first in a series of 12, so if you have 2 hours to spend and are thinking of investing in Microsoft (MSFT) - which has been doing surprisingly well lately - then the presentation would definitely be worth your time.
It starts with an introduction to Windows 8, focusing on the new design and the usability of the OS. Because it was a developer conference, a large part of the presentation focused on the ease of creating applications, but I will not analyze that since I have no coding or development knowledge. The presentation was still informative, even for a non tech-head such as me.
Can be used on tablets, PCs and smartphones
The whole purpose of Windows 8 is to be able to use the platform on any type of operating system. Because Microsoft is already embedded so deeply in our lives, this is where its greatest strength lies. Windows 8 seamlessly integrates the different hardware such as tablets, PCs and smartphones, much like Apple (AAPL) does through its iPad, iPhone, iPods and Macs. Obviously the difference is that while Apple has a strong personal following, Microsoft strongly benefits from its commercial relationships with most of the hardware manufacturers (Acer, Samsung, Dell, HP, and the list goes on).
It is not difficult to imagine Windows 8 on Dell (DELL)/Samsung (SSNLF.PK)/Nokia (NOK) tablets (Nokia and Dell are both coming with their tablets).This is important because Apple (Mac OS) only has a 6% market share or so around the world, vs 91% for Windows. Now think about this: Windows 7 sold around 450,000,000 units or licenses according to Microsoft, and that is a lot of Microsoft everywhere. No matter how much we love to hate Windows, it is still ingrained in our daily lives. And I expect that based on Windows 8's multiple platform usability, Microsoft will become an even greater part of our lives. How scary is that! Microsoft has had past failures when it came to launching products, but most of those failures happened because Microsoft did not integrate these products with its greatest strength, which is Windows.
From a user perspective, Windows 8 seems to create connections between all different types of applications that were not normally linked together previously. It also creates these connections across different platforms. This is a huge benefit for users but also for investors. This integration means that Microsoft will have a stronger foothold in the smartphone and tablet segment than it has ever had had.
From my first impression Windows 8 looks really cool and easy to use. Hardware makers will almost surely be enthusiastic, but whether retail customers will appreciate it is another story. I believe that Windows 8 will be a very strong catalyst for an inexpensive company that is trading at a PE of around 11, with 20% cash to market capitalization. At the same time, while Windows revenues have been a drag on the rest of Microsoft's revenue, I believe that Windows 8 has the ability to be the new growth driver for Microsoft.
Or it's also possible that Windows 8 could flop, like the unlamented "Vista." With a late 2012 release, only time will tell if Microsoft will be boon for its investors.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.