When Apple announced that it was going to sell OS X Lion exclusively as a digital download, many were skeptical. By not selling physical copies of the operating system, wouldn’t Apple be crippling Lion’s consumer reach?
As it turns out, Lion has already sold more than 6 millions copies in the Mac App Store, making it 80% more popular than Apple’s previous desktop OS, Snow Leopard. The folks in Redmond have taken notice, and Microsoft has announced that its upcoming operating system, Windows 8, will also be offered as a digital download.
On the company’s official blog, Christa St. Pierre of the Microsoft Setup and Deployment team has detailed plans for “improving the setup experience” for Windows users. To better serve all of Microsoft’s customers, Windows 8 will be available both digitally and in the traditional physical box packages that Apple has largely done away with in its own stores.
In the past, if you wanted to buy an upgrade for Windows, it involved purchasing a boxed product from a retail outlet, taking it home, (sometimes being infuriated while trying to open the box,) and inserting a DVD. However, buying boxed software is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule, with more and more software being purchased online as broadband penetration increases and large-size media downloads become more common. While we will continue to offer boxed DVDs, we are also making it easier than ever to purchase and install online. This includes starting the setup experience online as well, and having one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end. There is also one big advantage that is a favorite of mine. With our web setup experience, we actually “pre-key” the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don’t have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install!
You can already download Windows 7 in the Microsoft online store, but the process is nowhere near as simple as downloading and installing Lion from the Mac Store. Microsoft says that downloading and installing Windows 7 requires four different web and client experiences and roughly 60 screens to complete.
In case you were wondering, the typical Windows 7 setup looks something like this:
In Windows 8, customers do not have to install a separate download manager, mount the ISO to begin the installation, check the hash of the file for verification post-download, manually clean up unneeded files, or restart a download from the beginning should connectivity be interrupted. Setup takes care of all of these steps automatically, providing a fast, resilient, and easy setup experience. And again, this is true whether you just want to run a quick upgrade on an existing installation, or to create boot media for an advanced setup experience – either with GUI or unattended.
Whether a streamlined download and setup process will actually help sell copies of Windows 8 remains to be seen.