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Others think the Windows 8 interface itself could be part of the problem. Windows 8 is the first version of the software specifically designed to run on traditional PCs as well as touch-screen tablet computers.
One partner believes the duality of the Windows 8 user interface, which straddles the line between desktop and mobile computing, is confusing for many customers. "If you look at the start screen, and the desktop underneath it, you can almost imagine the political boundaries within Microsoft," the source told CRN.
"I'm hoping the new folks can see past the myopic view of 'touch' driving everything in the Windows 8 design, and moving to something that blends the Metro interface with traditional multitasking Windows," agreed Awe at TechBldrs.
Microsoft has not disclosed any sales figures for either Windows 8 or Surface since the launch, leading many to wonder how well it's doing in the marketplace.
"Look, we didn't see lines of people around the block after Surface was announced," said Gartner's Silver. "You know, you go to some of the Microsoft stores, and they have so many sales folks basically in the halls of the mall like fragrance sellers, like 'Would you like to try Surface RT, would you like to try this?'" "If [Microsoft was] expecting or hoping that this would turn into an Apple frenzy or a Windows 95 frenzy, I don't think it happened," Silver said.
"Apple has a big product launch and people camp out all over the world," echoed a channel partner CEO. "Microsoft has a big product launch and no one shows up. I have to think this executive shakeup is somehow related to the lackluster reception for Windows 8."
The CEO thinks Microsoft may have made a strategic miscalculation by aggressively promoting Windows 8 as a consumer operating system rather than a business product. "With the launch of Windows 8, it is unlikely any Microsoft partner is forecasting any incremental revenue gains. It is like a non-event," he said.
Other channel partners remain upbeat on Microsoft in general and Windows 8 in particular. "Microsoft lost a great executive, but I don't think it's because of Windows 8," said New Signature's Hertz. "Windows 8 and Surface are phenomenal products. It is not due to any failure to produce a phenomenal [Windows 8] product.
"Sinofsky is a brilliant guy and clearly a talented manager," added Hertz. "But Microsoft is a big company. It transcends more than one person. The Windows 8 ecosystem is healthy and growing. Windows 8 is a home run."
Carl Mazzanti, CEO of Microsoft partner eMazzanti Technologies, also said he's seeing strong demand for Windows 8, citing backlogged orders through distributors for Windows 8-based computers. "The inbound calls have been solid and a bright spot in what has been a water logged two weeks," said Mazzanti, whose company is based in Hoboken, N.J., which was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. "Our pipeline has never been better."
Kristin Bent, Steve Burke and Kevin McLaughlin contributed to this story.