Blog Post

Whoops! Windows 8 do-over on the way

A Microsoft(s msft) executive signaled that the company is rethinking parts of Windows 8 in response to the difficulties customers have had adapting to the operating system, launched last fall.

Microsoft VP Tami Reller told the Financial Times that “key aspects of the software will be changed when Microsoft updates the OS this year.  She referred to “difficulties” many users have had with the software. “The learning curve is definitely real,” she told the FT.

The story set off a flurry of comments and speculation as to what the changes will be and comparisons to Coca-Cola’s “New Coke-Classic Coke” fiasco.

As GigaOM’s Tom Krazit wrote in February, Windows 8 was one of the company’s most important launches in years — it represented a huge attempt by the company to make its OS relevant on tablets where Apple’s iPad(s aapl) was eating Microsoft’s lunch.  That move was represented by its “radically overhauled Metro user interface”  borrowed from the latest Windows Phone. It’s a touch friendly look and feel that was, and still is, alien to many Windows desktop users.

A huge re-do now will no doubt turn up the heat on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has been the subject of considerable negative press over the past few years. But it’s really unclear just what changes will be made. Many folks will immediately assume that Microsoft will nuke the Metro interface in favor of classic windows to get the installed base over the hump. Far more likely is it will offer a choice of interfaces.

facebook-windows-phoneHere’s the thing: When it comes to radical change that consumers may demand, Microsoft is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. The cool Metro interface won good reviews on the smart phone but was seen as way too much of a change for Windows-savvy workers who’ve been on the platform for ten or 20 years.

For that huge installed base, change is not a good thing. It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft navigates this tricky course. For it’s part, Microsoft suggests that Windows 8 sales aren’t hurting. On Tuesday, Reller noted on the Windows blog that 100 million licenses have been sold, which is on par with the copmany’s prior Windows 7 launch.

Update: A Microsoft spokeswoman contacted for comment responded via email:  “It is unfortunate that the Financial Times did not accurately represent the content or the context of our conversation about the good response to date on Windows 8 and the positive opportunities ahead on both Windows 8 and Windows Blue.” And she referred to the aforementioned blog.

This story was updated at 11:32 a.m. PDT with Microsoft comment.

13 Responses to “Whoops! Windows 8 do-over on the way”

  1. skogan

    I just came back from Best Buy. The touch screen laptop selection was pathetic and (with an i7 processor) very expensive. The sales guy said to wait until ‘the new windows version’ came out ‘soon.’ He did not like 8 either.

  2. Henry Byrd

    The statistics don’t tell half the story. If PC customers had been offered the choice between windows 8 or 7 on new systems, Windows 8 would have been dead by now.

  3. Kevin Stern

    Windows 8 on a desktop isn’t all bad. I like the Start Screen. It’s like hitting Start Button and having All programs automatically expanded. It’s just pointless when you start up (Ditto the lock screen.) Unless you use their programs (Music, Pictures, People, etc), any launched program instantly returns you to the desktop. The main problem is you can’t reorder the tiles. Move one, and their auto arrange kicks in. Presumably to move tiles on your behalf to maximize efficency by rearranging tiles from where you want them. The Charms is in a bad place. The top is where the X button to close windows lies. The bottom corner is where the View Desktop button lies, I have yet to get this magic drag to close to work. it demaximizes my windows, and moves them down the screen. Adding the ability to add folders (like many phones do) would just keep things neat and orderly.

    The fast start up time is a dream come true.

  4. Craig S

    Horrible headline. Sensational tone overall.
    Every piece of software you use has updates based on customer feedback.

    Is there anyone that really “will immediately assume that Microsoft will nuke the Metro interface in favor of classic windows”?

  5. It’s a pretty poor interface for a PC. It’s not intuitive. The big “Start” on the desktop doesn’t do anything. The app panels/icons take up screen space. They made the mistake of assuming they could use a smartphone interface on the PC. Even Apple isn’t making iOS their Mac OS.

    It was a big blunder. If I were Microsoft, I’d make Windows 8.1 the last version of Windows 7 (a very nice OS) with security updates.

    If Microsoft wants to win the tablet market, make tablets with tablet OSs. As they did with Office 2007-10 and IE (losing market share every day), they outsmarted themselves by redesigning the interface of their software in ways almost no one wanted.

    Sure the “anything new is better” geeks love it, but they’d love an OS they couldn’t use. “Think of the challenges!”

  6. Those “Windows savvy” users of 20 years got change which made all the workflows even better and they cried about it. Honestly when you look at it, not much changed for Windows 8. The start menu became fullscreen. 98% people go directly to the start menu (which holds list of shortcuts) immediately after startup. The other big change was the charms bar. Which was a wonderful set of shortcuts. That’s about it. You can still access the desktop very easily and use it with it. There was still even a start button. If you hover in the corner, the button appears. It’s not rocket science.

    As Evan Jacobs said, it’s mostly tweaks. Those power users are the same people who wined about the issues with XP and now they think it was the best OS ever.

    As for the metro apps. It’s just an exercise. Wait till that software keeps getting bigger and more complex because of feature demand. Then we’ll be full circle.

    GAH!!! CHANGE!!!!

    • It’s not intuitive. You can play “find the Start button” if you like. The majority of users don’t want big changes, they want improved stability and efficiency. (How is scanning screens a better workflow than the menus – visually disorienting is better?) Try working with end users for a living and you’ll get a better idea of what the problems for this OS are.

      I expect Win 8 will be like ME and Vista, a transition OS with real end user issues. that MS learns from. If they truly learn, Win 9 (or 8.1, etc.) will be better for it. But their track record over the last 2-3 years hasn’t been so hot.

      I do like that you write about Windows 8 in the past sense. Prophetic.

      • Fun fact, I do work with end users everyday. The end result is the same as the majority of things in life. People are stupid. You have to teach them. Even when you teach them, they tend to ignore it. People just want things to work without change. However if a company made the switch over to all Apple or Linux software, everyone would complain because it doesn’t work like it used to. Just because something doesn’t work like it used to doesn’t mean its broken, it just means you’ve broken the consumer’s current process of utilizing.

        Windows 8 is absolutely a transitional OS. We’re transitioning to a future where we touch devices and scalability.

        I write of Windows 8 in the past tense because it’s already released. It’s not coming and the current tense and future tense are all about what’s ahead. It’s technology once it’s here, it’s gone.

        This will also be my last reply on this. I have better things to do than argue about how some people don’t like Windows 8 and how an adoption rate indicates a failure, especially in a world where 4+ different OS’s exist.

        • AnotherMe

          “We’re transitioning to a future where we touch devices”.

          This is true for some, perhaps most, users. There are, however classes of users that I don’t expect to see doing this until we dramatically improve what “touch” means — probably eye tracking and some sort of “brain wave” sensing.

          Large screen(s) with lots of information available are useful to high efficiency in some tasks such as software development. Unfortunately, this means “touching” that (those) screen(s) is very costly and unergonomic compared to sliding a mouse/trackball an inch or two in the natural plane of the hands (horizontal or below) while the eyes look at their natural plane (vertical) at an appropriate viewing distance.

  7. Evan Jacobs

    Sensationalist title, batman! They’re making tweaks.. That’s all. Windows 8 wasn’t even finished at launch (dearth of metro-ized system apps) so it’s more like they’re completing the OS and making some adjustments.