Microsoft hangs head over Windows 8
Software giant acknowledges OS problems; promises changes for the better in Windows Blue
In what appears to be a dramatic admission of failure, Microsoft Corp has promised a number of enhancements to the Windows OS in its new iteration, codenamed "Blue".
Online reports today characterised the company's comments as a u-turn, quoting analysts' criticism of Steve Ballmer's bet-the-farm vision for the panned operating system. The reports also quoted analysts as predicting the climb-down would damage Ballmer's reputation.
Time likened the absence of the familiar Start button in Windows 8 to the removal of a steering wheel from a car and other reports referred to the views of industry research companies such as IDC, which regarded the introduction of Windows 8 as a significant contributory factor in the decline of PC sales.
The Financial Times quoted Envisioneering analyst Richard Doherty as saying, "This is like New Coke, going on for seven months - only Coke listened better." Coca-Cola took only three months to recognise that consumers did not appreciate the changes made to a market mainstay.
Microsoft initially defended its new tile interface in Windows 8, citing ergonomics research that it claimed showed user acceptance. Upon launch, the OS was lambasted by critics, who cited navigation issues and the absence of the Start button as product killers. Others referred to the identity crisis of a system that was problematic on touch devices and made little sense on traditional notebooks and desktops, with Apple CEO Tim Cook quipping that Windows 8 was like the attempted combination of a toaster and a fridge.
Subsequent launches of hybrid devices by Microsoft's OEM partners did little to encourage user migration.
In recent interviews with several media outlets, Tammy Reller, CFO, Windows Business, acknowledged the critical flood.
"It's very clear we could and should have done more," she told FT.
Reller avoided explicit examples on the planned changes and did not confirm the reinstatement of the traditional Windows interface, choosing instead to focus on the "strong" level of consumer acceptance of the OS on touch devices.
"When we set out to build Windows 8 we set ourselves up for a mobile computing change," she told ABC News.
"All the changes were necessary to make that forward progress - adding the store, building out the store, adding apps and touch and an entire new user experience. It was a great foundation and there is a lot to build on."