Microsoft back-peddling a fast as they can

Microsoft is preparing to reverse course over some key elements of its Windows 8 operating system, marking one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” fiasco nearly 30 years ago. Coming soon is what’s to be known as Windows 8.1 or Windows “Blue” as Microsoft is calling it.

“Key aspects” of how the software is used will be changed when Microsoft releases an updated version of the operating system this year. Referring to difficulties many users have had with mastering the software, Microsoft finally admits that “The learning curve is definitely real.” Changing course like this is a significant admission of failure for Steve Ballmer who called the October launch of Windows 8 a “bet-the-company” moment as Microsoft sought to respond to the success of Apple’s iPad.

Windows 8 was an ambitious attempt to update the personal computer for the tablet era by moving to a new touchscreen interface based on colorful tiles, hiding the “desktop” launch screen familiar to Windows users around the world.

The combination PC and tablet software was widely panned by reviewers and has been blamed by some analysts for worsening the slump in sales that has rocked the entire PC industry of late. Even before its launch, Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, said Windows 8 would be like combining a toaster and a fridge — something that, while technically possible, was “probably not going to be pleasing to the user”.

There’s been an overwhelming call for a return to a more familiar PC interface as many PC users have had difficulties adapting to the new software. Pressure has been building for Windows 8 PCs to launch the familiar desktop view when turned on — and to bring back the “start” button featured in the lower left corner of the screen in previous releases as well.

Microsoft has also admitted to a range of other slips with the launch of Windows 8, including failing to do enough to train retail staff and educate potential customers about the new software, as well as not focusing all of its financial incentives behind the touchscreen PCs that show off Windows 8 to best advantage

Despite the slips, Microsoft continues to view the software as suitable for both PCs and tablets and that “customer satisfaction for Windows 8 with touch is strong”.

What’s New in Windows Blue

Windows Blue will offer improvements and enhancements in key areas such as personalization, search, built-in apps, the Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity.

It will offer more colors and backgrounds for the Start screen, including backgrounds with motion — or users can set their desktop background as their Start screen background.

Win 8.1 will offer a variety of tile sizes and make it easier to name groups and rearrange tiles. Users will be able to filter apps by name, date installed, most used or category. New apps will appear under the Apps View and be marked as new. Users can choose whether to pin them to the Start screen.

The Search charm in Windows 8.1 will provide global search results from Bing, aggregated from multiple sources.

Built-in apps will be improved, and Windows Blue will make it easier to use multiple apps simultaneously. Users will be able to select, resize, uninstall or rearrange multiple apps at once. Multitasking will be easier, and users can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together.

Users will be able to save files directly to SkyDrive, and the new SkyDrive app will give users access to files whether they are on the device or in the cloud.

The PC Settings feature will be directly accessible, so users won’t have to go to the control panel.

Microsoft will also include Internet Explorer 11 with Windows Blue. Its features include better touch performance, faster page load times and the ability to access open tabs in sync across multiple Win 8.1 devices.

The following 2 links describe all the changes we can expect with “Blue” – take a few minutes to review and see if perhaps you’re ready to make the jump to Windows 8.

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