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Microsoft officially announces Windows 8.1, promises big improvements are coming

Even as Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) ambitious operating system redesign, Windows 8, hit the 100 million license mark there was a grim air of self-assessment amongst the company brass.  Windows unit co-head and former business/marketing chief Tami Reller acknowledged in the earnings call, "Is it perfect? No. Are there things we need to change? Absolutely. We are being very real about what needs to change and changing it as thoughtfully and quickly as we can."

I. Microsoft Admits Windows 8 is a Work in Progress

Microsoft for the first time directly confirmed in the announcement that those changes are being wrapped into Windows 8.1, codenamed "Windows Blue".  The new OS is expected to launch this fall, with OEM test builds already leaking.  The new OS is expected to restore some semblance of a "Start" button, as well as allowing users to opt to boot to the desktop.

Microsoft would not say when the new OS will launch saying only that it will be "available later this year".  Microsoft says more details will be announced in the next couple weeks.

Launching Oct. 26, Microsoft's Windows 8 has kept pace with Windows 7 in license shipments for the period (Windows 7 hit 100m on April 27, 2010), which do not necessarily reflect end unit sales.  However, sales are noticeably decelerating.  Windows 8 reached 60 million unit sales by January, faster than Windows 7.  But since it has only moved 40 million units.  By contrast, Windows 7 sales started off slower then rapidly escalated.

Windows Blue
Microsoft is currently working on Windows 8.1 [Image Source:]

The contrast stems largely from customer reaction.  With Windows 7, customers were wary from poor press and bad initial experiences to Vista, but quickly embraced the speedy overhaul of the familiar Windows interface once they experienced it.  Windows 8 appears to have had the opposite affect.  Customers started off optimistic off the high of Windows 7, but quickly chilled to the redesign due to its drastic and at times confusing nature.

Tami Reller
Tami Reller to Windows 8 users: "we're not sitting back." [Image Source: Microsoft News]

One big problem with Windows 8 is that despite the radical overhaul customers are presented with no basic tutorial on how to use the new OS when they turn it on for the first time.  Ms. Reller acknowledges that her company has perhaps over-innovated without giving customers a clear learning path commenting, "The learning curve is real, and we need to address it.  We're not sitting back and saying, they will get used to it.  We've considered a lot of different scenarios to help traditional PC users move forward as well as making usability that much better on all devices."

II. Lack of Affordable HD Laptops is Hurting Win8

A big problem is that while companies like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) or Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) have no problem producing $500 USD high-resolution tablets, computer makers seem clueless as to how to produce an affordable touch laptop, much less a high-resolution one.  Most touch laptops remain above $800 USD, while most 1080p or better laptops remain above $1,000 USD.  But the alternative is accepting a relatively crippled Windows 8 experience in non-touch form factors.
Acer Aspire P3
The Aspire R715.6-inch is among the >$800 USD Windows 8 laptops/hybrids.
The lack of affordable, high-quality, useable options has plunged PC sales by 14 percent in Q1 2013, the biggest drop in history according to the International Data Corp. (IDC).

Ms. Reller sounded hopeful on this note, commenting, "We know customers like touch laptops, but they are also price sensitive.  Our partners (hardware makers) have to bet on volume, so that they get price breaks, and get that moving into the (retail) channel."

III. Tablet Sales Poor, RT Tablet Sales are Worse Than Poor

Things did not go very well on the tablet front, either.  While Microsoft's Surface sales hit 900,000 unit in Q1 that pales in comparison to the 19.5m iPads sold by Apple or the 8.8m Galaxy tablets moved by Samsung.  Microsoft is reportedly working on a smaller, more affordable Surface, in line with Apple and Samsung's strategy.  

Ms. Reller tried to look on the positive side, commenting, "The launch of Pro has also been helpful for Surface overall."

Windows RT
Surface Pro helped cover nonexistent Surface RT sales. [Image Source: Microsoft]

Of course, as that comment hints at sales of Surface RT have tanked.  Windows RT tablet sales in general have taken an abysmal turn, moving only 200,000 units in Q1 2013, according to the IDC.  Ms. Reller defended Windows RT, arguing, "Our commitment to the ARM platform is very strong.  We've done, I think, a good job at really listening to our partner feedback on where they want to take the ARM platform.  We're listening, we're continuing to evolve, and I think you'll see that over the next several quarters from us … our continued agility on Windows RT and ARM."

Samsung, Dell, Inc. (DELL), Acer, Inc. (TPE:2353) and the Lenovo Group Ltd. (HKG:0992) have all attacked the embattled Windows RT, complaining about its lack of legacy compatibility and Microsoft's poor marketing of the platform.

Ms. Reller called ARM chipmakers Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) and NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) "two great partners".  Qualcomm recently defended Microsoft's Windows RT, while NVIDIA refused to publicly give any comments of support (or criticism) regarding it.

Sources: Microsoft, IDC, The Verge

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RE: ...
By Motoman on 5/7/2013 12:21:29 PM , Rating: 2
I've pointed out why that's the most retarded thing ever said before. I'll do it again:

And yet eyetracking tests have shown that virtually nobody who opens the start menu looks anywhere other thn at just the start menu

...if you've opened the Start menu, you're looking for something in the Start menu.'ll be looking at the Start menu.

If you weren't looking for something in the Start menu, you wouldn't open the Start menu, and then you wouldn't be looking at the Start menu.

You might as well say "virtually nobody who opens the refrigerator door looks anywhere other than in the refrigerator...if nobody looks elsewhere, why not just make the whole kitchen one big refrigerator?"

Your statement is so horrifically, catastrophically retarded that it boggles the mind that there's actually people idiotic enough to say it.

RE: ...
By retrospooty on 5/7/2013 12:49:33 PM , Rating: 2
"You might as well say "virtually nobody who opens the refrigerator door looks anywhere other than in the refrigerator...if nobody looks elsewhere, why not just make the whole kitchen one big refrigerator?"

LOL... Great analogy. That is exactly what its like.

RE: ...
By Mint on 5/7/2013 8:39:49 PM , Rating: 2
No, it's an awful analogy. Whole kitchen a refridgerator? Since when can you change the temperature and contents of a refridgerator in a few milliseconds?

If cost/space wasn't a concern, everyone would buy a huge refrigerator, because everything they usually use is right in the front and they don't need to dig through items to get what they want.

Sound familiar?

RE: ...
By inighthawki on 5/7/2013 5:17:58 PM , Rating: 2
You might as well say "virtually nobody who opens the refrigerator door looks anywhere other than in the refrigerator...if nobody looks elsewhere, why not just make the whole kitchen one big refrigerator?"

And even more accurate would be comparing it to saying that you have a full size fridge with a mini-fridge worth of capacity. The portion where the freezer might be would just be more room for hanging pictures your children drew at school.

You're an idiot if you can't tell the difference.

The argument I'm trying to make has to do with that fact that *because* people are always looking at the start menu, it makes more logical sense to increase the amount of usable space to give access to more applications, and at the same time enhance muscle memory by making use of that extra area to provide a 2D layout which doesn't work as well in the classic start menu.

RE: ...
By Motoman on 5/7/2013 6:32:23 PM , Rating: 2

No, your analogy doesn't make any sense.

I've irrefutably described WHY people ONLY look at the Start menu when they open it. It's for the same reason why you only find yourself wearing pants after you've put pants on. It's for the same reason why you find yourself owning a dog after you've bought a dog. It's for the same reason why you have more energy after taking a nap. THAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF DOING THAT THING!

The VERY PURPOSE of opening the Start menu is TO LOOK IN IT.

And then you close it. Because you found what you were looking for. Just like you close the door to the fridge after you get a beer. Just like your pants are on the floor after you took them off. Just like you sold your dog after he peed on your stereo. So on and so forth.

When you're driving, your eyes almost never leave the road. OMFG PAVE ALL THE THINGS!!!

Holy balls you jackhole, pull your head out of your a$$ and stop being such a f%cking retard. Doesn't it hurt to be that motherf%cking retarded?

RE: ...
By inighthawki on 5/8/2013 12:40:04 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, you spew so much sh*t out of your mouth its not even funny, do you listen to yourself? Or for that matter, what I even said?

I've never seen someone so stupid as to think they understand a piece of logic so well as to propose a variety of extreme over the top examples that aren't even the same.

For example, your driving example. People looking at the road while they're driving has nothing to do with whether it is paved or not. An example involving driving that had anything to do with what I said would be about the visibility out the front windshield. Imagine a car that only had glass out of the driver side of the windshield. Because the driver is always looking out the windshield, it means the manufacturer of the car can provide a more optimal experience by providing the entire windshield, expanding the driver's field of view, and area which he can see outside of the car.

If you take something that is normally a small window in the corner of the screen which is always in the person's vision when being used, it makes optimal sense to extend the functionality of that window during use to maximize the experience. You increase the usable space of the window dramatically while also enabling the option to use a new layout scheme which enhances muscle memory. This can only be done because the person using it always looks at it when using it, and never anywhere else. If people often looked at areas of the screen other than the start menu, then this becomes an illogical argument since it cannot be justified. This is simply a logical optimization made by realizing there is a constant involved.

RE: ...
By Belard on 5/8/2013 2:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, your ideas are still stupid. Including your windshield one.
Okay, a big windshield is more viewing room... Well, with your logic, all the gauges should go across the entire dashboard... Especially if it's a HUD version... And make it TOUCH gauges that are only viewable when you touch it.

Cars have windshields so you can see where you are driving and it holds two people in the front.

RE: ...
By retrospooty on 5/8/2013 2:22:27 PM , Rating: 2
Regardless of the example, the reality is on your screen... And eye tracking studies and the opinion of some team of yahoo's in product development at MS dont make forcing a full screen menu a good thing. It's a great touchscreen tablet UI, it just doesnt work well for multitasking on non-touchscreen PC's. There is nothing you can say that makes a full screen start menu useful for people that multitask alot. It just loses efficiency, period. Again, great for playing on a tablet, not for Work.

RE: ...
By Pirks on 5/8/2013 3:00:58 PM , Rating: 2
It just loses efficiency
No it doesn't, because whether you look at a small start menu or a large start screen - it doesn't matter, there is no difference between them because time to find a shortcut and click on it is the same for both, so you lies won't fly here.

RE: ...
By retrospooty on 5/8/2013 4:09:48 PM , Rating: 2
"No it doesn't, because whether you look at a small start menu or a large start screen - it doesn't matter, there is no difference between them because time to find a shortcut and click on it is the same for both, so you lies won't fly here."

LOL... Okeedokee Pirks... Yes, I must be lying. The millions of people that hate the new UI on their non-touchscreen devices and the developers at MS that have said they will put it back in the next version are all wrong and you are right.

Even when made smaller, the tiles arent too large, and the fact that you cant embed anything in folders must also be a lie and fullscreen doesnt take your focus away, its all in my imagination.

Seriously, I keep asking and you avoid it. Why do you care how I prefer my work computer to operate? I like 7 better at work because 8's SM really isnt as efficient, regardless of what your single track mind can think, it isn't for me, or many other users that heavily multitask. You getting all butt-hurt and saying " it doesn't matter, there is no difference" doesn't change the fact that its less efficient. It just make you look somewhere between stubborn, childish and nutjobish.

RE: ...
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/8/2013 4:26:29 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, I keep asking and you avoid it. Why do you care how I prefer my work computer to operate?
One word : Troll

Everyone apparently is a liar but him, isn't is obvious?

Everyone is <insert whatever name/term/whatever he uses here> but him.

RE: ...
By Mint on 5/7/2013 8:27:37 PM , Rating: 2
...if you've opened the Start menu, you're looking for something in the Start menu.'ll be looking at the Start menu.
I'm glad you agree.

So tell me: If this is so blatantly obvious, then why on earth is it productive to make users click and scroll through a tiny part of the screen for launch options?

Why not give a full screen of 50+ apps to launch with one click?

RE: ...
By retrospooty on 5/7/2013 8:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
Why not leave it in and let users decide? They removed it after the beta and before official release on purpose. It wasn't even a technical issue, they just decided to take it out.

RE: ...
By Mint on 5/7/2013 9:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
I can't defend that move by MS.

If it were up to me, I'd leave the option of turning it on, but as I suggested in another comment, I'd have a tool to auto-populate/arrange the start page upon installation so that most people wouldn't bother.

There's a reason that pinning was so popular with Win7.

RE: ...
By Pirks on 5/8/2013 3:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
There's a reason that pinning was so popular with Win7
I use pinning often on Win8 desktop to pin my shortcuts to the taskbar and laugh at Win8 haters at the same time :)

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