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Windows 8.1 will feature a start button, more mouse support, and boot-to-desktop, moves away from Metro

Late Apple, Inc. (AAPL) CEO Steven P. Jobs famously said, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

But for his perennial rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) that formula doesn't seem to be playing out well for Windows 8.  The ambitious redesign has helped steer the PC industry into its worst-ever first-quarter sales percentage drop.  Now some believe Microsoft may be returning to the more traditional Windows look-and-feel that some commentators believe was a path towards a slow death.

A big part of the problem is the complete lack of any kind of official tutorial for the average user when booting up the dramatic operating redesign for the first time.  As a result many customers who have bought Windows 8 devices simply don't understand how to use their devices (to be fair, many features in OS X, such as the application launchers are as complex or more so as Windows 8's at-times-bewildering interfaces).

Windows Blue styles
Windows 8.1 will reportedly somewhat prune back and revamp Metro's role.
[Image Source: The Verge]

Following reports that Microsoft is moving to allow users to boot to desktop and return some semblance of the Start button (albeit one that dumps users into Metro), ZDNet's Windows chief blogger Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft is working to remedy another major problem of Windows 8 -- poor mouse support -- with the upcoming Windows 8.1 upgrade.  She says the improvements, which will look to make the interfaces as easy to use with a mouse as with touch, may not make the release preview coming at the end of June but "still could make it into the final product."

In terms of Microsoft's dilemma, she points to a blog post that former Windows President Steven Sinofsky posted early this month.  
 

Sinofsky (left) shows off Microsoft Surface [Image Source: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

Mr. Sinofsky, who masterminded both the well-received traditional upgrade, Windows 7, and the much-villainized redesign, Windows 8, writes:

If you listen to customers (and vector back to the previous path in some way: undo, product modes, multiple products/SKUs, etc.) you will probably cede the market to the new entrants or at least give them more precious time. If technology product history is any guide, pundits will declare you will be roadkill in fairly short order as you lack a strategic response. There’s a good chance your influential customers will rejoice as they can go back and do what they always did. You will then be left without an answer for what comes next for your declining usage patterns.

If you don’t listen to customers (and stick to your guns) you are going to 'alienate' folks and cede the market to someone who listens. If technology product history is any guide, pundits will declare that your new product is not resonating with the core audience. Pundits will also declare that you are stubborn and not listening to customers.

That "d-mned if you do, d-mned if you don't" dilemma appears to be what Microsoft is facing now.  Ms. Foley belives Microsoft is currently moving towards going back to Option A (returning to its previous path), but she warns that option could prove fatal to the company in the long term.

Still, she optimistically adds, "I believe Microsoft can stay its Metro-centric, touch-centric course with Windows Blue, while still making some changes that will make the OS more usable and comfortable fora bigger pool of users. While it would have been great if Windows 8 debuted this way last October, I say better late than never."

Sources: Learn By Shipping [Steven Sinofsky], ZDNet



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These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By Arsynic on 5/13/2013 10:40:00 AM , Rating: -1
The decline of PC sales cannot be pinned on Windows 8. It can be pinned on the fact that people have alternatives to buying low-end PCs for web-browsing, mail and consumption--the iPad.

iPads are more user-friendly and less costly than purchasing a PC or laptop for low-end computing needs.

Please stop!




RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By WinstonSmith on 5/13/2013 10:42:37 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah, because you know as much as what the OEMs know, some of whom have been very vocal about why DESKTOP PC sales have declined so greatly.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By amanojaku on 5/13/2013 11:07:18 AM , Rating: 3
Maybe those OEMs are just looking for an excuse, rather than point the fingers at themselves? Windows 7 can run on anything Windows 8 runs on, so the option to install Windows 7 has been available for the majority of computers.

The fact is, people don't need to replace their computers as often as they used to, thanks to increased reliability and alternative options. Like tablets and smartphones. Who needs a more powerful desktop or heavy laptop when all you do is Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest?

I just ordered my new desktop last week, because my EIGHT YEAR OLD computer finally broke. All it did was Firefox & Notepad++ (web development), MS Office (documentation), VLC, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube (entertainment). If it weren't for the custom motherboard and case, I wouldn't have had to replace the RAM and CPU. Most of us have hit a performance plateau.


By Luticus on 5/13/2013 11:32:11 AM , Rating: 2
Ditto, the box I built last year will last me 5 to 7 years easy. I might replace the video cards next year depending on the gaming industry but aside from that my twin cpus and 32GB ram will last a long time.

On another note only someone who is very simple minded with think an ipad is an alternative to a PC. Apart from the obvious flaws in that argument there's the fact that the ipad is simplistic. It's a "what you see is what you get" system in that it has no capacity to grow with the user. The way you use the machine on day one is pretty much how you'll be using it later on too. The interface is static and unchanging, things can't be moved and you can't get rid of the grid of icons (barring an upgrade to the new ios they are working which is rumored to change the interface significantly). The point is, I bought a 200 dollar android tablet for my 3 year old son (at the time), and I configured the interface for him so it would be easy to use. Now that he has aged a year and gotten more experience he's able to revamp the interface into something more conducive to his understanding and the functionality he's capable of using. The device will grow with him, which is something forward thinking people consider when they make purchasing decisions.


By Reclaimer77 on 5/13/2013 1:24:04 PM , Rating: 2
I believe with each new Windows OS release, there's been a corresponding surge in new PC sales. This trend goes back many decades.

This is the first time that hasn't happened. So yeah, it's pretty hard to say Windows 8 had nothing to do with it.


By CaedenV on 5/13/2013 1:45:28 PM , Rating: 2
Is it so hard to believe?
I just look at my house. 2 years ago I had my desktop, a small file server, my wife's desktop, an HTPC, 2 netbooks, and a host of single-purpose portable devices.
It was support hell, and so we paired down.

Now my computer is my game/production rig, and it also doubles as the file share for the network. My wife's PC now doubles as the HTPC now that we have a 2nd output on it. And our new phones have replaced our needs for laptops and other portable devices. We went from 6 PCs and a ton of other stuff in the house down to just 2PCs and 2 phones. Much less equipment to support, and everything just works just as well (or better).

And we are not alone in that. You use to need PCs for everything that attached to a network... but now there are capable laptops, tablets, gum-stick sized android devices, and even some phones that have more than enough processing power to replace a home or office PC. And a lot of these devices are $100 or less, how is a PC supposed to compete with that?
On top of that it is hard to justify needing any more processing power than can be provided by a Core2Duo for home and office workloads, and relatively simply upgrades in the GPU or HDD/SSD departments typically bring the performance that is wanted.

They think it is bad now; what happens when the next gen xbox comes out running win8 on it? A fully capable 'gaming PC' that can (if MS chooses to release it) run office or any other x86 software (so long as it is provided via the MS store and not a 3rd party download or media distribution). When the option is a $350 desktop PC vs a $500 or less console that can work as a PC which one will win the value added contest? Which one will provide better customer support? which one will have the 'cool' factor for the masses?
And what happens with next gen phones that have docking capabilities? Ubuntu has already started to show their cards. Windows Phone Blue will supposedly add multi-screen support back in to enable future phones to have HDMI to hook up to a monitor. Many Android devices already support this (though the software titles to replace a desktop are not there yet).

PC sales will continue to decline. I am not saying that win8 helped PC sales (because it didn't), but to say that win8 is the reason for the lack of sales is short sighted. Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo, and (to a lesser extent) ASUS have all been hocking terrible products with 0 support for YEARS. Alternatives are now on the market, so people are voting with their feet and wallets. Make decent but cheap entry level products. Have some standards. Support your customers. If you can manage to do all of that then you could easily sweep all of what is left of the desktop PC market, but the fact is that the bulk market is going to go away in time, and the ones who survive are going to be the boutiques, or those who make smaller but compelling products.


By nikon133 on 5/14/2013 9:53:58 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Lenovo and Asus did better last quarter than the same quarter last year. I think Samsung also mentioned growth in PC sales, though I am not 100% sure.

But for those two, W8 obviously didn't hurt. I wouldn't go that far to say it helped either, it is just that they did a better effort than the others.


By Chaser on 5/13/2013 10:48:42 AM , Rating: 4
There are several alternatives: Ultrabooks, Chrome book, Nexus tablets but I don't think corporations and home users are quite ready to ditch their PC for a IOS anything.

Unquestionably Windows 8 did not help matters for new PC sales.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By BRB29 on 5/13/2013 10:56:22 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
The decline of PC sales cannot be entirely pinned on Windows 8


There, I fixed it for you. There's no way you can say Win8 did not affect PC sales when there are obviously millions of users making a big deal about it. A massive amount of people intentionally did not upgrade. Some OEM even give you the option of having Win7 preinstalled instead of Win8. Most businesses are holding back on OS upgrade because of win8.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By Motoman on 5/13/2013 11:48:05 AM , Rating: 5
I have no problem at all believing that virtually all of the blame is Win8's.

I have met *no one* who doesn't hate Win8. From basic grandma-at-home users to software developers and engineers. No one.

The ONLY place I see anyone come out with some kind of blabber in support of Win8 is on the internet. We have a ridiculously vocal minority of fanbois who can't see that "innovating" a square wheel is just a stupid idea. Granted the hundreds of people I come into contact with in this industry on a regular basis, and granted that 100% of them just roll their eyes the minute Win8 is even mentioned, I can't even fathom what a tiny % of the overall market these fanbois are.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By DiscoWade on 5/13/2013 12:10:46 PM , Rating: 1
Your anecdotal evidence is proof of what? I will offer you my anecdotal evidence. I have met exactly 1 person who likes Windows 8. I have even been paid to remove Windows 8 despite me not telling the customer I could put Windows 7 on it. She was the exception because most people who call me about Windows 8 are satisfied with it only after I put Classic Shell on. And after I removed Windows 8 for her, she called her friends who I have never met to say that I can remove Windows 8 for them. I used to know 2 people who liked Windows 8. For this other person I showed how to use Windows 8 and she liked it for a few months. A few months later she called me to complain about it. The more she used it, the more she hated "Metro".

What does this prove? Only that there are strong feelings one way or the other.

What makes me really really angry is when people assume that the ones who hate it are the vocal minority or stupid. Tell me this, since apparently I am a "fanboi" who is too stuck on a square wheel: If I am in a vocal minority then why are programs like Classic Shell and Start8 so popular?

I'm afraid you are mistaken. Metro wasn't making a square wheel obsolete. Your statement implies the start menu was flawed. It was not. A better metaphor is Metro is trying to put a screw in with a hammer. Different tools have different purposes. A tablet is not a laptop/desktop. Metro tried to combined tools but forgot the purpose of each tool.

If you like Metro, fine. We each are entitled to our opinion. Please stop assuming I'm stupid or I do not use Windows 8 or I am a "fanboi" because I do not like Metro.


By Mr Perfect on 5/13/2013 1:01:51 PM , Rating: 3
Motoman was calling people who like 8 fanbois, not people who hate it.


By Motoman on 5/13/2013 1:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
...how in the f%ck did you read my post and get the impression that I *like* Win8?

Hi: I'm Motoman. And There is no one on DT that hates Win8 more than me.


By BRB29 on 5/13/2013 1:29:16 PM , Rating: 1
Can't say ALL to blame was win8 simply because there are a good amount of people that found a tablet is better for them when shopping for a laptop.
There are plenty of people who just want to check emails, facebook, online shopping, basic office suite, web surfing...regular light home user stuff. For example, my dad is old and he likes the simplicity of the ipad. He isn't missing anything not having a laptop. I see plenty of people at George Mason University rocking only a tablet + keyboard because it is all they need.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By bug77 on 5/13/2013 11:06:29 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
iPads are more user-friendly and less costly than purchasing a PC or laptop for low-end computing needs.


My whole PC is probably cheaper than an ipad. And that includes a 3.3GHz quad core and 8GB RAM. A low end PC will be much cheaper than that.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By amanojaku on 5/13/2013 11:13:29 AM , Rating: 2
True, but there's one thing an iPad (and tablets and smartphones in general) can do that your desktop can't: it can go mobile with ease. This is why desktops and notebooks are experiencing slower sales. This is true for Macbooks, as well.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By HoosierEngineer5 on 5/13/2013 11:37:41 AM , Rating: 3
... that an iPAD is a toy, and a PC is a tool. If Microsoft would remember that, and develop some software that would make the PC more usable, sales might pick up.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By MaulBall789 on 5/13/2013 11:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
If you really believe you can't use an iPad as a tool, then you haven't used one at all. You can create documents, spreadsheets, photo albums, edit video... do nearly anything else that any other tablet can do. It's all about the apps you need in the same way your PC is only useful if it has the right applications.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By w8gaming on 5/14/2013 5:42:20 AM , Rating: 2
A more appropriate description is that iPad is an inferior toy, as well as an inferior tool. For being an inferior toy, it cannot play Starcraft 2, or League of Legends etc. For being an inferior tool, it cannot be used to write new software.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By MaulBall789 on 5/14/2013 8:27:36 AM , Rating: 2
Ten years ago, what did you use to write new software? What did you use to play Starcraft 1? You're telling me an app can't be developed to have the iPad do either of those things? My 8 year old XP box didn't come with the software to compile C or any other language. It didn't come with Starcraft preinstalled either. I had to buy or otherwise acquire an install of those. But if Blizzard wanted to make an iPad version of Starcraft 2 I'm pretty sure they could and it would play just like the PC version does. I'm also sure there are plenty of programming language compiler apps out there for iPad as well. I'm not saying it's the ideal piece of hardware for developing, but it obviously wasn't meant to be. No tablet design is. Doesn't mean you can't. Just need to install the right software to do so. Same as your PC box.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By HoosierEngineer5 on 5/14/2013 8:58:36 AM , Rating: 2
As far as I can tell, the iPAD does not come with Ethernet, a keyboard, GPS, FM radio receiver television receiver, expandable memory, a mouse, USB, any removable medium, game port, etc. It does not seem to fit into existing infrastructure very well. With enough effort, you might be able to add all this, but it would be freakisly complex, and possibly unreliable. It almost seems to be an internet-only entertainment consumption device. I can imagine businesses could use it for e'mail, but it seems a bit cumbersome to be really portable.

It plays youtube very well.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By MaulBall789 on 5/14/2013 4:56:04 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds like you have never used an iPad before. So I'll fill you in.

*No Ethernet-- Does wifi not count? Do other tabs or smartphones have a hardwire RJ-45 input?

*No Keyboard-- Love my little Logitech bluetooth keyboard, works great on both my PC and iPad, but made to hinge directly to the iPad using its built in magnets and blend perfectly.

*No GPS-- neither do most laptops or other tabs, but most smartphones do.

*No FM radio-- I<3Radio app, anyone?

*No TV receiver-- neither does a laptop without a bunch of cablecard extension adapters. No other tabs or smartphones have this function either (that I know of) without a specific app and additional external hardware.

*No Expandable memory-- you got me there

*No Mouse-- Touchscreen? Bluetooth mouse if you really need it.

*No USB-- Via adapter, but yes a pain. Hasn't affected me so far because...

*No Removable medium-- no but you can sync and export docs or files fairly easily over the network to the cloud or your home network. If you have no internet connection you can save them on the iPad itself. Shocking, I know.

*No Game port-- Who the hell needs a game port anymore? Does any other tablet or smartphone have one?

*Doesn't fit into existing infrastructure-- Maybe for you but it fits into my networks with ease.

*Too cumbersome to be portable-- More so than a laptop? Now you are just reaching. If I have a couple of books I would like to read on a plane or a train, an iPad (or any other tablet for that matter) is the way to go. Plus I can get other things done if I wish, whether I have internet or not.

You're trying really hard to discredit something that adds value and convenience to a lot of people's lives. If you like things to remain difficult to help you feel superior to your immediate environment then more power to you. Don't expect anyone else to follow your lead though.


By Belard on 5/15/2013 7:02:23 AM , Rating: 2
Half of m posts on this website and others is with my iPad... even if my Win7 desktop with a 24" display is in the next room or a few feet away.


By Griffinhart on 5/13/2013 11:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
While I agree that they can't be pinned to Windows 8 , It's less because of the iPad and more because of PC's having increased life spans.
We are no longer at needing to replace our computers every 2 or 3 years or be unable to run current software. A 7 year old Core 2 Duo system is very capable of handling Basic computer functions such as browsing the web, Checking email and other low end computing needs.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By Pessimism on 5/13/2013 11:53:34 AM , Rating: 1
FALSE. Ipads are NOT cheaper than entry level laptops. The cheapest Ipad, the Ipad mini, starts at 329 in Canada where entry level laptops are available at $279 with a much larger and easier to read screen.

Try typing a professional looking letter and printing it on an Ipad. For any sort of productivity task they fall flat on their overpriced faces.


By StanO360 on 5/13/2013 12:23:03 PM , Rating: 2
But I think what we're learning is that very few people do professional tasks or any "task" at all on their computers. For most computers, it's email, FB, browsing, games, IMBD, etc.

With two teenagers, we have a need for two full fledged computers for schoolwork. But a third (we actually do have a third) isn't necessary if I have a tablet or even a smartphone.

But even still, everything is easier on a laptop or even easier still on a desktop with a 24" monitor!


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By MaulBall789 on 5/13/2013 12:26:25 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, iPads are not cheaper than entry level PCs.

But typing a professional looking letter on an iPad is simple with a bluetooth keyboard and most any wp app. Print to wifi printer on whatever paper you want and done.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By Motoman on 5/13/2013 1:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
So in other words, if you actually want to "do" anything on a tablet, turn it into a laptop.


RE: These Articles are Becoming Ridiculous
By BRB29 on 5/13/2013 2:43:23 PM , Rating: 1
lol people add keyboards, case, memory, mouse, etc... on their tablets to get more functionality. Then they realize a laptop does all that for much less.

I have 2 tablets right now and they are just toys. Have both Ipad2 and Asus Transformer. Even with accessories and all the right app, it is still not even close to a laptop in functionality. It is good for me to take notes in a long lecture because I'm not pissing everyone off with my typing.


By cyberserf on 5/14/2013 4:23:02 AM , Rating: 2
the worst part is how these people can write their letters or do anything meaningful on an 10" screen. I used to use an 14" screen in the 80's. LOL


By MaulBall789 on 5/14/2013 8:41:50 AM , Rating: 2
Buy a version of Office 2013 and see how much more expensive your laptop becomes, unless you're only going to be writing letters in the first month of the free trial period...

Pages for iPad is ten bucks, or wait for a sale and get it for five.

Or you could use Google's free online office suite, whatever it's called now. Works on PC AND iPad.

The unique thing about the tablet design is it doesn't have to always be a laptop. That's the whole point. Easier to carry, easier to read on transportation, better overall form and function for more tasks than just writing a letter. I use it far more than I ever used my laptop. If it doesn't work for you, that's perfectly fine. But you can't say you can't "do" anything with a tablet. I do all the time.


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