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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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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.


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