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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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Real reasons for why PC sales declined
By XZerg on 5/13/2013 12:29:51 PM , Rating: 3
1) Most users have had the performance needed for their usual work for almost a decade. Slap a SSD and that old system gets another massive boost to their decade old system. Heck Tom did an article recently that showed Core 2 Duo CPUs doing just fine at most tasks against the latest and greatest. So why buy a new computer? I have a AMD X2 4600+ running my HTPC and also have a standby computer on Sempron 3100+ 32bit version.

2) Tables/smart phones - a vast majority of the users are consumers of media - emails/multimedia/internet. They bought computers to do this in the past but now they have options, options that do not crash or are harder to understand or configure and are in a small light portable package. Performance needs have plateaued at least 5 years ago. So why get a PC? Would you buy your parents a PC or a tablet who want to just consume media? I didn't.

3) Windows 8 was something that many OEMs were hoping would help generate more sales but it did not and was not entirely Windows 8's fault considering the above two points. The only reason I would blame Windows 8 for the sales decline is that it did not offer any compelling reasons to buy/suggest it over Windows 7. Better touch input support is the only differentiator between it and Windows 7 but there aren't many applications used by most users that benefit from it. It is more like DVD vs Blu-ray debacle as most people didn't see the need/benefit for Blu-ray and have not jumped on to its bandwagon.

imho the only time the PC sales will jump is when there are some compelling differentiators offered by the industry and based on the history either that Touch interface or the current form of it is not compelling enough. Tablets had plenty of compelling reasons and you can see the results, PC world needs to offer more.

By JediJeb on 5/14/2013 9:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
? I have a AMD X2 4600+ running my HTPC and also have a standby computer on Sempron 3100+ 32bit version.

I still run my Athlon 2400M with WinXp and it does all I need to do. Have W7 on my laptop and honestly can see no advantage in it over old faithful. The quad core on the laptop does run Registax faster but that is the only thing I use that shows a difference.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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