Windows 8: Microsoft’s U-turn after complaints

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launches Windows 8 in October last year. Picture: AP

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launches Windows 8 in October last year. Picture: AP

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MICROSOFT is preparing significant changes to its latest operating system after complaints and negative reviews, with commentators already drawing similarities with Coca-Cola’s infamous “New Coke” fiasco nearly 30 years ago

Windows 8 will undergo changes to “key aspects” of how its new software is used when the company launches an update later this year.

The Windows 8 interface has been criticised for being difficult to master. Picture: Contributed

The Windows 8 interface has been criticised for being difficult to master. Picture: Contributed

The computing giant confirmed the move yesterday after seven months of problems with the ambitious new operating system.

The combination software for both desktop PCs and touchscreen tablets has been panned by critics and blamed by analysts for the industry-wide slump in desktop computer sales.

Tami Reller, head of marketing and finance for Microsoft’s Windows division, said users have had difficulty mastering the new software, adding: “The learning curve is definitely real.”

Microsoft would not detail the changes to the system, but said an update named Windows Blue would be released to users later this year.

Pressure has been building on the firm, based in Washington state, to reinstate the “Start” button and familiar desktop to new computers, as seen in Windows releases since 1995.

The announcement has significant implications for chief executive Steve Ballmer, who in October admitted the launch was a “bet-the-company” moment, as it sought to respond to Apple’s iPad success.

Mark Anderson, an independent technology analyst, said: “It’s a horrible thing for this to happen to your flagship product – he’ll [Ballmer] take a hit for that.

“But he’s also responsible for a renaissance inside the company. There’s a level of risk and creativity going on that would never have happened two years ago.”

Richard Doherty, analyst at technology research firm Envisioneering, said: “This is like New Coke, going on for seven months – only Coke listened better.”

Coca-Cola famously dropped its New Coke formula in 1985

in response to a consumer backlash less than three months after its launch. The move is seen as one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a mass-market product to date.

Microsoft hoped to play a more prominent role in the growing mobile device market while still maintaining its dominance in desktop PCs.

But Windows 8’s design, which emphasises interactive tiles and touch controls, seems to have befuddled as many people as it has impressed.

One leading research firm, International Data Corp, says Windows 8 contributed to a

14 per cent decline in worldwide PC sales during the first three months of the year – the biggest year-on-year drop ever.

Ms Reller said Microsoft realised that changes need to be made to make Windows 8 easier to navigate and capable of

taking full advantage of technology improvements in recent months.

“Are there things that we can do to improve the experience? Absolutely,” she said, “There is a learning curve [to Windows 8] and we can work to address that.”

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