By Rebecca Burn-Callander Tuesday, 07 May 2013

Microsoft pulls the blinds on Windows 8

In one of the most notable admissions of failure for a consumer product, Microsoft has been forced to change several key components of Windows 8 after complaints from users.

Windows 8 was pipped to be the saviour of Microsoft software. Designed to include touchscreen and keyboard interfaces, it uses colourful tiles instead of the familiar desktop format. CEO Steve Ballmer said that the product was the next generation of Windows product. Except that no one can actually use the thing…

Microsoft was attempting to be a game-changer, in the manner of Steve Jobs’ innovations at Apple, when it announced the changes to its thirty-something year old Windows platform. But unlike the iPod or the iPad, which were both intuitively accessible to users, Windows 8 has proved a real trial for Microsoft customers.

‘This is like New Coke, going on for seven months – only Coke listened better,’ says Richard Doherty, analyst at tech research firm Envisioneering (Coca-Cola dropped its New Coke formula in response to a consumer backlash less than three months after launch back in 1985).

Tech analysts across the globe are abuzz about the so-called U-turn - reviews have been predominantly negative and Microsoft has received a deluge of customer complaints. Windows 8 is being blamed for a slump in PC sales at the company and Microsoft’s share price has dipped slightly in after-hours trading. However, writing on the Windows blog this morning, Microsoft’s Tami Reller insists that the tech giant is broadly pleased with the software’s progress – while confirming that a new update is in progress. Damage limitation?
 
‘Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change,’ she said. ‘While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market.’ That’s gilding the lily somewhat…

The new version of Windows 8, which will hark back to older iterations, will be called Windows Blue, Microsoft has revealed. ‘It will deliver the latest new innovations across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance, while creating new opportunities for our ecosystem.’ Says Reller.

Having the last laugh today is Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple. He has been quoted as saying that Windows 8 would be like ‘combining a toaster and a fridge’ – something that, while technically possible, was ‘probably not going to be pleasing to the user’.

So what will the all-new Windows Blue look like? Well, Microsoft is under pressure to launch the familiar desktop view when turned on – and to bring back the ‘Start’ button from previous releases. So, a relaunch of Windows 7, basically. Well, it worked for Coca-Cola…

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