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6/27/2013
09:37 AM
Mike Feibus
Mike Feibus
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Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally

At Build conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledges that aspects of Windows 8 have bugged users -- and promises to address the issues.

10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
(click image for larger view)
On the tables inside the press room at the Microsoft Build Conference -- a room full of computer-savvy tech press and industry analysts -- lay printed instructions for how to complete a Wi-Fi connection in Windows 8. Just Windows 8.

"Enter Desktop Mode by pressing (Windows Key) + D," the 8.5 x 11 Wi-Fi lesson began. In contrast, the clerk at my hotel handed me -- and anyone else with a reservation -- a fortune cookie-sized slip of paper that provided nothing more than a SSID and network security key.

I noticed a few others who picked up on the irony. Like me, they chuckled to themselves, and then snagged a copy of the how-to as a novel keepsake from this watershed moment for the software giant. The event staff quickly replaced each one that had been plucked from the tables, ensuring that no journalist would have to undertake the endeavor without one.

Indeed, the photocopied tutorial serves as a comical exclamation point to what CEO Steve Ballmer tried to drive home during his opening keynote address: that Microsoft gets it. And it's doing something about it.

[ Is a restructuring really in the works? See Microsoft Reorg Rumors Heat Up. ]

Ballmer told attendees Wednesday that the company has gotten the message that Windows 8 has been a difficult adjustment for many users. The feedback, "in coffee terms," he said, was "why don't you go refine the blend here?"

That's an awfully magnanimous way to put it. But no matter. The important thing here is that the company's fixing what's irked users since the day the maligned OS was announced last October.

Developers cheered Wednesday when Ballmer told that them that they'd get their precious Start button back, and that they could boot straight to the desktop if they wanted to. They cheered louder for those two items than just about anything else, save for the tablets Microsoft promised to give them. And, possibly, for the news that the Microsoft Store finally -- finally -- is getting Facebook.

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Microsoft also seems to be trying to mend fences with PC OEMs. It needs to. Some OEMs are still frosted today, almost exactly a year after Microsoft surprised them with news of the upcoming Microsoft Surface line. Several PC makers that were working closely with the company on Windows RT devices felt that Microsoft betrayed their trust by developing hardware to compete with them, yet didn't see fit to tell them about it until just a few months before release. Acer, in particular, was pretty vocal about its displeasure.

As well, many OEMs feel ignored by Microsoft because the company hasn't bothered to align the timing of OS releases with today's hardware cycle, as I pointed out last month.

Ballmer didn't specifically say he would rectify that, though he offered a ray of hope by promising to pick up the pace of Microsoft product releases. "Rapid release! Rapid release!" Ballmer said, delivering the message in trademark machine-gun style. "You can think of that in a sense as the new norm."

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Mordock
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Mordock,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2013 | 5:07:08 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
But is it a REAL Start button???
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2013 | 5:20:43 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
It is a real start button but it doesn't bring up the start "menu" it is only a new way to get to the start "screen" - which has been the primary complaint all along for many desktop users - that the efficient "menu" is gone.

Despite the hoopla, Microsoft is basically ignoring the complaints of desktop users in this release. Their position is that the Metro/Modern environment isn't complete enough and you still have to go to the desktop to do things - so they are fixing that "inefficiency" by adding lots of control-panel items to Metro/modern.

yes you can boot directly to desktop, but you still have to use the start screen, you still have to use charms, you still don't get any visual styles or ability to change anything on the desktop. Remember when you could change the number of letters the text under an icon would show? and that ability was removed why?

So far I haven't seen much in 8.1 that gives unhappy desktop users anything to cheer about.
DAVIDINIL
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DAVIDINIL,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2013 | 5:50:09 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
I am shocked that Lord Ballmer didn't tell everyone that ...."Ah you sillly users. Clearly you are just too set in your ways and too resistant to change to fully appreciate the genious of Microsoft".
I still wish there was a way to replace the Win8 that came on my laptop with Win7. Yes, I can finally find where most things are on Win8, but it is so inferior to Win7 in almost every single thing i do on the machine.
ANON1242905689517
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ANON1242905689517,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2013 | 5:50:55 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
As my company has been Microsoft Partner of 10 years, I am now very concerned about Microsoft. Microsoft always had a problem of execution (DOS to 3.1, Millennium, Tablet OS, Vista) but the technology was always worth the aggravation. Well Windows 8 has been poorly executed AND the technology as gone backward - ie. touch (analog) is not better than a digitizer properly executed. And the wireless settings in 8, as pointed out, are bizarre as are dozens of other things like the Start button/screen.

Ballmer needs to step down - maybe this deal with Oracle is really to get Ellison in the chair - couldn't be any worse.

As a programming house - Windows 8 or 8.1 is totally screwed - it is going to take a whole new approach and at least a year to fix it.
Tronist
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Tronist,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2013 | 5:55:21 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
W8.1 is free to the W8 suckers? So going from shitty to crappy for free is a step in the right direction, I guess.
Francoman
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Francoman,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2013 | 6:39:55 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
Mike: This is not directly related to Win8, but I wish Microsoft would support Silverlight on mobile platforms other than Windows, like Android and put pressure on Apple to accept a Silverlight strategy. We embraced Silverlight, and then Microsoft buckled under HTML5 pressure from Steve Jobs. Silverlight could have been the "Cadillac" of web-based mobile applications and still could be given the power of late model phones. Someday, HTML5 may be everything it promised, but that day is still pretty far out. However, I do not believe HTML5 will ever deliver the quality look, feel, content security and adaptive streaming capabilities of Silverlight. If Microsoft is into second looks, it should also consider Silverlight.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/27/2013 | 8:37:21 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
The Microsoft of old would not have used the "refine the coffee blend" metaphor. Of course, you could argue the Windows 8 protests became so loud that they had no choice.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
6/28/2013 | 3:15:48 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
Win8 was Micro$oft's way of telling the world that selling more phones and tablets was more important than keeping their desktop users happy. Win8.1 is their way of telling us that they think we're stupid enough to fall for a head fake, or beaten down enough to be happy to get crumbs.

Not gonna do it....
anon1173262795
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anon1173262795,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/29/2013 | 3:07:41 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
Stevieboy, the message, in coffee terms, was not "refine the blend."

The message was "we've put up with it over the years that you've unnecessarily changed the flavor of every release so we have to acclimate, but this time you handed us a coffee cup with strained celery juice, and we were at least still expecting coffee."

That was the message.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2013 | 4:53:38 PM
re: Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally
If Microsoft would have gotten what users want then they would have put the start menu back in place. Now Win8 users still have to deal with the dysfunctional Metro UI that know nothing about hierarchical orders. It is all plastered on one plane like a barfed up FisherPrice toy. Users could have lived without that dumb button if the start menu was back in...although these charms never show up when you need them or when they show up you don't need them...or they show the gigantic clock covering the exact spot you need to look at.
The UI was the least of the problems with Windows. Windows users would have gained more from better hardware support, the big knob to the system, lower license fees, and several other enhancements that carry true value.
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