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7/26/2013
02:32 PM
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Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tells employees that Windows 8 has underwhelmed. A turnaround depends on Windows 8.1 and his reorg plan.

10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly admitted at an internal town hall meeting that sales of Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, specifically the Surface RT, have disappointed.

In a sense, the candor is refreshing, given that Microsoft has repeatedly sidestepped hard questions about Windows 8's sluggish adoption. But the statements are only new in the sense that they come from Ballmer; others have been saying the same thing for months. It's noteworthy that Microsoft's CEO spoke so frankly -- but what really matters is whether his "one Microsoft" vision is the antidote to the problem.

Regarding the Surface RT, Ballmer said, "We built a few more devices than we could sell," according to The Verge, which cited "several sources" present at the meeting. The CEO reportedly confirmed that the company's recent $900 million writedown was to accommodate Surface RT price reductions, which Microsoft hopes will stimulate sales.

The website Neowin, which was the first to publish details about the meeting, reported that Ballmer said next-gen Surface models are in testing. Recent reports have suggested the next Surface RT will run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip, which is substantially faster than the current edition's NVIDIA Tegra 3. The new processor could also enable LTE support, which today's Surface lacks.

[ Microsoft keeps trying to read XP's eulogy, but some aren't listening. See Windows XP's End Of Life: Readers Respond. ]

Ballmer also said, "We're not selling as many Windows devices as we want to," according to The Verge. The CEO reportedly stated that limited stocks of touch-enabled devices limited the Win8 launch, and that the company is working with OEMs to provide a variety of compelling hardware options for the upcoming back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Ballmer's frank tone is notable, but no one seriously doubted that Windows 8 hasn't lived up to Microsoft's hopes.

In the past, when company execs have been questioned about Win8's viability, they've typically pointed to its 100 million license sales. These figures don't necessarily represent the number of devices that have reached consumers, however, and it's become clear, following months of declining PC sales and bleak reports about Windows 8's market share, that Microsoft was spinning numbers. If Ballmer is admitting that Win8 has struggled, he's just conceding the obvious.

And his reported statements aren't that much different than comments he's made in the past. At Build, the company's conference for developers, Ballmer also blamed Windows 8's struggles on the dearth of touch-enabled inventory available at launch. His newest remarks are a bit more direct, but disappointing sales have been implicit in his statements for weeks.

Likewise, at this point, it would be difficult for Ballmer to ignore the $900 million charge. What the CEO said is less important than whether the new $349 price point is cheap enough to stimulate sales. With the Nexus 7 poised to disrupt the low-cost tablet scene, the success of Ballmer's strategy is not assured.

It's also strange that Ballmer implicated inventory shortcomings in Windows 8's trouble while also admitting that Microsoft has more unsold Surface RT stock than it wants. After all, if consumers were so hungry for Windows 8 touchscreens, why didn't a few more of them purchase a Surface RT, which was in high supply?

This odd dichotomy could merely indicate how little enthusiasm consumers have for Windows RT. But it also reiterates a point that Ballmer didn't make: Slow Windows 8 sales involve more than hardware.

The CEO reportedly touched on this topic in only a roundabout way. According to Neowin, he said that Windows 8.1 was guided by user feedback, which obliquely references divisive reactions to the OS's current UI. It's good that Microsoft is focused on producing better devices, both internally and with OEMs. If Win8 sales take off, new tablets, convertible laptops and all-in-one desktops will be part of the equation.

But again, Ballmer still didn't address the bigger question: Is Windows 8.1 good enough? There are many reasons to think that it is, including a more polished UI, the ability to boot directly to the desktop, and deeper connections to the cloud. Then again, some users probably don't feel their feedback has been heard; Windows 8.1 brings back Windows 7's Start button, for example, but not the much-requested Start menu.

In recently reorganizing the company, Steve Ballmer has painted a compelling vision, in which Microsoft's diverse assets connect to and enhance one another, all via the cloud. In the meantime, it's interesting to hear Microsoft executives reflect on the company's struggles. More important, though, is whether the company is making the right moves to stay on top.

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moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2013 | 11:17:27 AM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
The start button without the start menu is pointless. This lack of thought is the main problem with Win8 in general. Even 8.1 comes along as a hodgepodge of dysfunctional ideas that came from a group of drunken monkeys. Comparing to Win7 the UI was the least that needed changing. We still use an almost 30 year old file system and all its limitations inherited from the DOS days. There are much better file systems already out there, no need to invent a new one. And that's just one example. Win 8.x remains a flop.
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2013 | 5:17:13 AM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
Xenix. Good. I recall last time they patched it dinosaurs were still around. Definitely a ready to release product in 2013...
Lord_Beavis
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Lord_Beavis,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2013 | 7:42:12 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Thank God for Linux.
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2013 | 5:54:47 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
The start menu is really coming back. It is just called the All Apps and takes up the whole screen so you can see more applications listed without having to scroll.
Maybe they should have renamed it "Start Menu" so that everyone would figure it out.
Tronist
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Tronist,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2013 | 5:30:56 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
Several months ago, I was looking for a couple of Dell laptops for my wife and myself. The home versions were only available with Windows 8, but fortunately, the business versions were still available with Windows 7, so that's what we bought. Now, I see that the home versions are also available with Windows 7. Why is that?
Yaldez4FSI
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Yaldez4FSI,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2013 | 5:21:35 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
Operating systems should be designed by MSFT to operate the platform one has chosen efficiently in a user friendly manner. IF using a desktop or full function laptop, one does not want to touch the screen. If using a tablet one wants touch to be the main way to interaction. Make it intuitive. We should not have to re-learn everything. Give us what we want and how we want it, with good quality at the right price point, and we might buy it.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2013 | 4:56:26 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
So you are a happy Android tablet user but will use Ubuntu on your next desktop? Why? How about an Android desktop? Go figure.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2013 | 4:51:15 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
Microsoft actually has it's own UNIX operating system. It's call Xenix. If M$ were to provide tools for the UNIX platform it would bring back Xenix. So, don't hold your breath.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2013 | 4:46:34 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
Microsoft didn't get to where it's at because it sold crappy products. Far from it. Its only been the last six years or so, since the introduction of Vista, where Microsoft has lost it's way. Gee, about the time Ballmer took over. What a coincidence.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2013 | 4:41:17 PM
re: Microsoft's Dilemma: Windows 8.1 May Not Be Enough
And why do you think M$ didn't include these in Win 8.1 or even the original release of Win8.0? The answer is GREED. M$ is still insisting the Metro UI is best for all because M$ will make more money selling "stuff" via Metro than letting consumers have a choice to avoid it. I am so happy with my iPad and Android devices I see M$ going down in flames over it's stubbornness.
<<   <   Page 2 / 4   >   >>
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