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11/27/2012
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Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?

If Windows 8 sales don’t improve soon, Microsoft might have to pull a Coke and cut its losses on its radically reengineered OS.

Windows: Goofs And Gaffes
Windows: Goofs And Gaffes
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The early results are in, and the news isn't good for Microsoft. Indications are that initial sales for Windows 8 are dismal. The question now facing Redmond is whether to stick with this radical reimagining of its veritable OS, or revert to the familiar Windows environment of old.

First, some background. Microsoft hasn't released official sales numbers for Windows 8 or related products, like Surface RT, which hit stores in late October. But evidence is building from numerous sources that consumer response to the new products can be summed up as: "Meh."

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster and his team spent Black Friday monitoring foot traffic at Microsoft and Apple stores at Mall of America in Minneapolis. They found that customers in the Apple store bought 17.2 items per hour, while Microsoft's customers purchased just 3.5 items per hour, and most of those were Xbox games. Over two hours, the Apple store sold 11 iPads, while the Microsoft store sold exactly zero Surface tablets, according to an account of the exercise published by Fortune.

Meanwhile, 29% of the more than 20,000 would-be tablet buyers surveyed this month by Vuclip said they plan to purchase an iPad. Some 22% said they would opt for a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Only 4% said they would choose Microsoft Surface. That doesn't even come close to the 15% that plan to buy a BlackBerry PlayBook (apparently still on the market for some reason).

Last week, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White said that his checks of the Asian supply chain revealed that Windows 8 is off to a slow start. "Much lower than ... PC makers originally expected a few months ago," said White, in a report. Also last week, Deutsche Bank cut its estimate for PC sales in the current quarter, due to "lackluster initial uptake of Windows 8," according to analyst Chris Whitmore.

[ Windows does provide a variety of options. Check out 8 Cool Windows 8 Tablets. ]

So, with all the evidence pointing to an astonishingly weak start for Windows 8, should Microsoft ditch Modern UI (aka Metro) and bring back Windows as most people know it. Such a move would be an admission of massive failure on Redmond's part, not to mention a waste of billions of dollars spent developing and promoting Windows 8.

But huge corporate about-faces are not without precedent. The most famous example of a major company cutting its losses on a widely-hyped, but ultimately failed, product is Coca Cola. The drink maker introduced New Coke in April, 1985, but reintroduced regular Coke as "Coke Classic" just three months later after bowing to consumer feedback that could be summed up as: "Blech."

Steve Ballmer himself has shown that he's not afraid to admit mistakes and kill a product that's bombed. Microsoft axed the KIN phone in 2010 just months after it was released. Aimed mainly at teens and 'tweens, it didn't catch on with anyone.

So, is it time for Windows Classic?

I'd be surprised if such a move isn't at the very least under discussion in Redmond. The sudden exit earlier this month of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, who championed Windows 8 and Metro, means Windows' future is in play. (It's worth noting that J Allard, former CTO in Microsoft's devices division and KIN project leader, stepped down shortly before the company announced that product's discontinuation).

Here's how I believe it will play out. Microsoft will give Windows 8 at least until next summer to show it can gain traction. In the meantime, the company can start to address numerous complaints about the OS. I find Metro to be an innovative, attractive interface that sets Microsoft products like Surface RT apart from me-too Android competitors in the tablet space. But it needs a good polish.

One of the most aggravating issues about Windows 8 is that there are two ways to do almost everything, depending on whether you're in Metro mode or on the more conventional Windows Explorer desktop. What works in one often doesn't work in the other, meaning that Windows 8 users must learn two sets of commands for a whole host of tasks.

For example, both Metro and Explorer offer Ease Of Access settings. But they're completely different. In Metro, you can select a button to "Make everything on your screen bigger." It does just that. Text on news sites gets larger and so on. In Explorer, there's an Ease of Access Center that can be gotten to from the Control Panel. It has a tool to "Change the size of all items." But it only appears to affect desktop icons and text in documents, not websites. That's just one small menu item from Windows 8's rather extensive recipe for confusion.

Then there's Internet Explorer 10. Windows 8 devices come with two versions of the browser -- a desktop version and a Metro-style version. Their interfaces and command structures differ significantly. In Metro Explorer, a vertical, upwards swipe brings up tiles representing favorites and frequently visited sites. There is no corresponding command in the desktop version. That and other discrepancies could be an endless source of frustration for users, who need to remember which mode they are in, and the right commands.

Here's another example. To close a Windows 8 desktop application, you can click the familiar X in the upper right corner. Want to close a Metro app? There's no X. You must swipe from the top of the screen to the bottom. Or you can press ALT-F4, which works for most apps, but not all.

Microsoft needs to unify the user experience between Windows 8's Explorer and Metro modes. That could go a long way toward making the OS more user-friendly and increasing sales. A richer app environment also needs to emerge. As of this writing, there are no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn apps for Windows 8. I find the former to be a particular stunning omission, given Microsoft's marketing muscle and close relationship with the social network.

But if Windows 8's fortunes haven't improved by mid-2013, I'm doubtful that Microsoft will risk another lost holiday season. In that eventuality, I would expect the company to introduce what I'll call Windows 8 Classic. It would maintain Windows 8's numerous under-the-hood improvements in security and manageability, but would ditch Metro in favor of the familiar Windows desktop, with the Start button, Task Bar and other well-known features restored.

A few months later, I would expect the rebranded OS to lose the Classic tag, just like Coke did, and simply be called Windows 8. If this scenario plays out, Metro will quietly go the way of Kin, Clippy and New Coke. What do you think? Do you believe Microsoft will ultimately ditch Metro? Let me know in the comments section below.

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stoneyh
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stoneyh,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/8/2013 | 6:23:03 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
You're absolutely correct Goober - I just got a ton of licenses for Win8 via MS assurance program and again, few if any will be installed. Same was true for the Windows 7 licenses I got back when it came out. People who think Windows 7 to Windows 8 will be too painful also realize Windows 8 to Linux or OS X would be even more painful and make even less sense from a management and applications standpoint.
CarGod01
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CarGod01,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/31/2013 | 10:22:15 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
LOL, I have only been using keyboard shortcuts since 1969.
Do you remember HP Basic?? Fortran, Cobol, Compiler...???
Computers had no video, no hard drives, no mouse...
If you think going back to keyboard shortcuts is the solution to W8 being designed wrong, you need to move to a different desk there in Redmond...
CarGod01
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CarGod01,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/31/2013 | 10:13:07 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
The designer(s) of the ribbon should be tattooed on his(their) forehead(s) with the word "PEDOPHILE" and thrown in prison, right after we are done waterboarding him(them). I actually learned to live with Open Office rather than dealing with the garbage the Ribbon made of MS Office.
I believe 'The Ribbon' is a worse idea than Microsoft Bob, worse than Vista and worse than the Metro interface being the default in W8.
I have gasoline and matches and I want someone 'fired'!!
billmelater
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billmelater,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2013 | 12:18:45 AM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
Here's the thing. I had several boat anchors that I had no choice but to put linux on. Even made it look like Windows so the users could actually use it. And they couldn't. It is faster, but it isn't Windows, and 95 percent of users use Windows. There's a reason for the adage "Linux is free only if your time has absolutely no value whatsoever." However, in the Android case, it does what users want where they have no preconceived notions, unless they were unlucky enough to have Windows Phone, or iPhone.
billmelater
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billmelater,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2013 | 12:10:57 AM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
IF you know enough to make win8 boot directly into desktop, IF you needed the pro features, and IF you were savvy enough to get it for 14.99, then it is a fantastic bargain, as it is faster and has some nice touches over win7. For the other 98 percent of the world, bigger disaster than Microsoft Bob. I have 3 units running at work that users have no problem with, as well as a laptop with an 80 year old former xp user that is not having problems. Why? Because I spent about an hour on each unit banishing Metro. I needed Remote Desktop Server, and win8 pro for 14.99 beats win7 pro at 199.00. And that is probably the reason there were sales early. But as an OS that the average user could use, Bigger Fail than ME, and Vista. Seems that folks have no problem using Android and Windows. So why not two different systems from Ballmer, or at least an OS smart enough to figure out which interface you need? Oh. Balmer. Developers! Developers, Developers! Win 1 Commercial. Ballmer is a Buffoon. Or a Bassoon, the ill wind which no one blows good.
brendan's nickname
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brendan's nickname,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 7:57:10 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
OMG I HATE it !!! What on earth is the point of changing the location of well known controls and interfaces? Who has time in the business day to relearn basic controls? I'm looking at an Explore directory window of a lot of files, right now, listed by NAME and IT"S NOT ALPHABETICAL. It's grouped by date groupings (last week, today) and I can't find my files to get my work done!!! This is NOT funny. It's like running with your pants down around your ankles. What the hell are they smoking?!?!?

Even though I will invalidate my new Dell warranty, I'm switching back to 7 Pro. I have no choice, this operating system is a crippling user experience!!!!!
aprice913
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aprice913,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/1/2013 | 1:41:38 AM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
I am just getting ready to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8. From what I read in previous articles it would be good to upgrade. Through out the history of Microsoft it seems that their products should be cheaper, tighter code, more fluid with there command ribbons and actions, and more feature rich per command. This doesn't mean I don't like there products, I do. When Office 2007 came out I installed that and I love the ribbon it makes it easier to accomplish things.
jgawn570
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jgawn570,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2012 | 3:40:16 AM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
My daughter is using Windows 8 on a new Lenovo laptop-tablet convertible, and is very happy with it. She is very knowledgeable about computers but they aren't her life. Me, I'm older, am a computer professional, and pretty happy with Windows 7. My laptop does not have a touch screen and my tablet is an iPad. I'm not about to rush into Windows 8, at least not until they bring back the Windows 7-style Start menu.
Jim Gawn.
remmeler
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remmeler,
User Rank: Strategist
12/29/2012 | 6:58:23 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
You can get a third party Start Button. You can boot directly to Desktop (just google it),

I have upgraded an old slow dual core system and it is faster, more responsive, and useable now. I kept the Metro because I want to play with it, but I just brought tiles over from Apps of the programs I use a lot and clustered them with the Desktop icon. I then put icons of the programs I use on the bottom strip of the Desktop. I can go anywhere near the lower right corner and get to the power and search buttons.

Seems pretty close to my XP or Win 7 set up but faster. I may get to like Metro or not, but it is there if I want it and if I wanted to boot directly to Desktop in the future I can. Also there is a program included (I don't remember the weird name right now) that allows you to bypass the MS login also.
p3isys
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p3isys,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2012 | 6:51:19 PM
re: Windows 8 Fizzling, Time For Windows Classic?
Windows 8 itself isn't the problem. There are two simple issues that make it unusable:
1. The Metro Interface is unusable for productivity.
2. The Start menu is gone.

Deploying Classic Shell or another Start menu replacement fixes the second issue. Once that part is done it's possible to simply ignore Metro and Windows 8 becomes a pretty good incremental upgrade from Windows 7, but I do miss the Aero transparency. Metro is a non-starter because it's not really Windows, is it? It has no Windows, just full screen apps.

It would be relatively trivial (on a technical basis) for Microsoft to restore the Start Menu and decouple Metro from the OS. Microsoft has doubled down on forcing the issue by dumping the Metro brand and calling it "The Windows 8 Interface." This is a mistake. Instead they should fork the Windows 8 brand and the Metro Brand. Metro may thrive on tablets - the market has yet to speak on that issue. But on the business desktop, Metro is another Microsoft Bob. Perhaps
Metro has a future in the tablet and touch screen space. But if Microsoft insists on conflating the Windows 8 brand with the horrible Metro interface, it's doomed, and deservedly so.
Page 1 / 8   >   >>
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