Re: Does Microsoft have a clue?
I stand by the assertion that Windows 8.1 Update is the best version of Windows 8-- but I admit, I toyed with a paragraph along these lines: "Windows 8.1 Update offers the best blend yet of Windows Store and legacy apps, but to the OS's critics, that might not mean much; Windows 8 set the bar pretty low." I didn't end up including the passage, but it seems from the comments so far that concept resonates with some of our readers.
To be fair, I think Windows 8.1 Update is fine. It could be better-- and I think Microsoft showed at Build that it will be, whether in another 8.x update or Windows 9. But I find the update very usable. It's definitely made me more productive than I was with Windows 8.1, and it's miles ahead of Windows 8, which I found to be more trouble than it was worth. If money were no object, I'd probably still buy a MacBook Pro instead of a new Windows PC, and then just deal with a separate tablet if I wanted to touch. And if money were a definite object, I'd have to think long and hard about the merits of Chromebooks versus cheaper Windows devices. But I think it's obvious by now that all major computing platforms have merits and disadvantages. Windows 8 was a mess, and Microsoft is still cleaning it up, but by and large, Windows 8.1 Update is pretty good.
But for a lot of people, Windows 8.1 Update's improved usability might not mean much. A lot of people consider Windows XP usable, as you point out. Microsoft reportedly had to dramatically reduce the cost of extended XP service for some larger enterprise customers, so I think the current Microsoft leadership appreciates that a lot of customers simply haven't felt incentivized to upgrade.
Satya Nadella and Microsoft have been riding a hot streak the last few weeks. But they'll face challenges over the next couple. First, they'll announce earnings, and even though revenue will surely be massive, analysts will pay attention to several potential weak spots-- Surface sales, Windows revenue (especially commercial revenue, which will speak to post-XP retention), enterprise and cloud revenue (which will surely grow-- but now that Microsoft is giving away a lot of its Windows licenses, will Azure, MySQL, Office 365 et al grow fast enough?); etc. And then we'll get the OS market share reports around May 1, which will further speak to post-XP fallout, as well as Windows 8.1 Update adoption. So for those who are annoyed with Microsoft, the company will have to answer some tough questions soon.