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11/30/2012
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Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8

Microsoft's new OS holds plenty of potential, but so far consumers aren't loving the radically redesigned desktop. Microsoft should consider these changes.

Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Microsoft spent billions developing and marketing Windows 8, but by all accounts it's proving to be a tough sell. Consumers just aren't buying into the hybrid tablet/PC operating system. I've maintained all along that there's some great technology behind Windows 8, but Microsoft needs to do more to make it both user- and merchant-friendly.

Some background: Microsoft believes Windows 8 represents the best of both worlds -a full featured PC OS married to a touch-based UI geared toward tablets. That's great in theory, but many would-be purchasers are finding the combination confusing and difficult to use.

Microsoft has been mum on sales data, but considerable evidence has emerged over the past couple of weeks that Windows 8 systems aren't doing well at retail. The latest: an NPD report that sales of Windows-based systems are down 21% since Windows 8 debuted on Oct. 26, compared to the same period a year ago.

That's not good news for Microsoft. What follows are some steps the company could take to polish Windows 8 to make it more palatable to both users and stores that have to sell it.

1. Cut Prices

Microsoft needs to get realistic about how much consumers are willing to pay for a new, unproven platform, given the alternatives. The company introduced Surface RT starting at $499. For that amount, buyers could get the latest generation iPad.

Now, Microsoft will surely argue that Surface RT is superior -- you can run Office natively, for starters -- but that doesn't matter. The iPad is a megabrand. To compete with it, Redmond needs to take a page from Amazon's playbook and use its hardware as a loss leader to establish its platform. Kindle Fire HD 8.9" starts at $299, which would be about right for Surface RT.

2. Ship Surface Pro, ASAP

Microsoft made the inexplicable decision to keep its top-of-line Surface model off store shelves until after the holiday season. That may have been a concession to its PC OEM partners, who have shipped their own Intel Core-based Windows 8 systems in time for Christmas. But the decision is muddling the market.

[ Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely. ]

Consumers can purchase Surface RT immediately, but if they want a Microsoft tablet that can run legacy Windows applications, they must wait. The quandary will undoubtedly push many to say "to heck it with it," and opt for an iPad or Android tablet. At the least, Microsoft needs to announce a specific launch date for Surface Pro. "Sometime in January" isn't good enough for those making buying decisions now. As for Surface Pro's starting price of $899? See above.

3. Get Appy

Microsoft now has more than 20,000 apps available for download from the Windows Store. But the number is meaningless. It's great that that there's Fruit Ninja and more than 300 photo apps, but serious omissions remain. Like, say, Facebook. Or Twitter. Or LinkedIn. The absence of the former is enough by itself to dissuade swaths of buyers whose primary use for a tablet is social networking. On the upside, the Windows Store is filling out with apps from leading brands. This week, ESPN released its Windows 8 app. Microsoft needs more of those.

4. Unify The User Experience

A major source of frustration voiced by early adopters of Windows 8 is the lack of consistency between Metro (or Modern UI) mode and the classic Windows desktop. Metro is what users see when they first boot up. It's got the Live Tiles and apps optimized for touch and tablets. From Metro, you can launch the Windows Explorer desktop, which is similar to Windows 7 (with some marked differences) and is geared toward mouse and keyboard computing.

It's understandable that there would be differences in how the two operate. But there's no good reason for the vast UI and performance gulfs between the Metro and Windows Explorer versions of the same applications. Take Internet Explorer 10. Even cosmetic differences -- like the fact that the navigation bar is on top in the desktop version and on the bottom in the Metro version -- are bound to flummox some users. But it's more than cosmetic.

On Thursday I tried to listen to the Webcast of Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting on IE10 Metro. "The site you opened is not on the Compatibility View (CV) list" is the response I got. Apparently IE10 Metro, Adobe Flash and Microsoft's own investor site don't play well together. I was able to get the Webcast from the desktop version of IE10.

5. Metro A Go Go?

If all else fails, Microsoft has one last, nuclear option, which I've previously suggested. It could ditch Metro, and introduce what I've been calling Windows 8 Classic. Windows 8 Classic would restore familiar features like the Start button and Task Bar, while retaining Windows 8's numerous new security and manageability features.

Among those is Secure Boot, a process designed to prevent malware from infecting computers during startup, even before Windows and all of its built-in safeguards are launched. It works by confirming that all components have the appropriate security certificates before they are allowed to launch. Secure Boot requires UEFI BIOS to run, which is only found on the newest PCs.

For companies that hire lots of consultants, contractors and other temps and need to give such personnel access to a corporate desktop image and apps without granting full server permissions, there's Windows To Go. It lets users boot a preconfigured, IT-certified Windows 8 image onto any laptop from a USB. It also lets them boot up a Windows 8 image on a Windows 7 PC. Metro notwithstanding, there's a lot more for enterprises to like about Windows 8.

But if the operating system and the devices on which it runs continue to languish, Microsoft will need to take bold steps to ensure it remains commercially viable. What do you think Microsoft should do to improve Windows 8? Let me know in the comments section below.

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JPolk
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JPolk,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2012 | 3:11:20 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Surface is a non-player. You can't go out and buy one and its buggy and sluggish, if users are to be believed. Windows 8, despite all those using it and lauding it's graces, is too much of a change too soon. Taking the start button away and hiding the desktop was a mistake, pure and simple. You're alienating the vast majority of your user base and writing off your enterprise users altogether.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2012 | 12:14:56 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
+1 on prices because you cannot just run native Office apps on the Surface. You have to purchase the desktop version of Office as well. Another major expense. And Microsoft should sell the Surface with the better keyboard as a standard. The touch keyboard is horrible.
I agree on unifying the experience, IE as well as any other app should look and work the same no matter from where it was started.
tchengtcheng
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tchengtcheng,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2012 | 4:55:19 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I was Microsoft Support. I installed Window 8 Pro as good OS system.
But Marketing/Pricing was very important. You cannot sell price as APPLE iPad noble logo
such as LV or Swiss watch. Window 8 need control marketing shares and use other income such as Microsoft Office Starter ADV --300 billion marketing per year.
In short, Apple file law sue for Samsung/Google because of Gobal ADV marketing shares.
Who control tablets marketing share...Who control ADV income.
Why Window 7 sold very well -not only good OS because of Microsoft Office Starter free
and ADV got income to Microsoft ltd.

In short, Microsoft should sale $199.00 Window RT and worked with your partner for Window 8
intel tablets such as HP/other Microsoft Partner network like Window 7!!!!
note : Window 8 pro desktop PC/notebook plus free Microsoft Office Starter version.
Window 8 pro should Win or Lose upper to CEO Steven now
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2012 | 12:27:08 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
It's Twilight Time for x86 and for the Windows O/S . both are sinking under their own weight

fuzzedagain
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fuzzedagain,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2012 | 3:33:39 AM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Please please bring back Windows Classic!!! ASAP!!! As a $24.95 product!!!!!!
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
12/4/2012 | 12:51:06 AM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
It's not Microsoft or Window 7 fault your scanner stop working, it's the manufacturer of the scanner who needs to create a compatible driver for Windows 7. If it was a cheap or offbrand scanner, you got what you paid for. Most devices will work or have updated drivers available on their company website.
bvan buren303
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bvan buren303,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2012 | 8:50:19 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
So I bought and installed windows 8 on my kids laptops and in 30 minutes (without my help) they were playing games and using it with ease. Installed office and no problems. I use it at work and everything works, office, development tools, photo editing etc.
Despite what is being written here, the upgrade is no big deal and the tile interface Is nice and easy to use. Only improvement that is need: I wish I could window the apps instead of always displaying in full screen mode. I mean like it is called windows right!!
However. I then go to a Big Lots and buy a Google touch Tablet 4.0 for $79.00 that does everything my kids want with regard to gaming, camera and social media. And there is the challenge as pointed out in #1. Microsoft is priced to compete with apple but needs to focus at the mid-market and low end. It cannot overcharge for its products like apple, ( apple may not be able to do that much longer).
If Microsoft is really is about services, it should give away its OS, beef up the app market and build with third party suppliers devices that can be built and sold inexpensively without letting the product line fragment as google has done.
JerkyChew
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JerkyChew,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2012 | 8:38:43 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I'm a Windows systems admin. Have been since 1997. I started with NT 3.5.1 and have used every single desktop and server OS Microsoft has released since then. I have tried multiple times to use Windows 8 and have come away angry and frustrated every time.

First, I tried it in a VM. Metro on multiple monitors is non-usable. Sometimes apps open one one monitor, sometimes another. Sometimes the desktop version of the app will work and sometimes it won't.

I eventually gave up. I recently purchased a new personal laptop - A Macbook Pro - And loaded up Windows 8 in BootCamp. I am by no means an Apple fanboy but the trackpad "just works" so it's what I got. I thought that on a one-screen environment with a multitouch trackpad that W8 would be usable, but it wasn't. I forced myself to try and use it while on vacation but when I couldn't even figure out how to change the wireless settings other than start - run - ncpa.cpl, I gave up.

W8 needs the Start Menu, and Metro needs to be reduced to an option. If MS wants to coerce users to use its unified Metro interface, that's fine. But don't force it as our only option. Make it an add-on. I could see myself using live tiles and bringing up Metro when I only want to switch between a couple of apps. But when I want to - crazy talk here - Get some work done, I'm going to use something that actually works.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
12/3/2012 | 7:43:45 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I'm not sure upgrading a Win o/s is ever a "productivity" decision. Why would you ever upgrade unless there was a benefit of some kind? The o/s itself does nothing, just runs applications that have benefits. If you have some special purpose PC which only runs one app using old legacy hardware, you might as well run DOS until end of time, you get same benefit. Just make sure you have plan how you are going to replace this old legacy hardware when it fails. Because it will fail, and Murphy will make sure it is at the worst time. :-)

I do understand your question though because we just went thru it. We had PC whose only job was to run software for our Spectrometer. We had to pay $7K to upgrade this software just to move to Win 7 because Corp wanted "std desktops" attached to domain. It still does same thing, no additional benefits using Spectrometer. Being $7K, we did it. We have another PC which drives our Tensile Tester. That upgrade was $40K. We said "No Thanks", we'll continue to run XP and just remove computer from AD. It's all about the business case and the $ of the particular situation. Like NPCO said, you need to be looking at your plan for this legacy hardware anyway, a time will come you won't be able to get replacements for it. And that is certainly not a Win o/s issue.
gfish66
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gfish66,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2012 | 6:50:46 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Fix the user interface - meaning Metro is optional, and a Windows 7 style interface is available, for Win 8 and also Win Server 2012 - and I'm all in.
<<   <   Page 2 / 10   >   >>
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