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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
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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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treasure_hunter
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treasure_hunter,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 8:20:23 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Couldn't agree more with you. Felt the same when Google made the changes to gmail and youtube. Haven't used hotmail in a long time ever since they deleted all my emails. Changes should be more substantial than just playing around with the interface. Planning to buy a all in one pc but will wait till microsoft stabilizes the Windows 8 OS. Until then will keep using Windows XP.
nomanzone
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nomanzone,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 7:25:38 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I have many legacy devices on SCSI and XP drivers. They are expensive to replace. Can Microsoft assure me that my devices will still work under Windows 8?
PrefAnon
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PrefAnon,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 7:25:25 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Right...the OS just isn't enough to justify a purchase atm. Or spending an hour on it.

From what I've seen/heard, and using it for a bit in a store, what they really need to do is rework the Classic+Metro; neither is a bad UI but they just aren't integrated.

Beyond that I just don't think anyone's interested. Sorry Microsoft.
nomanzone
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nomanzone,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 7:20:29 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
It seems that Windows 8 is primarily an platform unifying project. It has a new user interface that provides a consistent user experience across devices. But for users with Android or iPhone, what are the incentives for them to upgrade? I have not heard a compelling selling point from Microsoft that makes me want to upgrade, even if it were free. There are just too many potential pitfalls in upgrading to a new OS particularly the OS has a drastically new code base. I am like most people using a computer to get work done. The novelty and associated learning curve do not attract me a bit. Tell me something that will increase my productivity that is so overwhelming to make it worthwhile to pay for it and take the risks of upgrading hassles and learning curve.
WrittenDescription
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WrittenDescription,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 7:09:40 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Microsoft should be congratulated for attempting an operating system that unifies touch and desktop environments, but the effort is rough at best. MS updated its XBox interface to the "Metro" configuration some time ago and I have never become comfortable with its visual cues and navigation paradigm (lots of side scrolling). No, it's not a hard interface to learn, but its "flat" appearance and sparse information displays leave me constantly double-checking selections, focus, and moving between tiles. Combine that with Metro's relative unsuitability for non-touch environments and you have the "Explorer Desktop," which is kinda but not exactly like Windows 7, which I like and which I already run on my desktop. I'll leave it to smarter people than me to explain why you'd have any interest in updating to Windows 8 for a non-touch desktop.
PeterO
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PeterO,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 5:32:00 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Perhaps I am a minority, but I LIKE the ability to swipe my laptop screen and applaud MS's encouragement of touch-sensitive screens. I often switch back and forth between an ASUS transformer (w keyboard dock) and a windows 7 laptop, and constantly find myself wanting to swipe my win 7 laptop screen. I also like/ am used to/ the win 7 interface, and find Metro aesthetically unpleasing (ugly!). So, what I would like to see is for the win 8 and metro interface be context sensitive (metro on a tablet, win 8 when docked or on laptop), and one or the other EASILY set up as a default by the user.

I also agree with author on most points, especially cost. MS needs to practically give our free the new OS to regain and buttress its market share. Otherwise, it is likely to follow RIM down the path to irrelevancy.
antiautonomy
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antiautonomy,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 5:08:32 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
If you want a classic desktop interface Linux Mint has a nicely improved upon XP-like interface. It's free, stable, easy to install and comes with all the necessary codecs. http://www.linuxmint.com/downl...
And if you really need Microsoft Office, it's easy enough to run under Linux with Wine.
NPCO
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NPCO,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 4:39:54 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
MarkNY said "MS makes products on whimsical concepts that they then push on everyone by wrecking working devices and systems and forcing more investment in hardware"

While this is a popular line of reasoning, I'm not sure it really holds water. With very few exceptions, the only reasons I've ever seen people move to a newer version of Windows is because A- they simply bought a new system and it came with it, or B- some piece of software or hardware they rely on requires it. If all the hardware and software someone uses works under their existing version of Windows, they stick with it.

Microsoft doesn't force anyone to upgrade to the latest version of Windows, and the amount of systems still running XP prove this. *If* someone wants to upgrade, that's fine, but it's on them to make sure they meet the system requirements of the newer version. To find a system that would honestly have trouble running the latest version of Windows, you'd have to go back close to a decade.

I'm as critical of Microsoft's move regarding Metro as the next guy, but won't criticism them for what borders on conspiracy theories.
RTomas
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RTomas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 3:04:17 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
In line with Microsoft's tradition of every other version being lackluster, W98 vs W-ME, Vista vs W7, we now have W8 vs ?The Next Great Thing?. I bought an ACER with W8 installed. At the end of the day I determind W8 is basically W7 with a poor window dressing over it. Solution: Update the W8, pull the the drive and set it aside, install SSD, install clean copy of W7 Pro (also elimanted all the crap ware)...I'm quite happy!!! Yeaaaa!!!

Does Microsoft simply have a bad software review program?...it seems like it.
Not sure how many folks are going to run out and get W8 when their machine isn't W8 touch screen capable...likely very few.

I'd assume W8 is cool and neat on a touch screen, but none of the 7 machines I have at home have touch ability. None of the 200+ at work have it (many still running XP, XP64 very happily).

Whats the solution? Hire me and I'll work on it from the consumer standpoint !!
MarkNY
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MarkNY,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2012 | 2:35:53 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Can I just call you "K"?
Apple Like? 8 is disoriented junk, not fit for the market. But you just watch the next few years you will see this "stuff" in business, and especially in education. thereby making it "OK". then later the drones that bought and use it will suffer for 6 months then junk it.

The cartel wins again. Bill laughs and applauds Mr. Kim from Korea, Mr. Chang from China, all the while an 8 year old redneck 3rd grader tries to figure it all out.
<<   <   Page 4 / 10   >   >>
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