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11/30/2012
10:46 AM
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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BFRANKSTON000
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BFRANKSTON000,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 3:56:41 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
While it's not hard to think of the panel of apps as the new start button it would've been nice to have a more gradual transition. It would also be nice to have the Metro apps usable as desktop apps. That would go a long way towards unifying the experience and not forcing us into the problematic one app at a time mode - one of those really bad ideas that reduces a powerful device to a lame one. It would also help to allow full apps on the RT desktop.

W8 has many powerful features and the ability to move beyond their competition in having a single device that can be both a tablet and a computer - after all, a tablet is a computer. Power management shouldn't be a reason to rend the device lame.

The simplistic Metro experience should be available to some but Microsoft's strength is in sharing control with users and developers. It must not lose itself in Apple envy but instead should move ahead of the process.

The phone should also be more part of the experience as just another form factor and not a different world. Multiple login would allow the same kind of portable personalization for devices that aren't always single purpose one person devices.

A lot of this reminds me of tiled Windows in the 80's ... another attempt to be overly helpful.

For me, it's wonderful to have a single device that portable and powerful. It may take a while for people to appreciate the value.
globetrotta
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globetrotta,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:26:05 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I just bought an Asus laptop on Black Friday. It came loaded with W8. I'm learning to like the display but really wish they left the start button. I also think for people that use their computer for both work and personal use, W8 should have one screen for work files, apps, etc... and another screen for your personal items. I don't mind seeing my personal pictures scroll while I'm at home, but some could be embarassing or just distracting while at work. But, I the worst thing is we're having a big problem using the Internet with W8. We tried to use Priceline.com and JetBlue.com but could not get serach results to display. We called the Geek Squad and two very helpful tech support puys to control of the laptop, changed some setting, rand ran diagostics. The first person took and hour and a half and could not fix the problem. The second guy took 6 hours and ran his tools until 4 AM. He left a note that said to use Explorer on these sites, as Chrome had a bug on W8 and these sites. That worked for Priceline, but neither browser will pull up results from JetBlue.
Sandman366
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Sandman366,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:26:31 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Just do #5 and go back to the old Windows logo. If I wanted to look at hideous squares, I'd look at a real window. The old one was better because of one word: aesthetics. It looked pretty.

If I wanted a tablet version of W8, I'd buy the tablet version, not install my desktop version on my tablet. I don't want the same experience on a desktop/laptop/tablet/smartphone, I expect to have slight differences between desktop/laptop and slight differences between tablet/smartphone, but MAJOR differences between desktop/laptop compared to tablet/smartphone.

I was iffy on 7 at first, but I've grown to like it. I don't want to grow to like 8. The "start" menu is an eyesore (in the way staring at rotten anything is an eyesore) and the logo looks stupid. (Quick, buy a couple copies of 7, before you can't!)
Sandman366
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Sandman366,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:33:10 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
The last version of IE that I tried was 8. The last version of IE that was good was 6 or 7. I find it repulsive that some sites require me to use IE because they're useless coders. It's slow, clunky, and fat. It's a landmark against Microsoft: they only make it for one OS and can't develop a version better than, say, Chrome, which works very well on more than one OS. (Don't think Microsoft is thinking straight anymore.)
jabberwolf
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jabberwolf,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:39:48 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
No, MS has got it right. Its the i-tards that havent used Windows8 and dont understand why. It isnt a "NEW" experience.

Windows8 needs to be explained as what it is, a 2 MODE OS. One is desktop, the other is tablet. For the past year, there are only 2 or 3 things that I'd want on Win8.

And its simply to do with IE on Win8:
1- Put the start button back,
( I understand why they have 2 diferent IE modes and comparing the IPAD which has NO CHOICE - Win8 wins hands down. Having no funcionality/choice is not a feature and cant undestand the logic behind those that thing it is.)

2- Shortcuts - From tablet mode - Have a link to the desktop shortcuts as a permanent link button and nother to add as favorites. Some of us do have hundreds of favorites that we dont want to have to switch back to the desktop mode for.

Other than that - its working GREAT
So of the 5 ideas:
1- Its already really low
2- Agree- but you do realize that RT was to placate the ARM processors makers/ battery longevity. (though putting it in sleep mode my samsung series 7 will last a couple weeks when I open it up again. But constant use - ARM wins out. Not to mention, MS plan is to make all devices run the same OS. That includes future phones = thus they want developers to write for Win8/WP8.
3- Um DUH. They are doing this as fast as they can and its the fastest growing ecosystem ever. Captain Obvious?!
4-Because of #2 - YOU DONT GET IT, so please dont write another article like this until you do.
5- No - stupid stupid idea. Again you dont get it. BUT - they do have apps that put back the start button and launch you straight into Desktop mode. Again please use the damned thing before you make any "bright" suggestions!!
jiminthelab
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jiminthelab,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:40:21 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Do the comments just get cut and pasted from one article to the next? its seems MS cant win here. If they kept the UI the same people would be saying that its tired and time to come up with something new.... and in this case they did change it and people are saying waaaaait a minute I miss the old ui. I think people just like to complain. Its changed deal with it. The new doesn't take that long to get used to, and once I did I find it much faster than the old start menu (mouse keyboard only). As for it looking flat, think of it this way. All that extra stuff that gave it depth and pretty (like glass) took a bunch of extra processing power from the video card resulting in unnecessary power drain and performance issues and honestly after a while you just don't notice it. Its still the same underneath and if you really want the start menu back there are 3rd party free apps out there to "bring it back". I switched to win8 and never looked back. Is there still bugs, yes, but that's what windows update is for.

Just as a test I loaded win8 + the latest office up on my Mom's machine and spent about 10 minutes explaining how the new ui works and then left her to it. She loved it. thought it was easy to navigate and use. Its been about a week now, she uses it on a daily basis and has had no problems with win8 or office.

jabberwolf
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jabberwolf,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:44:53 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Im still amazed at the stupidity of those that write articles that havent used the OS for long and dont get what MS is doing by trying to unify everything under 1 OS.
One login, one set of services, and one set of applications under one ecosystem.

Im also amazed at the sheeple that commnent that ALSO havent used it, but have alot to say. I know the comment - I dont have to jump off a bridge to know i dont like it. But - do you also say, you dont need to drive a car, to know how to?! What, you just know by watching? Thats thats a very stupid assumption, and most people would actually drive a car before knowing how it performs, yet alone comment on it.
pbaker232
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pbaker232,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 4:50:44 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
Have been in the IT business since the early nineties and have been a loyal MS customer all that time. We ran Windows 8 for six months on a trial basis and decided it was a no-go. The OS is meant essentially for phones and touch screens. We haven't the inclination to make our employees suffer through the frustration. If we have to make that kind of decision and cause frustration, we'd rather it gave us something in the bargain. Unfortunately, we have already decided and told MS (although we are giving MS six months for a decision) we will be moving over to the MAC OS...and we are not alone.
BobbyDeeJr
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BobbyDeeJr,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 5:06:22 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
As a person shopping for a new Windows desktop machine who's primarily going to use it for things such as: Video Editing, Architectural Drafting, 3d Rendering, Audio Recording, and Graphic Design, the LAST thing I want is an OS that is constantly trying to connect to the internet and trying to sell me "apps". I have never bought an "app" in my life and do not plan to.

I have read a lot of complaints about Windows8 but few coming from my perspective. I DO NOT use facebook, twitter, or any other social media site. Someone mentioned an OS to track your every move and that what it feels like.

Whenever possible, I revert any windows computer to the 'classic' look because that is what I want: a bare-bones machine that can run my programs and nothing else and eats up as little of the cpu as possible.

Even as a graphics person, I have zero interest in their 'hip' new interface. As many have suggested, they should have made that an option for people who want to have direct links to things, or, made it for portable devices only.

Maybe some people will find some joy in it, and that is fine, but for me who needs a computer to do high-end media, I am going to purchase a machine with Windows7, which is completely fine and totally usable (even if more dumbed-down and annoying than XP)...

Basically the ONLY way to save Windows 8 is to have a release that allows you to completely disable the so called "Metro" and lets you run your computer without trying to force a lifestyle choice and failed branding mission down your throat...
bubbab0y
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bubbab0y,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 5:16:43 PM
re: 5 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8
I'm an old guy and not as tech savvy as most of your posters. But I can't be the only one in this situation: I need a new desktop PC (currently using Vista, don't laugh). I would buy one tomorrow with Win 8 and I would probably be somewhat frustrated by all the problems you are noting. However I can't even get that far. The cost of a new desktop for Win 8 is WAY TOO HIGH because of the touch screen. BestBuy is not even advertising any desktops with touchscreens, probably because they know it would be a waste of time and only scare customers away. They want them to be in the store already when they find out. I don't want a laptop because I want a 22+" screen at home, I already have a work laptop and I want to be able to easily/cheaply upgrade components on my personal desktop over the next few years.

Bottom line: Win 8 does not seem to be aimed at all at the desktop market. Am I missing something?
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