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Microsoft Understands Its Windows 8 Mistakes, Finally

At Build conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledges that aspects of Windows 8 have bugged users -- and promises to address the issues.
In the meantime, Microsoft has taken steps to minimize the inconvenience of buying a new PC ahead of the Windows 8.1 release. For one thing, the company has pledged to make the Windows update free to all existing owners of Windows 8.

Further, Microsoft signaled that it understands the importance of pairing new systems with the company's latest OS by announcing that the Windows 8.1 preview was available for download.

In the meantime, Microsoft's Surface took a backseat at the conference to devices from third-party OEMs. That could be in deference to OEM partners. Or it could be that Microsoft won't be refreshing its tablet lineup before fall.

What was front and center, however, was the Iconia W3 from Acer. Ballmer showed it off, and also announced that Microsoft would be giving away the 8-inch tablet to attendees. As well, Windows VP Julie Larson-Green demonstrated the new capabilities in Windows 8.1 tailored for small-tablet form factors. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a mini version of the Surface, and the conference would have been a great stage for priming the market for the upcoming hardware. Larson-Green passed on that, however, and instead used Acer's Iconia W3 to highlight the features.

Coincidence? It's possible, I suppose. But I'll put my money on the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease square on the board by the roulette wheel.

So Microsoft gets it. And it's trying to make things right. That's a great start.

With a little luck -- and, ideally, a sustained focus on its constituents -- Microsoft can repair its products and its ecosystem. And those of us who socked away the "how to connect to Wi-Fi in Windows 8" instructions will have nothing more than a memento from a day gone by.