Richard Waters, The Financial Times:
Microsoft is preparing to reverse course over key elements of its Windows 8 operating system, marking one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago.
"Key aspects" of how the software is used will be changed when Microsoft releases an updated version of the operating system this year, Tami Reller, head of marketing and finance for the Windows business, said in an interview with the Financial Times. Referring to difficulties many users have had with mastering the software, she added: "The learning curve is definitely real."
Analysts warned that changing course would be a significant admission of failure for Steve Ballmer, chief executive, who called the October launch of Windows 8 a "bet-the-company" moment as Microsoft sought to respond to the success of Apple’s iPad.
"It’s a horrible thing for this to happen to your flagship product – he’ll take a hit for that," said Mark Anderson, an independent tech analyst. "But he’s also responsible for a renaissance inside the company. There’s a level of risk and creativity going on that would never have happened two years ago."
Richard Doherty, analyst at tech research firm Envisioneering, said: "This is like New Coke, going on for seven months – only Coke listened better." Coca-Cola dropped its New Coke formula in response to a consumer backlash less than three months after launch.
Mark Gregory, BBC World Service:
There’s no doubting the pressures on Microsoft. Windows 8 was designed with touchscreens and tablet computers in mind, in an attempt to keep the company relevant and boost its presence in software for highly portable devices – the most rapidly growing segment of the market, which is dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms.
Windows 8 computers Microsoft has not confirmed or denied reports it will reintroduce the Start Menu button in its software update.
But there was always a risk that too radical a break with what went before would alienate legions of existing core customers – people who have invested time and effort in getting familiar with earlier versions of Windows for use on their laptops and PCs.
They have yet to leave the world of the mouse and keyboard and are reluctant to spend time learning what amounts to an almost new system.
The lightning rod for criticism was Microsoft’s decision to do away with the Start Menu button in the bottom left hand corner of the desktop screen, a venerated feature of successive versions of Windows since the mid-1990s.
So far, the signs are the new snazzier touchscreen-optimised Microsoft software has failed to hit the spot.
Careful reading of a Q&A on Microsoft’s official blog suggests the aforementioned Ms Reller intended to impart three bits of information in her media briefings:
– In the first six months since its release, 100 million licences to use Windows 8 were issued – on the face of it, this isn’t a disastrous performance, although licences issued doesn’t necessarily translate directly into copies of Windows 8 sold
– Microsoft has confirmed it will issue a software update, codenamed Windows Blue, later this year – she was very careful not to give away any details about what the update would contain but said further information would follow in the next few weeks
– Any changes would take account of what Microsoft had learned from customer feedback – signalling, perhaps, some significant moves
Clearly, Microsoft has a lot to be worried about with the lacklustre reception so far to Windows 8 but it doesn’t appear to contemplating Armageddon, at least not yet.
Charles Arthur, The Guardian:
When Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer first revealed his software for the touchscreen world in February 2012, he said he was "betting the company" on it.
There were "no compromises" made in replacing the time-honoured desktop with Windows 8’s colourful tile-based interface, Ballmer insisted.
But just six months after the official release, Microsoft – which relies on Windows licences for about half its profits – is getting ready to make compromises to key aspects of the software. It comes after its leap into the tablet computing future was described as "confusing" (or worse) by new users and has been blamed for plummeting sales of PCs, which had their sharpest drop on record in the first three months of this year, down 14%.
The biggest expectation is that the update to Windows 8, codenamed Blue and due within a few weeks, will revive the start button that had been familiar to users for 17 years but which was removed from the new version.
If correct, it will be a U-turn as momentous in its way as Coca-Cola’s abandonment of "New Coke" in 1985 just three months after its launch following consumer protests.
Tami Reller, promoted to head Microsoft’s Windows division after Ballmer ejected former chief Steve Sinofsky in November, announced on an internal Microsoft blog on Monday that Blue will be "an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to" since the October launch.
"Are there things that we can do to improve the experience? Absolutely," Reller told the Associated Press. "There is a learning curve [to Windows 8] and we can work to address that."
Shira Ovide and Ian Sherr, The Wall Street Journal:
A Microsoft executive is acknowledging what many tech-watchers already knew: The company’s Windows 8 software hasn’t gone off without a hitch, and Microsoft is turning itself inside out to respond.
Last fall’s launch of the new operating system was supposed to be a milestone to catapult Microsoft and its allies into the market for new kinds of computing devices-including tablets and convertible products-and help generally get consumers more interested in buying new PCs. Six months after the operating software’s debut, it isn’t yet a hit by the accounts of some PC executives and research firms.
One market-research firm, IDC, went so far as to say that Windows 8 did more than fail to revive the PC market-it actually turned off users with changes to basic elements of the widely used operating system.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week, Windows co-head Tami Reller was more candid than other Microsoft executives in saying Windows 8 hasn’t come on like gangbusters, though she said the company is seeing steady if not steep sales progress.