First Windows, now Xbox: Why Microsoft is listening to the masses

First Windows, now Xbox: Why Microsoft is listening to the masses

Summary: Microsoft is actually listening and responding to customer feedback. That's a refreshing change from the policies of some divisions over the last few years.


Covering Microsoft is giving me whiplash lately.


After the last few years of watching certain parts of the company march forward, with a "we know best" attitude, the new Microsoft is bending to the will of the masses.

This new "responding to community feedback," or "principled but not stubborn" or whatever new Microsoft motto you want to insert here isn't the same old "we listen to our customers" rhetoric. This is Microsoft reacting in record time (for the company) to negative feedback and public perception and actually taking "corrective" action.

I use quotes around "corrective," because I know a number of my readers are vehemently opposed to these recent course changes, though the majority of potential customers seemingly are not. I notice on Twitter, especially, that those who hated to see Microsoft add back a Start Button to Windows 8.1 are largely the same group who are furious that Microsoft is removing the used game and Internet connectivity requirements that it rolled out a few weeks ago as part of its Xbox One launch. (On June 19, Microsoft officials went public with plans to undo the DRM and used game policies which got a number of gamers riled.)

The thinking among some Microsoft fans seems to be this: Microsoft is innovating with things like its new Windows 8 UI and its "always on" console requirements. The company should continue to forge ahead, and not listen to critics, this group argues.

That kind of logic worked in the days when Microsoft was one of the rulers of the tech roost with its Windows monopoly fueling the growth for the rest of the company. But Microsoft in 1993 or even 2003 was a very different company from Microsoft today. Windows is now the third largest (out of five) business in the company. Microsoft has still been largely unable to grow its three percent phone marketshare and tiny tablet share against some much larger competitors. The company is dependent on the success of its newer businesses, like Xbox, to stay competitive.

At the same time, Microsoft needs to continue to curry favor with its sizeable installed base. Microsoft wants to keep Windows users in the fold. That's why there's going to be a Start Button in Windows 8.1. New users might not want or need it, but others do. Some users really cared about the new cloud-enabled gaming and game-sharing technologies promised for Xbox One. But more than a few of Microsoft's loyal Xbox users were vocal about their disdain for the "phone-home" DRM and seemingly anti-used-game policies that the new console also required. Next week at Build, Microsoft execs have said they plan to try to undo some of the perceptive damage done in recent years to relationships with Microsoft's .Net community with the company's developer platform and tools.

Call these things 180s. Call them U-turns. It doesn't really matter. The real story is Microsoft is actually listening and responding. And that's a positive for current and potential new Microsoft customers, in my book.

Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Microsoft, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Did they really listen though?

    Sure they brought back the things people were upset about, but they also did away with the things people were interested and constantly curious about. People just wanted their disc to work like a disc. The other things such as a family share, and digital lending could still have worked on the digital only products. Instead they just threw everything away and went back to the way it was.
    • Wut

      >Instead they just threw everything away and went back to the way it was.

      Because.......the "way it was" is what 99.9% of people want?

      People just wanted upgraded console hardware, not everything to change completely.

      Same with Windows 8. People wanted a few new features/a faster OS...not that Metro atrocity to be stitched onto the Windows 99.9% of people use to actually get crap done.
      • funny

        That's exactly what people said when Windows XP came out. That horrible start menu... remember? People don't know what they want. Look at what Apple did with the iPhone/iPad.

        I like the Windows 8 vision. It does have a long way to go...but I love where it's going.
        Eyal Ellenbogen
        • Apple...

          Sounds exactly like Apple. People don't know what they want... so we tell them.
          • Whine Whine Whine...

            Apple users are happy in most cases. Microsoft has a tendency to upset their own customer base. I as a user of both Microsoft and Apple products prefer reliability over dramatic change. Apple seems to cater on reliability where Windows 8 GUI (and the Xbox GUI) have P.O.ed many faithful MS users (myself included). If it takes the bitching of Windows users to make useable products I'm all for it. Microsoft is making changes because Windows users are upset. They don't care about the Apple faithful. Get over yourself, quit the whiny complaining. Microsoft has had some stinkers (ME, Vista, the GUI of 8). The only way to improve is to please their customer base.
          • MaryJo falls for it hook line and sinker.

            With one hand MS gave back physical media rights and with the other they took away all of their promised digital media rights. Ask yourself which one is going to be more important over the next decade. With respect to downloaded content there is no longer any sharing or transferring of ownership. You buy something on Xbox Live and only you can use it and you can never sell it or give it to anyone. What fool thinks it was worth the exchange of soon to be obsolete physical media rights for digitial ownership rights? When they remove the disc drive from Xbox eventually you'll see how well Microsoft listened to you.
          • ....

            Obviously you do not understand the sales feild thats for sure. people are not adapting or wantying to go to the cloud or digital download gaming as that defeats much of what a game console is for. If you have use onlive you know how frustrating digital always on gaming is even with a fast machine and 50Mbps of speed. People want improvments and change has to come in small mincrements that improve and walk you into a new idea. if you take what has been the driving force of your product then throw it all away and tell 20 year loyal customers too bad its all new and your gonna just except it as the future then your company has no future. Microsoft needs to start listening to its masses and not catering to a very small crowd of the uneducated who think everything has to change and change now. As someone said before the masses want improvments such as faster, more powerful lighter upgrades not complete redesigns that dump everything that has made a products what the consumer wanted.
          • not yet

            Digital distribution might be inevitable for the next next-gen (Xbox Two?), but it's too soon for the Xbox One. This generation needs to be a transitional one, that coaxes consumers from physical to digital using a carrot, not a stick. Family sharing was a carrot, but no trading/sharing for discs was a really big stick.

            Microsoft could have found a way to relax physical restrictions but keep the incentives to download digitally, but I think they're in a confused, spiteful, reactive state right now. Time will tell whether they sort this out properly or not...
          • Agreed...

            I have the same feeling about customers needing coaxing... you can tell by the reactions on the internet that they are not ready. I also believe MS will re-enable some of the digital sharing features down the line during this coming gen.
          • Whine with Cheese

            Apple users are happy in most cases because many have been conditioned to blindly accept anything that Apple does. Little customizability, no USB (iPad), no SD-card expansion (iPad), etc. Now and then, a small part of the user base gets up-in-arms over something like bad navigation software, but most are happy to believe that Apple must have a good reason for it, so they go along. There is a huge set of blinders that come with Apple fandom. If there wasn't, terms such as the "Reality Distortion Field" would never have been created to describe the Apple hysteria effect.
          • I think you meant to say "Cheese with that Whine"

            Now let's correct your other mistake. People follow Apple for the simple reason that they do a very god job at what they do. So good that MS is basically coping every thing they do. So you might go as far as to say MS is the biggest Apple Fanboy of all... Ouch!

            Now as to the article, the only reason MS is listening is they are running scared. Their mobile offering is floundering and they can't afford to ignore what people wanted as they do normally. The Xbox is their cash cow and they can't afford desertion to Sony with mobile doing so poorly.
          • I'm quite familiar with both....

            Apple and Microsoft, so I guess you've mastered the art of over expressing your biased opinion.
          • Rather than insult people....

            Find a way to improve customer relations with those feeling screwed with every new version of Windows. I very eloquently explained in my prior post that Microsoft users' complaints were the reason Microsoft was making changes. Satisfied Apple users have nothing to do with Microsoft's back peddling and making changes. Does Apple have anything to do with Microsoft's back peddling? Can you comprehend shame or embarrassment, or are you just that biased?
          • You can't please everyone

            When Microsoft brought out XP tablets people said "XP isn't finger friendly, make an OS that is". When Windows CE was out on phones people said "Its not Finger friendly, make an OS that is". Microsoft made OS' that are finger friendly and now you get the same people that say "I want it back the way it was, I like the start menu". Now people want 3 OS', one for non-touch, one for touch and one for phones. The thing is if they would have done this people would have stuck with Windows 8 "old desktop" and NO developers would have made apps for Windows 8 "Metro". They needed to push people into trying "Metro" and its good for them if they can make "Metro" mouse and keyboard friendly and making the "Metro" desktop the new start screen. If they can make enough people happy then more developers will make apps for "Metro", tablet and phone devices. They didn't do it to piss people off, they did it to get the developers and get people use to the new way the OS works. People were upset with Windows 8 so now they're fixing a lot of the issues people had with 8.1.

            Microsoft is listening to people because unlike apple Microsoft sees that people won't just glaze over and say "yes master" which is the way it should be. apple users are way to subservient. Its ok that Microsoft tries something new and tweaks it as people say what they don't like. Its better than if they just stayed the same for the next 50 years while technology passed them buy.

            The Xbox One would update itself, you didn't need a disk in the player to play a game, these were things I thought were cool about the Xbox One. I like that it listens to me when I say "Xbox On". I don't think there is going to be someone in a room watching everything I do and listening to what I say. BUT for the people who are paranoid of this maybe they should make an Xbox One without Kinect...the issue with this though is Microsoft wants to get developers to utilize Kinect and what a better way to do this than to have everyone that buys an Xbox One has a Kinect. If only 40% of the people who buy an Xbox One also buys a Kinect then developers may think twice about utilizing it.

            I like Windows 8 and I'll like 8.1 even more. I'll also like the Xbox One, but if they totally took away the auto update and the having the disk in the player at all times, I will be a disappointed. I'm hoping that if you have the Xbox One online you don't need a disk and your Xbox will update itself. If that happens I'll be happy and I'll keep my Xbox One online.
        • I don't recall anyone having an issue with the Start Menu.

          I keep hearing there was this huge outcry regarding the Start Menu. But I've never seen it. I do know people thought the default look of Windows XP was garish with many people referring to it as Playskool in nature. But one could always change it to the pre-XP look or modify it to better match their preferences. Not so with Windows 8...there's no option to enable the Start menu.
          • Original comments on xp

            Were it looked like Phisher Price, or cartoonish. Windows 8 is just stupid, and confusing (for most). It shows just how arrogant Microsoft is, the UI failed on the zune/kin, so put it on everything, and claim "victory".
            Troll Hunter J
          • .....

            It failed on the wp7 and continued on wp8. The metro tile ui has failed for over 3 years if you track it since its first conception. It just is bad.
          • More

            ... and sure, there are things that MSFT didn't get right, IMHO, but I'm looking forward to Microsoft listening to their customers and tweaking some things in 8.1.
          • 8.1....

            is an attempt to regain the confidence (and sales) from the Windows user base.
          • It goes back

            further, the Kin, and zune, were the inspiration for all that "Metro" crap. Microsoft has been pushing this ideology for quite some time now. The "zune HD" had the same interface, minus the garish boxes, and failed. The "Kin" which was hailed by, Microsoft's mouthpieces as a great phone OS, tanked. So rather than learn, Microsoft bolted it on everything.
            Troll Hunter J