Reading between the Microsoft CFO lines on Windows Blue and the Start Button

Reading between the Microsoft CFO lines on Windows Blue and the Start Button

Summary: Think this through: Why might Microsoft be willing to look like it's 'caving' and introduce boot-to-desktop and Start Button options?


It may seem like a throwaway comment when a Microsoft exec says the company is interested in being responsive to customer feedback.


But when we're talking about Microsoft's Windows business, every official pronouncement is carefully measured and meant to signal an intent. That's why it's worth parsing the words of Peter Klein -- the outgoing Chief Financial Offer (CFO) at Microsoft -- around the next version of Windows.

During the analyst call on April 18 which coincided with Microsoft's Q3 FY 2013 earnings release, Klein reiterated that Microsoft is stepping up its Windows release cadence with the next version of Windows, codenamed "Windows Blue." Klein also reiterated that smaller screen Windows devices are in development by Microsoft OEMs.

But it was another of Klein's remarks, which many would consider an almost obligatory comment, that really caught my attention. Klein said that Microsoft was going to be "responsive to customer feedback" with Blue.

His exact statement (from a transcript from the analyst call): "Looking ahead, we will release the next version of Windows, codenamed Windows Blue, which further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback."

I take this as yet another confirmation that Microsoft is moving toward make the boot-to-desktop option and some kind of Windows Start button a part of Windows Blue. I don't know if these options are likely to be available across all Windows 8 and Windows RT SKUs (or just Pro and Enterprise, which is what my Windows Weekly cohost Paul Thurrott is hearing.) I also don't know if this Start Button will just be something that brings users directly to the Metro Start Screen. But I'd be that's far more likely than something that would bring them back to the old Start Menu.

No, I can't prove I am connecting the dots correctly, of course. But if you look at the feedback on my blog to my earlier post about these two features making a comeback as options in Windows Blue, it sure seems like the majority of my readers want these capabilities.

Business users are especially keen on seeing these two things return to Windows 8, especially because they don't want to incur retraining and help desk costs resulting from implementing a vastly different user interface.

Plus, think this through: In April 2014, Microsoft is terminating support for Windows XP. There are still millions of corporate desktops running Windows XP. In fact, according to the latest NetMarketshare usage data, XP is the No. 2 version of Windows installed on desktops, second only to Windows 7.

Microsoft wants these folks to upgrade. But if they are fearful or uncertain about Windows 8, these users will go to Windows 7 instead. And once they are on Windows 7, it's like XP all over again. It's another version of Windows that will be too good for its own good. These corporate users will be running Windows 7 for the next decade-plus, with little/no reason or interest in going to Windows 8.

So if you're Microsoft, which is the lesser of two evils? Bring back two features that could spur greater corporate adoption of Windows 8 -- even if company watchers accuse you of back-tracking? Or run the risk of losing a huge part of your installed base to Windows 7, or another non-Microsoft alternative?

If Microsoft listens to what users want with Windows Blue, all I'll say is it's better late than never....

Topics: Windows 8 in Business, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows, IT Policies, Windows 8


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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  • MS already has to deal with high volumes of W7 being around for the next

    decade so that's completely NOT a factor in any decision to be made about what the rest of XP users will upgrade to.
    Johnny Vegas
    • I hope

      In the spirit of choice, the start menu and boot to desktop will be an option (and maybe one that the people who want it can actually fine)
      I'll keep the current start screen. I have no live tile, just a full page of my most commonly used programs. For me, hit winkey and select the program I want is much quicker than navigating through a tree structure menu.
      But full choice to everyone is good, and I think many will really like w8 when using it if this happens, an SPVN (or whatever) can then write massive blogs about aero being removed, as his last remaining gripe................
      • The spirit of choice = Gadgets & Windows Media Center; failures.

        The "spirit of choice" is allowing consumers to ignore your new UI and stick with the old familiar one. The result is that developers have no reason to support your new UI as we saw with Gadgets and Media Center. If Metro fails Microsoft is finished since they will have no apps for modern tablet computers. Consumers are done with Microsoft if the Windows Store doesn't succeed, developers are done with them. Business/enterprise will cling to Windows like they did BlackBerry for a few years before they slide into obsolescence.

        The idea that you can't do work on an Android or iPad OS is absurdly stupid. Productivity apps on iPad are dominating the top paid apps lists. I am increasingly seeing businesses dump PC's for iPads. This is not theoretical anymore, it is happening. People who think businesses need Windows are the same shortsighted fools who thought businesses needed Blackberry for hardware keyboards and mail. As a consumer without Metro succeeding my choice would be simple to never use a Microsoft OS again.
        • ?

          Where the hell do you work that you can survive on a tablet? They're useless for engineering or anything that matters.
          • "anything that matters"?

            With stupid statements like that, it just proves to me that people like you should not be the customer that Microsoft listens to. For my day job, I manage a government network, and I can tell you that I'm chomping at the bit to get Win8 deployed. If I could lock the majority of my users down to only things that can be pinned to the Start screen or are already Metro apps, it would make a huge part of my life much easier. I keep pinging various vendors to hurry up and make Metro apps with well-written live tiles. I don't want to HAVE to actually run an app to get certain info. I also have a video podcasting and music studio at home--all my machines are on Windows 8 and I'm loving it. I have NOTHING sitting on my old, tired desktop. EVERYTHING I use is pinned to the Start screen and is appropriately grouped. Apparently people like you are incapable of doing anything new. You are the past. You are tired.
          • You're Telling the World about MY World

            I have also converted all but one of my machines to Windows 8, with the last machine to be converted as soon as I have some free time.

            I teach networking security classes and quite a few of the students that attend my classes say their company's are deploying or considering Windows 8 for various reasons.

            Like many of the people that read these kinds of threads, I'm also the de facto admin for my family (parents & adult children). Some have Windows 8 Pro, some have Windows RT. The funny thing is everybody that I know that uses either of the OS's really likes even the Nokia Windows Phone. The only people I've come across that don't like are people in the industry.
        • It already failed.

          Modern UI already failed. There is no reason to develop any apps for it since people will not buy Windows tablets or phones in any meaningful numbers. This is already clearly visible. Windows 8 failed to deliver in that area. Modern UI that would survive only on laptop or desktop is just plain stupid since there always will be desktop and for desktop application no one needs Microsoft permission to install. In addition touch screen on laptop and even more on desktop is ergonomic nonsense so writing apps for Modern UI that will be used on laptop or desktop is counterproductive. Desktop must survive for business and content creators who will be in the near future main customers that buy desktops or laptops. Vast majority of them will demand desktop and precision of keyboard and mouse. Content consumers will but tablets that are compatible with Android or iOS. In an irony of history Microsoft is fighting with established duopoly that they themselves had with Apple for the past 30 years on the PC market.
          • Well actually...

            Nokia reported a large sell of Lumia phones across the world, and Windows Phone already outsells the iPhone in 7 critical markets, including Apple's target Market, India (the 2nd most populous nation on the planet), maybe Windows Phone 8 is unknown in America, but here in Europe it's very vivid and expanding, largely at Apple's cost, and iPhones are no longer as hip in America as they used to be.

            Metro offers A LOT of new productivity that older versions of Windows didn't have, it brought back ALL of Windows Live's services (previously included in Windows Vista), which makes it Vista.2 (... ehhh, maybe that's not a good thing (-_-)) and Bing's applications, thus making Metro a unified stage for Microsoft's sercives (exluding M.S.N.), and without ''the Modern I.U.'' I would've never used Microsoft SkyDrive, it makes people more curious to Microsoft's services, I don't often use it, but I love the fact that I can choose it, and many people share my views.

            Also, don't get yourself delusioned over the so-called ''duopoly'', Microsoft dominates the P.C. market, Macintoshes are practically overexpensive scams compared to Windows Computers, which is why there are practically no virusses for them, because no-one uses them.

            Windows 8's U.I. will also get a fan-base when the new Xbox rolls out, and Xbox-users will see the benefit of seeing this on their P.C.'s, and the Windows Store could grow exponentially if it would combine Xbox LIVE's store and Windows Phone's store into it, thus creating a larger popularity.
            Văn Minh Nguyễn
          • Failed? Hardly

            Android is a fragmented mess and iOS is dead UI walking.

            Every future mobile UI will look something like or directly take from Metro.
        • So the solution is to anger all existing Windows users?

          "If Metro fails Microsoft is finished since they will have no apps for modern tablet computers"

          The 'Metro' interface will have to win people over on it's merits, not by forcing people to use it.
          • The only problems I have with Metro (Modern UI)...

            There are 2 things that Metro needs...
            1) The ability to cascade apps (windows). When you have 20"+ monitor or high res screen, full screen apps make no sense. ToolBox is good but not a solution for everyone.
            2) Move all advanced settings to Metro. There should be no reason for the Desktop UI, none.
            3) Legacy apps should be run in "Windows" in Metro. Just as a side note, why even call it Windows if it doesn't have Windows?

            Maybe as a tweak, I would like to have the task charm always on for large screens with current information on them so I can switch between them.

            Just my ideas for how to "fix" Metro.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • Comment section needs an edit button...

            Meant 3 three things.
            Rann Xeroxx
    • Since Windows 7 will be supported until 2020 ...

      What Microsoft has to be concerned about is customers wanting to continue to buy Windows 7 for years to come. As long as Windows XP users are afraid to jump to Windows 8, Windows 7 is going to have to be a viable alternative for them. Otherwise, they will never leave Windows XP. For many reasons, Microsoft has to entice as many XP users as possible over to Windows 7/8 within the next year. The sooner they can sell Windows 8 to stubborn Windows XP owners, the sooner Microsoft can stop selling Windows 7.

      I agree with Ed Bott though, that Windows 7 is going to be the long-term support version of Windows in the enterprise. Windows 8/RT is not going to displace Windows 7 because Windows 8/RT is the CONSUMER version of Windows.

      There is no reason to assume that Windows 8 will entirely replace Windows 7 in the enterprise - ever. But, Windows 9 will be another story.
      M Wagner
    • They knew...

      IMHO, I think MS knew that W8's numbers would be down and that many would stick with W7 (it is a great OS) and that W8 was a risky innovation. But.... they did it any way as well as they should have.

      Windows 8 is the most innovation that MS has done to their OS since Vista. Vista had to be done, it fixed a lot of problems with XP and started the unification of the code base. Now that the code base is the same, all of the tech that they create in the server segment can later be integrated into the client side. This will be the same with Windows 8. All of the improvements on the PC segment should be expressed on mobile device and mobile on the PC side (another reason they want to move PCs to ARMS).
      Rann Xeroxx
  • Damned if they do, damned if they don't

    There is only one real risk MS would be taking by enabling booting to the desktop and reinstating the start menu. That risk is that they could essentially be killing the future of the Modern UI app model. Of course, given their strategic plans for having a common Windows core and app model running on everything from phones (watches?) to high end desktops and servers, that's a pretty big risk.
    Sir Name
    • Boot to desktop could actually help Metro...

      If Microsoft gives desktop users what they want (boot to desktop & a modified Start Button), several things may follow:

      (1) Resistance to Metro will go down because instead of being an impediment to productivity, it will become complementary and a "curiosity" (meaning, desktop users will be more inclined to explore it and, hopefully, see the benefits).
      (2) Booting to the desktop takes away Metro's best feature--Live Tiles. Personally, I like seeing my tiles when I first login in the morning. I quickly scan my favorite apps (like weather) without opening an app.
      (3) People love to say, "I told you so"... so by Microsoft making these minor concessions, millions of complainers can feel good that they got their way... and may actually upgrade. I call these "minor concessions" because they don't really cost Microsoft anything (aside from losing a little face) because they've already made their point--Metro is the future & it's not going away. I'm assuming of course that they won't allow users to disable Metro altogether (which would be a HUGE mistake in my opinion).
      • Why?

        Why would allowing people to disable Metro be a "HUGE" mistake? If someone feels strongly enough about Metro to disable it, what do you think the chances are that they'll be buying Metro apps anyway? They'll probably already have a start menu replacement.

        MS can't force this change. People have to want to use something. If Metro is so innovative and interesting and MS and its fanboys think its so great then you shouldn't be afraid of setting people free... because if it really is that great people will come back.

        Where you begin to look like an imbecile is believing that MS removing user choice and trying to make every windows user including nontouch PC's conform to a tablet norm is in their best interest. Thats not how you great marketshare, thats how you turn longtime windows users and advocates into your biggest enemies and detractors.
        Darrah Ford
        • Fragmentation?

          Everything you said was echoed when Microsoft replaced the Program Manager with the Start Button. The same Start Button that people now claim they cannot live without. Back then people where shouting for the choice to keep the old system and not progress with the new one.

          The same situation played out when operating systems moved from Command Lines to Graphical User Interfaces.

          Everytime change happens there will be groups of people fighting to stay with what is familiar, but it isn't always for the best.

          The Start Screen is superior to the Start Button. More customization, instant action to information, less clicking, better search, etc.

          Imagine every operating system bowed to groups begging for fragmentation and continued legacy aspects in their interfaces and functions in addition to new features.

          IMHO Windows8 was released before the hardware industry was fully capable of supporting it, but at least this way MS can find what needs work and the hardware ramps up.
          • Not so much

            I do recall a lot of nerd jokes about having to go to the start menu to shut the machine down :-), but the transition to the start menu was not disruptive.

            The only people I know of who bemoan the loss of the command line are a few die hard Linux users, and Linux allows fore one of many user interfaces (hint hint Microsoft) to fit the user's preference.

            While there can not be progress without change, not all change is progress. For one working in the desktop, I do not believe the start screen is progress.

            For desktop use I do not find the start screen to be superior to the start menu. I find the entire start screen to be a jarring visual disconnect from the desktop. I also find the active tiles waving for my attention a distraction when what I want to do is launch another desktop program so I can be whisked back to the desktop, where I get my real work done.

            Windows does an excellent job of supporting legacy programs, is it too much to ask to have a basic legacy interface for desktop users without touch screens?

            The cost and hassle of use of a touch interface on my large beyond HD resolution monitor is something I do not even want to contemplate. I just do not see touch as a useful interface for a desktop computer, so why should I be stuck with a UI made for a tablet or phone?
          • progman.exe

            Program Manager WAS available for multiple versions! And you can copy it to your Windows desktop TODAY and it will still run!

            Axing the start menu is a COMPLETELY different situation, no MS-based workaround is possible. And I don't even care about the start menu, I think it's worse than the screen.

            The real issues:
            1. No Start BUTTON
            2. Start Screen full of useless under-developed Metro apps (seriously not even as good as WP8! WTF? If it's so simple to cross-develop, why doesn't freaking Microsoft?)
            3. The 'Legacy' desktop wasn't fixed! Sure, they made some performance tweaks to catch up to Linux and OSX, but the taskbar is still a bad riff on OSX, the notification area is unchanged, and now the corners are weird due to the Windows 8 stuff.

            I use Windows 8. I like Windows 8 .. on the desktop. With an SSD. I put up with Vista for years, so I'm probably more excited about basic responsiveness.

            But Windows 7 wasn't THAT good, Windows 8 desktop isn't THAT good. Progress is basically at a standstill. They added ribbon to a few key apps (which I don't like, but whatever, not a big deal), removed the pack-in games(!) and made the default apps worse (the Metro-style photos, music, pdf viewer).

            What they should have done is the RT platform on the desktop, and WP8 on ARM.