What a Windows 8 U-turn will mean for the PC

What a Windows 8 U-turn will mean for the PC

Summary: Windows 8 hasn't given PC sales the boost that OEMs were anticipating, and Microsoft is now rumored to be getting ready to do a U-turn on some of the core changes introduced. What effect will this have on the wider industry?

TOPICS: Windows 8, Microsoft, PCs

It seems highly likely that Microsoft is planning a big Windows 8 U-turn, and that the release of Windows 8.1 — also known as Windows Blue — will allow users to bypass the much-hated Start Screen and also bring back the much-loved Start button.

While this is likely to please those who found these changes irritating and confusing, what could this mean for the wider PC industry?

Mea culpa, or the next step?

It's clear that Microsoft considered Windows 8 to be risky. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterized it as just that back in October 2010. This is clear evidence that Microsoft had doubts about how the operating system would be received by the PC driving masses. If Microsoft thought that Windows 8 could be risky, then it is likely that the company had a plan B.

Windows 8.1 could be that plan B.

But the question remains — how will Microsoft spin the U-turn? Will it be a mea culpa, or will the changes be branded as the next evolutionary step for the operating system?

The OEM response

Many PC OEMs are dissatisfied with what Microsoft has done with Windows 8 and the way the company has handled the negative response to the operating system. Privately, one OEM source told me that Microsoft is "destroying" the PC industry, while another claimed that Windows 8 has "handed over millions of customers to Apple."

Other OEMs are making their displeasure known publicly. Both Lenovo and Samsung have released Start button replacements for Windows 8.

As I've said many times already, the PC industry is suffering as consumers shift from spending their dollars on PC to spending their dollars on post-PC devices such as smartphones and tablets. Windows 8 has done little to boost sales, so OEMs will be pinning their hopes on the next big thing to come out of Redmond.

Where will this leave Windows 8 apps?

One of the primary reasons why Microsoft wanted to bypass the desktop and throw Windows 8 users into the confusing hell stew that is the Start Screen is to give apps a higher level of visibility.

But if Microsoft is planning to give users the ability to bypass the Start Screen, this is going to mean fewer eyeballs on apps. This could have a detrimental knock-on effect on app sales.

Will developers be interested in developing apps for Windows 8 if the focus of attention is shifted from the Start Screen to the desktop?

Issue of trust

There is a palpable lack of trust surrounding Windows 8. While some consumers have embraced the changes the operating system has brought with it, others remain wary. It's a similar situation to that which clouded Windows Vista.

Can Windows 8.1 regain the trust that Windows 8 has eroded away? If it can then it could give the PC industry a reprieve. If not, it will be another — possibly final — nail in the coffin of the PC.

Can Microsoft restore user trust in the Windows brand?

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, PCs

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  • I doubt that it will be a U-turn

    More like a series of 45 degree turns before and they will be back to their old Metro tricks when they realise any pickup in sales.
    • At least . . .

      At least it's a Start. :-)

      Just not having to help my family and friends install Classic Shell on every computer would be an improvement. But if access to the Start Menu not the default, I will end up still having to help them find the setting in Windows. What they need to do is offer each user a choice as the account is being set up for the first time.
      • As they say…

        'Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery'

        So let’s see how far is Microsoft going with “the program” and if they will ever recover from them Metro Madness that has engulfed them.
      • Re: At least . . .

        Mega dittos! I can't count the number of times I've said the same thing!
      • Start Button

        Better yet, allow users to switch from Start Menu to Classic Shell and back. If a user's need's change, he/she would be able to switch.
    • After reading all postings here...

      I see that Apple folks stayed out of the discussion.

      In other words, there was none of the usual name calling and slander from Windows folks that one is subjected to when the topic focuses on Apple or, horrors, when the article author risks a comparison between the two companies.

      Could it be we are embarking on a new course of reason and respect for opposing viewpoints?

      • I think the Apple folks are scared

        Because they think that Microsoft may indeed consider fixing the broken Windows 8 UI and win back some defectors.

        Or maybe they have realized the most of the bashing is coming from the Windows users themselves, so they just sit back and enjoy the show.

        To answer your question though...nope.
        • Nope

          Apple user here - enjoying the show. As for the "winning back of detractors," once you go Mac, you don't go back.
          • Glad to have you here...

          • Not true

            I've used Mac's on and off since the the Mac SE. I hate using them, I only use them when I absolutely have to.
          • MAC's

            Some will, some won't ... So what?
            Max Peck
          • I would like to have

            A Mac SE/30.

            If they came out with an iMac in that form factor, I'd save up and buy one (prolly take 10 years at apple pricing, but still).

            Not color classic form factor, but looking exactly like a Mac, Plus, SE, or classic design.
          • Went mac once...

            Yeah I went mac once, came screaming right back. In fact Im pretty sure I may have broke the sound barrier on my way back.
          • + 1 mac

            I just became a mac user in the fall, ofcourse I had over 20 years experience with various oses over the years and some non osx apple software. I bought a mbp because I got tired of replacing my laptops every 2 years due to hardware(other than harddrives)failures. sure I paid a premium. I can do everything I could with a windows box on this. we did purchase a win8 laptop(couldn't beat a new one for 260)absolutely hate the metro on it. I had no problems figuring out how to do things on mac as a new users, win8 not so much
            William e Nelson
          • that's sad

            I had Windows 8 mastered in under an hour. It's EASY.
          • If it's easy...

            ...please explain why I find Ubuntu easier. I'm impressed with your intelligence, that you were able to master it so quickly. I'm not kidding.
            Bill Tetzeli
          • windows 8 is easy

            I love it
            I now also have windows phone 8, love that too.
            I dont see what all the crying is about.
            JP Deveau
          • actually

            I went "All in" with Apple a few years ago. IPhone, iPad, MacBook pro. I'm now rocking a Lumia 920, which is superior to iPhone in every way except total quantity of apps, I've sold my junk iPad, and my MacBook pro now runs Windows 8 exclusively. The modern UI is so superior to antiquated xerox-parc knockoff Apple and Microsoft stole 30 years ago, I'll never switch back to a static icon OS again.

            oh, and Kingsley Hughes is a boob. There's as much chance of Microsoft dropping the modern UI as there was of them dropping the start menu to return to the Windows 3.1 shell after people HATED the start menu and taskbar back when Windows 95 and NT4 introduced them.

            Like it or not, touch is the next step in UI design for bigboy computers, followed by voice command and probably eye tracking. Inside of 5 years, 90% of laptops will be tablet hybrids, and dedicated tablets like iPad will be cheap, basic devices for the bottom rung of computing. Time to move forward, kiddies.
          • dedicated tablets

            translates to "dumb internet terminals"
          • Thank goodness I'm not alone

            jasongy, you're a man after my own heart. I'm also maxed up with Mac gear. However, I find Apple's obsession with metal and it's boring interfaces utterly stultifying. My iDevices languish unloved, while I use the breath of fresh air that is Windows 8.

            I simply cannot see why people aren't embracing the changes in Windows 8. If MS listen to these Start Menu people, we'll never get any progress with our OS. Let us have lovely full-screen Metro apps for the whole interface! We don't need the desktop, icons, title bars, taskbars, or anything. WE WANT MODERN. It works fine with the mouse/keyboard or touch.

            The Start Menu must die. I don't need the desktop either. Bring it on. I'm ready for the future.
            William J Arrowsmith