Simply chopping prices drastically for Windows 8 and Office 2013 for mini-tablets isn't going to cut it. Neither Windows 8 nor its close relatives, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, even appear on NetApplication's mobile and tablet usage reports for February 2013. Nor, do I think discount prices on Windows 8 for PCs would help much. There are also lots of cheap Windows 8 PCs and they're not selling well.
So what can Microsoft do to give Windows 8 a shot? Here are my proposals.
Repeat after me Microsoft user interface designers: "The desktop is not the same thing as a tablet or a smartphone." Metro may work on the latter two, but it has no place on the former.
2. Bring back the Windows 7 Aero interface
Unlike Vista or Windows 8, people loved Windows 7. Why? While Aero was different from the XP interface, it was still familiar enough for users to be comfortable with, and, at the same time, it incorporated improvements. The Windows 8's Windows Explorer desktop just doesn't cut it.
So long as we're at it, let's make this new-model Windows 8 Aero desktop the one-and-only interface. I mean, seriously, why do we need two interfaces for one operating system? Is there some reason why we need to have the Internet Explorer (IE) 10 navigation bar on the Metro interface and on top in the desktop model?
It's not just the looks, though. Different applications work differently. For example, IE 10 comes with Adobe Flash built in. So you'd think you'd be able to see the same sites with IE no matter where you started it, wouldn't you? Wrong!
It's not like this is surprising news. Back when Windows 8 was brand new, interface guru Jakob Nielsen said that having two desktop available on one device was "a prescription for usability problems". That was not only because users have to remember where to go for which features, but because switching between two interfaces was more trouble than it was worth.
Exactly! To sum up, give us one interface and give it to us now!
4. Fix Windows' marketing
Repeat after me: Windows 8 is not Windows RT. Surface Pro is not Surface RT. Techie people already know that. You know who doesn't know that? Ordinary people. If I had a dime for every time I heard from my non-geeky friends about how Windows RT or Surface RT can't run their desktop apps, I'd be a rich man.
RT, in short, is not really Windows. Give the operating system another name, paste another label on the Surface RT. Stop confusing your users!
5. Improve Windows 8 native apps
It's not like we expect Office 2013 for free on every Windows 8 PC, but have you really looked at Windows 8's native apps? There's Mail, which doesn't support Post Office Protocol (POP) or threaded messaging. The photo app doesn't include basic editing tools. And if Dropbox can automatically sync everything in a folder from my PC to the cloud and vice versa, why can't the SkyDrive app do the same thing?
Two out of those three should have made Windows 8 the next "go to" Windows upgrade. If Microsoft swallows its pride and gives users a single, old-style interface that they can actually enjoy and use, Windows 8 may yet prove a winner.
If they don't? Well, they'd better plan on making Windows 7 easily available again — until they can get Windows Blue out the door, because they're not going to be selling a lot of Windows 8.