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Network World - Microsoft is making a big effort this week to resuscitate Windows 8 with a preview of the first major upgrade to the operating system since it launched last October, but it has a lot to overcome.
Some of it was of Microsoft’s own doing by either overreaching in its effort to create an entirely new operating system or by ignoring what customers wanted. But some of it was beyond the company’s control and Windows 8 just fell victim.
Here are 10 factors that led to the less than smooth launch of Windows 8 and how they have changed or how Microsoft has taken action to address them:
1. Start button – This one is at the top of everybody’s list. Anyone who used Windows before Windows 8 loved the Start button, apparently more than Microsoft knew. But since protests about its demise began even before the operating system was generally available, the company should have known and done something about it. Even though it doesn’t cripple Windows 8 to lack a Start button, it did help cripple its reputation by giving critics something easy to carp about. With Windows 8.1, it’s back.
2. Start menu – The Start button of course triggered the start menu, which was the real thing users wanted. The fix in Windows 8.1 is that the button summons a Start screen similar to the Windows 8 Start screen that many people hated. But it can be customized to display a limited number of apps organized by category, latest installed, etc. It remains to be seen whether that’s good enough to mollify critics, but it’s a lot better than the alternative that came with the initial release of Windows 8.
3. Boot to desktop – Many customers – especially those without touchscreen devices – want their Windows 8 machines to boot directly to the desktop so they can start off right away using mouse and keyboard. They didn’t want the added step of finding the desktop access with their mouse and making the extra click. This has been remedied in Windows 8.1.
4. Lack of hardware systems – Windows 8 is designed for touch. It’s that simple. Despite what Microsoft said about it last year being a blend of the desktop and tablet interfaces that brought the best of both worlds. If customers were to embrace the radically new operating system, they needed to play with it on hardware that showed it to its best advantage. Microsoft and its partners just didn’t deliver it, and so uptake lagged. With new, lower power chips coming out, availability of touchscreen supplies and OEM interest, Microsoft is promising a flow of appropriate devices to start over the coming months. This is still a bunch of promises, but at least there really are a range of devices available now and perhaps more to come at low prices.
5. Dearth of apps – In order to make people learn a new operating system and an unfamiliar touch interface, a set of compelling applications needed to drive demand, but the apps just weren’t there. Microsoft has been hammering away to get developers on board writing these apps, and the Microsoft Store is about to clear 100,000 applications in its inventory. To its credit the company has held two developers’ conferences in less than a year, giving developers free Windows 8 devices so they can experiment with the operating system and tried to sweeten the reimbursement they get for sales. But it’s a work in progress. Developers tend to gravitate to the larger potential markets, and Windows 8 uptake so far hasn’t been so overwhelming that they’re throwing themselves into Windows 8 app development.