Can Microsoft Fix Its Windows Blunders?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is really pushing to get its software into customers’ hands with greater force. Windows RT and Windows 8 are receiving particularly strong efforts from the company.

When Windows 7 launched, it was aided by the fact that a lot of customers were just dying to get away from the flop that was Windows Vista. However, when Windows 8 came out, not everyone was so enthusiastic to make the switch. In fact, many were quite upset about the new operating system.

Windows 8 broke the tradition of Windows in a number of ways; one of the most notable ways was in the replaced start menu. Instead of having the old start menu that had been in so many previous versions of Windows, The new operating system launched a whole new page of tiles that listed programs and settings.

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The old interface that was a mainstay of Windows was gone, and it had been replaced by a new interface that was completely unfamiliar to users. If there’s one good way to upset people without poking them obnoxiously, it’s probably to take away things they know, replace them with something else, and force them to relearn everything.

Now it’s been reported that Microsoft is releasing an update to Windows 8 that would bring users up to Windows 8.1. And, in that update, users may find themselves confronted with a much more familiar interface than in the original Windows 8. It’s been suggested that Microsoft will bring back the start bar — though it seems likely that the tile screen will also remain on the system, since it was optimized for touchscreens and so many touchscreen devices are coming to market now.

Windows 8 wasn’t the only problem. It was just the more prominent one. Off on the margin, Microsoft had another operating system that seemed to struggle even to be known.

In order to help Microsoft push into the tablet market, it developed a new operating system that could run on processors using ARM Holdings’ (NASDAQ:ARMH) designs. This was a major step away from making software that ran only on chips from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) or Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD).

The reason for the special software was that Intel’s and AMD’s chip designs weren’t quite as well suited to mobile platforms, as they consumed more power and would more quickly drain the limited battery of a tablet. Chips using ARM’s designs were generally more energy-efficient and thus popular in mobile devices.

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One of the big problems with Windows RT was that people just didn’t know about it. Retailers didn’t have much to tell customers about it, and original equipment manufacturers weren’t scrambling to make their own devices running on the software. So, it’s presence was limited and rather quiet.

Microsoft is aiming to change that as well. First off, it is planning to offer Microsoft Outlook on the device. Previously, the email program and service hadn’t been available on Windows RT devices. In fact, a good deal of software hasn’t been available for RT devices because of the different chip architecture.

Adding one bit of software might not exactly turn the operating systems fate around. Of course, that’s not the only effort Microsoft is making for Windows RT. It is also trying to make the system more popular with device manufacturers by lower the cost.

For tablet devices smaller than 10.1 inches, the company will be giving manufacturers a discount on Windows RT licenses, according to Nick Parker, the corporate vice president of Microsoft’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) division. People familiar with Microsoft’s pricing have suggested the cuts would be two-thirds of the original Windows RT licensing cost. Microsoft would also be offering rebates and cuts on other software.

The lower cost may help Microsoft get more manufacturers interested in the software. So far, many of the world’s biggest computer manufacturers have snubbed Windows RT, either not making or not launching devices running the software.

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Since Windows 8 is a fuller software package and can also run on a tablet, it has been a slightly more popular choice for manufacturers, as it’s also seen as a more popular choice for consumers. The cut to licensing costs may help garner attention for Windows RT, but it will still have to contend with cannibalization by Windows 8 devices.

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