Is Microsoft Turning Tail With Windows 8?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) could be doing some major backtracking with the next major update to Windows 8. The software hasn’t been widely adopted, and has perhaps been even more narrowly praised.

It’s no question that the PC market is on the decline. As more mobile devices become competent alternatives for many users, the PC has faced some strong outside competition. It’s no longer Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) PCs versus Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) PCs versus Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macs, with whomever else in between. Now it’s everyone’s PCs versus everyone’s tablets and smartphones.

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For many people, an iPad has all the computer functionality they need to get a majority of their computing tasks done. The same can be said of other tablets — though none are quite as popular. Since tablets are often smaller, more portable, and can be cheaper than some PCs, they have proven to be sufficient for many users, and thus have interfered with PC sales. For people with very limited computing demands, smartphones can even be a satisfactory replacement, and they are far more prevalent than tablets.

Microsoft acknowledged the shift in the industry toward tablets and away from PCs, and it aimed for the middle ground when it launched Windows 8 and its Surface Pro hybrid tablet. The new operating system was a major departure from the style and form of older Windows versions — at least on the surface, as the system started up with an unfamiliar, stylized display of boxes, rather than the traditional desktop that was hidden underneath. The new operating system looked tablet-ready, but for many Windows loyalists, it might not have looked much like Windows.

One of Windows’ most prominent features was the Start button nestled into the corner of everyone’s screen. With Windows 8, that button was thrown out, which likely left a lot of users confused about how to do many things. Amidst the din of voices criticizing Windows 8, many have called for the return of the Start button.

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However, all the change that went into Windows 8 — making it so different from old operating systems — could soon change back. According to Microsoft’s Tami Reller, head of marketing and finance for Windows, Microsoft will release an updated version of the operating system that will change “key aspects” of how the software is used. Analysts consider this change an admission of failure on the part of Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, comparing it to Coca-Cola’s (NYSE:KO) “New Coke” fiasco some 30 years ago. It’s not clear just what the changes to the operating system will be, but it seems probable that it will change to more closely resemble the older, more familiar versions of Windows, as that’s what consumers seem to be calling for. Unfortunately, making the operating system more PC-like could damage Microsoft’s foray into the tablet market.

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