Can Microsoft admit its Windows 8 mistake?

What were they thinking?

It made sense when Microsoft decided to update Windows to be an operating system not just for PCs, but for tablets. In fact, it was a rather clever strategy: Declare tablets to be PCs, and then show that Windows tablets do more than Android or iOS, including running all those existing Windows programs. So far, makes sense.

Then Microsoft went further, too far: Not only did the company create the touch-oriented Windows Modern UI, formerly known as Metro, but forced users to use it, even on conventional desktop PCs and notebooks with no touch. And then the the company went even further by making the Desktop Mode less usable.

The idea must have been to force quick growth of the Modern UI ecosystem, but we don't have to wait any longer to know that this was a mistake. Microsoft didn't need to disadvantage desktop users in order to promote the Modern UI. No wonder large institutional buyers are turned off to Windows 8. Maybe they're buying lots of tablets for tablet tasks, but they still buy PCs for PC tasks.

The good news for Microsoft is that this problem is easily remedied. At least the technical part is easy. It does, however, require an act of profound public contrition: Microsoft admits miscalculation with the initial design of Windows 8. Here's what the fixed version needs, and all of these things are fairly easy to do, whether in Windows Blue or some other update:

  • Windows 7-like mode of operation, called the Old-Fashioned Mode if you want. Let users or administrators set the system to boot into this mode.
  • Antique Mode should be able to launch Modern UI apps just like desktop apps. Running apps should appear in the taskbar.
  • Modern UI home screen needs an obvious, fixed thing to click on to go to desktop mode.
  • Modern UI also needs a fixed date/time display.

There are more-sophisticated, less urgent ideas related to these that would work well. I can see it preferring the Modern UI in some ways if the system is operating purely as a tablet, but desktop mode when a keyboard and mouse are connected.

Yes, the Modern UI has its own issues. Lots of people don't like it, but that's another matter and a less important one in the short term. The important thing for right now for Microsoft is to stop undermining the message that Windows 8 is a PC operating system.

The message that Windows 8 works with both tablets and PCs, and that tablets are just another kind of PC, is a good one and can still succeed. Personally, I think there is nobody as credible as he who freely admits his mistakes.

Photo Credit: JStaley401/Shutterstock

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