Is it time for Microsoft to make big changes to Windows 8?
So a very early build of the next version of Windows has leaked online. Codenamed Windows Blue it includes features such as additional Snap Views and changes to the Charms. There’s nothing to get too excited about here, not yet at least.
But I’ve been wondering lately, if it isn’t time for Microsoft to change course and steer away a little from the direction it set with Windows 8. There’s no sign of that happening in the Windows Blue leak, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see more fundamental changes added to the new version as development progresses.
Although we still don’t know how well Windows 8 is selling, we do know it’s not exactly setting the world on fire. Microsoft told us it had sold 60 million licenses, but no one outside of the software giant knows how many users that equates to. But we do know PC sales are dire, and Windows 8 hasn’t just failed to boost numbers, it’s at least partially responsible for their decline.
It seems clear at this point that Microsoft has two options. It can stay the course and hope sales and adoption pick up. That tablets running the operating system really take off, and people and businesses embrace the brave new world that is Windows 8 and RT. Or it can tweak the OS to make it more appealing to the masses who still use PCs and spend most of their time on the desktop.
The problem is Microsoft really is between a rock and a hard place here. It needs people to accept apps and the modern UI as the future -- this is what links every device, from PCs and tablets to the Windows Phone, after all. People bemoan the fact that you have to go through the Modern UI to get to the desktop, and there’s a thriving market of companies producing software designed to bypass the Start screen, but Microsoft knew from the word go that it couldn’t bake in a simple skip option itself. It needs users to get used to the new front end, to encourage them to download and use apps, which wouldn’t happen if everyone was skipping the Modern UI. App use leads to app creation, leads to app use.
But maybe this restriction is what’s holding Windows 8 back. If Microsoft gives in a little and provides direct access to the desktop in Windows Blue, maybe the reinvented operating system won’t be such a turn off for PC users. After all, Windows 8 is a lot more than a touch friendly, app centric interface. Beneath that divisive veneer lurks a damn fine operating system.
The other issue Windows 8 has is the lack of official apps. And that’s partly down to the fact that it isn’t seeing the level of adoption that would make it a must develop-for platform. For a lot of firms, like Google, Facebook and the BBC, there’s no reason to make apps for Windows 8, there's no benefit. Lack of OS adoption leads to lack of app creation, leads to lack of OS adoption.
So my question is should Microsoft accept its bold vision is a little too bold, and make concessions to the operating system to encourage people to get on board, or should it stick to its guns and just focus on making the best OS it can -- entirely on its own terms?
Personally I’ve pretty much come full circle with Windows 8. When I first used the Developer Preview I quite liked it. The more I used the OS (the subsequent previews and the actual release), the less I liked it. Then I accepted it, and finally I sort of quite like it again. It's just very different from previous versions of Windows, and when you’re used to working one way, having to learn to do things differently is an inconvenience.
Still, I know Windows 8 is a topic that BetaNews readers have strong viewpoints on, so I’d like to know what you think Microsoft should do. Comments below please.