Microsoft Corp. is finally sharing some scant details of life after Windows 8, and as predicted it appears to be more of the same. Breathless reports in the media notwithstanding, the changes due for Redmond’s struggling flagship operating system amount to more of a veer to the right than a U-turn, and are nowhere near a concession of “New Coke” proportions.
As we first reported last December, the Windows 8 update due later this code named Windows Blue remains largely committed to the operating systems touchscreen-focused blocky interface, with some slight modifications. While the much beloved “Start” button that disappeared in Windows 8 may be making a comeback and “classic view” becomes a more readily available option for traditional PC users, the rest, it appears, is all tiles all the time.
Users that were hoping Microsoft might move away from the so-called Metro interface for something more like the Aero UI in XP and Win7 in upcoming versions are likely to remain disappointed with the new OS version. Windows Blue will add some basic UI functionality, including the ability to resize tiles on the PC version similar to the way Metro now works on Windows Phone 8, according to alpha testers who have worked with early versions of the software.
Microsoft also appears poised to modify Windows 8 to make it a better fit for smaller 7-inch and 8-inch tablets, giving OEMs a fighting chance against wildly popular fondleslabs like Apple Inc.’s iPad Mini and the raft of tiny tablets running Google Inc.’s Android OS.
“We are investing aggressively in retail and with OEM partners to arm the worldwide market with more touch tablets and PCs to drive adoption,” Tami Reller, CFO and CMO for Windows said in a prepared statement as part of a mini road tour to tease the Windows 8 rev. “And Windows Blue will take this approach further, which is coming later in 2013.”
Despite the reports, the issue isn’t whether Microsoft is reversing course or admitting defeat with Windows 8. They’re not. The question is, will the aggressive investment and partner enablement Reller speaks of will be too little too late to buoy a foundering Windows franchise.
Microsoft has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses in the six months since the product launched, lackluster by global software standards particularly for a product like the once ubiquitous Windows OS. This year’s first quarter saw the steepest decline in PC shipments since records began, according to IDC, which pinned much of the blame on Windows 8 for slowing the market.
“Windows Blue will advance the vision we set out for Windows in the future, which started with Windows 8, and we will take into account feedback we have heard from customers using Windows 8. We will have more to share about Windows Blue – so stay tuned,” Reller said.