Will Microsoft Address One of Windows 8's Biggest Weaknesses?

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Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows 8 is totally killing the PC. This we know. First-quarter PC shipments put up the worst growth in nearly two decades. One contributing factor to consumer's rejecting Windows 8 is the controversial Start Screen.

The software giant ditched its staple Start Menu in the new platform in favor of the tile-based Start Screen that Microsoft first introduced in Windows Phone. Removing a core interface element that's been around since 1995 was a bold risk, and one that's backfiring. Third-party alternatives that emulate the Start Menu's functionality are taking off as they step up to fill the void.

Well, Microsoft may be preparing to address this shortfall with the upcoming release of Windows 8.1, otherwise known as Windows "Blue." The Verge reports that the company might include a new option that allows users to boot directly to the familiar desktop interface, bypassing the tile interface that average users are clearly shunning.

Microsoft isn't expected to actually bring the Start Menu back from the dead, although it's still possible. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley's inside source says that the software giant is considering it, but nothing's set it stone yet.

Even Paul Thurrott, a widely followed Windows enthusiast, had been calling for exactly this feature as part of his "Fixing Windows 8" series from late last year. Most users still spend the majority of their computing time in a desktop environment, so allowing them to jump straight there would just be "customer-centric common sense," in Thurrott's opinion.

It should be obvious to Microsoft by now that it needs to do something to address Windows 8's weaknesses. At Windows 8's current trajectory, the entire PC value chain is going to suffer for Microsoft's mistakes. Touchscreen devices will eventually come down in price and make Windows 8's interface more approachable. Until that happens, just bypassing the Start Screen may not be enough.

It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In this brand-new premium report on Microsoft, our analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, the challenges are many. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.

Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:42 PM, 2fool2lose wrote:

    You hit the nail right on the head. I hate that ugly screen. It's so impersonal, boring and plain ugly. Total lack of imagination. They treat the consumers as idiots who don't know how to navigate their own computer. Those big buttons look like what you see in play activities for preschoolers.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:45 PM, techy46 wrote:

    "One contributing factor to consumer's rejecting Windows 8 is the controversial Start Screen."

    Baloney! First there never was a Start Menu, it was a Start Button and second must real users I know, not analysts, critics and oped writers, really kike the Start Screen more. So tell us what Apple needs to do to get back to $700 and leave MS alone.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:47 AM, ECSwolf wrote:

    While the Start Screen is definitely a major issue concerning Windows 8, taking out the Start Menu also caused additional problems for the OS.

    Navigating to important administrative systems such as the Control Panel or Device Manager is a much greater hassle in Windows 8. Additionally, folder navigation is no longer as fluid, as you are practically forced to start from the Libraries folder unless you fill your desktop screen with shortcuts.

    I also thought it was a terrible idea to design an interface mechanic such as the Corners thing. Where you put the mouse pointer in the upper corner to bring up the options window or whatever. That mechanic was explained once during the initial start up, and is otherwise never mentioned again. Unless you already know about the mechanic, the only way a user will figure out how it works is by accident, and to me, that's just a very terrible UI design decision.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:58 AM, fwe43 wrote:

    @2fool2lose - Exactly how is a home screen filled with tiles from your favorite programs, apps or websites impersonal? Seriously, please answer. - And a total lack of imagination? Are you kidding me, Win 8 is the most forward thinking OS to hit the market since GUI first emerged. It's very imaginative and innovative. Perhaps too much so?

    And the start menu button again? This is crazy, the start menu is now basically on the right of the screen instead of the lower left. In the new start menu (charms bar) you can now search for and find any app, program or file within seconds. Results update in real time. It's much faster and more comprehensive. I figured this all out within a minute of using the new interface. What the devil is wrong with people that they can't figure this out?

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:06 AM, fwe43 wrote:

    @ECSwolf, how is mousing over the right side of the window (to get to the device manager) a "hassle?" And you mention the shortcuts on the new start screen to favorite folders. That's a huge benefit. Bootup and single click, I'm where I want to be.

    I think you expose the problem in the way you describe it. The way a user figures out how to use Win 8 is by experimenting not accident. Win 8 is fun to use, so have fun with it. Swipe, click, tap, move the mouse around ...have fun! You may be amazed at what you can do.

    If you still don't get it MSFT has a bunch of videos online about how to use it. It really isn't and shouldn't be the ordeal that people are turning it into.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:17 AM, CharlieTX wrote:

    First thing I did when I (downgraded) to Windows 8 was to load Start8 from StarDock for a whopping $5. So, my Windows 8 machine now looks, feels and acts like Windows 7. Frankly, I don't care if Microsoft puts the Start Menu back in or not, and I don't see myself ever buying another Microsoft product. My next desktop class machine will be Android based.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:38 AM, miteycasey wrote:

    They can't figure it out because they shouldn't need too.

    Much like a new car. How difficult would it be to learn to drive if someone switched the brake and accelarator petal, and made the steering wheel a stick like in a plane.

    If Microsoft wants to put tiles on a phone and tablet, fine. That's their business, but when they start making radical changes that cause companies to retrain their entire staff just to learn to do something they are doing today that's not fine.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:40 AM, SKS762 wrote:

    @FWE43, I have to agree with 2fool. Windows 8 tiles are the equivalent of writing a term paper in crayon. If some people prefer that format because that's how their phone works, that's okay. Make it a choice. Don't force the rest of us to point and click colored boxes. It is not imaginative at all, it dumbs down the operating system to act like a mobile device.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:14 AM, 110254545yy wrote:

    Why kill the Goose that has laid your Golden Eggs for three decades?


  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:15 AM, 110254545yy wrote:

    The SAD part of it all is that NO ONE at MSFT seems to be listening to Windows 8 users complaints.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:22 AM, uncoveror wrote:

    I expect the upcoming service pack to contain nothing useful. Microsoft is so high up in an ivory tower that they have clue how 99.99% of the public use their computers. If they had any sense at all, they would just stop pushing Windows 8, and let OEMs use Windows 7.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:51 AM, hmtl81 wrote:

    @fwe43, I recently had to get a new computer at my work. I hate Windows 8. The tiles clutter the screen with a bunch of crap and I agree with ECSwolf and miteycasey about the difficulty in practical use. This is a work computer I don't have time to "experiment" and "have fun" with it. I should be able to get on the computer and do my work without all the hassle. I have figured out how to do most of what I need to but like miteycasey said, I shouldn't need to.

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