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3 Ways Microsoft Can Save Windows 8

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By now you should've heard that PC sales haven't exactly been booming. In the first quarter, IDC estimated that PC shipments fell 13.9% year over year, marking the worst quarterly decline ever for the PC industry. Between tablets that are cannibalizing the low-end notebook and the lackluster reaction to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows 8, it's not surprising to hear that the PC has seen better days. Despite Microsoft's efforts to expand its reach in mobile, the health of the PC industry remains central to the company's overall profitability and growth prospects.

With Windows 8, Microsoft attempted to reorient the PC experience to embrace an increasingly mobile and touch-friendly world. However, the sales pace of Windows 8 hasn't exactly been stellar. Thus far, Windows 8 is shaping up to be one of Microsoft's biggest flops, surpassing Windows Vista in the process. In other words, Microsoft needs to find a way to reverse the trend and get users to wholeheartedly embrace the modernized Windows experience.

Here's how Microsoft could prevent Windows 8 from being an epic failure.

Kill Windows RT
Windows RT has been a nightmare since the beginning. It has utterly confused consumers since there are inherent differences between the full version of Windows 8 and Windows RT. For one, Windows RT devices are powered by ARM Holdings (NASDAQ: ARMH  ) designs, which to the consumer means that legacy Windows applications are not compatible. However, devices powered by ARM offer the promise of smaller form factors and improved battery life over Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) -powered designs.

Microsoft has done a poor job relaying these and other subtleties between Windows 8 and Windows RT to consumers. The Verge investigated the topic and found that Microsoft failed to properly educate its employees, which naturally damaged consumer perceptions about the product. As a result of this confusion, Samsung decided not to launch any Windows RT devices in the U.S. and stopped RT sales in Germany. Acer has delayed introducing any Windows RT devices in the U.S. until it had a better sense of how Microsoft Surface RT sales fared. When major OEM partners don't even want to embrace Windows RT, how can Microsoft really make it a success story?

If only Microsoft would have just stuck with Intel's x86 architecture the whole time ...

Introduce a $200 Windows 8 tablet
Not only would a $200 Windows 8-powered tablet do wonders for Microsoft's mobile prospects, but it would also probably give Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) a run for their money in the tablet space. Both Apple's and Google's tablet experience lack the level of productivity that that would be possible on a Windows 8 tablet powered by Intel's upcoming Bay Trail processor. With a few added peripherals, such a device could become an impromptu, yet highly capable, PC in a pinch.

Speaking of Bay Trail, the future of the PC also hinges on Intel's ability to introduce technology that enables a compelling computing experience and form factor. Bay Trail-powered devices aren't expected to hit the shelves until the holiday season this year, but when they do, I expect the prospect of a $200 Windows 8 tablet to be within striking distance.

Bring back the Start menu
Perhaps the biggest gripe users have with Windows 8 is that the Start menu no longer exists after a 17-year run on the Windows ecosystem. When something's been around longer than most teenagers, it's only natural for users to associate the Windows experience with the Start menu. Take that experience away, and it's easy to see why millions yearn for the past.

Still, this outcry hasn't been enough for Microsoft to break down and give users exactly what they want. According to The Verge, Microsoft's upcoming Windows version 8.1 will be splitting the difference with users by giving them a Start button that routes back to the "Metro" interface. In other words, users still demanding a familiar Start menu experience will be sorely disappointed.

Above all else
Windows 8 isn't necessarily a terrible operating system, as sales would suggest. It's merely a strong divergence from previous Windows versions. To compensate, Microsoft needs to properly educate the public by improving the marketing message surrounding Windows 8. In short, Microsoft should better explain what makes Windows 8 different, why it's better, and how users can benefit from it.

If Microsoft can improve Windows 8's marketing message, consumer confusion is likely to take a back seat to improved reception.

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 (28) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 5:44 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Windows RT is doing just what ir was intended to do, destroy all the pundits that would've called Wintel dead because Windows doesn't run on ARM chips. Windows 8 and RT allow the two processors architectures to be compared head up and X86 is winning. Watch out because WP8 will do the same with X86 in smart phones and that's not good for Qualcomm.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 6:45 PM, NoWindows8LockIn wrote:

    "f only Microsoft would have just stuck with Intel's x86 architecture the whole time ... "

    That would not have helped. I have said it almost 100 times now. Microsoft has no interest in running legacy x86 apps on their Windows RT tablets. If Microsoft thought that they could get away it, they would kill all legacy app support and force everyone into Metro. The reason is that they will get billion$ with Metro, and nothing with legacy.

    So am going to say it again: Microsoft is not any more confused than a scam artist is when he lies to his customers. Microsoft has a strategy of raking it in, but to that, they have to offend their customer base.

    They knew that. Thew know that. They are still pushing the agenda.

    Again, this has nothing to do with lack of talent in UI or UX design. It's all about, "How much money can I get from my customers if I do X versus Y?"

    In this case, the answer is roughly $25-$40 billion a year.

    That is why they are doing X. It sucks for us, but..oh well.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 1:23 AM, Endafy wrote:

    The PC isn't dead or dying, and anyone who believes this is completely stupid, mislead, and wrong. The fact here is, people aren't paying for the OS anymore. They are doing 1 of 3 things:

    1) Most are sticking with Windows XP or Windows 7. They like what they have and see no reason to upgrade.

    2) And I think this is the most important thing to notice, People are switching to Linux in droves. Why else would Dell, HP, and Lenovo all of a sudden have this piked interest, and why else all the new games coming like overnight? People are sick of Windows and being treated like criminals by means of activation.

    3) They actually go to local PC repair shops and buy computers way cheaper than they can get anywhere else. PC repair shops now offer Linux for $100 cheaper than Windows and that makes a difference in this economy. The people don't know that it's Linux, and don't care so long as they can get on facebook, play their multimedia, and get on with life.

    Saying the PC is dead or dying is ludacris. The radio didn't kill the newspaper, the tv didn't kill the radio and the PC didn't kill the television. Please stop posting this drull. I will never do any heavy work on my phone because arm will never be x86 powerful.

    So here is the next step for the world, open source/free OS. If I can accomplish everything I do for free forever, why would I pay someone else 200+ dollars to continue to do so?

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 1:54 PM, kellenbmiller wrote:

    Three things? One thing, bring back Chess of Titans. But on a serious note. It may be that since they have multiple ways to make money they are still in denial about the threat of google and their free competing systems. People like android, and chrome is probably going to be just as user friendly. Hence the threat. Microsoft needs to enhance their systems to envelope googles OS use it abuse it and take the best of it and run. After all it is a free OS. Why? Because people like cheaper user friendly systems. Just like windows. That's is all android did, they copied apple and windows to make a user friendly system. User friendly, cheap, simple and popular. The thing creepy about google that apple and Microsoft are not as weird about is the , search engines ruse to just get people using google search by giving the OS away.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 5:26 PM, cerech wrote:

    Microsoft remains true to form. For a long time every other OS has been a dog (think Vista, Windows Me,etc.). Windows 9 may have a chance.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 5:27 PM, joepierson wrote:

    Linux has what, 1% of the market. Takes a weekend to get a program up and running, windows just works.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 5:45 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    Good article. I am very pro Surface Pro.

    This actually points out the true flaws at MS right now, not some perceived over the top evaluation.

    RT was dumb to the extreme.

    A cheap tablet would be nice. This is by far the best deal I have found

    only for the free 4G for 2 years which is easily worth $1k by itself. Still $600. If you don't live off CC this is a great deal.

    I'd rather just avoid talking about the interface. I just hope they fix it soon.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:05 PM, rlb369 wrote:

    Give us an operating system that's somewhat familiar and comfortable to use and an affordable $200 tablet and Microsoft will be on a winning track!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:09 PM, SanPasqual wrote:

    Just as Apple broke its iThing oligopoly by changing the device and appliance connector, so too has Microsoft crippled Windows 8 by confusing users thru the lack of the start button / menu. Old Coke : New Coke should be a lesson executives know by heart.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:12 PM, Einswine1 wrote:

    If it takes you an entire weekend to get a Linux box up and running, then you need to seek help with it. It takes me less then two hours to set up Linux, complete out the door.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 7:06 PM, bcweir wrote:

    To compensate, Microsoft needs to properly educate the public by improving the marketing message surrounding Windows 8. In short, Microsoft should better explain what makes Windows 8 different, why it's better, and how users can benefit from it.

    You tech writers have no idea what an uphill battle that's going to be. I work in tech and some of these people have MBA's and can't find the POWER button on their laptops! Their PHONES are SMARTER than they are!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 7:23 PM, Americanized wrote:

    If they really want to save Windows 8 they should put in a time capsule and bury it deep in the ground to be dug up by future generations and laughed at.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 8:02 PM, taug99 wrote:

    The first and most important way, is for gates to start worrying about Microsoft,

    instead of Africa.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 8:24 PM, tjmckeever wrote:

    For over a decade, Microsoft has been busy re-inventing the wheel, each time making it more square. They may succeed in getting back to a wheel once they pass through the "trapezoidal" stage of their planning.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 8:31 PM, cdkeli wrote:

    #4. Call it:: "Windows 9"

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 8:38 PM, Hoosier1234 wrote:

    Getting rid of those stupid / annoying commercials that tell you NOTHING would be a start!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 8:56 PM, yahoouser4529 wrote:

    Microsoft is allow and doing very well. They are still a monopoly in the world of computer operating systems. Do note I use window 8 and have never encountered a problem. Yes there is a learning curve in win 8 but you get used to it in a week or two. The problem is many lack patience and ate not willing to go through this learning curve. Windows 7 still sells big online and is used by millions. I like win 8 and so do many. It doesn't crash and unlike win 7 it would never reboot suddenly to install updates. In win 7 that's a flaw. You could be in middle of task and you suddenly see computer reboot.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 9:54 PM, rkinne01 wrote:

    I have Windows 8 and just don't like Metro which, to my eyes, its just not very appealing. The tiles don't seem alive to me (feels more like a slide show), are slow to load, and have few options. I have found that the tiles themselves, from MS or others, are unstable and crash often.

    I don't like that I can't span the start screen across both monitors (its weird to see only half the wallpaper). I don't like the lack of customization for the start screen

    I actually like the Charms Menu (awful name BTW), even though they can be confusing at times. I hate that I can access things from the Desktop Charms but not from Metro Charm Menu.

    Under the Hood Windows 8 is great it is more . stable and slightly faster than Windows. Believe it or not my games run better on Windows 8, a nice surprise to be sure.

    Microsoft should have given Metro as a choice and not forced on people, had they offered it simply as an option I think it would have sold more copies of Windows 8

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 12:10 AM, yahoouser4529 wrote:

    rikinne01, if you are using windows 8 how come you do not know of desktop mode in win 8? I never use the tiles either for anything and click the desktop icon right away.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 2:51 AM, btc909 wrote:

    I see dumping Windows XP for Windows 7. The performance increase of running an SSD as a primary drive makes total sense. Plus the endless security holes of XP. I end up supporting Windows 7 far less compared to XP. But the issues with Office 2010 (I won't dare touch 2013) is offsetting this for this period of time. Especially Excel 2010.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 2:55 AM, lakawak wrote:

    Leave it to Motley Fool to be so incredibly wrong once again. Neither tablets, nor Windows 8 are hurting PC sales. Especially Windows 8. That is ridiculous since you can still VERY easily buy a Windows 7 computer.

    The only thing hurting PC sales is the increased longevity of PCs. The PC is not some novelty to most people the way it was in the 90s, and even the early 00s. Like smartphones now, people thought they HAD to have the latest and greatest. This is not hte case anymore.

    Furthermore, a 5 year old PC still does everything most people want it to do today just as well as it did in 2008. (I know mine does.) That was NOT true of a computer bought in 2001 being used in 2006 since 2001 computers were generally not built with broadband internet in mind. And it certianly was not true of a Pentium I 120 MHz with 4 MB of RAM computer bought in 1996 trying to be used in 2001.

    The vast majority of people with a tablet still use their PCs regularly. And 100% of businesses still do, and ALWAYS will long after every single person "working" for Motley fool is dead and buried in a pauper's grave.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 2:59 AM, lakawak wrote:

    Also...the lower PC sales are what account for lower Windows 8 adoption. The percentage of people who have EVER bought any Operating System to install on their computer is tiny. Single digits easily. The majority of people never tough their computers, either hardware or software. (Anyone who has seen the dust inside a 5 year old computer that has never been cleaned will know this.) It would never occur to them to install a new version of Windows. They will simply get it when they buy a new computer.

    REgardless...if Windows 8 is such a failure...what does that make OS X? After all...Windows 8 has more users than OS X. In fact, it has more users than any non-Microsoft OS combined.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 3:02 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    About the only thing Microsoft can do is just stop selling Windows 7 altogether and force their users to switch to Windows 8 and discontinue updating and support for all previous OSs. If they want to stick with Microsoft then they stick with Microsoft. At least they can save TONS of money by supporting older versions and then stop selling Windows 7. and just force Windows 8 down everyone's throats.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 7:20 AM, Randyincv wrote:

    I bought my wife and I "His and Hers" HP Spectre XT Touchsmart Laptops for Christmas. Of course they arrived with Windows 8. Initially things were pretty aggravating, especially for my wife. Adding the program "Startisback", Installing Googles

    "Chrome Browser with the "Adblock" add-on I find the Laptop works very well. I can still use the new interface and with "startisback" I now have the start button which is exactly like the one in Windows 7. I will say that the Touchscreen makes Windows 8 much easier to use. Without a touchscreen just add "Startisback" ad it will solve a lot of headaches. As well as others, I feel that Microsoft's attempt to add "Glitz" to their OS to compete with the new kids on the block is a failure. Just improve the functionality of Windows and leave the Glitz out of it.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 8:31 AM, cwright5017 wrote:

    The PC is far from dead just because people quit buying new ones every year or couple of years. They've gotten to a point that they don't need a new one every year and perform well. Just because we aren't out buying new ones we don't need and buying your crap OS(When windows XP still delivers) DOES NOT MEAN THE PC IS DEAD. It just means PC SALES are dead for now. AND WINDOWS 8 DOES NOT HELP THAT ONE BIT. THAT OS SHOULD HAVE BEEN INTENDED FOR TABLETS ONLY(OR SEPARATE PURCHASE FOR A USER TO INSTALL ON THERE PC IF THEY WANTED PERHAPS MAYBE IF THEY HAD A TOUCHSCREEN).

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 8:37 AM, cwright5017 wrote:

    My laptop is triple boot with Windows XP Professional, Windows 7 Home Premium, and ubuntu. The reason I have 2 versions of windows is because some programs I have will only work with professional version of windows so I still have to use xp or upgrade to windows 7 professional(just another way to fatten microsoft's pockets) which I refuse to do. I've tried Windows 8 and would not even think about buying a computer with that crap installed or installing on a computer. If I am left with only one option when buying the computer that has Windows 8 the first thing I'd do is uninstall the crap and put ubuntu on it.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 11:40 AM, oliviatyson wrote:

    You have to be very careful when reading articles from Motley Fools bloggers.

    These bloggers are mostly unemployed or unemployable graduates from small community or nondescript college.

    These bloggers have very limited corporate and investment experience. They also have very limited income and resources. This means they use mostly free Google products -- so it should not be surprise that these are almost all rabid hard-core Google fanboys and gals.

    Don't be fooled by this unemployed bloggers.

  • Report this Comment On April 30, 2013, at 6:59 AM, TheCollectorsHub wrote:

    The PC is not dead. There is no way I could do my work strickly on a smart phone or tablet. It wouldn't matter how fast or powerful they may be, they're simply too small. ( I'm replying to this post with three monitors on my desk because I need the screen real estate. )

    Regarding Windows 8, it reminds me of an adventure game where you have to click randomly on everything to find the hidden treasures. That's not what I need or want. I want a clear and concise interface that intuitively guides me through the path. I don't want a "Where's Waldo" operating system any more than I wanted "Bob" (remember that one?).

    I'm sure Windows 8 is one of the reasons people are delaying their purchase of a new PC, especially businesses. I know I'll keep what I have until Microsoft brings back an interface more suited to the business professional instead of the gamers.

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