It's no secret that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) consumer devices haven't been wildly successful lately. Its Windows Phone platform trails a very distant third to Android and iOS, and its Windows 8 platform has received a lot of criticism, leading the company to bring back the iconic Start button recently.
But additional reports have surfaced this week that Microsoft may revamp the entire Start Menu for the next iteration of Windows. If these rumors come true, it'll prove Microsoft is missing consumer preferences in a dying PC market, which is a bad combination.
Back to Windows basics
Windows recently updated to version 8.1, adding the familiar Start button to the Metro Start screen for PC users. The move was an admission that the company had missed the boat with its revamp of Windows, but it seems the change hasn't quelled user dissatisfaction just yet. A report came out this week that Microsoft may bring back the Start Menu in the next iteration of Windows 8.
The poor consumer and enterprise response to Windows 8 prompted IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell to go so far as to say, "At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market." And that was back in April. But whether it was Windows 8 or the overall PC market simply crumbling on its own, Window 8 certainly hasn't helped the industry bounce back.
The problem for Microsoft if it brings back the Start Menu isn't that it made a mistake in the first place, but that it doesn't know how to anticipate users' needs. As one of the dominant software companies in the world, this should be a bit troubling for Microsoft investors. The company is already struggling to make a name with its Windows Phone platform and Surface tablets, so experiencing setbacks with its flagship PC software is just salt in the wound.
Microsoft is in the middle of some monumental changes at the moment -- searching for a new CEO, trying to grow its own tablet devices, purchasing Nokia's devices and services, and trying to get Windows Phone into more hands. The company's focus obviously needs to be on mobile going forward, but setbacks with Windows on PC units hurts the company's consumer reputation and shows original equipment manufacturers that the company may be out of touch with its core demographics.
Investors need to look no further than Windows RT to see how OEMs have distanced themselves from a Microsoft platform that missed consumer expectations. Updating Windows 8 with a Start Menu may ultimately be the right thing for the software platform, but it would still point out the glaring flaw that Microsoft may be losing its ability to connect with users.
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