With Windows 8, Microsoft made bold changes to the look of the software
that powers most personal computers. But those moves may have been too
aggressive for some customers, the company now concedes.
revealed Thursday that it had sold 100 million licenses for its flagship
software since it was released six months ago. That was roughly the
same number of licenses it sold for the well-received, previous version
of the system, Windows 7, in about the same time period.
Windows 8 has struck a sour note with parts of the computer-buying
public. With Windows 8, Microsoft replaced the operating system's
traditional appearance with an interface that looks like a screen of
tiles. The change left some customers cold, and though they could switch
between the old and the new look, it apparently was not clear enough to
some of them how to do it.
In an interview, Tami Reller, chief
marketing officer and chief financial officer of Microsoft's Windows
division, said an update to the software, code-named Windows Blue, was
coming later this year. It will include modifications that make the
software easier to figure out, especially on computers without touch
"The learning curve is real and needs to be addressed," Reller said.
was another problem. The tile look was meant for people using
touch-screen computers, and there are not many of those devices running
Windows yet available. Researchers at market analyst IDC estimate that
Microsoft sold only about 900,000 of its Surface tablets during the
first quarter of the year, about 1.8 percent of the overall market.
Other Windows tablet makers like Acer accounted for additional sales.
By comparison, Apple, with iPad sales of 19.5 million, accounted for 39.6 percent.
to the disappointment of PC makers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard,
Windows 8 has not helped fend off competition from devices like the
iPad. Global shipments of PCs fell 13.9 percent to 76.3 million units
during the first quarter of the year when compared with the same period a
year ago - the worst showing in two decades, according to IDC. Tablet
shipments grew 142.4 percent to 49.2 million units in that same period,
(Also see: Windows 8 blamed for worst PC quarterly sales on record)
Windows 8 was supposed to bridge tablets and
traditional personal computers with software made for touch screens that
had the option to switch to the desktop interface whenever someone
wanted to create a PowerPoint slide or work on an Excel spreadsheet
using a keyboard and mouse.
Microsoft envisioned a bounty of new
Windows 8 touch-screen devices, including laptops with displays that
also respond to finger gestures.
But that has not panned out. The
majority of personal computers on store shelves have been more
old-fashioned keyboard-based systems.
"If you're not going to
provide the proper environment for people to understand how to use the
system, you risk losing a lot of people who used the system for a
decade," said David Daoud, an analyst at IDC.
Microsoft would reveal more about the Windows 8 changes in the coming
weeks, but she declined to confirm they would include an option to
bypass the new tile interface at startup, as recent reports on
technology news sites have said.
Reller added that Microsoft had
already trained its retail partners to remind customers that the old
desktop interface still exists in Windows 8.
"We started talking about the desktop as an app," she said. "But in reality, for PC buyers, the desktop is important."
own research on Windows 8 usage patterns showed customer satisfaction
with the system was on par with that of Windows 7, if the users being
analyzed have tablets or other systems with touch screens, Reller said.
People with conventional PCs are not as happy.
"We need to help them learn faster," she said.
Blood, an audio engineer in Hudson, Mass., put Windows 8 on one of his
existing computers, but took it off after a few days, deciding that the
software only made sense if he had a touch-screen machine. "I can do
absolutely everything I need to do in Windows 7, and it's a nice-looking
OS," Blood said. While the 100 million licenses for Windows 8 sounds
impressive, that figure does not indicate how many people are actually
using the new operating system. That is because a significant portion of
Microsoft's Windows sales occur through multiyear contracts with
business customers, who are allowed to pick which version of the
operating system they run on their computers.
So while business
customers who signed such deals since Windows 8 came out are counted
among the licenses sold, many may have downgraded to Windows 7. Al
Gillen, an IDC analyst, estimates that about 40 percent of Microsoft's
Windows sales are to customers with such downgrade rights.
said such a pattern among business customers, who tend to adopt new
software cautiously, was common when new versions of Windows are
© 2013, The New York Times News Service