Windows 8.1 arrives soon. I’ve seen a couple things on what comes next. Here’s my take on what Microsoft needs to do.
Let’s face it. Windows 8 was a mess. The user interface was/is so different from the Windows XP/Windows 7 paradigm that most users I know either won’t use Windows 8 or have switched to Mac or Linux. For Microsoft, this is a huge issue. Aside from Windows Phone, which by all accounts has a great interface, but a microscopic user base, Live Tiles don’t work well on a traditional PC, and THAT my friends, is where Microsoft makes their living.
So what’s Microsoft to do? I have a couple of ideas…
Ditch the Tiles on the PC Side
Surface RT and Surface 2 are Microsoft’s tablet products, and honestly, the Live Tile thing works and does an OK job on a tablet, which is much like a phone. Live Tiles have been received very well on Windows Phone, so keeping the same UI on their tablet line makes a world of sense.
Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro are really ultrabooks, not tablets. They’re really an – uh-hem – ultra version of a slate-based TabletPC. The only real difference there is that they’re much smaller, much thinner and much more portable. I have one. It’s a full blown PC and definitely not a tablet or lean-back device. It’s for serious work. The Start Screen simply does not work well here, even though I can take my hands off the keyboard, away from the touch pad on a Type or Touch Cover or even a mouse and manipulate the device with touch. It just doesn’t work well. It’s why touch-based CRT’s and LCD’s never really caught on in any other setting other than retail.
Merge the Tablet and Phone OS and Software Stores
You know, I really like Mary Jo Foley. She’s got some really good sources over at Microsoft, and some of them are really VERY accurate. According to MJF and her source, by Spring of 2015, Windows RT and Windows Phone will be a single, merged OS. In my mind, that’s a year too long. It needs to happen before June 2014.
I agree that’s a lot to get done in less than 9 months; but its overdue now as it is. Microsoft’s mobile strategy sucks, and has for well over a decade. Ballmer just didn’t get mobile devices OR mobile computing, and as such, they lost the position of power they had back in the 2000-2004 time frame.
Merging Windows Phone and Windows RT is the right thing to do, but they need to make that happen NOW and not later. That will likely mean bringing on a huge amount of contract labor and developing a very aggressive schedule. If they can get the mobile OS standardized and have all of the software for that single platform also exist in a single store, then like iOS and Android, they’ll have a unified platform they can then get behind and push with an aggressive marketing machine.
More Frequent Updates
According to MJF and her source, there should be an update to Windows 8.x before June 2014. However, it’s not known if that’s going to be a formal release or simply a service pack or update of some kind. Microsoft is shooting for the April-May-June time frame to be their formal annual release time, but if that’s the case, then they need to hit this next release window with a formal Windows release and not a service pack. If they want to appear as though they are turning around major releases quickly in the Spring, then they need to do so in 2014. Waiting until 2015 to provide the next major update will make them appear to have reverted back to the service pack model they said they left behind with Windows 7.
Clear, Decisive Action from a New CEO, NOW
I know Microsoft is actively looking for a new CEO; but they need to get someone with a clear vision of where to take them at the helm quickly. Steve may be a great guy, but he blew it with Microsoft’s mobile strategy and that’s where the market is currently headed. They are very weak in this area and need to find a way to demonstrate a clear position of strength and direction quickly, or they may as well forget it.
Frankly, I don’t care who the new CEO is; but they need someone who is product oriented, with a clear mobile vision, and who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. The market isn’t going to wait on them. This isn’t 1990, and they clearly aren’t the only player any longer. Move. Move quickly and hit a home run. Microsoft can’t afford any additional misfires. If they have one, the world – and the mobile market – will move on without them.
I’m working on a Delta Review of Windows 8.1 and will have it ready shortly. Please continue to watch Soft32 for it. In the meantime, why don’t you join us in the discussion below and give us your take on what Microsoft needs to do after Windows 8.1.