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With new OS, Microsoft will try to put Windows 8 era behind it

Juan Carlos Perez | Sept. 29, 2014
After spending the past two years in damage control mode over Windows 8, Microsoft will officially begin a new era for its OS on Tuesday, when it's expected to unveil a preview of Windows' next major version during an event focused on enterprise customers.

But Microsoft couldn't get the user experience right in Windows 8, so many users felt the OS was difficult and inconvenient to use, especially for those using it with a mouse and keyboard.

Although Microsoft addressed a number of complaints in Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update, it never fully fixed all problems. Thus, Microsoft now either needs to abandon the concept of a single OS that caters to touch devices and to conventional PCs, splitting it into two separate products, or else it needs to double-down on its efforts to harmonize the two interfaces.

Considering that Microsoft officials are big backers of "hybrid" Windows devices that can double as tablets and laptops, such as the company's own Surface Pro 3 computer, chances are that with Windows 9 it will stick with the single OS strategy.

If that's the case, then Microsoft needs to make sure that the Windows 9 interface is truly "adaptive" and know automatically whether the person is using, for example, a tablet, laptop or desktop PC, or a very large wall-mounted monitor, according to Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst. "This was a mess in Windows 8," he said.

Microsoft also must make the process of moving to Windows 9 smoother than the process of migrating to a new Windows version has historically been, as evidenced by the difficulties involved most recently in upgrading from Windows XP and Windows 7 to Windows 8.

For example, depending on the case, moving to Windows 8 can involve having to manually back up and reinstall data and applications, as well as reconfigure settings, a prospect which prompts many businesses to hire consultants and migration experts often at great expense, especially if a significant number of PCs are involved.

"Upgrading or keeping Windows current should be like keeping a phone current," Silver said. "It should be smarphone simple."

A related issue that Microsoft also should address is its decision to put Windows on a faster schedule of upgrades and releases, which many enterprise IT departments dislike. At minimum, Microsoft should add the option of a standard release track for enterprises that don't want, or can't, absorb a rapid pace of OS changes, Silver said. "There are a lot of organizations that don't want to be on a fast track for Windows upgrades," he said.

There have been a number of instances where customers have cried foul over this recently. For example, when it released Windows 8.1 Update in April, Microsoft also determined that Windows 8.1 users had 30 days to make the move or else they wouldn't be able to download the next batch of enhancements, bug patches and security fixes that would be released for the OS in May.


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