Is Windows 8 a failure?

The Week
For some users, Windows 8 was revolutionary. For others, it was just tremendously disorienting.

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For some users, Windows 8 was revolutionary. For others, it was just tremendously disorienting.

Microsoft has sold 100 million units of its new operating system since last fall's launch. But with many customers complaining, an update is already on the horizon

After months of speculation, Microsoft has announced that a badly needed update to Windows 8, code-named Windows Blue, is due out later this year.

Windows 8 — by far the most radically different Microsoft operating system in many, many years — has been incredibly divisive, though Microsoft did announce that it had sold 100 million units of its new operating system. And even with Blue, the basic DNA of Windows 8 will remain the same — essentially, an operating system that can switch between running both legacy desktop apps and tablet-friendly touch-based ones. But there are some changes. Nick Wingfield at the New York Times reports:

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[T]he company is for the first time confirming that it is making changes to the software to address some of the problems people have when using it. In a recent interview at Microsoft's headquarters, Tami Reller, the chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows division, revealed that Windows Blue will be released this calendar year and will include modifications that make the software easier to learn, especially for people running it on computers without touch screens. "The learning curve is real and needs to be addressed," Ms. Reller said. [New York Times]

One of the main gripes about Microsoft's new operating system is that Windows users were accustomed to the traditional icon-based desktop, and Microsoft was forcing them to conform to a new, glitzy standard no one asked for. "The removal of the Start button was emblematic of Microsoft's problems. It was trying to make a statement, forcing consumers into using the touch-optimized UI," Ross Rubin, principal analyst of Reticle Research, tells ABC News. "All too often, however, they would need to immediately switch back to the desktop."

(Related: D.B. Grady on how Microsoft is failing Windows 8)

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Despite the criticisms, Microsoft is forging ahead. Windows 8 is a "big, ambitious change," said Reller. "While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we've been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market." Microsoft, however, will "respond to the customer feedback that we've been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT."

"Translation: We know you're not super happy and we're going to make it better," says Mat Honan at Wired. And although Windows 8 was "a tremendously disorienting change" for some users, it was "certainly a move in the right direction."   

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"Microsoft's detractors will inevitably point out that Windows 7 picked up market share at a quicker rate, and thus Windows 8 is a failure," says Peter Bright at Ars Technica. But that 100 million figure suggests that the PC "isn't quite dead yet. A rate of 10 million copies per month isn't too shabby."

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