Microsoft needs to make up its mind

Microsoft needs to make up its mind

When I heard that Microsoft was finally bringing back the Start button in the upcoming Windows 8.1 update, I wanted to shout aloud: "See, I told you so!"

But I was wrong. When I clicked on the Start button, it did not bring back the good old Start menu with familiar links to Programs, Control Panel, Documents, Photos and more.

Nope, it simply launched the Start Screen, which is designed for touch. It is the default home screen which Microsoft has been trying to push instead of the Desktop interface we have known and loved in the 20 years since Windows 95 was released.

As we can already jump to the Start Screen through a myriad of different ways, including simply hitting the Windows key on the keyboard, adding another "jump to Start Screen" button is just plain redundant.

Consumers and businesses who want the familiarity of the 20-year-old Windows Desktop interface have made their voices heard. And I really thought that Microsoft might have finally heard our clarion call.

But I was wrong.

Microsoft seems to be doing only a half-turn. Yes, there is a Start button and you can now configure your PC to boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the default Start Screen. But what is the point, when the familiar Start menu is missing when you click on the Start button?

Such fickleness is becoming a habit with the tech giant. When it announced its next-generation console, the Xbox One, last month, it added two strictures which were universally lambasted by gamers. The first was the restriction on trading used games. Consumers, it dictated, would be allowed to transfer ownership of their games only once per game. And gamers, it said, would have to go online with the new console at least once every 24 hours.

Gamers everywhere reacted with one voice. Microsoft, they declared, cares only about commerce and not about its customers.

The trading of old Xbox games is a bugbear for retailers, who find the second-hand games market a powerful rival. And regular online authentication would combat the problem of piracy.

Microsoft rival Sony, which is also launching its next-generation console, the PlayStation 4, in November, won over gamers simply by doing nothing controversial.

With the PS4, you can still hand your game disc to your friends to use and you won't have to go online to play single-player campaigns.

Things changed very quickly.

Mr Don Mattrick, then head honcho of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, suddenly quit to join social games giant Zynga as chief executive. And Microsoft made a quick about-turn, removing the offending curbs.

This fickleness is not a good thing. When a tech giant such as Microsoft launches a major new product, customers expect it to have thought long and hard about it and invested much effort into new features and design to keep them smiling.

So it is not unreasonable to expect that its head honchos, with decades of experience and salaries to match, would have figured out everything before they unleash these new products on the world.

It makes one wonder if the company has really thought through the issues and if it really knows what it is doing. Worst of all, it tells me that if Microsoft can change its mind so quickly, it can always change its mind again.

In today's competitive tech business, the tech giant cannot afford to be so wishy-washy. It needs to decide what it wants to do and do it. That about-turn demonstrates that Microsoft did not get its business plans right the first time.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft really needs to take a hard look at what it is doing. As a tablet system, it still lacks basic native apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, Spotify and Facebook.

That this is still the case seven months after the launch makes it untenable for its tablet users.

There are many who, like me, still love a great PC experience with Windows. We just want to get our work done without being forced to keep switching between Desktop and Start Screen modes.

I have spent 20 years of my life loving the Windows Desktop experience. Why on earth would Microsoft seem so determined to change my mind?

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