CEO Steve Ballmer gives his presentation at the
launch of Microsoft Windows 8, in New York, in
this Oct. 25, 2012 file photo. Microsoft is
retooling the latest version of its Windows
operating system to address complaints and
confusion that have been blamed for deepening a
slump in personal computer sales. The tune up
announced Tuesday May 7, 2013 won't be released
to consumers and businesses until later this
FRANCISCO — Microsoft is retooling the latest
version of its Windows operating system to address
complaints and confusion that have been blamed for
deepening a slump in personal computer sales.
tune up announced Tuesday won't be released to
consumers and businesses until later this year. The
changes, part of a software package given the codename
"Blue," are a tacit acknowledgment of the
shortcomings in Windows 8, a radical overhaul of
Microsoft Corp.'s ubiquitous operating system.
the makeover it released last October, Microsoft hoped
to play a more prominent role in the growing mobile
device market while still maintaining its dominance in
PCs. But Windows 8's design, which emphasizes
interactive tiles and touch controls, seems to have
befuddled as many people as it has impressed. One
leading research firm, International Data Corp., says
Windows 8 contributed to a 14 percent decline in
worldwide PC sales during the first three months of
the year — the biggest year-over-year drop ever.
sales of smartphones and tablet computers are booming.
The biggest beneficiaries have been Apple Inc., the
maker of the iPhone and iPad, and Samsung Electronics
Co., which sells the most devices running on Google
Inc.'s Android software. Google is also benefiting
from Android's popularity through increased traffic to
its services, creating more opportunities for the
company to display ads.
contrast, leading PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard
Co. and Dell Inc., which primarily sell
Windows-powered machines, have been mired in a
financial funk that has battered their stocks and
raised questions about their futures.
the troubling signs, Microsoft insists it's pleased
with Windows 8's performance.
company, which is based in Redmond, Wash., says more
than 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold so
far, up from about 60 million licenses in January. The
licensing volume "is in the same general
ballpark," as Microsoft's previous operating
system — Windows 7 — at a similar juncture of its
sales cycle, according to Tami Reller, who serves as
the marketing and financial chief for Microsoft's
interview, Reller said Microsoft still realized
changes need to be made to make Windows 8 easier to
navigate and capable of taking full advantage of
technology improvements that have come out since
there things that we can do to improve the experience?
Absolutely," Reller said "There is a
learning curve (to Windows 8) and we can work to
now, Microsoft isn't saying what kind of changes will
be introduced with the release of Blue, which the
company plans to anoint with a different name when the
update is available. Microsoft also isn't saying
whether it will charge existing owners of Windows 8
devices to get the fixes in Blue. The company plans to
release Blue in time for the holiday season.
said more details about Blue will be released before
Microsoft holds a developers conference in San
Francisco in late June. Some of Blue's features are
expected to be previewed at that conference.
Blue is meant to make people more comfortable, the
changes may incorporate more of the elements from
earlier versions of Windows.
common complaint has centered on the lack of a
"start" button in the Windows 8 menu.
critics have pined for an option that would allow the
system to begin in a desktop mode suited for running
applications designed for earlier versions of the
operating system. Windows 8 currently starts off
showing a mosaic of interactive tiles tailored for
swiping through programs with a finger instead of
using a computer mouse.
also might make it easier to find a set of controls
— known as "charms" in Windows 8's
parlance — that currently must be pulled out from
the right side of a display screen.
responding to customer feedback, Blue also will
improve Windows 8's ability to work on smaller tablets
with 7- and 8-inch display screens, Reller said. She
declined to say whether Microsoft intends to make
smaller version of its own Surface tablets. In a
conference call with analysts last month, Microsoft
Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein said the company
was working with other manufacturers to make smaller
thing that Blue won't fix: the relatively small
selection of mobile applications tailored for Windows
8. Reller said the Windows 8 store now has more than
60,000 apps. By contrast, there are more than 800,000
apps available for Apple's mobile's devices and nearly
that many for Android devices, too. In one of the most
glaring omissions on Windows 8, Facebook Inc. still
hasn't designed an app to make its online social
network more accessible on that system. Facebook has
about 750 million mobile users.
decision to tweak Windows 8 so soon after it went on
sale may reinforce perceptions that the product is a
is trying to frame the changes as evidence that
Microsoft is becoming more agile and nimble as it
responds to a rapidly evolving technology market.
Smartphones and tablet computers have been at the
epicenter of the upheaval, diminishing the demand for
PCs as more people and businesses opt for the
convenience of increasingly powerful mobile devices.
mobile computing movement is the main reason that
Microsoft made the most dramatic redesign of its
Windows operating system since 1995. Given how
different that Windows 8 is from its predecessors,
Reller said Microsoft always knew it might have to
make some adjustments less than a year after the
software came out.
had to be a very big change to take advantage of the
mobile opportunity," she said.
say one reason Windows 8 got off to a slow start is
because there weren't enough devices designed to take
advantage of the system's touch-screen features. But
that is about to change as HP, Dell and other PC
makers prepare to roll out a wide variety of laptops
and tablets with displays that respond to touch. More
than 2,400 devices have now been certified to run on
Windows 8, up from 2,000 in January, Reller said.
of the touch-screen laptops will sell at prices $50 to
$250 below the first wave of comparable machines
running on Windows 8, reductions that Microsoft hopes
will prod more people to check out the system.
we look at Windows 8, it's important to remember a lot
of its full potential won't be realized until there
are more touch devices on the market," Reller