Don’t call it a u-turn. Don’t call it a failure. And definitely don’t call it a crisis.
Microsoft is furious at the Financial Times for running a story about its imminent Windows 8 update earlier this week that it claimed represented “the biggest admission of commercial failure for a major product launch since “new Coke” was withdrawn 30 years ago”.
According to the FT, despite selling 100 million licences “interest in Windows 8 has flagged” and a new update called Microsoft Blue will be rolled out shortly that it speculates could restore the Start button and provide a “boot-to-desktop” option to bypass the new “unloved” tile-based interactive Windows 8 interface altogether.
This has not gone down well with the Redmond-based software giant. And in an official statement, Microsoft said: “It is unfortunate that the Financial Times did not accurately represent the content or the context of our conversation about the good response to date on Windows 8 and the positive opportunities ahead on both Windows 8 and Windows Blue. Our perspective is accurately reflected in many other interviews on this topic as well as in a Q&A with Tami Reller posted on the Windows Blog.”
Daniel Todaro, MD at Gekko, adds: “Windows aren’t going to re-release the 7 OS; instead they’ll try to learn from their mistake and forge ahead. Blue is very specifically an update to what already exists (much like Windows 3.1 was once upon a time), not a regression. While it won’t be a full-blown u-turn from Microsoft, the urgency for a damage limitation exercise from Microsoft to prevent this from becoming a total catastrophe cannot be understated. The lesson that Microsoft has to learn (and quickly) is the basic art of change management. Microsoft tried to run before it could work, walk, likely scared into doing so by its late arrival to the established touch screen/tablet phenomenon. As a result, the rush to adapt its product to these trends saw Microsoft neglect the decades of brand equity they’d already built within the desktop space.
“The theory and ambition wasn’t by any means misplaced; risks need to be taken and change needs to be embraced in this sector. But people don’t like change! You have to manage the change process incredibly carefully, understanding every possible critique before it can be asked and preparing a readily available solution in anticipation. Windows 8 came along and consumers couldn’t understand how to use it, what the benefits were or even why they needed it. Unfortunately, they completely neglected to ease that transition, alienating millions in the process.”