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MICROSOFT'S WINDOWS 8 WOES
For Microsoft, Oct. 26 was a day of reckoning for its mobile ambitions: After hunkering down for more than three years in its R&D labs, the company launched Windows 8, its next-generation operating system. The software comes in two flavors: Windows RT, a version built on ARM architectures that's targeted at tablets, and Windows 8, a version built on Microsoft's go-to architecture -- Intel x86 -- that's aimed at more power-hungry devices, such as laptops and desktops.
Both versions tout a revamped user interface that departs drastically from prior Windows releases. Users interact with a tile-based UI that's optimized for touch, and can move from app to app not just with a mouse and keyboard -- although that is still an option -- but with those swiping and tapping gestures they've grown so accustomed to with the rise of the smartphone and tablet. OEMs and industry analysts both widely regarded Windows 8 as a product that would revive PC sales and breathe new life into the market.
According to Microsoft, 40 million Windows 8 licenses sold during the first month of its availability. The software giant hasn't, however, broken out that number to reveal how many of those copies were sold on new PCs, and how many were sold as upgrades for older Windows-based systems.
But industry reactions to the software have been decidedly mixed. According to some solution providers, Microsoft's decision to design Windows 8 so differently from earlier Windows releases could be one that that it grows to regret. In addition to its tiled UI, Windows 8 is devoid of Microsoft's flagship Start Menu button, a change that seems small but is expected by some Microsoft partners to be a major roadblock to Windows 8 adoption in the enterprise.
"Windows 8 would and could have been and even can be the best software Microsoft has ever put out -- if they included a Start [Menu] button on the desktop [mode]," said Allan Walters, senior vice president at Saratoga Technologies, a Johnson City, Tenn.-based solution provider and Microsoft partner. Walters noted that hardware vendors like Samsung have even started rolling out their own applications mimicking that popular Start Menu button, in response to some users -- particularly those in the enterprise -- simply wanting that choice.
Randy Copeland, CEO of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based system builder and Microsoft partner, agreed that Microsoft's decision to nix the Start Menu button in Windows 8 could hurt enterprise adoption.