• Windows Blue - Microsoft in the right direction.


    Over the past week, I've been surprised how many armchair pundits have lambasted Microsoft forits still not officially-admitted but largely expected decisions to add an optional Start Button and boot-to-desktop capability to Windows Blue.
    There've been reports claiming everything from Microsoft is doing a 180-degree reversal with Windows Blue, to others advising the Redmondians to dig in their heels and stay the current UI course with its coming Blue update.
    Windows Blue, from all leaks and tips I've received, is not a do-over. (If it were, it would take Microsoft a lot longer than nine or ten months to deliver it.) And ignoring customer confusion isn't a virtue; it's stupidity.
    This armchair pundit finds it refreshing to hear Windows honchos admit that Windows 8 isn't selling as well as they hoped and that they want to make its successor more comfortable, familiar and usable for the Windows installed base.
    In addition to the optional Start Button and boot-to-desktop options, there may be other interface adjustments in the works, according to one of my Blue tipsters. I hear the Windows team may also be tweaking the Charms to make them a bit easier to use with a mouse. There might be new built-in tutorials and in-context help coming to Blue. And word is there may be adjustments to the Start Screen designed to make Blue easier to use for Desktop users. One of my sources said some of these tweaks may not be in the Windows Blue preview release coming at the end of June, but that they still could make it into the final product.
    If any or all of these tweaks make it into the final version of Blue, it's nothing but goodness. If you're a user who likes Windows 8 already, great. Just ignore new options and keep on keepin' on. If you're someone like me -- who is still running Windows 7 on two of my three Windows devices (with Windows RT running on my Surface RT) -- maybe Blue will make you reconsider whether you might find the new Metro-centric Windows a little more palatable because of these changes.
    Before Windows 8 launched, I said I thought the operating system would face a rough road. My reasoning at the time was there were few PCs or tablets that made Windows 8 usable. And for those of us who might be interested in putting Windows 8 on existing non-touch hardware, the usability was questionable. Now that Windows 8's been out for about six months, I feel like my early inklings were true. I wouldn't call Windows 8 a disaster (with 100 million licenses sold), but I also wouldn't call it a barn-burner success.
    My biggest criticism for Microsoft in all this isn't that the company is trying to make some adjustments to improve usability with Blue. Instead, I can't but help wonder why Microsoft -- with all its telemetry information, customer satisfaction data, and beta-testing input -- still went ahead with what its Windows execs must have known full well would be a confusing and less-than-optimal experience for many Windows users.
    It's possible to project a bit by reading one of the recent blog posts of former Windows President Steven Sinofsky, who spearheaded Windows 8's development, for some insights into that question. In a May 8 post (a day after Microsoft's latest Blue disclosures), Sinofsky blogged about the damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don't choice that companies face when launching a disruptive technology:

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