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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 And Windows Blue 8.1: Can They Save Windows 8?

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First Posted: May 03, 2013 12:42 PM EDT
The Surface with keyboard accessory.

The Surface with keyboard accessory. Credit:Microsoft | iTechPost

Microsoft is struggling with its promotion of Windows 8, and the numbers bear it out. The operating system is barely growing month-to-month, so you have to wonder if Windows Blue 8.1 can save the day, or if the allegedly upcoming Surface Pro 2 can make up for low PC sales by making a strong impression on the tablet market.

During April, Windows 8 grew to 3.84 percent, up just a smidgen from 3.31 percent. The new numbers suggest that users and companies are happy with Windows 7 and don't feel the need to upgrade.

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Of course, Windows 8 alienated many users by emphasizing the Metro Live Tile user interface and removing the Start button. Windows Blue 8.1 is rumored to be bringing back the Start button in some form, but it's unlikely it will be exactly what traditional Windows fans want to see. That means that, unless companies want to throw down for Surface Pro or, eventually, Surface Pro 2 units, Windows 8 is stuck in a tough position.

"For a lot of them [enterprises], it's fatigue. It's OS fatigue," Lisa Richardson, a senior product manager for Dell KACE, said to ReadWrite Enterprise. "It's, 'OK, we're making this huge shift to Windows 7, we know it's been tested, it's been around, we have to move onto it.' What we're hearing from IT administrators is that there's a challenge from moving to Windows 7 and its ribbon interface.

"But Windows 8 is an ever bigger shift in terms of user experience. And what I'm finding out is that because it's such a big shift in user experience, such a huge jump from Windows XP to Windows 8, support calls are going to go up. That drives up support costs, and that turns off many IT administrators."

Perhaps even more worrisome is that according to Dell KACE's data, about 69 percent of the IT professionals surveyed said they're planning to upgrade to Windows 7, and only 2 percent to Windows 8.

So does Microsoft have any hope here? As long as most businesses continue to use some form of Windows, the damage won't be as bad as it could be. As for Windows 8, the silver lining is that many businesses have "strong IT demand for Windows tablets — as supplemental devices, not as laptop replacements," and that gives Windows 8 an opening through Surface Pro 2 as well as other Windows tablets.

After all, Windows 8 is best optimized for touch screens, not necessarily PCs. The Surface Pro was meant to showcase the OS in its most ideal form, and if Microsoft can work out some kinks with Windows Blue 8.1 and Surface Pro 2 (here are some suggestions from us), it's possible the tablets can pick up momentum among business professionals.

This all means that Microsoft's upcoming Build conference in June is of extra importance. Redmond needs to show that it's listening to its users as it improves Windows Blue 8.1, while also moving touch-centric devices forward with the Surface Pro 2. Let's see if it has what it takes to do so.

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