For all the trouble and grief Microsoft has gotten for Windows 8, it looks like it's going to get another chance to tempt users into giving it a second chance.
During the first quarter of 2013, the PC market cratered 14 percent compared to the same time during the previous year, and Windows 8's failure to boost sales got much of the blame. People are increasingly moving to tablets, but Windows 8 was expected to boost the market's growth, and when it didn't a tidal wave of criticism was unleashed.
With Windows 8.1 (also known by its codename, Windows Blue), Microsoft has listened to criticism. It hasn't completely caved (the Start button is back, but not in the form many critics wanted), but the changes it has made should make using the operating system a much better experience for both tablet and PC users.
According to some analsysts, like Moor Insights & Strategy's Patrick Moorhead, that'll be enough to get many businesses onboard.
"By putting the Start button on the desktop, and offering boot-to-desktop as well, Microsoft is removing the major objections of enterprises to Windows 8," he said to Computer World. "The basic objection is that Windows 8 requires [employee] retraining, but with those in place, you won't have to retrain."
Another analyst at Directions on Microsoft agreed.
"It will ... possibly help corporations or businesses that may have hesitated," Wes Miller said. "It may be enough for some to skip Windows 7 and upgrade straight to Windows 8. It may be enough of a change that they look at that. If so, it would be a huge win for Microsoft."
Considering that nearly 40 percent of businesses still use Windows XP, it's possible that many of them will jump to Windows 8 afterwards. Those already running on Windows 7, though, may not be as eager to jump onto a new, experimental OS so soon.
Even if things are looking up on the enterprise side, Microsoft still faces an uphill battle on the consumer front, where many still don't understand the benefits of Windows 8. According to Richard Windsor, founder of the mobile-focused blog Radio Free Mobile and a former tech analyst at Nomura, the unified experience of Windows 8 across PC, tablets, and phones doesn't shine through in a retail demo environment, at least not in the way Microsoft currently displays its line-up. Many features simply don't work on in-store demos since they're not connected, he said to USA Today, and so hitting a Metro Tile to find nothing only leaves a poor impression.
"Furthermore, Microsoft offers a consistent experience from console / TV through PC, tablet and phablet all the way to the phone," he added. "These devices are never displayed together and therefore potential buyers never realize that this is an ecosystem for every device. How on earth Microsoft expects user to buy Windows Phones and Windows 8, when it does not show them what it is capable of and how wide its scope is, is a mystery."
Clearly, Microsoft still has some work to do. But if the conversation shifts from "Windows 8 is a poor OS" to " Microsoft needs to explain its benefits better," then maybe there is hope for the program after all.