Microsoft took a big gamble with Windows 8 and the whole Surface Pro / RT tablet line. Not only did the company radically redesign the traditional PC interface, but the fact that it wanted to enter the hardware space also ticked off its hardware partners.
So far, neither venture has been a rollicking success. Some have even dubbed the whole experiment a failure. Windows 8 has sputtered out of the gates as its touch-oriented Metro Live Tiles alienate traditional PC users, while the Surface Pro and RT have yet to make a favorable impression on consumers.
But is the Surface line with Windows 8 actually a failure? According to the Financial Times, Microsoft is "preparing to reverse course" by making changes to Windows Blue 8.1 (potentially bringing back the Start button and allowing users to boot to the desktop). This would mark "one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola's New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago."
Now, we've heard some damning comparisons before. Some analysts have proclaimed the Surface Pro / RT doomed like the Zune, while Samsung called Windows 8 "no better than" XP. But New Coke? That may be the harshest of all.
"This [Windows 8] is like New Coke, going on for seven months — only Coke listened better." New Coke was only around for about three months before it was axed due to an awful public reception.
Users as well as OEMs have lobbied Microsoft to make Windows 8 more user-friendly for those using the operating system on PCs. Touch-based tiles might be great on tablets, but with a mouse and keyboard it can be rather unwieldy.
Of course, having to rework your signature effort due to public outcry is never ideal, and Microsoft has no intention of axing Windows 8, but are the changes it's considering really an admission of failure? They could certainly be seen as a setback, since CEO Steve Ballmer said the new OS was a "bet-the-company" kind of moment.
"It's a horrible thing for this to happen to your flagship product — he'll [Ballmer] take a hit for that," analyst Mark Anderson said to the Financial Times. "But he's also responsible for a renaissance inside the company. There's a level of risk and creativity going on that would never have happened two years ago."
All in all, while bringing back the Start button in some form may not have been Microsoft's preferred course of action, it should definitely help Windows 8 to be a more balanced system. The Metro UI is great for tablets, while the traditional desktop will still be there for PC users.
Microsoft is expected to reveal more information about Windows Blue 8.1 over the course of the next few weeks.