Companies make bad decisions all the time. Some of those decisions do irreparable harm, but others—like forcing users to boot to the new Modern interface in Windows 8, and taking away the Start button—can be reversed. Microsoft needs to ask whether it makes sense to backpedal.
There is new speculation that Windows 8.1, known as Windows “Blue,” will allow users to bypass the Modern interface and boot straight to desktop mode, complete with the Start button.
Once upon a time in 1985, a carbonated beverage called Coca-Cola was by far the dominant leader of its market. However, Coca-Cola’s corporate geniuses decided to scrap the guarded, secret recipe to launch something called New Coke.
It was one of the most spectacular debacles in the history of product marketing. (New Coke makes Microsoft Bob, 10 years later, seem brilliant.) After a customer backlash, Coca-Cola brought back the original recipe under the new name of Coke Classic, but stubbornly hung on to New Coke for awhile, even rebranding it as Coke II. Many credit the return to Coke Classic for saving the brand from complete meltdown.
The lack of a Start button in Windows 8 is Microsoft’s New Coke moment.
Microsoft has taken a lot of heat for seemingly lackluster Windows 8 sales, and most of the complaints focus on the Start button issue. Common speculation says that users are so turned off by the dramatically new Windows 8 interface that they refuse to use the new operating system or buy any PC that comes with it.
Microsoft could benefit from the Start-button backlash in much the same way Coke Classic rebounded from the New Coke uprising. It could even create so much support and demand for the Start button that Windows 8.1 will be a phenomenal success. Maybe Microsoft can also make subtle changes to the Start button’s functionality that would have been otherwise harder to get users to embrace, had it updated the Start button directly.
If the missing Start button really is to blame for the lagging fortunes of Windows 8, then this is Microsoft’s New Coke moment, its opportunity to reverse course and redeem the reputation of the Windows brand. If the rumors are accurate, Windows 8.1 could spark a rebirth of the popularity of the Windows operating system.
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.