IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told CNET in a recent interview that Microsoft made two mistakes when it revamped its Windows platform: removing the Start button and preventing users from booting up into desktop mode. As we've said for a while, there's a $5 app that can fix both issues (opens in new tab), but a lack of out-of-the-box support for both nevertheless is seemingly hurting sales.
"There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed. Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button," he said. "Those two things have come up consistently. We've done some research and people miss that."
He added that there are a lot of people who boot up Windows 8 and go straight into desktop mode to do most of their work. Occasionally they go back to Metro, but ultimately they're more comfortable in familiar desktop-based territory.
"It's possible [Microsoft] is making changes to the OS [to allow a boot to desktop mode]," he added. "There's a lot of debate about it. Certainly if you talk to PC vendors, they'd like to see Microsoft do that. Because they recognize some of the challenges that consumers are facing."
One of the biggest roadblocks Microsoft likely faces is that mainstream consumers are reluctant to change. At first glance, the overhaul is too radical to the point that even corporations are reluctant to update, unwilling to spend time and money re-training employees. The move of overhauling the experience to satisfy a tablet audience has seemingly shunned the core mainstream desktop audience.
Also hurting Windows 8 sales is a lack of consumer-friendly touch-based desktop and notebook solutions. Touch screens are one of the more expensive components which is why so few Windows 8-based devices (outside the tablet and AIO sectors) are up for sale. Touch screen prices are definitely falling, but likely not fast enough for Microsoft which seemingly depends on the technology to make Windows 8 work as intended.
Microsoft is reportedly gearing up to launch the first of its "Windows Blue" annual updates later this year, and could possibly place the Start button back where it belongs. Previously Microsoft defended its removal by saying that customers simply don't use it, that they merely pin shortcuts to the taskbar instead. But the negative backlash following Windows 8's retail release indicates otherwise.
O'Donnell said that Microsoft may "stick to its guns" and leave the Start menu off the new OS, and continue to force customers into booting up into Metro. We'll see what happens later this year, but customers should have the right to choose which interface the platform initially loads. In the meantime, Windows 8 users can add the Start button by installing this $5 app (opens in new tab).