How can you label a product that's sold 100 million copies a failure? When it's the latest version of Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows, which hasn't performed too badly on the sales front but failed to capture the public's imagination.
Windows 8 was a radical and visually startling departure. That alone spooked a lot of users. But it was the schizophrenic and confusing attempt to merge tablet-style apps with the traditional desktop that jarred the most.
Microsoft, however, always plays the long game and just eight months after Win8's debut, here comes Win 8.1 – in preview form at least.
This free-to-download update is not recommended for the faint of heart because it's unfinished - the final version will be available late this year. But it shows Microsoft has paid some heed to feedback from early but annoyed adopters.
It hasn't rolled back the clock completely, though, and you're still dealing with essentially two views of the operating system – the tile-based metaphor of "Modern" apps and the conventional desktop of windows and small icons.
The most prominent sign of the update is the re-introduction of the Start button – but ironically it seems to be one of the most pointless.
By default, clicking it merely launches the Modern interface but digging into the configuration enables a far more useful result – a list of all the available programs, sorted by most used if you like. How dim of Microsoft to hide such time-saving power.
Many users will still overwhelmingly prefer one environment or the other, though. The app tiles can provide lots of instant information at a glance but remain geared to tablet-style touchscreen apps, not mice and keyboards. The desktop world, on the other hand, is finger-hostile with its small buttons and icons proving difficult to hit except with a mouse.
Microsoft will refine Win8.1 further before most users get their sticky mitts on it, but it has yet to fully address the contradiction at the heart of this new Windows.
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