Steve Ballmer: The boss who bet his company on Windows 8 – and lost as computer giant announces 'biggest product U-turn since New Coke' - News - Gadgets and Tech - The Independent

Steve Ballmer: The boss who bet his company on Windows 8 – and lost as computer giant announces 'biggest product U-turn since New Coke'

Updated version of operating system will take into account complaints made by users as decision to overhaul the much-maligned operating system has put Bill Gates’s successor under pressure

It was, proclaimed Microsoft’s irrepressible salesman Steve Ballmer, a “bet-the-company” moment.

But the wager on Windows 8, a new operating system which would halt the slide in PC sales and challenge Apple’s iPad, has turned sour after the computer giant announced a humiliating U-turn.

In what has been described as the biggest admission of commercial failure for a major product launch since “new Coke” was withdrawn 30 years ago, Microsoft is to overhaul Windows 8, the software update which prompted a backlash from customers who found it impossible to navigate.

Pitched as an operating system for both desktop computers and tablets, Windows 8’s touch-screen interface confused Microsoft’s customers with its interactive “tile”-based start screen and the omission of the brand’s famous “Start” button.

Mr Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO, said he was “betting the company” on the worldwide launch of a range of Windows 8 desktops, laptops, notebooks and the company’s answer to the iPad, the new “Surface” tablet.

However, the Surface has failed to make an impression in the tablet market, and the lack of affordable touch-laptops able to use Windows 8 meant customers were left flailing with an operating system they had little idea how to use.

Despite selling 100 million licences, interest in Windows 8 has flagged and Tammy Reller, head of marketing and finance for the Windows business, announced a retreat, admitting that the software had defeated many users. “The learning curve is definitely real and we need to address it,” she said.

A new update, provisionally called Microsoft Blue, will be rolled out by the end of the year. Analysts expect it to restore the Start button. A “boot-to-desktop” option could bypass the unloved Windows 8 interface altogether. Ms Reller said: “We’ve considered a lot of different scenarios to help traditional PC users move forward as well as making usability that much better on all devices.”

Investors are beginning to ask whether the exuberant Mr Ballmer, 57, who took over as CEO from Bill Gates in 2000, is still the man to take Microsoft forward after allowing rivals to revolutionise the market with touch-based mobile computing devices. Global PC sales slumped by 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.

Mr Ballmer should quit now, said Joachim Kempin, a former Microsoft executive who helped to build the Windows business. “Microsoft is going into surface tablets. These tablets are OK products, but nothing really distinguishes them either,” he told the BBC.

Microsoft has alienated its manufacturing partners, Mr Kempin said, noting how Hewlett-Packard and Samsung are now producing tablets for Android, not Windows.

Investors talk of a “lost decade” at Microsoft but if they want Mr Ballmer out, it will require the support of Mr Gates, who remains the largest individual shareholder. Mr Gates hand-picked Mr Ballmer and has supported his attempts to move the company from desktop software to a cloud-based, networked future.

Under Mr Ballmer, Microsoft revenues have nearly tripled from $25.3bn (£16.6bn) in 2001 to $74.3bn in 2012. But the share price has failed to match rival Apple’s soaring stock-value.

The Windows 8 U-turn was inevitable, according to analysts. Richard Doherty, of technology research firm Envisioneering, said: “This is like New Coke, going on for seven months.”

Microsoft will make Windows 8 compatible with smaller, seven and eight inch tablets, which would allow hardware makers to compete against such popular devices as the iPad mini, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

    Senior Project Manager / Team Leader (Management, Digital, Websites)

    £55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Senior ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week