Microsoft to tweak baffling Windows 8

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was in New York City in October to help with the much-ballyhooed launch of Windows 8, which the company is now retooling.

Richard Drew

Microsoft is retooling the latest version of its Windows operating system to address complaints and confusion that have been blamed for deepening a slump in personal computer sales.

The tuneup announced Tuesday won’t be released to consumers and businesses until later this year. The changes, part of a software package given the codename “Blue,” are a tacit acknowledgment of the shortcomings in Windows 8, a radical overhaul of Microsoft’s ubiquitous operating system.

With the makeover it released in October, Microsoft hoped to play a more prominent role in the growing mobile-device market while still maintaining its dominance in PCs. But Windows 8’s design, which emphasizes interactive tiles and touch controls, seems to have befuddled as many people as it has impressed.

Even so, Microsoft has said it is pleased with Windows 8’s performance.

The company said more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold so far, up from about 60 million licenses in January. The volume “is in the same general ballpark” as the previous operating system, Windows 7, at a similar juncture of its sales cycle, said Tami Reller, marketing and financial chief for Microsoft’s Windows business.

Reller said Microsoft still realized changes need to be made to make Windows 8 easier to navigate and capable of taking full advantage of technology improvements that have come out since October.

“Are there things that we can do to improve the experience? Absolutely,” Reller said. “There is a learning curve, and we can work to address that.”

For now, Microsoft isn’t saying what kind of changes will be introduced. Microsoft also isn’t saying whether it will charge existing owners of Windows 8 devices to get the fixes. The company plans to release Blue in time for the holidays. Reller said more details will be released in late June.

“I view this as a relaunch of Windows 8, finally giving everyone a fully baked version,” said technology analyst Patrick Moorhead. “It has been a very rough road for Microsoft so far.”

If Blue is meant to make people more comfortable, the changes may incorporate more of the elements from earlier versions of Windows.