Witnessing the last few weeks of Microsoft news unfold has been like watching a really bad soap opera. There's been a ton of news lately in regards to the company's re-org and a myriad of other events, but a few specific things have really stuck out for me, as someone who follows the consumer space closely. I'm referring to the drubbing Microsoft took at E3, the release of the Windows 8.1 preview, and, most recently, the discontinuation of TechNet (which REALLY ticked me off).
Although the Xbox and Windows teams aren't intimately connected, the recent events surrounding the two products shared a common theme-Microsoft was forced to react in an attempt to correct previous blunders. The TechNet snafu is a little different, and it's still unfolding, but is equally indicative of Microsoft's unfortunate behavior.
The Xbox One story was particularly brutal. After Microsoft turned off gamers in droves with draconian DRM schemes and inconveniences surrounding used games, Sony went on the offensive and ripped Microsoft from a number of angles at E3. A funny video of how to share used games on the PS4 went viral and had both fans and haters of the Xbox One simultaneously applauding Sony and ridiculing Microsoft. Microsoft took so much heat from gamers and Sony that it had to literally do a complete 180, and promised to remove virtually all of the restrictions that had gamers so fired up in the first place.
The release of the Windows 8.1 preview isn't quite the same, because it was mostly customers and not a direct competitor putting pressure on Microsoft to fix many of Windows 8's shortcomings. As I've mentioned a number of times in this blog before, the vast majority of the criticism surrounding Windows 8 had to do with two things: the lack of a traditional Start button/menu and the system's inability to boot directly to desktop mode. Had Microsoft simply listened to the myriad of users who tested the release preview of Windows 8 and incorporated these two features from the get-go, the lion's share of criticism of Window 8 would have never existed. Instead, Microsoft did its own thing, and now has to try and fix the issues with Windows 8.1. Boot to desktop mode is coming, but the Start menu remains absent. There's a new Start button coming, but it still launches the modern-UI-based Start screen. Whether or not these changes appease more customers remains to be seen, but additional changes to the Start screen do make it more user-friendly, so at least MS is on the right track. Of course, all of this hullabaloo could have been avoided if the company simply listened to customer in the first place. But what would be the fun in that?
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