With Microsoft admitting the need for a course correction with its next version of Windows, some commenters have been lobbing the dreaded “New Coke” comparison at the company, referring to Coca Cola’s calamitous decision in the 1980s to rework its tried-and-true formula for sugary soft drinks. In some ways this comparison is apt because it seems that Microsoft took something that wasn’t broke — in this case, the excellent Windows 7 desktop operating system — and tried to fix it in a haphazard manner. But while it’s true that Windows 7 wasn’t broken from a desktop user perspective, Microsoft’s smartphone and tablet strategy was in desperate need of an overhaul that the company tried to address creatively with Windows 8.
But let’s just say the comparison is completely accurate and Windows 8 is the New Coke of its generation. Microsoft in some ways should take comfort from this because it’s not as though Coca Cola withered up and died after its major marketing blunder. In fact, with a market cap of around $189 billion, Coca Cola remains a powerhouse within the food and drink industry because its customers were very willing to forgive and forget once it made amends and owned up to its mistakes by releasing Coca Cola Classic, which brought back the old formula that customers had long craved.
This isn’t to say that Microsoft should just rerelease Windows 7 while slapping a new name on it and call it a day. But it does suggest that taking user feedback and smartly applying it to its new touch-centric operating system would quickly win back users who feel put off by the changes. Bringing back the dearly departed Start button is a good place to begin since it’s been a major touchstone of the Windows user interface since the ’90s and its absence has been the No. 1 complaint that users across the board have made about the new operating system. Giving users a way to boot up in desktop mode would also be a very welcome and obvious change for Microsoft to make since many Windows 8 laptop users already spend most of their time using it and only use the Metro mode if they’re using Windows-based tablets.
There’s no guarantee that making these changes will rescue the rapidly declining PC industry or will boost Microsoft’s efforts to compete with Android and iOS in the mobile space. However, it will show Windows users that the company listens to feedback and could also generate some positive buzz that may persuade people hesitant about buying new Windows 8 PCs to give them a shot. What’s more, Microsoft users have proven themselves more than willing to forgive past sins : If the company could survive the outright fiasco that was Vista, it can survive whatever backlash it’s generated from Windows 8.