Preston Gralla

Has Microsoft finally admitted Windows 8 was a colossal blunder?

December 16, 2013 12:08 PM EST

Microsoft's decision to finally bring back a true Start menu to Windows begs the question: Has the company finally recognized what a massive mistake it made with Windows 8, or is Microsoft just reluctantly assuaging critics?

Rumors say that Microsoft will bring back a true Start menu to Windows for the next version of Windows, likely due in 2015. Paul Thurrot reported that on his Supersite for Windows, and added that the next version of Windows will also allow touch-based "Modern" apps (once called "Metro" apps) to be run in their own windows on the desktop.

If true, that's certainly a major retreat from the core Windows 8 design. Microsoft's goal in Windows 8 was to wean people from the desktop, and get them to use the touch-focused Start screen and Modern apps, instead. Microsoft has never fully revealed why it wanted to kill the desktop and get people onto the Start screen. It's likely, though, that Microsoft hoped that when people got used to the Start screen, they would be more likely to buy Windows Phone devices, whose main interface looks and works much like the Windows 8 Start screen.

That didn't work out so well, with sales of PCs plummeting, Windows Phone struggling, and Windows-based tablets trying to gain traction.

Is the Microsoft move a realization that it made a mistake with Windows 8, or just a piece of window dressing (or is that Windows dressing?) to keep its critics quiet? I think Microsoft recognizes its error. Money talks, and it's been talking to Microsoft ever since the release of Windows 8, and not in a good way. And when money talks, Microsoft listens.

There's evidence for that in Microsoft's future Windows lineup. Mary Jo Foley reports that with the next release of Windows, there will be several main versions (called SKUs). One will be a "modern" SKU designed primarily or even solely, for the Start screen and Modern apps, and will be for tablets, ARM-based PCs, phablets, Windows Phone, and other as-yet-unnamed devices. Another SKU, for traditional PCs and laptops, would likely include a beefed-up desktop as well as a Start screen. And other SKU, for enterprises, would have a lot of business support, including for 32-bit legacy apps, group policy support, and similar capabilities.

All that shows that Microsoft recognizes the blunder it made with Windows 8 and is trying to fix it. The company is moving towards where it should have been in the first place: One operating system primarily for mobile devices, and another for traditional PCs and laptops, with some overlap between the two.