7 things Satya Nadella and Bill Gates need to do to fix Windows

So the rumor on the street is that Satya Nadella will be the next CEO of Microsoft. If this is true I will be psyched because I predicted that he would be the best person for the job for a lot of reasons.

The other (newer) rumor is that Bill Gates and Satya Nadella will be collaborating on solving technical problems within the company. This is also (if true) fantastic news.

The quote from recode.net is:

There is obviously a lot to unpack here. But, according to a number of sources inside the company, the possible move — it is still not a done deal, although it seems likelier than not — is predicated on the fact that Gates will be spending a lot more time at the company once Nadella is approvedRe/code had previously reported this Bill-is-back notion.

Sources said that Nadella has asked Gates to do so, helping specifically with technology and product problems, and the pair have been scoping out what that would mean and how much time such an arrangement would take.

That sounds like swell news.

The biggest technology and product problem Microsoft faces today is……., well yeah you guessed it.


Now in an article I wrote last week, one that most of you slammed me on, I said the following:

Windows is a big deal and the next CEO will have to roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds on this one. The last time a CEO entrusted Windows to an exec (Sinofsky), that executive broke it. I believe no other executive will ever have such control over the Windows vision again.

I am patting myself on the back right now. Pretty obvious but it sounds like Satya has the right gameplan even before he becomes CEO. He’ll need Steve to bless any major changes he decides to make to Windows, the most used software application on earth.

More unsolicited advice from me – here are 7 things Satya Nadella and Bill Gates need to do to fix Windows.

Start with user/enterprise feedback


This one is simple. Windows has missed the mark and it’s going to require understanding how and why this happened.

Now Microsoft did a great job of releasing several Beta versions of Windows 8 before it was released. Millions of people got a chance to play around with the Operating System before it was released but as I’ve said before, the MAJOR items were all flagged by the user community and ignored by the software company.

You don’t even have to take my word for it. This blog is pretty much a living diary of the evolution of Windows since it started in 2009. If you do a search, you can see all the responses to the Windows Betas and Consumer Previews. On almost every issue that has been a problem (Start Menu, Metro etc) you can tell by the comments that problems were coming.

Bottom line is, take the feedback seriously this time.

Windows needs to be two distinct and separate Operating Systems

Apple Separate OS'es

Apple Separate OS’es

One of the proudest days for this blog was when Steven Sinofsky called out an article I had written and said he disagreed with my contention that Windows needed to have a separate UI and OS for tablets.

We had finally arrived!

Now, several years later with the benefit of hindsight, I’m pretty sure I’m right.

I actually think a lot of the hubbub over this OS would have been avoided if people had a choice. Windows 8 and Metro is primarily designed for mobile devices. Someone who wanted a mobile OS would have complained less because it’s actually a neat way of navigating around Windows in a mobile fashion.

If you want to do that.

This OS got into trouble because desktop users revolted. If they had a refined version of Windows that was an evolution of Windows 7, it would have been fine and Microsoft would have had the breathing room to refine the Metro environment.

Worked well enough for Apple yes?

That leads to

Better thought around SKU’s

Microsoft SKUs

SKU is an acronym for Stock Keeping Unit.

An SKU is a distinct item, such as a product or service, as it is offered for sale that embodies all attributes associated with the item and that distinguish it from all other items.

So Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise would be separate SKU’s.

In light of rethinking the architecture and maybe separating different types of Operating Systems, this would be a good time to re-examine the current SKU lines and see if they still work.

An excellent read and a preview of what Microsoft may be doing is Mary Jo Foley and her article on Microsoft, One Core, Many SKU’s.

At least we know Microsoft is thinking this through carefully.

Figure out Windows pricing

This one’s simple. Windows needs to be closer to FREE than $119 or $199. Microsoft could charge Enterprise users more for Windows but justify it by:

Better Back Office Integration

The part of the business that works for Microsoft is the Enterprise. Microsoft has an iron clad grip on the Enterprise and has done a solid job in delivering value with software and services to that segment.

The challenge now is to even more tightly integrate Windows into the Cloud, Office, SQL Server etc and make it a must have for businesses. We know what part of the business works for Microsoft, now they need to rinse and repeat.

Rethink the User Interface

Windows 7 was fantastic but from a UI perspective is long in the tooth.

Take a look at some of the pictures of the OS since Windows 2000 and you can see that it’s basically looked the same.


It’s time to freshen up Windows and take some risks a la Apple iOS 7. The iPhone and iPad OS’es look very different then they did before but it doesn’t take that long to get back up in the saddle again.

Windows needs to look new but feel the same and that’s not easy task. I’ve said it before, Innovation is hard!

I will say this though, there are tons of fantastic OS concepts for Windows in places on the web like DeviantArt.com. Microsoft should have some of the most creative designers on earth (God knows the company has the money).

Time to think a little different?

Finally and this is the biggest one:

Push forward not backwards


This is where I get to rant a little so excuse me in advance.

My articles about Microsoft have been more and more negative recently and I received a lot of reader feedback about it. Trolls and light thinkers ran to the refuge of simpletons – that I was an Apple fan and root for Apple.

I am an Apple fan but the truth is a little more complicated. This site is the most comprehensive Windows site on the web. It’s almost 5 years old, has 7500+ posts (most of which I wrote) and over 16,000 comments.

Make no mistake, it has been hard work and I am extremely proud of what the end result is – a real, living, breathing archive showing the evolution of Windows.

I didn’t do this for Ubuntu or for Apple’s OS X. I built this for Windows.

I was extremely excited about the possibilities of Windows 8 and am still excited about Windows 9 but I will continue to call a spade a spade. It didn’t work and Microsoft has to do better – period.

Now when an OS has troubles like this, the natural reaction for a company like Microsoft is to retreat. Head backwards and  acquiesce to the loudest voices. To be honest, there are times when this strategy might be called for.

Windows 9 is not one of those times.

Microsoft need to charge on and takes risks with the next version of Windows because being timid would be quiet suicide. The company is doing so well financially that they actually do have some leeway to take more risks with Windows 9.

Calculated risks.

I think Windows 9 could turn this whole thing around but it will take boldness and strategic vision by both Satya Nadella and Bill Gates. They will need to start from scratch and rethink the entire value proposition of the Windows Franchise. There should be painful decisions and blood, sweat and tears.

They need to push their UI designers and engineers harder than they have ever been pushed and when they are burned out, push them harder.

The bottom line is, they will need to rethink Windows from the top to bottom but in fairness, they will have a MAJOR advantage this time……they’ll know what doesn’t work.

That’s it for me, tell me what you think. Use the comments below.

  • Ray F

    I think you’re spot on!’

    If Microsoft retreat than it’s over – they’re dead. Great article!

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Thanks Ray!


  • cwoxford

    Dead right!
    Great article….Microsoft need to listen to it’s users, after all they are the ones that Microsoft need to survive.
    well done!

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi



  • ac492

    I can’t disagree with anything you’ve written here. Microsoft do indeed need to get a grip on what matters to their customers – not just to the designers.

    The biggest problem is that Microsoft (and other mammoth corporations) don’t have a great past record of ‘hearing’. They ‘listen’ but just ignore everything said that doesn’t sound the way they want.

    Maybe it should be ‘listen’, ‘hear’ and only then ‘design’.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Listen -> Hear -> Design.

      Might be refreshing to see that in action…


  • bonobored

    Well Windows 8 works fine for me but it obviously does not work so well for most people and these are the people that must be catered to. Windows 8 could prove to be a great launching pad for an innovative, well loved Windows 9 if the suits get their act together and look forward with drive and courage instead of backwards with uncertainty.
    Your article hit all the nails on the proper heads. Great insight.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Thanks bonobored.

      Appreciate it.

  • Paul Muscarella

    Well the biggest problem is people don’t like change . Windows 8.1 is great if you know how to use it My grandchild who is 7 uses Metro all the time with out no problems. He has never used the desk top. I my self use both I do agree with the article it is spot on. Microsoft needs to go ahead not backwards. Linux is a good OS but most people will never use it like windows 8 to much change they just want something simple they really don’t know how to use a computer to is full capacities.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Thanks Paul.


  • Macpaul Emeka Ekwueme

    Right on the need to move forward and not retreat, wrong on separating the desktop and metro, at least not until WP8 and WinRT integration is achieved and become rich enough to exist without the desktop. Any attempt to separate them at this stage will mean the demise of the modern UI. It’s obvious the current offering is what is fueling what progress the modern UI seems to be enjoying presently. All I believe win 9 or whatever name it comes under, should do is to streamline the OS and make it smarter to detect what device is been used and give the user the option to choose which part to make prominent. This rumored feature of running modern apps in desktop is definitely a move in the wrong direction.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      The argument is old and time tested and my response remains the same.

      Think about what you’re saying. If Microsoft separate Modern UI fron Desktop, no one will use it – TRANSLATION – it has no value.

      People recognize VALUE. People don’t need to be forced to use things of VALUE. If you have to push people, your value proposition probably was off from the very beginning.

      • Macpaul Emeka Ekwueme

        In a perfect world your argument will fly, but in a world of ignorant biases fueled by the so called tech blog sites people need to be forced to get off their lazy behinds and try something first before reaching a conclusion. How many have had a change of heart after experiencing the OS for themselves first hand and how many dismissed without even trying? MS was late to the mobile computing arena and this was their only ticket to get in. Is the OS there yet? No, but none of the competitors got there in just one day. For the life of me, I just don’t understand what it is in Windows 8.1(Metro) that stands in the way of your productivity that you’d want them to remove it completely.

        • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

          Well answer this. Why does Apple never seem to have to “force” customers to use their stuff? Choice is the way to go…

          • Ray C

            Because people always by into the Apple hype and everyone in tech media has no problem acting like everything Apple does is 10 times better than what anyone else does.

          • Macpaul Emeka Ekwueme

            Onuora, I’m not totally disagreeing with your article, just the part where you are calling for a total separation of the modern UI and desktop, and even at that , I’m only of the opinion that even if they’re going to do that, it should be after the modern UI has matured enough to stand on its own. Right now, we all agree that it hasn’t. Every company can’t be apple. The irony of it all is that you call for MS to move forward and not backward, yet your solution to whatever problem you think they have is to abandon everything and start from scratch. Very helpful business advice.

          • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi



            We respectfully disagree. I can see how what I am saying may seem contradictory but it really isn’t.

            What we have hasn’t worked but they need to move forward and try something different. What that difference is, I can’t tell you. Not my job to tell you.

            I will tell you that we will know when we see it and we aint seen it yet.


      • Ray C

        It’s not about value because people rarely see the value in doing something new. It’s not about force. Most people if nothing ever happens to even make them at least think about change, they’ll be doing the exact same things, the exact same way 15 years from now as they’re doing today because too many people are creatures of habit. It’s like when Windows 8 is being discussed, most people forget the issues we’ve always had with non-tech people and technology. The average person won’t let you show them the simplest little way to do something on a computer. They’ll panic over something as small as a desktop icon missing even though the same icon is on the task bar. Then you couple that with the fact that the vast majority of tech media or IT people in general have loved to jump on the bash, criticize, or scrutinize all things Microsoft bandwagon since the pre-XP days. They have to deal with a negative resistance no one else has to deal with. I guarantee that if Microsoft had decided not to go with Metro in Win8 and had sold the idea of the interface to someone else, when that company came out with it, all the bloggers would be acting like this was the newest, freshest idea in tech in decades. I can only imagine if Apple had come out with it.

  • Gouthum Karadi

    Having worked at Microsoft on four different stints, I can tell you that the main reason some of their greatest ideas in the world never see the light of day is the management hierarchy. It is full of the types who kill innovation over the risk to their current P&L. It is ironic that Windows 8, the boldest gamble of any software company that i can think of was a bit of a flop. Yet I will share an adage of mine from the 1990’s through today, never out count the company that said what’s the Internet and who needs more than 1MB of RAM!

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi


      Awesome… who needs more than 1 meg of RAM. Unfortunately I remember those days.


      • Gouthum Karadi

        As do I.

  • Darlington Jones

    By time they do that, the company would have gone bankrupt? Basically, you’re saying start from scratch (even down to the coding would have to change in order to implement what you’re saying). Just to think about new ideas will take them at least a year at the rate their going! Look how long it took to update to Windows 8.1 and man, the changes were so miniscule. Then after all these brilliant ideas are thrashed through, we start looking at implementation and testing and God, my head is hurting.
    You basically just pronounced a death sentence on Windows 9. Sounds like they should just stick to Windows mobile – that’s been a success so far. As much as I despire Android, I’m actually grateful for Google to shake things up.

  • perlusconi

    they sould refresh desktop UI (including icons!!!)

  • Ray C

    I’m not sure I can agree with the overall tone of the article. I don’t think Windows 8 ever needed to be “fixed.” I think it simply needed to be tweaked. Some of that was done in 8.1. More of it will be done in Update 1 with the adding on context menus and the power button. The concept behind Windows 8 was never flawed. They simply didn’t do some small things, such as the power options button, to make the transition easier. Then everyone keeps saying “listen to customer feedback.” But what is customer feedback. Consumers don’t even make their own decisions about products anymore. They treat the same way they do politicians. They follow what they media and the “experts” tell them. Whichever candidate is hyped up the most often wins. Whichever product is hyped up the most usually wins out, even when two products are very similar. I’m not sure desktop users revolted, just enough revolted to influence everyone else. I was the same way for a year leading up to Windows 8 because I was falling for all the negative writing and hype. And just like in politics once a negative storyline starts about you, there’s a significant number of people who will stay stuck in that line of thinking no matter what happens. There is no need for there to be two Windows. There is no point in a Metro-less Windows. IF you don’t like Metro, boot to desktop. It makes sense for desktop to be disabled on a tablet, but desktop has never been popular on tablets not in the Windows XP/7 flavor. The only way desktop makes sense on a tablet is if it’s like the original Widows 8 desktop. A start menu just isn’t good on a tablet. I think SOME of the 7 ideas would be good additions to Windows, but I wouldn’t call these major fixes.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Hey Ray,

      I think we have to call it on this one. Microsoft have already acquiesced to the problems and the scale of the problems.

      It’s no longer about bloggers or tech journalists. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

      In fairness, a lot of people on this site love Windows 8 but Microsoft are a BUSINESS and look at the bottom line. If it was just media hype and the copies were flying off the shelves, there would be no changes. That fact that there are massive changes tells you that…..

  • Ray C

    Another thing about feedback. You can’t listen to feedback people don’t give you. How much of the changes in 8.1 and update 1 really came from user feedback? If it did, it only came from a select few. No company can improve a product if most of the feedback is “it sucks, I can’t use it this way, the old way is better, this is stupid.” Users have to learn to give coherent, intelligent feedback on how a product could be improved. The power options button/tile is something I’ve been saying could have been beneficial since I first starting responding to blogs about Windows 8. I could also think of 2 or 3 other options that are within charms that I think could have made Windows 8 an easier transition as buttons or tiles. That’s just a small example. But simply yelling how much you don’t like something, doesn’t help any of us.