"Microsoft misstepped a number of ways with Vista," Gownder said. "But they did change it. They have an established market and a lot to offer, and [Windows Blue] is, by no means, the last chance for Windows 8."
What a reversal will not do is magically turn around depressed PC sales, on which Microsoft is reliant for Windows 8 sales. Offering options to boot to the desktop or restore Start functionality won't change the dynamics of the industry, where consumers in particular are buying less expensive touch-enabled tablets rather than replacing older Windows computers.
But what if? What if Microsoft's design ideology had been more flexible before it shipped Windows 8? Would it have made a difference? Would Windows 8 devices be flying off shelves?
"Had Microsoft added the option of restoring the Start button and boot-to-desktop, they would be in a slightly better position than they are today, but not much," said Moorhead. "In fact, Metro app development would be behind the curve had they added the options."
The UI mistakes, Moorhead added, were secondary to a more fundamental misreading of the market and the available technologies. "In retrospect, Microsoft should have marketed and built a more pervasive and high quality touch pad experience. "They misjudged the number of touch-based devices that would be out, and under-emphasized the quality experience of a good touch pad."
Apple, for instance, has ignored touch-based computers thus far, instead depending on larger touch pads built into their notebooks and on the gesture support they've integrated with OS X.
Had Microsoft taken that approach for Windows 8, it could have avoided the entire touch screen issue -- shortages caused by low yields, and corresponding high prices -- Moorhead asserted.
"Unlike touch display functionality, which can add $100 to the [bill of materials], a quality touch pad may cost as little as an incremental $5," Moorhead said.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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