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Is Windows 8 Going the Way of the New Coke?

If you haven’t yet reached your late 30s, you probably don’t know much about the New Coke or even had the pleasure of tasting a product that was only out a few short months. In fact, you probably don’t know how much of a sting it is to compare any product to New Coke. Here’s a little history lesson.

Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) had been losing market share on its flagship cola for 15 years. It was now almost 100 years old and company executives thought it needed a reboot. Pepsi (NYSE: PEP) had gained ground because customers saw its product as more sugary.

Coca-Cola re-engineered Coke and put it in front of customers where preliminary market research found it to be well accepted. Later, in April of 1985, Coca-Cola introduced New Coke to the public and almost immediately, the firestorm erupted. What had been a staple product and part of American life for nearly a century was changed. It didn’t take long for Coke to say, “we’re sorry” and re-introduce the original formula which it called, Coca-Cola Classic.

How does Windows 8 fit into this story? If you believe Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) VP of corporate communications, Frank Shaw, it doesn’t fit at all. In a company blog post, he wrote:

Unlike a can of soda, a computer operating system offers different experiences to different customers to meet different needs, while still moving the entire industry toward an exciting future of touch, mobility, and seamless, cross-device experiences.

He is correct: A can of coke does nothing for cross-device experiences but the parallel is that Microsoft may have failed to recognize that the public wasn’t looking for a brand new experience. Windows wasn’t completely broken–at least not so much that it needed the faithful start button taken away.

The large-scale update, codenamed Blue, will be in front of developers soon but not in the hands of the public for a quite a while. Many believe that the start will return along with some other familiar oldies-but-goodies. Will that be enough to get customers excited about Windows 8?

(Hint: Press the “windows” button. It’s a lot like the start button.)

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker had no position in any of the mentioned securities.

 

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