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I don’t think any user was asking for that,” said John Ludwig, a former Microsoft executive who worked on Windows and is now a venture capitalist in the Seattle area. “They just want the current user interface, but better.”

 

Mr. Ludwig said Microsoft’s strategy was risky, but it had to do something to improve its chances in the mobile business: “Doing nothing was a strategy that was sure to fail.”

 

Little about the new Windows will look familiar to those who have used older versions. The Start screen, a kind of main menu, is dominated by a colorful grid of rectangles and squares that users can tap with a finger or click with a mouse to start applications. Many of these so-called live tiles constantly flicker with new information piped in from the Internet, like news headlines and Facebook photos.

 

What is harder to find are many of the conventions that have been a part of PCs since most people began using them, like the strip of icons at the bottom of the screen for jumping between applications. The mail and calendar programs are starkly minimalist. It is as if an automaker hid the speedometer, turn signals and gear shift in its cars, and told drivers to tap their dashboards to reveal those functions. There is a more conventional “desktop” mode for running Microsoft Office and older programs, though there is no way to permanently switch to it.

 

Microsoft knew in the summer of 2009 that it wanted to shake up Windows. It held focus groups and showed people prototypes of the tile interface and its live updates.

 

We would get this delightful reaction of people who would say, ‘This is so great, and it has Office too,’ ” said Jensen Harris, Microsoft’s director of program management for the Windows user experience.

 

Sixteen million people have been using early versions of the software. The boldness of the changes has delighted some users, who say they believe that for the first time, the company is taking greater creative risks than its more celebrated rival, Apple.

I think it’s functional, clean,” said Andries van Dam, a pioneer in computer graphics and a Brown University computer science professor, who receives

 

Microsoft is convinced that most people will quickly become accustomed to Windows 8. But to help ease the transition, the software offers tutorials when it is first started up. And Microsoft is spending more than $500 million on a marketing campaign that is partly intended to familiarize people with the new design.

 

Mr. Harris said the company needed to modernize Windows for the way people use computers today: “We’re not surprised people have a strong reaction to it.”

 

 


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