One thing that Blue won't fix: the relatively small selection of mobile applications tailored for Windows 8. Reller said the Windows 8 store now has more than 60,000 apps. By contrast, there are more than 800,000 apps available for Apple's mobile's devices and nearly that many for Android devices, too. In one of the most glaring omissions on Windows 8, Facebook Inc. still hasn't designed an app to make its online social network more accessible on that system. Facebook has about 750 million mobile users.
Microsoft's decision to tweak Windows 8 so soon after it went on sale may reinforce perceptions that the product is a flop.
Reller is trying to frame the changes as evidence that Microsoft is becoming more agile and nimble as it responds to a rapidly evolving technology market. Smartphones and tablet computers have been at the epicenter of the upheaval, diminishing the demand for PCs as more people and businesses opt for the convenience of increasingly powerful mobile devices.
The mobile computing movement is the main reason that Microsoft made the most dramatic redesign of its Windows operating system since 1995. Given how different that Windows 8 is from its predecessors, Reller said Microsoft always knew it might have to make some adjustments less than a year after the software came out.
"It had to be a very big change to take advantage of the mobile opportunity," she said.
Analysts say one reason Windows 8 got off to a slow start is because there weren't enough devices designed to take advantage of the system's touch-screen features. But that is about to change as HP, Dell and other PC makers prepare to roll out a wide variety of laptops and tablets with displays that respond to touch. More than 2,400 devices have now been certified to run on Windows 8, up from 2,000 in January, Reller said.
Most of the touch-screen laptops will sell at prices $50 to $250 below the first wave of comparable machines running on Windows 8, reductions that Microsoft hopes will prod more people to check out the system.
"As we look at Windows 8, it's important to remember a lot of its full potential won't be realized until there are more touch devices on the market," Reller said.