Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer looks on during a presentation of his keynote address at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (Getty)
Seattle, WA (USA Today) -- Winston Churchill once observed, "There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction."
With the introduction of Windows 8 last fall, Microsoft radically altered the familiar PC interface, based on using keyboard and mouse to access documents kept in files saved to folders.
The hybrid Windows 8 operating system charts a new course aiming for a time when humans interact with computers exclusively via touch and voice commands.
But as Southern songwriter Coleman Crawford croons: "Change ain't easy." Windows 8 has had its critics, and sales of the Surface touch tablet - Microsoft's late-to-market answer to the iPad - have been lukewarm.
Microsoft's first chance to refine Windows 8 and Surface will come later this year when it rolls out its first major Window 8 update, code-named Windows Blue. Karl Volkman, CTO at SRV Network, has been bird-dogging Windows for 30 years. USA TODAY tapped Volkman to assess what's coming.
Q: Did Microsoft do anything well with Windows 8?
A: Absolutely, there are positives with Windows 8. First of all is Microsoft's recognition and attempt at unifying the OS across the entire computing line. This must be done as the lines of use among hardware levels are blurring and full functionality must be available across the hardware selection.
The most striking success for Windows 8 for me, though, is the reduction in start-up and shut-down times. I enjoy turning on and getting productive quickly, as well as being able to pack my netbook away quicker when I am approaching my stop on my commuter train.
Q: What can users expect when Windows Blue arrives?
A: Let's hope that the customizable tile interface is extremely simple to understand, set up and use. Simplicity brings adoption. All of the leaked features seem to point in this direction. Make the environment easily conform to me, not me to it. The ability to set this customized environment across all my devices is also a great touch. Those of us who use several devices would love it.
Q:What are the long-run prospects for Surface?
A: There is always hope. What will drive its viability is its ability to truly become the simple step-down from a netbook. Can I perform the majority or all of what I do on my workstation or laptop or netbook in the same way on the tablet? If so, I would definitely jump on it, and I am sure that many others will. The price will have to be less than the competition to provide a tipping point for many sitting on or near the fence.
Q: Fast forward to 2015. What do expect Microsoft to look like?
A: Microsoft will definitely still be in the server OS business, and Microsoft will be a player in some way in the end-user client. Microsoft is a superpower in the technology business. Nation-state superpowers first try to beat the others, and when that becomes difficult they turn to alliances. Perhaps there will be an alliance between Microsoft and another client computing superpower.