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Microsoft's mistake puts it in good company with other corporate failures

Windows 8 is unveiled at a press conference on October 25, 2012 in New York City.

Microsoft announced a bit of a walk-back today. They're going to come out with a fix for Windows 8, due out at the end of the year, in response to complaints about the new operating system.

But says Nancy Koehn, historian at Harvard Business School, this isn't the first time corporate America has had a misstep.

She recalls the Ford Explorer's Firestone tire problem a decade ago. And more recently, Apple's "Antennagate," when the smartphone lost reception if held a certain way.

Another long-forgotten corporate mistake? When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz thought customers might like to hear opera music to remind them of Italy. That didn't go over so well.

Complaints about Windows 8 hasn't hurt sales for the company, though.

Koehn wonders if getting out in front of angry customers could hurt the company in the long run. She asks: Will this will cause purchasing folks in corporations to say, oh wait a minute? We'll have to wait and see.

For the rest of corporate America -- this could be a cautionary tale if not a sign of things to come: Consumers expect more from the companies they buy from.

Microsoft has been the company you love to hate for years and that means "Microsoft simply has less reign to run in" compared to fan favorites like Apple, Koehn says.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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