Windows has always been the operating system of the people, providing every capability its broad customer base might want. The result is generally messy, but for the most part Microsoft has gotten it right… eventually.

On the surface, Windows 8 and 8.1 seem to follow the same pattern Microsoft has inadvertently fallen into over the years. Windows 98 was a hit. Windows ME added too many moving parts, and Windows XP cleaned them up. Windows 7 restored users’ faith in the wake of Vista, and then Windows 8 departed from convention with a new touch interface that continues to confuse and frustrate desktop users.

(Related: Can Microsoft rescue Windows?)

Many are heralding Windows 9 as the savior, but there’s no guarantee it will right the ship. The circumstances have fundamentally changed, and Microsoft needs to rethink its philosophy.

Windows 8’s Metro makeover wasn’t driven by user desire, but by a reaction to the rapidly shifting mobile-first OS market. The “One Microsoft” strategy, extending the live tile interface across Windows for the desktop, tablet and smartphone, worked in theory, but in reality it didn’t go far enough in optimizing the mobile experience while simultaneously alienating desktop-based business users.

Windows 8.1 and its forthcoming Update 1 are Microsoft’s way of saying sorry, by once again pandering to the criticism of the masses. The update addresses customer feedback by clumping Windows 8 Metro and desktop versions together with some quick fixes and the option to switch between interfaces. In so doing, however, Microsoft has compromised any sort of unified design while making the experience even more disjointed.

Microsoft needs to make up its mind. Will it stick with the one OS strategy, or let the desktop and mobile versions of Windows stand on their own?

There are too many platforms and too wide a cross-section of users to make every customer happy, so Microsoft should stop trying. Whether Windows 9 aims to create one truly universal user experience or strike a balance between two, Microsoft must pick a direction and stick to its guns.

Trying to bridge two worlds with one OS has made no one happy.