Whether you believe Windows 8 sales are thriving or struggling, the 2013 International CES conference (Jan. 8-11, Las Vegas) will arrive at the perfect time for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and its hardware partners. From tablets to PCs and smartphones, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) offers Microsoft the ideal opportunity to fine-tune its mobile strategy for 2013.

Let's face it: The Windows 8 story has been somewhat underwhelming so far. On the one hand, Microsoft has a compelling developer story -- delivering a single platform that allows partners to write applications for smart phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops. Plus Windows 8's touch interface actually works. But on the other hand, Microsoft's Windows 8 rollout has left a lot to be desired. Among the missteps or questionable moves:
  • Out of Touch: Allowing PC makers to pre-load Windows 8 on systems that don't have touch screens.
  • Out of Reach: Delivering Surface tablets running Windows RT ahead of Surface tablets ahead of Windows Pro. Imagine if Apple originally created a not-so-great iPad and promised to deliver a better -- but far more expense -- iPad a few months later. Some folks also question Surface Pro's price (on second thought it does seem lofty) and the decision not to sell the tablets through third-party distributors and channels. Ironically, The VAR Guy supports the limited distribution strategy since Surface sales strategies are a work in progress.
  • Out of Stats: Microsoft said Windows 8 sold 40 million licenses during its first month of availability, but the company did not disclose whether those licenses involved long-term corporate agreements, pre-loads to PC makers, software upgrades to consumers, etc. Basically, Microsoft has not said how many people actually own and use Windows 8 PCs and tablets vs. how many of those licenses are sitting on shelves.
Want a deeper dive? Perhaps the best article about Windows 8's apparent missteps comes from CNet.

So what can Microsoft get right at CES 2013? Here are five recommendations:
  1. Only allow Windows 8 to be demonstrated on touch-enabled PCs. No touch, no Windows 8.
  2. Show at least three killer consumer and business applications running on Windows 8. Oh, and those applications must not be from Microsoft.
  3. Put Surface Pro in the spotlight and eat crow. Admit that the world has voted against Surface Pro pricing, and surprise attendees with an immediate $100 to $200 price cut.
  4. Show Windows 8 tightly integrated with Office 365 and Xbox applications.
  5. Start a $10 million developer campaign for Windows 8. Award $1 million to each of 10 different software companies that deliver the most innovative applications on Windows 8.
  6. Bonus: Ignore the iPhone and iPad comparisons. Instead, focus all of your competitive aggression against Google Android. (Here's why.)
CES offers Microsoft a fresh opportunity to adjust the Windows 8 strategy. But will Microsoft have the never to click reset so fast?