Microsoft Windows 8: How Bad Could it Be?

4 minute read
Anthony Myers avatar

Anyone who has purchased or tested Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system can tell you the system is confusing. But just how poorly has Microsoft fared with its biggest Windows overhaul in nearly two decades? 

It depends. If you are talking about the tablet version with touch controls and a stylish look, then maybe not so bad. In fact, there may even be room for cautious optimism. However, (gulp) if you are talking about upgrading to a new version of the familiar feeling, productive, extremely popular Windows system, well, there's bad and there is utterly useless.

Windows 8 Not Making it to the Enterprise

Microsoft has made a calculation that it needs to be more invested in the consumer tech world. Of course, it has seen the popularity of the iPad, and perhaps its response was a bit heavy handed. Its Surface tablet is on sale now, but by next year, does anyone think the iPad will have not destroyed it in the marketplace?

You would think a Microsoft computer would run things many people run on their non tablet versions. You would be wrong. Yes there is a special Office version that runs on the Windows 8 RT system for tablets, but things like the Chrome browser, Adobe Reader and iTunes will not work. Only sanctioned Microsoft apps will run on Windows 8 RT.

For non tablet devices, the Windows 8 system is, as you may have heard, really two systems in one. The tile based layout that matches the tablet version is what appears on boot up. The more familiar desktop is underneath this layer, and there are some handy upgrades, but reviews are coming in from groups like Forrester and from prominent tech heads like Jakob Nielsen and David Pogue, and they aren't good. 

Dead on arrival, Forrester researcher David Johnson said in his blog about Win 8 in the enterprise. Only about 24% of enterprises surveyed said they were planning on upgrading, and even they had no specific plans yet.


There was much more fanfare over Windows 7 in 2009 than for Windows 8 in 2012.


Learning Opportunities

Windows 8 just came out, and Win 7 is only about 4 years old, so those both no doubt play into many companies' lack of commitment. Four years from now, that could change, but Windows 8 will likely have the most impact on IT when it comes to people bringing their own tablets to work, Johnson said.

Weak on Tablets, Terrible on PC's

Microsoft has made a misguided effort with Windows 8, usability expert Jakob Nielsen said in his review. Menus are too scattered, tools are confusing, and the biggest mistake is that the idea of Windows is now dead. Windows, being the concept of many views into the system. Microsoft has discontinued this feature, and Win 8 will only allow one window open at a time. Bad for power users, Nielsen said. 

For example, it forces people to remember which things they were searching for just before they launched a new window to search for something else, and that means added complexity resulting in memory overload, Nielsen said. On the tablet side, swiping gestures did not appear to be intuitive at all owing to the fact those swipes will do different things depending on where the touch originated.

In Pogue's review for the New York Times, he points out the seemingly nonsensical layout of the browser search bar in the tile view and in the desktop view. In the tile view, the search bar is at the bottom, and in the desktop view, it's at the top. The learning curve for Windows 8 looks a bit like Mt. Everest, Pogue said.

In software releases, as in mountain climbing, many steps have to be taken. Microsoft has taken the first step on its journey of creating one OS for pc's, smartphones and tablets with Windows 8. They didn't get it right, but the vision is certainly there. Future releases can only get better from here, and by the time the next one comes out, perhaps more people will be ready to upgrade, and by virtue of necessity, perhaps willing to accept a few mistakes along the way. 


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