Windows 8 – A Disaster In The Making

Even though Windows 8 brings many incremental improvements over its predecessor, Microsoft managed to bungle this release almost irreparably. This is one more example where great engineering is rendered futile by dumb marketing decisions and a lack of internal harmony.

In spite of having a better kernel, but due to a stubborn functional direction, Windows 8 has been, from the start, doomed to fade in the brightness of its predecessor. It’s probably one of the reasons why Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky was fired^– which is a questionable decision, since he was in charge of the previous Windows release as well.

Lack of Flexibility

I said it time^ and again^: unless changes are made, Windows 8 is fated to become another black spot on Microsoft’s CV. It’s hard to believe that CEO Steve Ballmer doesn’t see this as well. Perhaps that’s why after Sinofsky’s departure, the company’s stance regarding the Start Menu (which is currently gone) has softened^.

But the Start Menu is only a minor problem compared to all the other confusing aspects of this schizophrenic Operating System, which lost many of its proven features only to gain new, immature ones – begging for some attention from the mobile-crowd. Even so, this is trivial compared to the simple fact that almost nobody really needs this edition of the OS. Windows 7 is doing just well, thank you very much – and ironically, this situation is Microsoft’s own doing: the previous version of the OS is so good it just doesn’t need replacing yet.

Windows 8 might have fared better if its maker would not have adopted a hardline stance regarding the OS’s features. But the company from Redmond unwittingly decided to proceed with radical changes, throwing everybody in the same bucket, offering no transition period for users with conservative tendencies. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its greatest customers – businesses – tend to be the most conservative of all.

Millions Wasted On Advertisement

After the launch of Windows 8, Ballmer bragged that they already sold 4 million copies^ of the OS. But one can’t help wondering just how many of these copies were actually going towards the heavily-subsidized partnerships between the software giant and major hardware manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo?

Microsoft got blue in the face trying to advertise its latest Operating System. Starting from dishing out goodies at their BUILD event^ and ending with spamming every conference, computer shop and subway station in the world with Windows 8 propaganda.

But after all is said and done, nobody is impressed: not the financial analysts^ and not the Microsofties themselves^, who are reported to be kinda’ disappointed. One shouldn’t be surprised if most engineers are actually angry on some of the decisions taken by the company’s leadership. Nobody should wonder why Microsoft chose to post its Q3 earnings early^; there’s a rumor Santa Claus won’t be making too many stops in Redmond this year.

The Gamble Might Pay Off… When Windows 9 Arrives

On the other hand, Microsoft’s gamble with this radical step forward (or sideways) might pay off eventually. Just like Vista ushered Windows 7, Windows 8 might lead to another great OS. All criticism aside, the company from Redmond has made a bold move and, in the long run, it is quite probable that it will pay off.

Fun fact: when you look at Microsoft’s track record, it appears that the company is under one of those “good/bad alternating curses”. Windows 98 was pretty good. Windows ME, a massive fail. Windows XP had great success. Windows Vista, another failure. Windows 7 is awesome. Windows 8… well… see a pattern here?

As for me? I never touched Vista and I will probably not touch Windows 8. At least not until Microsoft realizes that they can’t peddle the same OS to two vastly different species: desktop and mobile. Users need to be given options. I do want to see that Start Page on a touch-device – it’s useful. But on the other side, I will have absolutely no trace of that crap on my content creation system – my desktop PC.

You might ask how can I rant so much about a product I haven’t used? It’s simple: processing the information already out there, experience from the past and, most importantly: products such as Vista and Windows 8 stink from a mile away.

 

LATER EDIT: here’s another nice link, where UI expert Jakob Nielsen wastes no time slamming Windows’ new face^. His bashing is a bit too subjective, as W8 *can* show multiple windows at the same time while in “Desktop mode”, but when Jakob and his team did their UI study for the OS, they probably focused only on how this new version works out of the box).

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17 Comments

  1. Reply

    I bought win 8 when it can out and it is so difficult to use comparied to windows 7. I have to fight back and forth with metro and my desktop to do anything… the new Internet Explorer seems to display websites incorrectly, and trying to manage files in my explorer it a frustrating experience. Im restoring back to Win 7… wish I could get my money back for Win 8 but oh well. Oh yeah my video drivers aren’t working properly, and some of my programs don’t work either…

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      Scott, have you considered Stardock’s Start8 application? That might help you.

  2. alt gica contra

    Reply

    I enjoy using Windows 8. the start menu is a non issue for a power user – you can use another launcher like launchy; to be fair i never used the start menu in windows 7 either.
    Agree you should give Windows8 a try before bashing it :)

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      I didn’t bash Windows 8. I bashed Microsoft and its management. I am well aware of Start Menu replacement software: I use such a thing on W7 as well, since I don’t like the default Start Menu. But the entire point is that W8 is *NOT* addressed only to power users.

      I don’t have time to waste on W8 and this never stopped me in the past to make perfectly correct assumptions on the market. Trust me: financial analysts don’t use every software they write about and are not board members in every company they evaluate. It’s the same with an IT analyst.

      • Reply

        There’s also quite a difference between sysadmins in businesses, schools, etc. installing Windows with a certain registry switch flipped and those same sysadmins having to add a separate application to the mix.

        It’s an interesting point though: the start menu has been messed up since Vista. It’s unpleasant to use for navigating the actual menu, while its search feature is inferior to e.g. Launchy. You could wonder whether this new change is so much worse. Due to the unnatural reading order (for LTR languages) with search on the right and results on the left, and the fact that everything takes one or two more keyboard presses, I have to conclude it is. But compared to Vista/7 it’s not nearly as much of a step backwards as compared to XP.

        • AxonnS

          Reply

          You’re right regarding to the steps back they made with the entire “Start” thing. I don’t use Launchy (I use HotKeyz), so the Search in the Start is actually the only good thing I can say about it. Luckily Classic Shell can keep that in the loop. But all this is on a per-user basis. I am a freak of nature in some cases but at least in W7 I have the option to keep being that. In W8 that option is still there, but harder to reach. And many people will NOT appreciate that.

  3. Reply

    This article sums up my thoughts on W8, which is a typical ‘post-success’ release.
    Microsoft has indeed a history of good/bad releases. 3.11 – great stuff, 95 was meh, 95 second edition was better, 98 had the infamous Bill Gates scanner crash, 98 SE was the most solid in the 9x series, ME was a bust, XP a huge success, Vista was so bad it made me cringe, Windows 7 was top of the game for MS, and while I believe that W8 was a bold step ahead, they have to go back to the drawing boards, because there’s a lot of work to be done here.

    BTW, Sinofsky was NOT in charge of W7, he was in 3 months after the release of W7. I bet he has a lot of credit in W7 release, but he wasn’t the chief back then. Probably W8 is way under MS’s expectations. :)

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      I think Microsoft is definitely capable of pulling itself together. They saw the potential of the Kinect technology (which they bought) and made great things with it, and continue to do so. The potential & talent are there. I hope for the best whenever Microsoft is concerned. My 9 years of C# development experience speak for themselves.

      According to Wiki: “Under Sinofsky’s leadership, the Windows Division successfully shipped the successor to Windows Vista, Windows 7, which received mostly positive reception” / “Steven Sinofsky became the president of the Windows division in July 2009.” – this is indeed just 3 weeks *PRIOR* to the release of W7 but he is still viewed as the guy who fixed it: http://www.infoworld.com/d/the-industry-standard/windows-7-savior-windows-8-champion-sinofsky-out-microsoft-206900

  4. gica contra

    Reply

    Nope, not a fan boy, just an anti-anti-fanboy, if you can get that.
    I’m sick of …inexperienced writers…who bash something they didn’t even used (and think reading about it is enough) and are stuck in the past.

    If you’d use W8, you’d know what I’m talking about a crash resilient kernel. Where W7 would stuck and freeze (not because of it, but because of a HW problem), W8 manages to survive in 90% of the case, displays a new screen, gets a memory dump and other logs and restarts the sistem for you.
    You have not idea about this, don’t you ?

    Also, saying there are HW problems is just stupid, how’s a system fault for HW problems ? :D:D
    But I suppose you mean the drivers cause that would make sense. If you’d had been through more that 1-2 SOs in your young life, you’d know that in the first months of SO release there are always driver problems. Not for the good hardware, but for old shitty one and it takes quite a while until they came out. You do remember this happening for W7, don’t you ?

    The users have decided, they want an SO that can be used in (aprox) the same way on their phone, tablet, PC/Mac. Apple saw that and their SOs are following this trend. And what do you know ! Smarter people than us, like the ones responsible from Microsoft, are seeing this too ! Wow ! Big surprise !

    Care to comment about lost functionalities in W8? And lost ones in Start Menu ? And buggies there ? I can let you browse the web for another hour or so so you get more experience and find them all…

    Trust me, you should NOT feel great about your article :(

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      I have used all Microsoft Operating Systems starting with DOS. Windows 7 had very few hardware (driver) problems so you’re not correct in your statement that all OSs had this issue. Indeed, Windows 7 benefited from Vista just like a potential W9 will benefit from the sacrifice of W8. But make no mistake, W8 *is* a sacrifice.

      I did not say the OS is to blame for driver issues. Stop putting words in my mouth. I merely pointed out that W8 has to suffer because of this.

      As for the crash resilient kernel, I actually started my article by acknowledging that W8 has a better kernel, so I don’t see what’s your problem there. I never said W8 is inferior to W7. I am merely pointing out the reasons why it is and will continue to be a market failure.

      If you’re an anti-fan-boy, that’s great, but it doesn’t look like you are, sorry to say. For now, you just seem to want to attack me because I haven’t used W8, which of course, is a valid argument. However, I am not stuck in the past at all, although I am a bit of a conservator. This doesn’t taint my writing because I am aware of my character and I leave that at the door. My study is based on the market performance of the OS, something I had already foreseen via the past articles.

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      I just remembered I forgot to reply to one of your remarks: “smarter people than us, like the ones responsible from Microsoft, are seeing this too”

      That is you assuming smart people are in charge at Microsoft. Why would you rule out incompetence? Just because they’re Microsoft? Come on, everybody makes mistakes. Even them. WRONG decisions in this case could be caused by false market assessments and not listening to the users (a LOT of people were appalled by their new UI).

      And just to drive me point home, here’s one more update for you: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/windows-8-user-interface-ux,19191.html

  5. gica contra

    Reply

    Not to mention it works faster that W7, works better on old machines, has a very crash-resilient kernel compared to W7 and tons of other small improvements.
    But hey, what do I know, I just used it for three months since the RTM came out, while you PROCESSED all the information out there !
    Desktop and mobile OS should be closer and closer, take a look at Mountain Lion and iOS, another failure probably in your humble opinion.

    PS: Vista was bad if you had a shitty PC, if you’d have own a normal PC for those times, Vista would’ve worked great ;)

    Your article is BAD and you should feel bad….

    PS: “But the Start Menu is only a minor problem compared to all the other confusing aspects of this schizophrenic Operating System, which lost many of its proven features only to gain new, immature ones”
    Oh please amaze us, what great proven features did you read on the internet that it lost ?? Cause I found all of them exactly where they are in W7, except of course, the old boring Start menu which is now just FULL SCREEN and has exactly the same (and more) functionality.

    • AxonnS

      Reply

      Point by point: it’s not crash-resillient but full of hardware & drivers problems, just like Vista was. You don’t have the right to decide if desktop & mobile should be closer: the user has. The start page is buggy and has serious holes in functionality. Vista was better on newer machines at the time but it was still a piece of crap kernel and a resource hog. P.S.: I feel great about my article, especially because it caused such an erratic reaction from a fanboy like you :D (you look like you’re desperate to approve of W8, I simply stated some facts which are clear as day if you analyze the market).

      • Reply

        I actually agree that “Desktop and mobile OS should be closer and closer”, but I mean something quite different by that.

        take a look at Mountain Lion and iOS, another failure probably in your humble opinion.

        Windows 8/RT is a winner compared to iOS and Android precisely because it brings e.g. proper multitasking to tablets (where by proper I mean usable as well as available). But what you’re overlooking is the horrible inefficiency of fingers. There’s a reason I write with a pen, instead of dipping my fingers directly in a bottle of ink. You need either a pen, a fingernail or a mouse cursor to do anything with precision. I recently played a game on my Nintendo DS for the first time in over a year and its classic touch screen was an absolute joy to use compared to all the current capacitive nonsense. You might wonder why I complain about big, fat fingers when I can just use a mouse and keyboard — well, what’s the point of that if the interface is completely dumbed down for such horribly inefficient input devices? During the early RC stage (or was that even earlier?) Windows 8 actually had this down right: you could use both tablet-mode for on the go and desktop-mode for when better input devices were available.

        The fact that you bring up iOS shows you didn’t understand Axonn’s argument regarding businesses at all. The iPad is very hard to use for things other than media consumption, quite the opposite of what businesses want their employees to be doing. My vision of a proper tablet, and where I incorrectly thought Microsoft was going, is a device that can actually potentially replace a “proper” computer. An actual post-PC device (I call silly name: my cellphone is a more powerful personal computer than my 1995 PC was), instead of something that’s freaking useless without a “proper” PC nearby. People are carrying these multi-core, super-powerful tablets with them, yet they say “I can’t do X because I’m not near a computer.” How utterly ridiculous is that!? Unfortunately Microsoft seems to have decided that they only needed to be slightly better than Android and iOS. In the tablet market that strategy might work; on the desktop it’s bound to be disastrous. After all, Windows 7 is a much better desktop product.

        • Reply

          “In the tablet market that strategy might work”

          Mind you, only because of how atrociously bad the competition is.

          • AxonnS

            Reply

            I wouldn’t be so sure that Windows RT is a winner on tablets. If they would have managed to bring x86 (via Intel) along with it, yes. But now they’re starting on a fresh ecosystem, begging developers to spam their store (with poorly written code). I have great doubts about the success of RT. After the initial rush is over, I think there’s a pretty fat chance that it’ll flop. Content consumers don’t need multitasking so much. For all intents and purposes, the iPad looks better, has better battery life, has (vastly) more applications and it has a cult status, like it or not (I don’t, but that’s just me).

            • Reply

              Fair enough, whether they manage to attract (decent) programmers will be very important for their success. I believe they always said Windows RT would only sport the Metro GUI (or whatever they call it these days), but until fairly recently I thought x86 tablets could potentially be fantastic by being both a classic laptop and an iPad-like device at will. I guess it could still be that thanks to something like Classic Shell, but certainly not thanks to Microsoft. Most of the people who buy tablets at present already have a proper computer, but it just seems to me that something more akin to the netbook market has more sales potential. But perhaps Microsoft is afraid of competing against itself and its partners in that market segment.

              Incidentally some Android devices might be going in such a direction.

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