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).