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Windows 8: Another Disaster for Microsoft?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 12

Windows 8 is the next generation of Windows Operating Systems and a lot of hype is surrounding it and the new “Metro” interface Microsoft has developed. The biggest thing that sets it apart from earlier versions of Windows is the design and optimization for touch screen interfaces. Much has already been written about how Windows 8 performs on tablets and touch screen PC’s, but I was curious to see how it would affect most current users who still use mouse and keyboard as their primary form of input. I wanted to see how it might be received by people who aren’t computer or IT professionals and if it would be worth the $40 upgrade for the average user.


Windows 8 Setup
I installed a developer’s pre-release of Windows 8 on a virtual machine. The installation was surprisingly quick (less than 20 minutes) with minimal interaction on my part. One feature that is a major departure from all earlier versions of Windows is the option to use a Microsoft account to log in instead of the traditional local user account. Logging in this way connects you to Microsoft’s cloud service which allows you do some pretty cool things like synchronizing your user settings to the cloud so they follow you regardless of which Windows 8 device you're using. If you’re not interested in all that you can still create the usual local user account.

First Impressions:

Windows 8 Start Menu
Admittedly my first impressions of Windows 8 were less than enthusiastic. While I think the Metro interface will work well for tablets, smart phones, and other touch screen devices the user interface is a nightmare for most users who will be using a traditional keyboard and mouse interface. The interface design doesn't make intuitive sense for users familiar with the traditional Start menu of earlier versions of Windows. Even a simple task like shutting down the computer took a frustrating turn as I hunted for the "shutdown" button located on a hidden menu accessed by hovering over the lower right corner of the screen.

There is a "Desktop" application that looks like the traditional Windows Desktop. Opening files yielded windows like the ones I'm used to seeing. Unfortunately the elation I was feeling was short-lived when I realized there was no Start button. Hovering the mouse over the lower left corner of the screen caused a hidden button to show up for the Start menu, which simply took me back to the original Metro screen (which is apparently now the Start menu). I still could not access the control panel or "My Computer". After a few minutes I discovered the hidden menu on the left side is different for the desktop as it is for the start menu. It has the Control Panel and a few other items, but is still not intuitive to use.

Technical Assessment:

Hidden Menu in Windows 8
From a technical perspective Windows 8 has a lot going for it. The initial installation of the OS was surprisingly fast. Menu response times were impressively quick, and installing a fairly substantial program (Apache's OpenOffice Suite) took almost no time at all. At first glance it seems that the overall file structure is the same as it was under Windows 7. This means technicians and system administrators should have a fairly easy time locating user profiles and other system files if they're already familiar with Windows 7.

Tablet PC and Smartphone users will find the tiled Metro interface a vast improvement over previous menu driven versions of Windows for those types of devices. The tiles are large enough to touch with a finger eliminating the need to use a stylus for accuracy. In fact, it is very obvious the user experience was designed with the touch user in mind.


The purpose of this experiment was to see how Windows 8 is likely to impact the average user. I tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who had arrived at work to discover his or her computer had been suddenly updated to Windows 8. While the OS has a lot of nice technical and performance enhances over earlier versions of Windows most users will find the huge learning curve involved in this new OS quite frustrating.

The user experience is so unfriendly to the average user I am wondering if Microsoft actually took users into the equation when designing the new interface. While there is a basic tutorial that displays just after the first installation of Windows 8 it isn't helpful to anyone in, say, a work environment where someone else installed and configured the OS.

This assessment of Windows 8 is based on a pre-release version which is subject to change in the coming months up to the official release. I am hopeful some of the issues presented here will be resolved by then. At $40 for an upgrade it might be tempting to switch to the new OS, but I'm not convinced it's worth it for the steep learning curve and inevitable frustration that will come from trying to be productive in a substantially new environment.



Sep 10, 2012 3:06am
Representing the world of gamers, Windows 8 is a disaster. It lacks all sorts of support and Microsoft is making it very difficult for developers to do anything useful. Windows 7 is going to be the standard for a long time just like XP was.
Sep 10, 2012 8:23am
Agreed, I read recently that Blizzard and Valve have expressed deep concern over how Windows 8 will affect the gaming industry not just in terms of product delivery but with regard to the hardware side of things as well. Thanks for the comment!
Oct 20, 2012 1:20pm
Totally agree with you, Windows 8 doesn't show how it could handle a game, such as Minecraft, as Windows 7 does.
Sep 10, 2012 3:18am
Im always weary when a new version of Windows presents itself... I think I will stick to 7 for the time being. Nice article! Congrats on the feature.
Sep 10, 2012 8:25am
Thanks! I agree, I think Windows 8 is not going to be received very well by the average user. Even at $40 I don't think the upgrade is going to be worthwhile for the average user.
Sep 10, 2012 8:59am
Great article!
I don't think that I am ready for Windows 8 yet. I am thinking of getting a table in addition to my computer and wonder now, if I should wait ...

Congrats on the feature!
Sep 12, 2012 9:46am
Thanks.... Windows 8 should be very nice for tablet users. It is obvious Microsoft designed it for that specific user base. My beef with it has more to do with business applications where nearly all users are using a mouse and keyboard. Of course, if you still have reservations there's always Android or iOS tablets to consider.
Sep 11, 2012 3:34pm
On the flip side, change is always tough. And Microsoft needs to adapt. Their perception as a brand is not modern. Not saying that Windows 8 isn't annoying at times - it can be especially so the first few days, I used the preview as well - but my general annoyance was short lived once I got used to the initial shock to the system. I found the email system to be a good user experience (no need for the Outlook bells and whistles) and I actually enjoyed the tiles. I didn't mind the hidden windows once I knew where they were.

Granted I do not game on my PC. For me it's for internet marketing, web research and copywriting. But I suspect there are some others out there like me as well.

Sep 12, 2012 9:42am
I agree the learning curve, while steep, is not insurmountable. Windows 8 has a lot going for it... it's fast, fairly stable (so far), and actually quite pretty to look at. That said, I'm still not entirely convinced the interface is the best option for mouse and keyboard users. It feels like Microsoft has jumped on the touch screen bandwagon without considering their actual user base.
Sep 13, 2012 5:12pm
Thanks for the review! I am somewhat of a technophobe, but have been slowly overcoming it in the last few years. It gets so frustrating to just feel competent on one system, and then have everything change. I have an ATT touch screen phone, and it's supposed to be "intuitive." I am a psychic who does tarot and other readings, and believe me, there's nothing intuitive about this phone. It's even hard to scroll down my list of contacts. Even when I find a phone I like, I don't want to be a slave to technology, answering Bluetooth calls from my car, lugging smartboards everywhere. There's never a time where people can't bother you! The same goes for the computer. I still like to use my mouse and computer while at home. I don't think every comment people want to make is so important I can't leave the house and not be in touch with them. When do you have time to think, or dream, or be creative?
Oct 15, 2012 1:08pm
Every time they release a new OS, Microsoft does an extended research before that, in order to understand better, how customers work with an Windows OS. So they use metrics besides feedback and that way, they can see how much time a user needs to reach the desired option/feature/menu. And in this way they can improve overall productivity. Of course they bring new features in all other parts of the OS, but my example is just about productivity. So, the Metro interface brings exactly that: a faster access to information. As you said, Windows 8 is optimized for touch and in my opinion that's great and represents a step forward. Of course, they must solve any complains about games, access to some features, they must convince us to make this step to Windows 8, because for many, Windows 7 it's already, a great tool.
Oct 29, 2012 9:55am
No thanks, I'm keeping my windows 7, my mouse and my keyboard. I don't like the idea of touching any screen just to use a phone, computer and whatever else. I like my computer the way it is and windows 7 looks better anyways.
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