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What needs to change with Windows Blue?


Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

View more entries from Gadgets on the go

Windows 8 Start window.

Windows 8 Start window.

Where did Microsoft go wrong with Windows 8?

Windows 8 was the biggest shakeup in personal computing since Windows 95, but not everyone was prepared to embrace such radical change.  The long-term vision of Windows 8 is admirable and tech enthusiasts may have embraced it, but Microsoft simply moved too far, too fast for your average PC user -- especially those using it on a non-touch device. Your average person, who simply views their PC as another appliance, shouldn't need to work that hard to make the transition from Windows 7.

Six months after launch, it seems Microsoft is finally listening to the usability criticisms which dogged Windows 8 from the first beta releases. The tech giant is working on "Windows Blue" to address people's frustrations with Windows 8. It's a huge mea culpa from the once proud company and perhaps comes at the worst possible time as desktop computing struggles to remain relevant in the so-called "post-PC" age.

Windows 8 has burned much of the goodwill that Microsoft generated with the respected Windows 7 -- which was forced to pick up the pieces after Vista. It seems that Microsoft is stuck in cycle of hits and misses, a cycle which it can't afford to continue. This year's major slump in PC sales is partly due to the rise and rise of mobile devices and partly due to the backlash against Windows 8. Even if Microsoft does get back on track with Windows Blue, it can't afford to follow it up with yet another ME/Vista/Windows 8 debacle.

Some people like to write-off Microsoft as an old-world dinosaur, but its crime with Windows 8 was that it was too forward-thinking and ambitious -- trying to leapfrog Apple and drag users into the next phase of computing. If Steve Jobs had done the same he would have been hailed as a visionary, but Windows users are a little more pragmatic and less likely to drink the Kool Aid. They don't embrace change simply because someone tells them it's for the best.

What's really tragic is that, for many people, Windows 8 could be fixed in a few clicks -- if only Microsoft would let you hide Metro by default and revert back to a few familiar Windows features such as the start menu. But now the Windows 8 name is tainted. Instead Microsoft is forced to design a whole new offering, although it remains to be seen whether Blue is a free update to Windows 8 (most likely) or its successor.

Where do you think Microsoft went wrong with Windows 8? How could Windows Blue turn things around?


99 comments so far

  • The biggest problem for me was discoverability. A first time user would have no idea about the charms at the edge of the screen unless they are told or stumble across them by accident.
    After using Win8 for a while and installing a 3rd party utility (StartIsBack) I find it's as good as if not better than Win7 - especially faster!
    If they return the start button for non-touch PC's and have the option to boot to desktop then most users would have no problems upgrading.

    South Melbourne
    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 10:47AM
    • Agree with you whole heartedly on the more efficient and quicker than Win7. I would add more stable which is not bad, considering I haven't seen a BSOD for 7 years now.

      I personally have no issue with Win8 as it stands, but I suppose that's because I'm an early adopter with an old ASUS EP121 that was begging for a UI designed for touch.

      That is the real issue here, Metro comes into it's own with touch. If you are using an old school PC and afraid of new UIs then you should be given an "i'm scared take me back to 2012" option.

      Wolli Creek
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 1:13PM
    • It seems to me the only people complaining are 'tech' people and bloggers. I've seen the 'tech' types start a new Win8 and skip the brief tutorial then complain about Win8. I've watched the non tech people start up a new Win8, watch the tutorial and have no problem with Win8.

      I saw my brother (very, very, very non tech) navigate Win8 no problem and he can barely start a PC. My brother in-law, again very non tech, updated to Win8 and when I asked how he found it he thought it was better than 'the old one' (Win7).

      I've seen a number of tech savey people in the office go on about how hard this Win8 is, none of them followed the brief tutorial. When I showed them what they missed in the tutorial Win8 is all of a sudden "good"!

      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 3:39PM
    • you guys are missing the point. by your talk, obviously you guys work in I.T. or are highly computer savvy, but 90% of the world aren't as much, and want a system that's not greatly different to Windows 7 which is what they are used to. Why should I be interested in learning a whole new system ? I have better things to do, so I'll stick with Windows 7. That's what 90% of the world are saying.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2013, 12:19AM
  • Where they went wrong was continuing to treat their customers like children.

    XP was the first step towards the "Fischer-Price" style of computing, with primary colours and rounded corners.

    Vista was the "parental control" approach, where it wanted to double-check everything you wanted to do in case you were doing something "naughty" on the computer system you owned. Just copying an MP3, or video file took forever, as it was constantly checking it for DRM signatures. An hour to copy a 10mb file was not uncommon due to this bloated approach.

    Win7 took it another step forward, by removing or hiding anything that a user could "hurt themselves" (read: remove the functionality to allow them to disable/uninstall MS features in order to use something that actually works efficiently)

    Win8 now resembles something directly from the Fischer-Price catalogue, something you would buy to give to your 2 year old child to play with.

    But Microsofts biggest mistake, is continuing to remain closed source, and hooking applications deeply into the OS, instead of the apps running on top of the OS. Security and privacy are mandatory in the digital age, yet MS continues to work on the premise that bells and whistles should be a priority, with stability, security and privacy as secondary considerations.

    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 11:17AM
    • MrDamage sums it up perfectly.

      Windows has been the gui environment for business and power users for as long as it's existed. That's their customer base. Well it was their customer base. Presently they're doing their level best to kill that market.

      Unfortunately Microsoft has gone chasing the "Fischer-Price" users (love that description) who typically use mac's and who were never going to buy windows anyway. The end result is a 3rd OS in a row that's buggy and unusable and which has had so many real features cut from it.

      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 3:25PM
    • I do hope MS get their act together and the new version of Win8 is an improvement on the UI front. I haven't used it myself (I use Linux for work, suits what I do, not trying to start an OS flame here), but I don't want windows 8 failings leading to faster PC sale drops, which would eventually mean price hikes.

      I do wonder why MS fail so badly in redesigning their familiar UI. It is one reason people continue to use Windows!

      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:06PM
    • @davidb I can assure you, if these customers were typically going to be using Macs, there's no way hope in hell they'd go and buy Windows. And that's coming from a Mac user that switched after the Vista debacle.

      Quite frankly, I find the Mac to be far more superior to Windows. The design of Apple products are far better than the design of third part products made for Microsoft software. Generally speaking, I want to be able to just get down and do my work without having to ferret around trying to find software or trying to find start buttons or trying to figure out how to get to a desktop.

      MacOS gives me that simplicity to just be able to get the work done. The last time I looked at a Windows 8 platform, I just couldn't figure it out. It was quite frankly a mess. I'll stick with Mac and get my work done, rather than going back to Windows. You Windows lovers can keep your Fisher-Price toys, I'll stick with the real workhorse.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2013, 5:59AM
    • I agree with Mr Damage, Too make Windows 8 usable for myself I have adopted Stardock 8 and Modern Mix GUI @ the small cost of $8.
      But I do have issue with having to have a windows live account, I don,t like computer operating systems step into trying to own you. (Default MS live Mail being my current issue)
      Americans who market these operating systems, that we have paid good money for, need to understand the the consumer is then free to operate it how they choose. And they are no longer owned by the company that developed it.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2013, 12:41PM
    • "...something you would buy to give to your 2 year old child to play with."

      Sadly, this is incorrect. My kids (now aged 6) are fine with Windows 7. They don't need coloured blocks to play with anymore... The pre-school interface is mostly for grown ups.

      But I think, in this day and age, why can't I use whatever interface or skin I want? Locking you in (or at least seeming to lock you in) to a single choice is what's regressive and poorly designed about Windows 8.

      John G
      Date and time
      May 14, 2013, 10:19AM

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