The Windows 8 failure

Before reading any further, please let me clarify that this is not just another rant with the the never-ending “Windows sucks, it’s a big fail” nonsense written by people who haven’t even used a product but complain about it anyhow. I have actually used Windows 8 for a short period, and I will explain how my (horrible) experience with Windows 8 went. It’s not my intension to start flaming the Microsoft product line again. I once hoped I could write a positive article about a Microsoft product, but so far haven’t been able to find a good product.

I’m a tolerant person; people make mistakes, which is human nature. I make mistakes too as a developer. Bugs and design flaws can appear all the time, it can even happen with the most experienced developers around. I am forgiving to other developers when issues arise, just as I expect this kind of tolerance. However if the same issues keep arising and a developer claims that a bug or lack of features is actually a feature, I start to get mad.

The same goes out to Microsoft. No doubt they employ the best developers in the world. The problem however is management. The management over at Microsoft, who are either noobs (Steve Ballmer for instance) or nerds who isolate themselves in cubicles where no other humans are to be found, do not have any idea how to integrate technology with user experience. The latter wouldn’t even know how humans think; they work with object declarations and pointers instead of buttons and user interfaces.

Anyway I’m getting off-topic here. Let’s go back to Windows 8.

The new user interface in Windows 8 (formerly known as “Metro”) first appeared on the Microsoft Zune, and later on Windows Phone 7. This interface is great for devices with a touch screen to be honest. However, some moron decided it would also work great on a PC.

The traditional desktop interface (which is still available as a tile), has now been replaced by an interface with tiles. Each application runs full-screen, making it impossible to have multiple windows open at the same time. Just imagine having a web page or a notes application running full-screen on a 27 inch screen. That is what I call an excessive waste of space. Requiring an additional display to show multiple windows is an extreme amount of overkill. Let me give you a practical example: You are writing a document and need to grab information from a web page or a PDF document. The old way was useful, you’d have both windows opened next to each other. The new way is more complicated, you’d have to suspend your document, open the reference window, copy (or memorize) the information you need, suspend that window again and open your document. Full-screen applications might work for 5% of all computer users, but the other 95% (including me) will find this annoying at some point.

Let me perform an advanced task. I wish to change my IP address. In Windows XP I could simply go to Start and click on Network Connections. Windows Vista and 7 require more steps: Go to Start, click on Control Panel > Network Center. Windows 8 makes it even more ‘fun’: Open the classic desktop, press the Windows Key + R to open the RUN window. Then enter the command control /name Microsoft.NetworkAndSharingCenter. If they keep going on with this, it will require more steps than a Linux distribution!

Not convinced yet? Let’s think like a computer user with beginner skills. We start it up and see a wallpaper with a clock. What now? There are no instructions telling you what to do. When you finally manage to get to the main screen, it’s filled with all kinds of tiles. There is no indication of what to do next. The only thing that makes sense is browsing the web and reading emails. When we’re done, we’re gonna shut it down. How do you shut it down? The answer is hovering your mouse cursor over the black box in the lower right corner (who’ll even find that?), clicking on Settings > Power > Turn Off. An alternative is opening the classic desktop, pressing Windows Key + M, then pressing Alt + F4 and choosing Shut Down. How can someone easily figure this out? The only way is having the hardware vendor map the power button of the PC to the shutdown menu. I’m even predicting that people are pulling out the power plug, which makes it even more interesting.

Are there any good things about Windows 8? Yes there are. The first change is the removal of the Aero glass interface. They’ve should done that already with Windows Vista, where powerful gaming-grade hardware was required to even run the UI! The other good thing is the price, Windows is actually affordable these days!

My verdict is a simple one; the new interface in Windows 8 is very useful on mobile devices with a touch screen. Since it’s not practical to have a desktop system with a touch screen on your desktop, it’s really not useful on a PC. Looking at the functionality on a PC, or better yet, the lack of functionality on a PC, it’s a failure, which makes Vista look like a rather good product. I’ve started to gain some confidence in Microsoft when they released Windows 7, but that confidence has fallen to the ground now.

The last time Microsoft tried to change the way we interact with computers, they came up with Microsoft Bob, and we all know how that went…

If you are one of the people who use Windows 8 and actually enjoy using it, by all means continue doing so. This is my personal view, your experience might be different.

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