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5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address

Almost in spite of itself, Windows 8 could finally be poised for takeoff. But first, Microsoft will need to appease unhappy and confused users.

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Thanks to low-cost tablets and Ultrabooks, more powerful processors and a growing diversity of form factors, Windows 8 might be primed to make gains.

The OS remains unpopular, though, so the appeal of better, cheaper machines will take hold only if Win8 itself becomes more satisfying. That puts the pressure squarely on Windows 8.1.

All the pieces will need to come together by this fall, lest Redmond suffer poor back-to-school and holiday sales for the second consecutive year. But June will still be the OS's first major proving ground. At the beginning of the month, the company will face many of its corporate customers and developers at its TechEd conference in New Orleans, and at the end of the month, it is expected to debut a preview version of Windows 8.1 during its developer-centric Build conference in San Francisco.

[ Is Windows 8.1 doomed by its own release date? Read Windows 8.1 Timing All Wrong. ]

Until Redmond actually divulges new details, it remains to be seen how much -- and how quickly -- its new OS will change. Even so, June represents an opportunity for Redmond to reclaim the Win8 narrative and to circumvent a summer of continued negative buzz. Here are five Windows 8 criticisms Microsoft is likely to address in the next 30 days:

1. Windows 8's learning curve is too confusing.

Even Windows CMO/CFO Tami Reller now admits that Windows 8 needs to be easier to use, but Microsoft officials have also stalwartly defended the new OS's Live Tile-oriented Modern UI as a key part of the Windows line's long-term vision. Redmond recognizes, in other words, the need to mollify confused and dissatisfied users, but it's not clear how willing the company is to make tweaks.

The rumor mill has already concentrated on several potential fixes -- namely, whether Microsoft will restore the Start button or allow desktop users to boot directly to the desktop. If Win 8.1 integrates these features, aggravated users will no doubt appreciate that familiar tools have been resurrected to help them along. But it won't be enough.

Many Win8 features rely on hidden controls, such as the Charms Bar, which is central to navigating the OS but only accessible if users know how to swipe it into visibility. This sort of absence of visual clues or other guides has contributed to Win8 user frustration, and many will expect Microsoft not only to implement key features -- such as a "boot to desktop" mode -- but also to make the OS more intuitive from top to bottom.

2. Windows 8 is too schizophrenic.

This criticism is related to the above but deserves its own breakout category. For all the success Microsoft users have enjoyed syncing documents across devices via SkyDrive, it's ironic that cohesion between Win8's two interfaces is so poor. Internet Explorer is a particularly notable offender; if a user switches from IE in the Modern UI to IE in the traditional desktop mode, the Web browser will behave like a distinct app in each environment. Open tabs can't be synced as the user jumps from one UI to the other, for example. Windows 8.1 is rumored to include IE11, so Microsoft will have a chance to address this problem, and it's also rumored to include similar fixes, such as making the Control Panel equally accessible in each environment.

3. Windows 8 doesn't have enough apps.

The Windows Store now included nearly 80,000 Modern apps -- a far cry from the 700,000 or so that both iOS and Android enjoy, but still a substantial tally that somewhat negates the "not enough" criticisms. Microsoft isn't out of the woods, though; if the problem was originally "not enough," it's morphed into "not good enough."

Indeed, at least one study has suggested that Win8 users barely touch Modern apps, and it's not unreasonable to implicate Microsoft's lackluster native apps for setting a weak example. The OS's built-in Mail app, for example, lacks the functionality offered in Outlook.com, Microsoft's free Web mail service. To Redmond's credit, the company has been making efforts to attract developers, and Windows Store submissions have picked up after leveling off during the first few months of the year. Even so, there's still more work to be done.

4. Windows RT seems pointless.

Windows 8 has attracted its share of criticism, but Windows RT has been an absolute dud, with -- literally -- a 0% share of the OS market, and little support from OEMs. Microsoft raised many eyebrows when it decided to split its new OS into full-fledged and lightweight versions, and the decision makes even less sense today than it did then.

By this fall, Atom-based Win8 tablets could cost as little as $300 to $400 -- less, in other words, than Microsoft initially charged for its Surface RT. If the complete OS -- including its x86 access, which RT lacks -- can be had for such a low price, why should anyone pay comparable sums for an RT device? Will Redmond and its partners produce RT offerings that are cheaper than low-cost Android tablets? Will Microsoft and company reveal some other appeal?

Rumors have suggested Microsoft will debut a smaller Surface model this month, possibly an RT-based tablet to compete with the iPad Mini. It remains to be seen if this gossip translates to a real product, but it certainly adds to the intrigue in the meantime.

5. Windows 8 offers nothing for desktop users.

Windows chief Julie Larson-Green has insisted in recent weeks that Windows 8's new Start Screen is superior to the Start button it replaces. So far, desktop users haven't been persuaded. Worse, some traditional users have felt alienated by Redmond's recent touch-centricism. For desktop users, Win8 features some stability improvements under the hood -- but the benefits of the Modern UI, such as they are, have so far been most apparent on tablets.

Microsoft knows that many enterprises are still moving to Windows 7, and that a large portion of its user base might consequently wait to upgrade again until Windows 9 appears. Nevertheless, many will look for the company to reassert its dedication to not only today's mobile-oriented BYOD users but also the desktop-minded users who've helped Microsoft make its name.

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User Rank: Strategist
5/31/2013 | 6:18:23 AM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
There seems to be a concept here that Microsoft forgot. It is that companies plan strategic investment into their business around platforms and systems that will be around, and maintained for years.

If a company has to consider re-training on a 2 or 3 year trend, to meet Microsoft desires to develop new sources of income; based on platform updates, it's likely going to cannibalize it's user-base. It's interesting however, because OSX, KDE, and other windowing software products (even free versions on Linux) haven't changed so drastically as Microsoft has over the past decade or so.

This adds to Total Cost of Ownership, if you have to re-train employees to use the newest software. It's a pain. It also seems like those companies that invested in IBM platforms, even greenscreens, are still doing OK, and don't have to worry as much about Microsoft's product obsolescence, which seems planned, whenever certain fortune-500 companies upgrade their platforms and systems...
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2013 | 8:03:16 AM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
The problem is: it is ad-interim release toward what?
With Ballmerboys yelling "legacy desktop", "legacy Win32" all the way, the idea that this fuss seems suggesting is that Metro, actually the flawed pos which provides sub par Win1.0 UI features, is the way MS chose.
A new way that mandate you to distribute only software approved by MS, so don't dare to compete with their services - and oh, btw, if you are successful now they can snuff your business banning your app.
This is not the future that enterprises, developers, and OEM are eager to wait for, so there is no tendency toward "wait for the next release", but rather to "run for your life, we need a way to do business without MS involved".
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2013 | 6:21:05 AM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
1 and 2) it is not about learning: W8 is schizophrenic, it is badly thought, it is a pity of a UI.

3) would you invest in developing an RT app? really? an app that have a small users target compared to Android and iOS apps, and needs to compete with Win32 apps that owns a 30 times larger user target INCLUDING your potential users? Really?! And, are you sure you are not doing market research for MS and they will release their version of your app/service and bash or cast you away from the store, the sole way you have to sell your good?

4) it really is. If you go from nothing to something, creating from scratch a market for devices like iOS and Android with a launcher providing near the capabilities of Windows 1.0, you may have success. But if you go the same Windows 1.0 way from Windows 7... you are going to have a bad time. Especially if you have just managed to alienate CE developers, then broke compatibility with Phone 7, 7.5 and 8...

5) this is the main point. They are insulting their current consumers, and each time calls desktop legacy they strongly hint them to actively seek for a different provider of a desktop computing experience.
User Rank: Guru
5/30/2013 | 5:33:09 AM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
We love to bash windows 8, but there are lots of ways to tame it, including many third party start button addons. Old apps from Windows 7 still work there too.
User Rank: Strategist
5/29/2013 | 5:56:34 PM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
Actually, the comments here seem more cogent than the article, but anyway...

Mostly what they said, but with this addendum:

The whole "PC is dead" thing is blown WAY out of proportion, and unfortunately MSFT seems to have taken the same bait many of the media folks have.

As a somewhat-reluctant yet must-do IT admin for my company, I am intrigued by the foray into tablet form-factors. As yet there are a few things stopping me:

1) as said below, Win8 seems very much like a "kitchen-sink" approach, without any real solutions to the problem. Tablets are very good for some things - for viewing content, for apps with very limited typing, for stylus- and/or finger-oriented drawing. But just try sitting down and writing a complex JavaScript or PHP or Powershell program with one, and it all falls down. Seems like a great solution for quickly performing canned IT management tasks, and thus great for operators - but not so great for IT coding staff (if you even have any anymore - don't get me started on the whole "Cloud-based IT" thing, that's a topic for a different time).

2) Android. Meh. Security is ill, ability to manage is nil, and of Java--, I've had my fill. Nuff said.

3) Apple. Nice UI. Security, so-so. True support for IT - hmm, OK, not great though. But evolving. Final take - too expensive overall.

It seems that the tablet adoption-rates march ever-higher, and I expect that will continue for some time to come (and not just because of the "coolness-factor"). Tablets are very useful for some things, just not all things.

But I agree that Win8 is just not a very good answer, yet. If it were not for the fact that it has built-in Hyper-V capability, I wouldn't have it in my shop at all.
NJ Mike
NJ Mike,
User Rank: Moderator
5/29/2013 | 5:42:37 PM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
One idea I haven't heard is cutting the price of it (Windows 8). Unlike most products, most of the expense is in the creation/design of the product, and each individual copy is produced at very little cost. As the law of supply and demand illustrates, the less an item costs, the higher the demand. If, for instance, Microsoft cuts the price 25% and sales increase 30%, they will make more money. If the cost of desktops, laptops, tablets, etc with Windows 8 goes down, people will be more tolerant of things such as the learning curve, and more likely to wait for more apps, which will be developed when more people have Windows 8 products. And if Windows 8 is really a good OS (I have no opinion on it, as I have not used it), it will catch on, but the key for Microsoft is to get it into the hands of users.
Hi DesertNM
Hi DesertNM,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 5:19:03 PM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
I know its popular to bash W8. Lots of good reasons for it. But in the end, it will definitely come around in both hardware and software. The real failure is that its taking way too long for Intel and MS to get their act together. 8.1 RC won't be released for another month and Intel just about to send new Haswell chipsets. The other real issue is that component costs are still too high for touch as well as wa com digitizers. The other really big gripe and showstopper issue for me is that OEMS are charging way to much for SSD options. And in many cases, some of the only decent W8 ultraportables available like the Asus Zen Prime and Samsung series 7 ultra only offer 128 SSD. After the the hidden partition for W8 backup and other crap most these 128 SSD's have maybe 60 GB left.. Totally unacceptable. Then when you do see 256 SSD options they charge 400 dollars for it which is insane being one can buy that for less then half of that on Amazon. I know they need to make profit but SSD margins are well over 100 percent and they price them to the point where people just don't buy.
In fact, there is not even one ultraportable that has the whole package with IPS, touch, battery life, good KB and Touchpad and decent port selection and offer at least 256 SSD. In fact only one system comes close which is the Samsung series 7 ultra. It has all this except they refuse to offer any 256 SSD at all. Others that offer 256 fail in battery life or have something wrong with trackpad, KB or lack decent port selection. Its so freaking frustrating that I am a willing buyer and have been searching for months now and can't find as much as one W8 ultraportable that offers the whole package. The only way is to go ahead and buy the Samsung, take off the bottom and install your own 256 SSD drive.. pathetic.
So now we all have to wait months for 8.1 And if we are lucky, the oems might release a decent haswell that hits a home run with battery life, ports, IPS, touch, KB, and good trackpad and not charge 400 for a 256 SSD. But as of now, not even one model from any OEM can offer the entire package without at least one major compromise. Not one and that is absolutely pathetic. No wonder people are not buying. I'd be surprised if anyone gets it right before the holidays. If they don't, its going to be dismal sales once again.
Mission Impossible
Mission Impossible,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 4:55:23 PM
re: 5 Windows 8 Gripes Microsoft Must Address
Article is spot-on. Win 8 is really just an interim release, as this writer's comments prove. As a business user or as a consumer, it's hard to get excited about an interim release. Everything in Win 8 has that design-by-committee look: it's just kooky. As the IT decision-maker in my company, I give it a big NO WAY!

On the desktop, it's utterly the wrong tool for the job, yes, that much is obvious, even to Win 8 fanboys. But, as a tablet OS, it's still not right from a usability standpoint. If my programming staff produced a tablet-app UI as bad as this, I'd fire the lot of them. Remember, a UI is supposed to speed up user workflow, not slow it down. Win 8 will slow experienced users down. No need for that. No business advantage in that. Wait for Win 9 or Win 10.

The whole point of the graphical user interface is to make life easier for the user, not harder. Complex GUIs are often necessary, yes, but wasn't the whole point, way back, to make things easier than the old-fashioned command line? Even an old-style command line user interface is better than Windows 8. It seems like Microsoft has forgotten why graphical user interfaces exist at all.
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