Microsoft's headache: Will Windows 8 be another Vista?

Microsoft's headache: Will Windows 8 be another Vista?

Summary: "Too many cooks" -- "an unmitigated disaster" -- "the worst thing since fried Vista". Oh dear. Some people really have it in for Windows 8. Wait, so do I. And there are good reasons.

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TOPICS: Windows
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The headlines are troubling. The words after the headlines are worse, mind you.

A touch interface, but you cant touch it! (Source: CNET)

A touch interface, but laptop users can't touch it. (Source: CNET)

On the face of it, it appears we have an up-down-up-down approach with Microsoft. From Windows XP --- good, to Windows Vista --- bad, to Windows 7 --- good, to Windows 8 --- not so good.

We can reasonably assume from the successes of its predecessor, the next-generation operating system tries to improve too much, too quickly, and far too radically. It's fails to do so.

Out of the backlash, Microsoft claws back what it can in the following operating system only to rinse and repeat the process again.

It's like Microsoft is stuck in a loop and someone needs to bang on its roof to get it whirring again.

A snippet of who's saying what. Grip tight, Windows fans.

MarketWatch's John Dvorak:

"Windows 8 looks to me to be an unmitigated disaster that could decidedly hurt the company and its future. [...] No business will tolerate this software, let me assure you. As a productivity tool, it is unusable."

Pocket-Lint's Dan Sung:

"We’re not saying that Windows 8 is the best thing since sliced wafers. It’s more like the worst thing since fried Vista, but don’t let that put you off. The trouble is, what with Windows 8 and that added Metro interface all built with touch in mind, being stuck with a mouse can be all too much of a drag."

Slate's Farhad Majoo:

"I wonder if Microsoft knows that masses of Windows users are going to revolt against this new interface. If Microsoft wants to preserve and extend its OS hegemony, it’s going to have to hold their hands through the changes, perhaps with more on-screen prompting and a large media campaign."

And there's my take:

"Windows 8 won’t be a complete disaster, but it won’t be what Microsoft wanted it to be in the first place. Too many have stuck their oar in to claim what works best for users in this crazy day and age of shifting values. Microsoft has a "too many cooks” problem. $20 says Windows 9 looks remarkably similar to Windows 7."

A week later, Paul Thurrott of all people made the same comparison:

"But this comparison [between Vista and Windows 8] is actually apt, just not for the reason you think. Windows 8 is very much like Vista because it represents a sea change, a huge platform bet that will confuse and confound some, even while it sets up Windows for another decade of expansion. Maybe there will be a Windows 9 that will clean up the mess, like Windows 7 cleaned up Vista’s mess."

You can probably see a running trend. It's Metro, Metro, and --- oh look --- more Metro.

If I'm honest, I found more neutral reports and positive reviews from the pool than negative ones. That said, I didn't need to look far for the blazes of criticism and neither will many when the wider consumer market hears about Windows 8. They'll search for it and click on the first few things that come up. If it turns out to be a bad review, it may well cost Microsoft a customer.

Dvorak hit the nail on the head. It's the enterprise we are looking at more than anything. The consumer market will go for anything that's given to them bar a subsection staunchly set in their ways. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm talking about my own parents who until recently were stuck on an out-of-date, barely updated Windows XP machine.

Windows 8 will likely prove popular by Microsoft's standards and sell like hotcakes. It has to. What else are PCs going to run? With a spate of tablets set for release over the coming weeks and months ahead of Windows 8's launch, the operating system will likely shake up the market enough to get a foot in the highly coveted tablet space.

But the ordinary enterprise-working fellow, those with a desktop PC, a work-issued laptop so old it requires hand-cranking to get going, or even a top-of-the-range Ultrabook using teleworker, it's this chunk of Windows 8 users who will be left out in the cold.

Metro, in a nutshell, kills productivity. It's not just the live tiles, or the Start screen. It's the whole ethos --- no, scrap that --- it's the whole attitude of the new user interface.

The best that's going to happen is users in a BYOD-trending world will opt for a tablet over a 'traditional' PC and that will likely come with Windows 8. Failing that, they'll opt for an iPad if they really want a tablet. Other than that, if they want the 'traditional' PC without Windows, they can stick with Windows 7 until 2015 for the enterprise, or they can --- dare I say it --- opt for a Mac.

The devil is in the details. Dvorak thinks "Microsoft gives up on this soulless Metro interface and gets a new design team, fast." It has to. Again, I would not be surprised if Microsoft's Windows 9 looked a great deal like Windows 7 did.

Because let's face it: the old Start menu rocks, and people really, really don't like change.

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Topic: Windows

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74 comments
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  • Everyone says the XP was good . . .

    . . . but, at the risk of being unfairly flamed, that is not entirely true. When XP was first released, it was substanitally panned. It was not until SP1 or SP2 that it became a great OS. Perhaps the same thing will happen if W8 is not initially a success ie perhaps MS will use SP to fix and problems, which, unfortunately is not what they did with Vista.

    BTW, the good/bad of Windows releases can traced back at least as far as Win 95 - good; Win - 98 "bad", Win 98SE - good, Win ME - incredibly bad, Win 2000 - somehwat good, Win XP - eventually, very good.

    Just my thoughts.
    Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • .

      there is nothing wrong with Vista anymore.
      danjames2012
      • Nothing wrong with Vista

        Please ... if you want an OS written by the MPAA and RIAA ..
        BrentRBrian
    • Agreed, sort of...

      I still think Windows 2000 is better than XP - I think XP's biggest problem, apart from security and stability up until SP 2 - was its Fisher Price look and feel. I think that, more than anything put me off of XP.

      I switched to Linux as my main workstation after XP came out, it was Vista that brought me back to using Windows full time. I found it was much better than XP.
      wright_is
      • You know...

        You know of course you can switch that off? You can even switch off the service that makes it run. I think they call it "Luna", and yes, I think it's hard to love. The sliver look was less ugly. Though Microsoft did do an "Electric Blue" variant (originally for Tablet PCs) that was far more acceptable (to my eyes anyway - YMMV).

        I always favoured modified versions of Microsoft's "Server" variants (you can change the tuning to favour foreground tasks, switch off services you don't need, etc.) in favour of the "workstation" releases (not much good if you're on a budget I'd agree).
        jeremychappell
      • @jeremychappell

        Yes, that was always the first thing I did on each machine I used, but first impressions last. I used it for some tasks, but I never felt comfortable with XP.
        wright_is
    • No flaming from me.

      But I agree, XP was released to a rough start, and it's still sailing in rough waters. Vista was a welcome change to Windows.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • XP was bad and remained bad

      Even after SP2. Remarkably less bad of course, but still bad. It was a single user (in practice) environment in the Internet age. It gave MS the bad security fame it carries today.
      But you are right. Original XP was horrific and SP2 was mostly OK. People tend to forget things like that.
      kirovs@...
    • Not according to the numbers

      You guys can claim that XP was bad, but it's been the most successful OS in the history of computing. 11 years after launch date it still has over 30% of the world OS market. Yes, a large part of that is enterprise, but that in itself speaks volumes. It's a stable and efficient...and people just like it.
      scophi
      • Not as efficient as Windows 7.

        Windows XP certainly isn't as efficient as Windows 7 is. Having weaned my way into the little features such as search and snap, hopping back onto XP for whatever reason quickly becomes a painful experience.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • But people didn't like it at launch

        or all the way up until SP2 for a lot of people.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Not as efficient as Windows 7

        @Cylon Centurion

        As an old geek it amuses me to see people expect operating systems to get less efficient with iteration. "Intel giveth and Microsoft taketh away" is dead. Forever.
        symbolset
  • I find it hilarious...

    I fail to see how the Metro interface is a productivity killer. Firstly the new Start menu is an interface to keep you up to date with the latest news, weather et al. Pinning your most used apps right in front of you. And if you need something else it's just a few key presses away.

    Every tech writer jumped on the 'Productivity killer' band wagon and for someone who uses the OS permanently since the developer preview can attest that there is nothing wrong with the new OS. Some of the Metro apps I use every day, and switching between Metro and Desktop apps are just an Alt + Tab away.

    Seriously, before writing utter bullcrap use the OS for more than 3 seconds...

    And Microsoft will not give up Metro. You can write that on your forehead and dance around a bonfire but it will never happen. So get used to it.
    DreyerSmit
    • Metro bad, start screen ok

      As a desktop user, I find the Metro apps (so far) totally useless. They are a step back in time to MS-DOS, where we could only see one app at a time and were always frustratedly quitting one app to start another. At least with Metro you can switch between apps, but I spend most of my time reading research material out of 2 or 3 windows, whilst working in another. Metro kills my productivity in that scenario.

      Likewise, I often have a film running in a corner of the screen whilst working or solitaire in a corner to click away on whilst waiting for another task to finish. Solitaire full screen on a 27" display is totally crazy and ruins the experience.

      The start screen though has some benefits and I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

      What worries me is the long-term, if more and more productivity apps jump on the Metro bandwagon, productivity will drop through the floor for professional users.

      As long as professional apps maintain the choice between of having both Metro and desktop apps available, I don't see any real problems. If they go Metro only, then there will be a problem.

      A typical example of what I mean: OneNote would be great as a full screen note taking app on the move on a tablet, but once I get back in the office, I want it in a window alongside the my other research material, whilst typing up a report.

      I sort of agree with Paul Thurrott, that 8 will be aimed mainly at mobile devices, whilst it will be ignored by the corporate / professional desktop, at least to begin with. Hopefully Windows 9 will redress the balance for desktop and power users.
      wright_is
      • Productivity comes in different shapes

        Eventually, we'll realize that the Start Screen is our dashboard/portal, not our primary work space. We have the Desktop for that. It may not be crystal clear right now the side of that fence on which different kinds of apps and activities will reside, but in the end the result will be: Windows with a dashboard/portal (Start Screen) is more powerful than Windows without it.
        scH4MMER
      • @scH4MMER - 2 failures

        First problem is that the Start Screen (Metro) is more than just a Start Screen. Applications can run in it, and if you don't take the time (which most people won't at first) to set many of the defaults to run the desktop version instead of the Metro version, the user is taken from the desktop where they have their work back to Metro.

        Adobe Reader would be a good example of this. A person is typing up a document with a bunch of documents opened up in desktop mode, they need a pdf opened to copy and paste a bunch of things from it, they open it, and by default it is the Metro version.

        Second problem - if all your articulating is that a visual start screen is better than a start menu written in words only (with some small icons), explain how that is better?

        Both can get utterly cluttered eventually, which is a fact based on looking at a lot of smart-phones over the years. Also, what's stopping a lot of those "icons" on your start screen to stop looking the same and eventually "blending" together after a user turns their start screen into a total mess.

        In the end, you end up back with the same complaints with the start menu.

        The start menu isn't the problem, it's that people never maintained them.
        Condere
      • @scH4MMER

        I agree totally, and that was the essence of what I wrote.

        The problem is Metro apps, apart from Lightroom, I can't think of a single app that I run full screen on my machine. If I maximise my web browser, I find I read a lot slower, because the lines are too long to comfortably read on many sites or there is too much white space. My desktop is 2840x1200 pixels, but my Firefox window is around 900 pixels wide by 1200 pixels deep. I don't want it any wider than that!
        wright_is
      • You can see more than one application on the screen

        Why do so many people write as if Metro UI and the Windows 8 Desktop is an all or nothing situation?
        You can jump back and forth from Metro to Win 8 desktop. Introduce yourself to the Windows key.
        You won't have a desktop when it is installed on a non-arm based tablet but is anyone proposing that they replace a computer with an arm-based tablet? would anyone replace their computer with an iPad?
        To reply to your statements:
        You can see two Metro apps at once provided your screen is wide enough.
        You can see as many windows within the Windows 8 desktop as you want.
        You can even span the desktop across several monitors.
        You can probably play Win7's solitaire.exe from the desktop so you can put it in a window but why would you need to see it in a small window when you are not playing it?
        Use the windows key, alt-tab, or hover in the top left corner to get back to it.
        OneNote runs from the desktop so you can size it any way you want. As far as I know, it has not been released as a Metro app.
        I am using it on a Win 8 RP Fujitsu Lifebook Convertible Tablet and OneNote works the same as it does in Win 7.
        I agree that Win 8 will be largely ignored by the Enterprise but I think it will be mainly due to the cost of licensing, user training, installation, and potential hardware upgrades.
        SciZDNet
      • @SciZDNet

        You are missing the point.

        IF, and only if, apps move over to Metro ONLY versions, productivity will be decreased. Yes, with a wide screen, I can see a small bit of a second window, fine. Where do the remaining 5 or windows I have open go?

        And if one app is Metro and the rest are desktop, how do I read from the Metro app, whilst typing into a desktop app? Okay, on a multi-monitor set-up that might work, with one monitor "wasted" showing a single Metro app.

        As to OneNote, that was an example of an App that I can see working brilliantly as a hybrid Metro + Desktop app, having both environments available.
        wright_is
      • @wright

        Oh. OK.
        You are assuming that the next version of common applications will move to Metro ONLY. I hope not and I doubt it.
        I understand that the ARM-based tablets will come with their own version of Office that works in the Metro but I bet it will be somewhat dumbed down from the desktop version.
        I don't think Windows 7 is going away any time soon so I think that future versions of Office will remain for the desktop and they will work from the Windows 8 desktop as well.

        "Where do the remaining 5 or (so) windows I have open go?" They are a windows key click away. In Metro, you can see two apps or you can see thumbnails of them all by hovering your mouse on the left side of the screen.
        In the Desktop, they will behave the same as they do in Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

        "If one app is Metro and the rest are desktop, how do I read from the Metro app, whilst typing into a desktop app?" I see your point. I would like to see text and type in another window but with a single monitor, you are SOL if one or more screens are Metro. Get used to using the windows key to toggle back and forth.

        "...with one monitor "wasted" showing a single Metro app." This is no different from an iPad or an Android tablet. One app shows at a time. At least with Win 8, you still have the desktop with fully functional "windowed" applications.

        There is a OneNote app on the Android tablet but I would call it "OneNote Lite". It does not have the full functionality of the real MS Office application. I would not use a Metro version if it is as watered down as the Android version. I guess I would have to settle for it if I had an ARM-based slate.

        I use OneNote heavily on my tablet convertible Win 8 machine in the desktop. It works great. I use a stylus to take notes because I draw diagrams a lot.

        I would not get a slate that does not have a good stylus. The performance of a capacitive stylus on an iPad for example is very poor.
        SciZDNet