Five reasons why Windows 8 has failed

Five reasons why Windows 8 has failed

Summary: The numbers are in and they don't lie. Windows 8 market adoption numbers are well behind Microsoft's greatest previous operating system failure, Vista.


Windows fans will whine, but Net Applications' desktop operating systems numbers don't lie. Windows 8's pathetic user adoption numbers can't even keep up with Vista's lousy numbers.

Windows 8 usage can't even keep up with Vista/s poor numbers. (Data from Net Applications)

The numbers speak for themselves. Vista, universally acknowledged as a failure, actually had significantly better adoption numbers than Windows 8. At similar points in their roll-outs, Vista had a desktop market share of 4.52% compared to Windows 8's share of 2.67%. Underlining just how poorly Windows 8's adoption has gone, Vista didn't even have the advantage of holiday season sales to boost its numbers. Tablets--and not Surface RT tablets--were what people bought last December, not Windows 8 PCs.

Windows 8, and its relatives Windows Phone 8 and RT, make no impression at all in the smartphone and tablet markets. (Credit: Net Applications)

Windows 8's failure is actually greater than it appears. The tablet and phone markets in 2007 were next to non-existent. Now, in a market where NPD expects tablets to out sell notebooks by year's end, neither Windows 8 nor its cousins Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 even appear on NetApplication's mobile and tablet reports for February 2013. How bad is that? Android 1.6, with is tiny 0.02% of the market, does make the list.

I predicted that Windows 8 would be dead on arrival last year, but it's flopping even more  than I thought it would be. So, why has Windows 8 been such a failure? Here's my list:

1. Metro, aka Modern: An ugly, useless interface.

I said it before, I'll say it again: Metro, or whatever you want to call it, may make an OK tablet interface, but it's ugly and useless on the desktop. It requires users to forget everything they ever learned about Windows and learn an entirely new way of doing things for no real reason. To quote a popularly held opinion, Metro is "awful." 

True, you can use a more traditional Windows interface, but you know what would have been a lot better? If Microsoft had just kept  the Windows 7 Aero interface for the desktop version of Windows 8 and give up this idea that the Metro touch-friendly interface is for every device.

2. Windows 8 brought nothing innovative to the desktop.

Can you tell me one new thing that Windows 8 brought to the desktop that was truly innovative? Exciting? Engaging? I can't. Windows 8 is faster than Windows 7, but that's about it -- and that dual interface mess makes it slower for practical purposes.

3. Developers hate it.

I said all along programmers wouldn't like throwing out their hard-won .NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) expertise to work natively on Windows 8. I was right. Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of video game company Valve, said it best: "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." He then started moving his Steam game empire to Linux.

4. Legacy Windows 7 users aren't moving.

We saw this happen before with Vista and XP. Then, as now, the new operating system -- Vista -- was not  better than the old operating system -- XP -- so very few people moved to it. We're seeing it again now.

In addition, in an economy that's still not moving forward quickly, who really wants to move from tried-and-true Windows 7 to new, expensive Windows 8 PCs? As Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu observed, the $500 to $1200 price tags slapped on Windows 8 hardware makes it "uncompetitive" in a world where people want iPads and Android tablets. 

5. Tablet, smartphone, and desktop competition.

If you are going to buy a new computing device in 2013, chances are it's going to be an Apple iPad, an inexpensive Android tablet, or a Chromebook. The PC desktop isn't dead, but it's not very profitable either -- and Windows 8 isn't helping PC sales.

Microsoft has to know this. If Microsoft does indeed start selling, or rather renting, Microsoft Office for iPad, you'll know they've seen the light. Microsoft's future then will not lie in operating system and application sales, but in services.

And Windows 8? Like Vista before it, Microsoft will re-release an older version of Windows, Windows 7 this time instead of XP, and start talking about wonderful Windows Blue, the next version of Windows, will be.

 Related Stories:

Topics: Windows 8, Laptops, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Tablets, PCs, Windows

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  • MS already owns the desktop

    W8 isn't about the desktop. It's about new markets. Let's see how it is doing on tablets (where Metro is the best interface available...sorry Apple) in a year's time. Then we can pass judgement on W8.
    x I'm tc
    • Why?

      Why wait a year, when we can compare then now? Especially since we already have uptake statistics for XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
      • That's always the story...

        "Wait until next year" is a constant mantra from the Softies these days. And when next year inevitably comes and they've gained no market share they'll be saying "wait until next year".
        • It may well tank

          It is just waaay to early to tell. W8 sales need to be compared to iPad sales, not to W7/Vista sales.
          x I'm tc
          • I don't understand

            Why do you consider it more relevant to compare W8 (an OS) to a piece of hardware (an iPad)?

            A further point that seems to allude writers is that W8 was offered for the first few months at a price that was a fraction of the cost of Vista when it was released and yet still the sales of W8 are less than those of Vista.
          • PRO was discounted, not HOME

            I bought 3 upgrade copies--not because I had any real need for them but because I had home versions of Win 7 and Vista and this was a chance to GET PRO FOR $40. One is on a laptop I almost never use anyway, the second is on a "backup" (i.e., spare) computer and I had 8 on my main computer but when it totally cratered and couldn't be restored from a backup I decided to reinstall 7 instead of 8. All three machines use Classic Start Menu because I prefer the Win 98-style menus.

            If the upgrade had been Win 7 Home => Win 8 Home, I probably would have only bought one copy, for the laptop that had Vista.

            I have a feeling that a lot of the tech-oriented folks who wanted the extra under-the-hood bells and whistles of Pro upgraded not for 8 but for Pro. That also has to be taken into account when comparing adoption rates.
          • This is a stupid argument. What you are essentially

            saying is that people wanted to pay MORE for a version of Windows 8 that does LESS because they aren't technical.
          • Win 7 / 8 VISTA

            Win 7 is the best of what they had developed Period. VISTA is just Terrible Period
            and painful to use with utilities. Win 8 is Garbage To-the-Power. I Used 8 on a laptop just to get the PRO (So I guess I'm one of the dummies too) So lesson is
            don't go by a category i.e. PRO. It was just a massive waste of MY TIME and Effort.
            I still do and will always have a bad taste in my mind's computer over it. MissouriBoy
          • The tiles interface has been around for more than a year

            Why was there a need for W8 when W7 itself had not stabilized in the market? Even today you see many corporates running on XP. Same with home users. Ask anybody who has Media Center XP if they upgraded? At the minimal, there is confusion about W8 or how to use it, even for those who love it. At the other end there is outright W8 hate. The W8 tiles interface, if you call it so, has been around the Nokia phones for more than a year and did not take off. That speaks volumes. Forget those who post only rosy things such as "I have a W8 phone and it is perfect", you know they are all phony posts.
          • I agree, but it is more than that

            "At the minimal, there is confusion about W8 or how to use it,"

            There are those of us who know how to use it, but still don't like it! All too often I see someone making a comment that they don't like W8 only to be told by someone else that that is because they don't know how to use it. GARBAGE! It quite possible to know how to use something and yet still not like using it. As a basic example, I have many friends who know how to ride a bike, people who are quite competent to ride a bike if forced to do so, but that doesn't mean that they like bike riding (and they don't). W8 uses a paradigm that many simply do not like, albeit that there are many who do like it. W8 might have sold 60 million or more licences, but tells only part of the story . . . how many of them are actually happy using it?
          • The crow that tried to walk like a swan?

            And forgot how to walk like a crow in the process? W8
          • Walk like a crow...

            Excellent comment!
          • Buying a license is not usage

            When I first learned how awful Windows 8 was last August, I realized I'd have to learn Windows 7 and Linux, to decide what purchases to make in light of my failing main XP machine, the one I use for internet. As a hedge, I ended up at the last minute (by Jan end), buying two upgrade DVD sets of Win8 from Amazon. But deploy them? Don't hold your breath.

            Instead, I bought three Win7 and one Vista Dell computers (two lappies, two desktops), because it was cheaper to buy the machines, than to buy the OS. Then bought four XP Pro OS, two retail and two System Builder.

            I can't be the only one with this strategy, because the XP Pro OS are now almost sold out.
          • XP will remain strong

            Windows 7 does a few good things, but it's no replacement for XP. The latter's file management system, Outlook Express, the ton of third-party products which work well on that OS, the tons of vertical industry software which work well on it, all mean XP will be around for quite awhile.

            Given the herdbound mentality and problems of Adobe and Java, however, internetting with XP will become problemmatic (and already has). So you 'wrap around' the internet surfing problem with either Linux or Windows 7. Also certain other things like DVD writing, Moviemaker 6.0 (not Live moviemaker), are better done via Win7 and at times, Linux. The latter I put on a stick, so don't need the hassle of dual boot and a sudden crash in my bootloader, when Linux programs update.

            Linux is no panacea. Ubuntu is awful, even worse than Windows 8 except prettier. But Linux has some real good 'buddy' functions for aiding XP.
          • WInXP Problematic?

            I have 2 boxes still running XP (rest on WIN7) and I have absolutely no problems connecting to the internet or running any apps.
          • By "problematic"....

            Just to qualify what people mean by "Windows XP Internet support is problematic".... the problems are security related and not related to functionality. Microsoft has stopped supporting XP and therefore has stopped security updates.... as we all know, Windows users absolutely have to keep their OS up to date with security patches! Even with those security updates, Windows is very insecure!
          • XP Support

            Microsoft does still support windows XP. However they will discontinue XP support in April of 2014. Get your facts straight :)

          • Re: By "problematic"....

            You're wrong. Windows XP is still supported by Microsoft, at least as far as security updates are concerned. How do you know that up-to-date Windows is very insecure? That's not true in my opinion.
          • What I meant by problemmatic

            It's not so much MS as Adobe, Chrome, and the others. XP is already 'problemmatic' for me now. I had to move to Win7 for internetting during the past month, because Adobe Reader 11 trashed my XP machine for over two weeks, and it's still not working right even after Adobe made some fixes (mouse hangups remain). Before that, Chrome crashed on my XP machine used for internetting, the day Google had the outage, and to this day I can't get it to reinstall.

            Finally, all kinds of BSODs occur now when I'm watching video on Amazon, which weren't occurring before. Each error message is different, there's no real problem in the hardware or software. So it's obviously programming changes vendors are making, in light of the OS change MS has made.

            Handwriting is on the wall. So now I only go online with XP to download email to Outlook Express, and use Win7 for my other stuff. Granted, I've not yet tested whether one of my other XP machines will work better (which never had Adobe 11 or Chrome crashes). So that testing might alter my claims in the first two paragraphs.
          • Get rid of Chrome and Google toolbars. That might fix some problems.

            You certainly have problems I never have encountered and I have 6 machines at home and a second home, and over 100 at work. We do not have problems like you blog about all the time. I wouldn't blame MS, Adobe, or Amazon.