Microsoft: The Windows 8 learning curve is 'real and needs to be addressed'

Microsoft: The Windows 8 learning curve is 'real and needs to be addressed'

Summary: With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft removed the Start button, the Start menu, and pushed the desktop into the background. Were these changes too much for users who'd spent decades getting used to how Windows worked?

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TOPICS: Windows 8, Microsoft
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(Image: Windows)

While Windows 8 was Microsoft's idea of what the Windows platform should evolve into, the next version could be tailored to what users actually want from a modern operating system.

According to the Redmond-based software giant, more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold, a figure which puts sales of the new operating system for the first six months on par with that of Windows 7. This sounds good, but since this figure includes license sales to OEMs and figures which show that PC sales have fallen through the floor lately, it is unclear how many of these Windows 8 licenses are in the hands of users and how many are sitting on shelves waiting to be loaded onto PCs.

Could the problem with Windows 8 be that the operating system represents too steep a learning curve for users? Microsoft seems to think that it might be the case, and is getting ready to do something about it.

Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows division, has been speaking about Windows Blue, the upcoming version of Windows that is scheduled to be released later this year, and has hinted that this version will be easier for people to figure out, especially for those running the operating system on PCs that don't feature touchscreens.

Speaking to the New York Times, Reller said that the Windows 8 "learning curve is real" and that it "needs to be addressed", suggesting that the operating system isn't as easy to use as it could be.

While Microsoft is tight-lipped about how Windows Blue will differ from Windows 8 — we'll have to wait until June for a public preview — Reller did offer some hints as to what might be in the pipeline.

"We started talking about the desktop as an app," said Reller. "But in reality, for PC buyers, the desktop is important."

It also seems that the Windows 8 tutorial — which is nothing short of a joke — is going to be revamped, with Reller quoted as saying that "we need to help them [users] learn faster".

Usability experts were quick to criticize Windows 8, in particular the new user interface changes. Jakob Nielsen, who holds a PhD in human-computer interaction, called the operating system "disappointing" for "both novice and power users", and "a monster that terrorizes poor office workers and strangles their productivity". Raluca Budiu, a user experience specialist with the Nielsen Norman Group, called the new Windows 8 user interface "confusing" and said that it imposed "a cognitive burden" on the users.

It's clear that something needed to be done.

Back in June of 2012, I called Windows 8 a "design disaster", and my opinion hasn't changed since. As much as I like the speed and performance gains that the new operating system brings, and despite it being as rock-solid, snappy, and responsive as Windows 7, when it comes to using it to do real-world work on non-touch systems, Microsoft's latest offering continues to feels utterly unusable. There's too much mystery meat navigation, and the last thing I want is for my PC to force me into playing "hunt the app" every time I want to get something done.

After months of trying to adapt to the platform, I still feel that I need to use a third-party utility, such as Start8, to make Windows 8 look like Windows 7. Why bother, when Windows 7 makes a much better Windows 7, without the need to pay for, install, and manage third-party hacks.

I'm hopeful that Microsoft is talking about making Windows 8 better. Windows is vital to a flourishing PC ecosystem, and that ecosystem currently needs all the help it can get.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft

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191 comments
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  • better yet

    use Linux that does not have a 'learnig curve'.
    LlNUX Geek
    • Except Linux...

      ...tends to have a learning curve of its own, and I can bet most of those who've switched have a hard time adjusting to a platform which isn't as widely supported as Windows, and therefore doesn't have the great support that the mainstream brands give to Windows.
      Figments0
      • I have lost count...

        ...of how many Linux machines I have had to convert back to Windows. I like Linux, and recommend it for many users, but once the user learns they cannot do simple things like run iTunes or watch Netflix they quickly migrate back to Windows. And you can forget about using it at the office, where it cannot run most of the programs we require. Too bad, really, as Linux has gradually matured into a useable system.
        itpro_z
        • itpro_z...thank you Loverock Davidson for your usual FUD

          the only thing you left out was ....You need to compile something every day..................
          Over and Out
          • He also forgot

            To say you need to use the command line for every day tasks.
            Non-Euclidean
          • We don't like Windows 8 so Microsoft calls us stupid

            This is Microsofts arrogance again. They do as they please with no customer input and when we all scream in corus about how un-useful it is, Microsoft tells us it's because we are stupid. Gee Microsoft, I guess I'm so stupid because after Windows 8 I will never buy Microsoft again.
            Tim Jordan
          • So, you actually tried it?

            Windows 8 I mean? Most commenting negatively about Windows 8 have never actually used it, except for maybe a few seconds in a store. I converted my work computer to 8 because I have to support my users, and 8 is coming whether we like it or not. Guess what? 8 is faster than 7, more stable, and more secure. I could care less about Metro, because I only see it maybe once a week, and then only long enough to click on Desktop. We have started moving a few of our users to 8 as a test, and so far the feedback has been very positive.

            After my experience at work, I converted my main computer at home to 8 and it has never ran better. I upgraded my wife's laptop (hardly a power user) to 8 and she really likes it. Unlike me, she spends most of her time in Metro and rarely goes to the desktop.

            So, tell me Tim. Have you really used 8, or are you just blowing anti-MS smoke?
            itpro_z
          • Do you have any support for this?

            "Most commenting negatively about Windows 8 have never actually used it, except for maybe a few seconds in a store."

            I've never seen any studies about this.

            "I could care less about Metro, because I only see it maybe once a week, and then only long enough to click on Desktop."

            I hear this quite a bit...even from pro Windows 8 people. Given how many people avoid the Modern aspect of Windows 8 (which is what most people are dissatisfied with) doesn't it sound like both sides are on the same page?
            ye
          • It's hard...

            ....for the average Joe Blow to figure out. You and me and our significant others either have the curiosity to figure it out or someone to figure it out for us. I work with home users nearly every day and can say unequivocally they have no clue what they are doing. One of my recent customers had his wife spend an hour on Facebook erasing posts "to free up some space on the computer".

            It astonishes me every day that 30+ years into the personal computing revolution and most people still just barely know how to use one.

            This was the kind of mistake that will be studied in business schools for years, right up there with New Coke. They changed something that really didn't need to be changed except for their own purposes. No customers, none, were asking for Metro. Why they originally shipped it without the ability to toggle it on or off easily is baffling. They could have even set Metro as the splash screen and accomplished what they wanted to do but for whatever reason they thought they could command their customers to use their computers the way that Microsoft wanted them to. Just baffling.
            DaveDonaldson
          • At least there was a reason for New Coke ...

            Coca-Cola was locked in a battle for market share with Pepsi, and seemed to be losing as customers, especially younger ones, appeared to favor Pepsi's sweeter taste.

            They did all the right things with test tastings, focus groups, etc..., all of whom indicate a distinct preference for New Coke. It was only in retrospect that Coke realized that they had asked the wrong question. They asked "do you like this better than Coke" when they should have asked "would you drink this instead of Coke." The answers were distinctly different.

            On the other hand, I doubt that ANY interpretation of Microsoft's focus group results supported the removal of the start button.
            bkshort@...
          • I have

            I have used Win8, and I hate it. My sister in law bought a Win8 machine, and took it back, and had her old Win7 machine fixed rather than use Win8. Truth is that MS went to a lot of trouble to make a part of the OS (the start menu) the main emphasis, when most of us only see it once a week or so in the normal course of events. And 'live tiles' are a terrible idea. The last think I need is flashing, changing, scrolling, and moving things on my screen when I am trying to do something else at my desk!
            rphunter1242
          • Not true

            I have a Windows 8 machine at home everyday, and I really dislike how they tacked on the metro ui over the existing desktop interface. Its very clunky, and does not serve my needs.

            This is the reason why I installed Windows 8 on my laptop, and my main gaming machine is still on Windows 7.
            Patch Rowcester
          • Microsofts arrogance Still....again

            I've tried to give Ms feed back about the new win8/modern design and haven't been able to find a web page to give feed back. So on outlook.com they wanted me to take a survey so I did (I never do that stuff except this time). I spent several minutes answering question and then got this reply.

            "Unfortunately, we are looking for other respondents that match our requirements for participation in the survey at this time. Thank you for your interest."

            That is arrogance when they will only take feed back from ppl who will give them the answers they want.

            For Windows blue, they are saying they have listen to their customers and are responding, I’m sure they have listen but it appears they listened to a few cherry pick individuals, I thought surveys you listened to everyone, stupid me..
            Michelle8999
          • Upgrade Cycle - stalled

            The games junkies are constatntly upgrading their systems, especially graphics cards, to maximise performance. The the games makers upgrade their games, lifting the requirements for "best" experience - and the cycle goes on.
            That's not happening here.
            I feel the idea was: Microsoft sell us a "new" OS that really works best with a touch screen. Then everyone trashes their old systems, to get ones that have touch screens.

            The problem is, there's just not enough justification to throw out the old hardware. And once you reach that conclusion, why bother with the OS? Unless you're in the market for a whole new PC, you may as well save your money.
            alan_r_cam
          • *facepalm*

            Well, someone forgot to say he got stuck in 1999.
            mnwlkr
          • Definitely not LoveRock

            LRD would never say he liked linux.
            DevGuy_z
          • lolwut?

            I've been using Linux daily since beginnig of 2008, the only time I ever need to compile anything is when I want to try out a development version of a program.
            mnwlkr
        • Run Itunes & Netflix

          You've just summed up the the kind of user who need health and safety laws to protect themselves from their own incompetence.

          Best give them a Fisher Price "My First Computer" and they won't hurt themselves.
          Alan Smithie
          • What is it?

            That you don't get? Those people you describe are 90% of the PC market.

            Is it your opinion that one needs to pass a proficiency exam before they can use a computing device?

            It's NOT all about YOU.
            louishelps
          • In the workplace

            Computer training and skills is mandatory, with the wrong keystroke or command you can do untold damage or would you prefer illiterate idiots to deal with your tax returns, bank account, health records, justice records, credit history etc.

            It's called education and learning , be a shame if we only had one book in the world called the bible because we would not advance very far.
            Alan Smithie