The Netflix app on Windows 8 is Breaking … and that's Bad!

The Netflix app on Windows 8 is Breaking … and that's Bad!

Summary: Can Windows 8 replicate the "it just works" experience of iPad, or is Windows RT a better bet...?


I'm deeply envious of my Twitter friend Travis Lowdermilk. Check out his sweet Windows 8 setup running Netflix with snapped view with Tweetro down the side. He's not just pimped his tablet with Windows 8, he's pimped his whole life.

Netflix on Windows 8
Travis enjoys watching Breaking Bad with Netflix on a Windows 8 tablet.
I'd like to as well.

I don't get that juicy Windows 8-slash-Netflix goodness. Whenever I try to play anything on the newly announced Windows 8 Netflix app it just borks out with error "W8158". It asks me to run Windows Update and check my drivers.

OK, so this may be me. I run Windows 8 in an unusual way. My day-to-day machine is a MacBook Pro, and I run Windows 8 using VMware Fusion. I reached out over Twitter this morning to find people with similar experiences. Two people confirmed it was working Travis-style for them. A few others had the W8158 error I had, and a few more had a different W8156 error. From what I can tell, W8158 is a driver problem, W8156 is a network problem, but don't quote me on it. One person reported running Windows Update cleared W8156, oddly. Others said that being authenticated to a domain or not made W8156 appear or disappear, but at this point I'm not sure why I'm doing technical support for Netflix - perhaps it's my innate desire for Windows 8 not to be a disaster.

But this isn't about the specifics of the Netflix app failure - these issues will sort themselves out. It's about a deeper problem with Windows 8.

(Incidentally, I did phone Netflix support and they said it was VMWare's fault and that I needed to update my drivers. Their PR department didn't get back to me with a comment. VMware's PR people did get back to me, and they said it was an "issue specific to the new Netflix 'Metro' application which was released only 2 days ago". I didn't contact VMware support. As we'll soon learn - I just gave up and moved on.)


Scratch an iPad deep enough and at its base you'll find Darwin - the core operating system that underpins both iOS and OS X. This is similar to how Windows NT underpins both Windows 8 and Windows RT. The point is that Apple and Microsoft have taken similar approaches in that they have a small, central OS on which they build two distinct branches of products. OS X and Windows are used for broad-scale computing device, what we might call a "normal computer". The other brand contains very-focused, small-scale, highly-portable devices - specifically post-PC devices like Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Windows RT. Both firms use the same approach to build the same sort of devices targeting the same sort of markets.

So let's look back at the Netflix app not working on Windows 8. My attitude when I saw it not work was "oh well, it's not working" and then I moved on. Like a lot of Windows users, I've become inured to things just not working. I gave up on having the sort of slick Netflix experience that Travis enjoyed and resolved to try again in the future when Netflix and/or VMware had sorted the problem out. I no longer get a sense of frustration from things not working on Windows because that's just what I've got used to.

Microsoft isn't just rebooting the OS with Windows 8, it's rebooting customers's perception. People generally think of the iPad as a basic device that doesn't go wrong. They don't see it as a computer - it's a device that supposed to "just work".

There will be a raft of Windows 8 tablets that are sold at the same price point of the iPad. People will buy them expecting the same experience. But what happens in Apple-land is that the Netflix app and its kin always work. (Or it very obviously doesn't and very publicly fails.) Whereas in Windows-land people hover their finger over the button perhaps expecting failure, the intimidation-free world of the iPad yields no such anxiety. Those users expecting a land of "just working" goodness, but actually being in "oops, this is going to break!" Old Windows-land could end up being very, very unhappy customers indeed.

The Windows of true love

Over on Windows RT, because the environment is far more tightly controlled, we should find that the Netflix app just works, perfectly, on every device. Windows RT devices are simpler, the driver surface area much more tightly controlled, and there will be far fewer of them compared to the OEM free-for-all we're going to see on the Windows 8 side. A Windows RT user should be anxiety-free and intimidation-free. You also can't install Old Windows software on Windows RT, which greatly reduces your chances of inadvertendly breaking something by replacing a component with something bad.

This is why consumers should buy Windows RT devices and eschew Windows 8 devices. Windows 8 is too complicated, too open to the old rubbish we're used to with "normal computers". Windows RT has a much better chance of "just working". If you're looking to buy a family member a Windows tablet this holiday season, if you love them, buy them Windows RT not Windows 8.

You want them to be happy, don't you?

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Picture credit: Travis Lowdermilk

Topics: Tablets, Apple, iPad, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Apple products don't just work

    Right now my iPad is refusing to sync with iTunes. iTunes says something silly like "cannot identify device". Also: some of my apps where broken by IOS6.
    • lol'd

      Apple Maps - Just works
      Siri - Just works
      Signal - Just works
      Purple Haze pictures - Just works

      All of the above 4 are worse than 1 app not working.
  • Apple does NOT "just work"

    My iphone 4s has been freezing up on me more then I can remember.. (it seems to happen most when rapidly switching between application and think it has to do with the device trying to keep the app in memory)

    I can't even turn my device off at that point (nothing works), so I need to wait about 5 minutes until it turns itself off, at that point I can "reboot" and usually it's fixed..
    • its because of the iphone 5

      this happens every time they release a new phone....somehow the older ones start slow down at around the same happens every freaking time. am i the only one that sees this pattern?
      Truitt Dill
      • thought it was just me

        When I went from 2G to 3G the 2G became painfully slow to use, I thought it was because I got use to the 3G, same thing happened when I went from 3G to 4, never paid too much attention to it since I was selling it, it's someone else's problem.
  • ok so what your saying is all iOS apps work

    None never crash none ever have issues. But if one 3rd party app ever did crash it would be apples fault. Got it...
  • But it does just work

    It must be you, I have had no problem watching NetFlix
  • You are being disingenuous

    Netflix is crashing in your Virtual Machine running on a Mac. I would bet money very few people would want to do that.

    Since my iOS 6 update, many of my apps have become unstable especially Twitter, keyboard shortcuts rarely work now. I don't really care anymore after 3 flaky iPhones, I am switching to a windows phone, already tossed the mini Mac in a bag to sell on Craigslist.
    • And you're running to the number 5 Mobile OS?

      There is a reason it's number 5, cause there are 4 better choices. Trust me, after going through 2 Nokia Lumia 900s in less than a week, I'll never touch WP crap, or Nokia's garbage, again. The phones were cheaply made in slave factories in India, and the build quality is indicative of the phone being sold for $1, that's all it's worth.
      Troll Hunter J
  • Running Win8 on an Apple machine in a VM is going to be error prone at best

    Seriously? You are going to try and compare this environment to an iPad? Give me a break.

    Now. If it fails out of the box on a plain Intel box with Windows 8 loaded, that's another thing.

    If it fails out of the box on a Surface tablet, that's real bad.

    Your environment is basically guaranteed not to work.

    Try running iTunes on a Windows box running VMware with a MAC OS in it. Oh, wait, THAT likely doesn't work at all.
    • Your setup Sucks!

      Run Win8 in BootCamp on your Mac and see if you still have a problem.
      Running in a VM is problematic anyways and this experience can not be extrapoated to all x86 Win8 PCs/tablets.
  • The Netflix app on Windows 8 is Breaking … and that's Bad!

    WTH? He can't watch netflix on an obscure set up and blames Microsoft Windows 8 for it. Perhaps you should shift the blame over to where it really should go.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • windows 8

    I just wounder if the tablet is more secure then just a windows 8 box
    here is an exploited windows 8 box
  • You are an idiot!

    Hey Matt, u must've needed to meet a job-saving deadline or something because ur post is asinine. Not sure I'd keep u around with this crap anyway. Just wanted to say that.
    Omar Washington
  • Unsupported Configuration...

    No, its more "Oh well, it doesn't work on a configuration not supported by Microsoft." Whats next? Doesn't work over RDP on VMWare thats installed on your mac? :) they are inventing things to bitch about Windows 8.
  • Wait

    you are having problems because you are running Windows 8 virtualized instead of native. Next thing we know you will complain it cannot run GTAIV !

    Things like games, video playback are known to not work great virtualised. The main reason is the fact that the GPU that is emulated is not performing very well.

    To date, QE and CI on any OSX version that you virtualised (Like ML, Lion or SL) does not work at all, since there aren't any drivers available. At least Aero on Windows Vista/7 and 8 (where it actually still exists) do work as VMWare did release a driver for it.
  • Similar situation

    Trying to run Windows 8 on my Pentium II. And it's not working! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD Microsoft WHY!?

  • Netflix fails for me too

    I too have the W8158 error and i run Win8 RTM bare metal on a HP Z220. I guess I'll have to wait for Intel to sort out their graphics driver for Windows 8.
    • Hyper-V service on Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise Kills Netflix Metro app

      Hyper-V service on Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise Kills Netflix Metro app playback at 97% with Error W8156-C0262500. Uninstall from Programs and Features, Turn Windows features on or off, Uncheck: Hyper-V , Restart, enjoy
      • Except I don't have Hyper-V service turned on...

        Brandon I'd love to vote your post up...but I just checked and I don't have Hyper-V turned on. Everything is unchecked...and I get stuck at 97% and it never shows an error code. It just cycles endlessly until I either bring up another app and move back, or something similar.

        Then it just shows that it dropped back to the title, but no error code or indication of a way to fix it.
        Morpheus Phreak