Windows 8 moved the cheese, Windows Blue doesn't put it back

Windows 8 moved the cheese, Windows Blue doesn't put it back

Summary: People don't like change. Unless Microsoft can start to understand that, Windows 8 and Windows Blue may never get traction in the consumer market...

TOPICS: Windows 8
Some blue cheese. (Blue -- geddit?)

Now that Windows Blue looks like it's leaked, we know one thing — the Start button isn't coming back.

Were you surprised that it's staying away? I guess I was a little bit — or rather I was hoping that the Softies might have had a, um, softening on the position of the Start button.

Read: Start8 and ModernMix — Windows 8's last, best hope for normality on the desktop.

I am, to be honest, a bit fed up with talking about Start button and I'm sure you are too. But for me, it's taken a meaning greater than just something to do with the user interface. It's become symbolic of a problem that Microsoft doesn't seem to understand — enterprises and consumers experience software procurement in very different ways.

And that's a problem...


Imagine it's 2007 and you're the CTO of a company with 1,000 users. A member of your staff has presented you with a business case to move to Office 2007. You know the toolbar is going away and being replaced with the ribbon.

You also know that users aren't going to like the change, but you're doing things sensibly — you have a training plan in place, the helpdesk is geared up to support the shift.

You sign the PO, and you ask your staff to roll out Office 2007 with its new ribbon interface.

When you're in this position, you've irritated and caused some discomfort to 1,000 of your users. Human beings, as we know, don't like change, and you've just made change happen. You're in for a few weeks of flak. If you're not being entirely mature about it, that's a good period to schedule a vacation, or a few early afternoons out playing golf, or a more rigourous policy with regards to keeping your office door shut.

What's happened here is that you've "moved the cheese." People are used to seeing and using toolbars — after the upgrade, those toolbars have gone away and been replaced. The result? Cross users reacting angrily to imposed change.

But, given time, everything eventually goes back to normal. People in enterprises use the tools they're given and tend to adapt to change reasonably smoothly. Part of this is, I'm afraid, is because people don't care. If you roll out Dynamics CRM, for instance, you're hardly likely to get picketed by a cohort of users that demand you also roll out Salesforce.

Put simply, people get used to the new place where the cheese is kept.

Importantly, if the users are irritated at anyone, the irritation will be focused on the IT team that has mucked everything up, not on the Microsoft's engineers who developed the new ribbon.

More importantly, those users don't have any real power over whether to continue to buy Microsoft software or not. It remains the CTOs decision.


Over in Consumerland, the situation is very different.

Technologists rarely seem to understand that non-technologists feel entirely differently about technology than they do. A technologist tends to feel about computer systems under their control as if they are tools. They understand those tools, they have relationships with them, they know how they work. If they are broken, they can fix them.

A non-technologist doesn't see a computer as a tool in the same way. If a non-technologist's computer "breaks" (and this can be anything from an actual breakdown to a window being one size one day and smaller the next), that user will get stuck. We've all seen perfectly competent users totally bamboozled by what seems to us to be the most simple thing.

Windows 8 is so wholly different from Windows 7 that, to a non-technologist, it doesn't feel like improvement, enhancement, or evolution. The only thing that it feels is broken.

And because the non-technologist has done this to himself — i.e. the change is self-inflicted, coupled with the fact that he doesn't have any support to fall back on — rather than adapting to the change smoothly as he would in a "use this at work because your boss says you have to," he simply gets irritated and upset with the fate that's befallen him.

To a non-technologist, Windows 8 moves the cheese so far, it might as well be stapled to the side of Voyager 1 as it hurtles out into deep space. A typical non-technologist user has virtually no chance of retreiving the cheese.


Microsoft is used to the enterprise space being able to move the cheese because they are dealing, generally, with a customer base that is made up mostly of technologists. Moreover, those technologists are usually acting rationally, basing decisions on business cases that have to be scrutinised before they are signed off on.

A CTO will not make a judgement whether to roll out a new CRM on Oracle or SQL Server without knowing what those words actually mean.

In Consumerland, moving the cheese results in one of two things: either irritated customers who are annoyed with you but who continue to be your customers, or irritated customers who are annoyed with you and who subsequently stop being your customers.

This is the thing that worries me most about Microsoft's strategy at the moment. Do they actually understand that moving the cheese of a non-technologist consumer isn't a good idea?

Because it seems to me that they know in the enterprise space, moving the cheese around appears to be a very good idea. This strategy of cheese translocation seems to have worked out very well for them for the past 20 years. It's the ability to be brave around change that's got them to a point where they have a stable of world-beating products.

That thing Microsoft does where it "takes three versions to get it right" is not accidental. The process is designed like that, and it's all about careful execution of change. They move the cheese around into the correct final position in full view within the market itself, as opposed to delivering it to the market in the right place the first time around.

But, that strategy is just plain stupid in the consumer market because all you're doing to customers is turning them from neutral-slash-positive into "angry." How hard is it to convince someone who thinks, "I bought Windows 8 and I hated it!" into buying a Mac? It's a great deal easier than someone who thinks, "I like my Windows 7 laptop!"

I've been trying to think of examples of non-technology brands that behave like this in the consumer space. The only one that I can think of, which I fear shows a certain lack of imagination, is New Coke — and we all know how that ended.

Reintroducing the Start menu to Windows Blue would reduce some of the distance that the cheese has moved for non-technologists coming to the operating system from Windows 7. But that cuts both ways — Microsoft can't do that without a tacit admission that Windows 8 is in fact a sister operating system of Windows Vista. That would hurt their stock price, and nullify any of the Windows 8 marketing expenses incurred thus far.

We all know that's not going to happen.

What I really need to see from Microsoft is some kind of evidence that they know that over in Consumerland, if you want to move the cheese, it has to be done carefully.

People do not like change.

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

Image credit: Wikimedia

Topic: Windows 8

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  • simple solution

    You just need to convince the IT department to install Start8 on every machine as standard. Or one of the free alternatives if they aren't convinced if paying £5 for each license.
    • There’s no sense in wasting money on an inferior classic menu

      The main purpose of a start menu is to launch programs of which the modern start menu is fully capable. The users will get used to it in couple of days and adding the built-in XP-style classic menu can be a good complement. The fastest way to shutdown is to hit the power button if configured correctly, otherwise a shutdown shortcut can be added to the said built-in menu.
      Arash Jafari
      • Microsoft should bend... a little...

        I'm a big fan of Windows 8 & Metro and where Microsoft is headed... but as long as they're going to have a "desktop mode" (or whatever you call it) as part of Windows, then they should have the Start button (as an option that can be toggled on/off). I think it's their unwillingness o bend that is ticking people off... and it's also hurting the reputation of an otherwise fun & innovative OS.

        I think if Metro was less threatening (to those on a non-touch PC) and less of an obstacle to getting work done in "desktop mode," then people would be more open to exploring Metro. It's the fact that Metro is making working in the desktop a little more difficult that consumers are a wall up and deciding, "It's terrible. I hate it."

        In short, it doesn't have to be this way. Throw people a bone. Give them a Start button if they want it (as long as "desktop mode" exists). They're adding one anyway. Bending on this a little would go a long way in helping Microsoft's image... and the uptake of Windows 8.
        • How is Modern threatening to Desktop and an obstacle to get work done?

          In my opinion these are absurd claims since I’ve run Windows 8 Pro for more than 6 months and the productivity is equal or better than Windows 7 and I’ve never felt obstructed or tied down in anyway. The only thing I can think of that might feel intrusive to some people is the transition to Start when launching a program but you can easily remedy that with the built-in classic start menu and pining your favorite applications to the taskbar where you’ve even more room now.

          What’s the point of having a Start Button if the functionality is there? For clarity maybe but once you know about that hot corner it’s like you’re having a start button that’s hidden until you go there. I enabled the built-in classic start menu with shutdown shortcuts from the beginning but I haven’t used them once so why would MSTF waste effort on something that’s never going to be used by most users once they’re used to the modern way? It’s impossible to bend something to will of a billion people and there will always be unhappy ones so it’s best sticking to the original plan.
          Arash Jafari
          • @Arash

            I agree 100% I too have been using Windows 8 since the first beta on my desktop and touchscreen laptop. I installed classic shell and start 8 on at least one occasion and found I wasn't using it at all. I tried the acorn one too. I use Logitech's touchpad for the desktop to swipe and even that is not something I need to use all the time. I really like the touch on my laptop (it is a convertible HP tm2) but I do use it as a laptop more than a tablet.
          • +1

            Your experience is exactly mine. I am so sick of reading all the whining about what's wrong with Win8 when it is possible to use it exactly like you used Win7 with maybe one extra step to get to the desktop (where you can stay to your heart's content). Part of the problem seems to be that many of the complainers about Win8 never really used Win7 the way it was meant to be used and are thus trying to go from a WinXP view of the world to Win8.8-moved-the-cheese-windows-blue-doesnt-put-it-back-7000013157/?s_cid=e539
          • You're right, sort of...

            "Part of the problem seems to be that many of the complainers about Win8 never really used Win7 the way it was meant to be used and are thus trying to go from a WinXP view of the world to Win8."

            What this says to me is that the way Windows XP worked was perfectly adequate for large numbers of people, and the way Windows 7 was "meant to be used" included unnecessary changes which have now been taken yet another pointless step further in Windows 8.

            If people actually found the changes useful and beneficial, they'd use them and not complain!
          • The flipping back and forth...

            What I'd like to see is the two desktops combined. Have the OS open to Metro & just add a "metro-fied" Task Bar to the bottom, where desktop & Metro apps could be pinned. This would be a real time saver.

            Imagine working in Word and you want to quickly check the weather, your stocks, and if any new mail came in. You wouldn't have to leave Word, but just move your cursor of the Metro app pinned to the Task Bar... and then a metro jump list would pop up with info from that app... without you ever leaving Word or flipping back to Metro or the classic desktop. See what a time-saver that would be?

            I love Windows 8, but some things just aren't efficient. I think Windows Blue will fix some of those, but I'd really like to see a unified desktop/Start screen.
          • No, they're not absurd

            "I enabled the built-in classic start menu with shutdown shortcuts from the beginning but I haven’t used them once so why would MSTF waste effort on something that’s never going to be used by most users once they’re used to the modern way?"

            Are you the center of the world? Does everybody have the same habits that you do?

            You really are a arrogant, self-centered prig, aren't you...

            "It’s impossible to bend something to will of a billion people and there will always be unhappy ones so it’s best sticking to the original plan."

            And who the hell are you speaking for a billion people out there? Did somebody appoint you GOD or what?

            You don't speak for me, pal. Never have, never will.
          • Yes, they are and unjust insults don’t change anything

            No, I’m not an arrogant and self-centered prig, I’m simply sharing my opinion and experience. Your response is majorly self-contradictory because my point is exactly that a billion PC users have different wills, habits and ideas and it’s impossible to satisfy each and every one of them. If you think you can then maybe you're God and should start your own software company. I’m not trying to speak for anyone but I’ll sure as hell will continue to tell what I think.
            Arash Jafari
          • There are valid arguments on both sides...

            Even though I generally like Windows 8 and where MS is headed, I think the complaint about the missing Start button is valid. I mean, if millions of users feel the need to pay for an app like Start8 to restore it, then it suggests (to me) that it's something Microsoft should consider bringing back... so long as theirs still a separate desktop UI.

            I genuinely believe that in the effort to force people to use the Metro screen (when having the Start button handy would be more efficient), it's actually turning people away from Metro. I truly think that desktop users would be more inclined to explore Metro (and even grow to like it) if they didn't feel so negative towards it at the get go.

            When I use my Surface in front of the TV, all I use is Metro. Why? Because it's easier... and I actually dread being accidentally flipped to the desktop U. However, if on my PC, I use Metro much less. I think the problem for a lot of users is simply that Microsoft took away a choice (the Start button) and it just seems kind of unnecessary & arbitrary. If they were to restore it, I think resistance to Windows 8 would shrink A LOT, and openness to Metro would grow dramatically.
          • Nicely put

            I have been in IT for thirty years and use my laptop seven days a week. I started with the Windows-8 Beta, and to be honest, could not see a single justification or benefit in the new interface, and so simply installed Start-8 and restored my desktop currency, and calendar gadgets.
            I spent hours playing with 8 and cannot see a single business reason for Metro. Corporate desktops are locked-down both security, and to ensure that the user only uses the computer for business. I have never visted the app-store, or used a tiled-app (apart from testing) as there is simply no business benefit, and the animations only seem to burn-up CPU time.
            As for Explorer-10, when is the last time that you read a report with the contents and the end, or the title at the bottom?

            People are not stupid or backward, nor is simply because they don't like change, they simply don't accept illogical or pointless changes that they neither asked for or wanted.
          • You nailed it

            I've had very much the same experience. I just bought a new laptop with Win8 and stubborn as I am have forced myself to try to use 8 rather than go back to 7 or Ubuntu. I've been pained so much because the start menu had been etched into my brain since 95 that I'm now slower because I have to remember to NOT hit the windows key on my keyboard or to NOT put the mouse in the lower left corner. I've been working on/with PC's for 25+ years and I've never been inhibited this much.

            Yes, I could clutter my desktop with folders and icons rather than traversing the same clutter on the start screen but that really would defeat the purpose wouldn't it? So I wound up purchasing start 8 and my life is relatively back to normal and I feel like the PC is mine again rather than being held captive by the full screen gorilla that previously guarded my icons.

            To those that think that this is just a few intolerant people complaining. Try remembering that we all do things differently, see things differently, and experience things differently. Windows 8 on my laptop is great aside from the start screen. And since I don't use "apps" and I've regained the start menu, I'm a lot happier and that's what matters to me.
          • LOLed

            I found it funny that you say you have worked with computers for 25+ years but you fail to grasp the new windows interface. I also have worked with computers for quite a while, about 20 years, it took me all of about 30 minutes to learn all the tricks with the new interface. Also quite hilarious is that you don't use "apps" an app is an application, like any piece of software you have on your system. So if you don't use "apps" then you don't really do anything but login to your system. I'll have to argue with anyone that says that the new interface is illogical, confusing or pointless. The fact is that the new interface brings more info to you immediately without opening an "app". I can't see why so many people have such a huge problem with what basically amounts to a change in layout. Get with the program, we make new stuff all the time, get used to it and quit complaining about your inability to learn.
            Sean Buckman
          • What is your issue?

            An app is different from an application. An app works under the modern/metro/whatever interface. And application runs on the desktop side. I find it almost as comical that I've been doing this for so long and this is the first time I've ever run afoul an O/S that was just so counter intuitive that it made my brain hurt.

            I love how you supposedly read my post and skipped the ending. I posted about MY experience. Maybe you should do the same
          • -1

            The real problem are commenters like Arash that admit that they don't understand why some people don't Windows 8. You can tell them a hundred different ways why you don't like it, but they still can't understand. Arash, your problem is that you are exactly like Microsoft. You cannot understand that people are different and not all like you. And just because they are different from you it doesn't mean they are wrong.

            Not understanding that others may think differently than you will come back to bite you as it is with Microsoft at the moment.
          • The problem is people complaining over problems they don't have

            So you believe that the modern is threatening to Desktop and is an obstacle to get work done? The problem is that people say a lot of things but always fail to mention what the problem actually is. If the commenter instead shared concretely what in the Modern hinders his productivity in the desktop one would understand and/or tip how to avoid it. I understand perfectly well that people are different and think differently but what I don’t understand is claims that have no foundation.
            Arash Jafari
          • Arash, you are playing taqqiya

            Arabic taqqiya is a five-pronged system of lying to make Islam look good. But the system is used routinely by people in a number of contexts, so I made a video called Christian Taqqiya in Youtube. Here, Arash practices the taqqiay prong of DENYING THE EVIDENCE ANSWERING his query on why Metro-which-should-be-called-Retro, sucks. This evidence is in multiple categories:

            1. No easy way to close, move, size, customize, get rid of the tiles.
            2. When you're in the desktop, suddenly you're jumped out and into Retro, usually at the most inconvenient moments, and with loss of whatever you were trying to do at the time you were jumped.
            3. UGLY interface. Some call it Fisher-Price, some call it garish, others call it Easter-Egg hunt or XBox, or other names. These are all over the internet.

            The number and kinds of specific problems in Retro usage, are documented prolifically in every article or product page on Windows 8, which allows user reviews.

            So Arash, your taqqiya is showing. You play the Victim (another prong), because you re victimizing others (another prong) with Cognitive Dissonance (last prong).
          • Wrong, actually

            In Arabic taqiyya literally means caution, but came to be used as a technical term by some jurists meaning dissimulation. Just get your fact right, ok?
          • Oh! Those Engineers!

            I work as a user experience designer for a living. My biggest challenge I run into almost every day has nothing to do with the users. I spend my time trying to conveince the 'techies', those software engineers, that making thing to work isn't enough. Every single piece of code, every single widget, every single application you build, is going to be judged by 'dumb' users (or morons as some like to call). These dumb people are the ones who's gonna send you your paycheck in the long run.

            Windows 8 could be the awesomest, coolest, smartest OS out there but public has rejected it! Just like they rejected Vista and returned to XP or jumped ship to Mac or to Linux. it's ok to move cheese once in a while. But when you are moving your cheese over to a new land, please leave the bridge open. In this particular case, the bridge would have been the start button. But those MS strategists thought a start button would be too helpful. Of course, Arash Jafari's of this world are smart enough to run/swim/swing Tarzan style to the new place. And they will think every other hapless people stuck on the other side are dumb morons who whine about stuff when every thing around is sooooo awesoooome! if Microsoft wanted to restrict their user base to the smart Arashs of this world, I say they have done a pretty smart job! Let the rest of the world rot in XP/7 or better still, go to Apple. Good riddance!