Windows 8, one year later: 10 mistakes Microsoft made (and how they plan to fix things)

Windows 8, one year later: 10 mistakes Microsoft made (and how they plan to fix things)

Summary: It's probably a safe bet to say that the first year of Windows 8 didn't go as Microsoft had hoped or planned. So what went wrong? It wasn't just one mistake. Instead, a series of strategic missteps and bad bets got Microsoft's flashy new OS off to a very rocky start.

TOPICS: Windows 8, Microsoft

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  • One year ago this week...

    As beta programs go, Windows 8 seemed like a smashing success. The engineers and designers putting the new operating system together hit their deadlines like a finely tuned machine, and the code was ready to release to manufacturing one year ago this week, on August 1, 2012. Hardware partners had three full months to get their new PCs ready for what some hoped would be a big holiday season.

    It didn't quite work out that way. The Windows 8 launch in New York City went well enough, but it was followed within days by two damaging events: Hurricane Sandy and the abrupt departure of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.

    Over the next few months it became clear that Windows 8 had arrived at a turning point in the PC industry, with consumers turning away from conventional PCs in favor of smaller tablets and mobile devices. In theory, the new operating system had anticipated this shift. In practice, it didn't quite work out that way.

    What went wrong? Let's count the ways...

  • Miscalculation on desktop changes

    You see that empty check box, highlighted in yellow? The option to bypass the Start screen and go straight to the desktop when signing in to Windows 8.1?

    That option was in an early preview of Windows 8, but it was dropped for the final release.

    It’s back in Windows 8.1, as Exhibit A in Microsoft’s “We’re listening to your feedback” campaign.

    There was plenty of feedback during the beta process from people who wanted a desktop-centric version of Windows 8. Microsoft stubbornly (some would say arrogantly) ignored them.

    And now, a year later, that option and a few other desktop-friendly changes are part of Windows 8.1. One can only wonder: what would the reaction to Windows 8 have been like if a traditional desktop configuration had been available, even as a well hidden option?

  • Bad bet on tablet sizes and shapes

    It’s worth remembering that the initial design work for Windows 8 began in early 2009, a year before the iPad launched.

    Microsoft’s vision started with the idea that a tablet is a PC without a keyboard. The inevitable by-product of that core design decision is a device built to work primarily in landscape mode. The trouble is, many of the things people want to do with a tablet, like read an ebook, are best done in portrait mode.

    The mandatory 16:9 aspect ratio of Windows 8 was an obvious miss from Day 1, as was the lack of support for smaller devices. Windows 8 arrived to a market that had already digested the full-size iPad and was eagerly snapping up smaller devices. A year later, Windows 8.1 finally supports those devices, but that lost 12 months is the equivalent of stumbling out of the starting gate.

    And even now, it looks like some of the people involved in planning Windows 8.1 haven't got the memo. When I went searching for pictures of the new 8.1-inch Acer Iconia W3-810 tablet, virtually every image I could find showed the device in landscape mode. I had to mock up the picture shown here using a stock photo and a screenshot from my own device.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft

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  • Teaching

    I still think the biggest problem of all is that they didn't actually teach anyone how to use their new operating system paradigms. I understand that power users aren't going to be happy with it at all, but the biggest problem with the general consumer is that they're still confused and getting frustrated.
    • ...

      Which is to say I think it should be number 1-10, not just at the end. ;)

      (Hadn't noticed I hadn't clicked through to the last image).
      • i think he missed the biggest mistake

        Unless I did. They marketed rt and x86 as the same thing and of course they aren't. It was a deceptive marketing strategy IMO.
        • False statement

          Microsoft did not market RT as the same product or software as Windows 8 x86. Many articles pointed this out quite clearly. If you missed that you weren't paying attention, or your sales person let you down. The device prices alone should have made you question what you were getting (or not getting).
        • "Deceptive" implies intent ...

          ... but that makes no sense. It gains them nothing. I think that the Microsoft marketing team does not understand that that this stuff is not intuitive to consumers. Microsoft knows about as much about marketing to consumers as Apple does abut marketing to the enterprise. Incompetence is a better word.

          As a disclaimer, I am an IT professional and I love Windows 8, despite its shortcomings, which are soon to be fixed with 8.1. Like they say though, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Microsoft has dug themselves a hole and getting out of it will take time.
          M Wagner
      • I hate the click-through slideshows

        They want us to click through each page to increase the number of ads we see (and might click). It is a horrible practice and I dislike these companies for not having a single page option.

        In short, an understandable mistake.
        • And when will they get it, that

          People HATE ads. They HATE seeing those cheery faces all over their pages. They HATE being expected to be making choices of links, that will only slow their info-gathering, and clutter up their field of vision.

          Can you think of ANYTHING more likely to make someone WANT to remember the name of a product ... JUST so that they'll remember NOT to buy it, as a reward for the pain they've endured on that company's behalf?

          Some of their own, back...

          Why the heck do they think we run anti-ad software? Just to slow the machine down?
          Lightning Joe
          • Getting it

            Marketing does not care about the user experience... Stay on message at all cost, ignore everything else... Users are just dollars sitting there to be exploited, as far as they are concerned, they paid for this system your using and your opinion does not matter, your harvested information is more important
        • I stopped reading the article ...

          ... completely once I saw that it was going to be a stupid exercise in clicking for a new paragraph over and over and over again. The whole friggin' point of web-pages is that you can scroll and scroll and scroll without having to "turn the page." Sites that keep this $h|t up are coming out of my bookmarks in droves.
          Calvin Murray
        • You're not using AdBlock Plus?

          Can't live without it.
        • Huh

          What does that have to do with Windows 8? Or Microsoft?
        • Yep, it's a crock.

          I'm curious to see what Ed's take is but not that curious.

          All to up the clicks and the number of ads we see.

          Ad Block and Ghostry in Firefox is probably why many sites don't work well with Firefox even when both add ons are effectively disabled.

          Some (most?about all??) things I use to follow I pretty much stay away from these days because of the sites structure, multiple layers that didn't exist before just so they can up the count.

          Well, that and the way sites have gone to tiled browsing and graphics instead of words.

          Rob Berman
    • Not sure I agree

      I would love to see data on how quickly a new OS would spread in a slowing market. I have a feeling it isn't much different than this. I can't remember ANY OS that has created such demand that people went out in droves to buy new devices specifically for the OS. I would argue Apple fans buy the device as the previous generation get virtually all of the perks of the new device.

      Ed's statement that people use tablets in portrait mode for so many things they enjoy doing is also laughable. Outside of reading a book, most games and video look best in landscape. If you are typing a lot, landscape gives you a bigger keyboard. I would call web browsing a bust as it really depends on the site's format as to the better orientation.
      • Nope

        I agree with Ed Bott on this one. Portrait mode has always been the computer desired orientation precisely because it's better for reading, coding and such. Games have only recently been adapted for landscape, and that has been because of TVs and more recent monitors doing the 16:10 or even horrible 16:9 displays. (16:9 is horrible for anything that isn't a TV!)

        If I need to do extensive typing on a tablet, I'll get a BT keyboard. I hate touchscreen keyboards on devices; that's why I'll never have an iBone or any of the keyboardless smartphones. I've remained with Blackberry...
        • It is not one or the other

          I don't use a smart phone but I believe Apple and others have the orientation intuitive to the position of the phone. I even do it with my computer.

          I have one monitor in the landscape mode and the other in the portrait mode. My emails and my MyYahoo screen works better in portrait because of the way I laid it out and most other browsing is better in landscape. Some pictures are better in Landscape and some in portrait.

          In a tablet form it needs to do both easily.
          • Portrait or Landscape

            I'm with remmeler - definitely both. Once I switched one monitor to portrait mode and left the second in landscape I found it so much more convenient. I usually web browse in portrait mode.
          • No, you guys just don't have big enough monitors!

            On a desktop, if you are having to decide which monitor to use on the basic of its orientation, you need a larger monitor with more pixels.

            Personally, I am waiting for 4K TVs that can do 50Hz at 3840x2160. I have two 30" 2560x1600 and two 1920x1080 touchscreens at a low angle (for easier touch use) in front of them, but only turn on the 30"s when doing serious pixel bashing. I would prefer they were all touchscreen as it's much easier to just point or scroll with a finger than think and act upon using a mouse.

            Portrait is a pain for web browsing unless its at least 1200 pixels - anything lees and it's that bit that's cut off because a lot of sites seemed to be geared to the old 1280x1024 screens that still exist in their millions.
          • Huh?

            Sorry, but as a user of PC's for 25 years, I know that most PC's have been used in Landscape mode. Granted, they were 4:3 instead of 16:9, but I can't remember anyone using a PC in 1200x1600. It was always 1600x1200. even now, most people use them in landscape mode, including virtually every programmer I've worked with.
        • Landscape mode since PC

          I looked at my desktop monitor and my laptop. They are all in landscape mode and I haven't find that it's inconvenience for reading, coding, etc. I actually paid attention of how I use my iPad and RT tablets. I used them in landscape mode 99% of the time. So I don't know why portrait mode is that important.
          • It's important for the same reasons you gave

            You prefer to use it in landscape mode 99% of the time. Others prefer to use it in portrait mode 99% of the time. That's why it's important to be able to do both. It's a personal preference thing and neither is more valid than the other. It's all opinion.