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The hardware wasn’t ready
Over the past year, Microsoft’s hardware OEMs have released some genuinely innovative hardware designs. Lenovo and Dell have been the edgiest, releasing new touchscreen devices that flip and fold into some positions that seem downright unnatural, like the Lenovo Yoga shown here. HP and Samsung, among others, delivered new devices that shift almost effortlessly between tablet and notebook modes.
The trouble is, most of these devices weren’t ready in late October 2012, when Windows 8 was released to the public. It was weeks or months before some of the most interesting new designs were available to consumers. Even Microsoft’s own Surface Pro didn’t arrive until more than three months after the Windows 8 launch.
Meanwhile, PC OEMs kept selling traditional laptops and desktops that were ill-suited for the new touch-centric operating system. Is it any wonder that the first wave of Windows 8 machines inspired mostly confusion?
Crapware, crapware, crapware
Let’s all thank the late Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson for his antitrust ruling against Microsoft shortly after the turn of the century. Because of the restrictions of that consent decree, Microsoft found its competitive abilities severely hobbled. In particular, it was unable to do anything to stop PC makers from turning Windows PCs into sluggish delivery vehicles for trialware and mediocre, performance-sapping Windows desktop programs.
Little has changed in Windows 8, sadly. A neighbor brought over a new PC the other day, purchased at a local big-box store. All of the default file associations had been assigned to alternative programs that nagged and nagged for registration fees. Even the simple act of trying to open a PDF file led to a demand for a $35 registration fee. She blamed Windows 8.
I just took delivery on a new Windows 8 notebook PC today. It’s a brilliant piece of hardware engineering, but it’s loaded with third-party software that is both unnecessary and potentially a source of performance problems. Spending 20 minutes uninstalling crapware isn’t the way to delight the user of a new PC.
Incredibly bad branding decisions
Windows 8 is a perfectly good name, especially coming on the heels of the incredibly successful Windows 7.
But two other crucial branding moves that Microsoft made have come back to haunt them.
The first was the last-minute decision to abandon Metro as the name for the new-look Windows 8 design language. After spending years building mindshare and equity in that brand, Microsoft threw the Metro name under an onrushing subway car, replacing it with … nothing. So now when we want to talk about the differences between apps written for Windows 8 and those written for the Windows desktop, we have to either play word games or just pretend that it’s still called Metro.
And in fact everyone except Microsoft is doing exactly that.
And then there’s the WinRT versus Windows RT debacle. One is a set of APIs, the other is a product name. But they sound so much alike that even the head of Microsoft’s Windows division confused the two at the Windows 8.1 launch event.
Oh well, at least Windows 8.1 wasn’t saddled with some horrible moniker like “Windows 8 2013 Feature Pack Release 2.”