Biggest hurdle to overcome with Windows 9: The dead end

Microsoft is being hit over the perceived failure that is Windows 8. While some wonder how Windows 9 might turn things around, there's one big hurdle that might be too big to jump over.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Information is beginning to leak about Windows 9, and the conversation has turned to how badly Microsoft has failed so far with Windows 8. It's being said that Microsoft is floundering, with Windows 8 even being compared to Vista. Some wonder how Windows 9 might turn things around, but that may be harder than Microsoft can manage. There's a big problem in the Windows ecosystem that a new version probably can't address.

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It's important to understand that while talk on the web is ramping up about the failings of Windows 8, that's not universally the case. There are plenty of people happily using Windows 8 (myself included), and they'll continue to do so.

Others, my friend Adrian Kingsley-Hughes among them, left Windows behind and wonder if Windows 9 will bring them back. I'm afraid it won't.

Where Windows 8 is failing is in attracting new users, and enticing Windows 7 users to upgrade to the radical new design of Windows 8. You don't have to look far on the web to find those refusing to upgrade, as they don't like the new OS.

As for attracting new users, Microsoft needs to tap the vast potential market of those looking for a mobile solution. Whether that be tablet or laptop doesn't matter, Microsoft is desperately trying to get new customers from the mobile crowd.

If the phrase 'search the Knowledge Base' is part of the experience when things go awry, it's a major failure.

That's where the Windows ecosystem raises its ugly head and forms an obstacle for getting these new customers. The ecosystem referred to here is not the familiar one of apps and content, it's more fundamental than that.

The ecosystem that makes it difficult for Windows to compete for new mobile customers, is the one that often turns the user experience (UX) into one worse than the competition's.

It's the one that sometimes makes simple tasks turn into dead ends with Windows when things don't work the way they should. Think of updates that fail to execute and apps that create problems for the user. Problems that present themselves with a dialog box with an error message that provides no information to the user on how to proceed. I call it the Windows dead end.

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Most Windows users have seen those if they are honest. And they are correct when they point out that often these dead ends are not the fault of Windows. They occur when there's an app failure, a hardware problem, or a software driver problem. The mainstream mobile customer that Microsoft wants to win does not care where the fault lies, only in a smooth experience.

These dead ends are the result of the Windows ecosystem, so indirectly they are Microsoft's fault as far as new customers are concerned. The system was working, and now it isn't. No matter where the fault lies it's a failure of the UX, and that's Windows' biggest problem.

This is the way it is now with Windows 8, and almost certainly will be the way it is with Windows 9 in the future. This is the biggest hurdle for Microsoft to jump to compete in today's mobile climate.

The competition doesn't have this problem, and that's why they are growing at the expense of Microsoft and Windows.

Apple controls the entire iPad ecosystem which is why they rarely have a dead end experience. Enthusiasts will cry that it's not fair to compare Windows and the iPad mobile experience for this reason. It is fair, however, as that's what Microsoft has to deal with to get Windows (and keep it) in the hands of mobile customers.

While Apple controls the whole UX environment, Android doesn't and it doesn't have these dead end UX episodes. Android has an OS source different from both the hardware and app providers, yet it works well for mobile customers.

Even when iPad or Android problems arise, and of course they do, the system takes care of it and lets the user keep going. If a rare restart is required, those usually happen with no user intervention and the session resumes. This is only a minor inconvenience for the user, not a dead end.

There are no cryptic error messages, hang-ups, nor online research required. That's a big obstacle for Windows, as today's mobile customer is very intolerant compared to the PC user of old. Things must work or they look elsewhere for what they need. As millions are now doing.

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