The Mailbag: What you said about '90 percent of users hating Windows 8'

48 hours ago I published a piece about the mistakes I felt Microsoft had made with Windows 8 design. You replied in your droves. Here's a summary of what you shared...
Written by Matt Baxter-Reynolds, Contributor

Regular ZDNet readers will know that myself and my ZDNet colleagues all like to get feedback on the pieces we do. The comments are one way to do that, but you can also click the "contact" link in the author's bio at the bottom of each piece.

I usually get three or four emails per article. Some emails are a little -- uh -- unpublishable. However, my "Will 90 percent of users always hate Windows 8" piece got some very unusual feedback. Firstly, there was an awful lot of it -- way, way more than usual. Secondly, with only one or two exceptions all of you agreed with the general premise: mainstream users should not have to learn Windows 8, and Microsoft had made a mistake basing adoption of the OS on that premise. The article also got a lot of comments -- 592 at the time of writing this one. 

To that end, I present quotes from a good chunk of the email feedback that I've received over the past 48 hours. I've kept them anonymous (as it's implied communications with an author through the site is confidential), and I haven't cleaned up any of the text. You can tell much about how people feel from odd capitalisations and other typos -- it shows intensity of feeling.

First up, here's a relatively simple one:

98% will HATE Windows 8. What was MS thinking when they dreamed up this stupid interface?

This reader first talks about how giving it to parents can be a good usability measure. I wish I'd paid more attention to this a few months ago.

Right on. I have always thought that any new OS designer should have his/her parents give it the first test. If mom can't find a place to start (START BUTTON?), it's useless.

Next, someone who feels that they're having to fit around engineering decisions from Microsoft, rather than Microsoft's software adapting to what they need.

If I install Windows 8, I HAVE to learn to use it before I can get anything done. With Microsoft I always feel I am being forced to bend my needs to their notions of what I need. Of course, Apple does the same. I finally got an iPad last year and I love it. I have to do it Apple's way, but they understand me! I always feel like Microsoft expects me to understand them.

You can feel the frustration from this reader.



The last part of this comment is very interesting -- i.e. users may be choosing to buy used machines running an older Windows OS rather than go through the heartache of upgrading them.

MICROSOFT is losing massive sales at this point due to the massive number of consumers wanting a new pc coming from XP but are unable to cope with windows 8. A number of them are buying refurbished XP or VISTA machines capable of running w7 with minor upgrades. Dealers here are selling machines including an OEM refurbished w7 disk. I know that w 8 workes fine on the social medias (in some cases easier), but many of my customers have tried w 8 and, quite literally, hate it. they will settle for a used pc rather than buy a new w 8 machine.

A good number of people cited this point about how Microsoft had already made this mistake with Office. With regards to his last point, would he/she really go to Linux and OpenOffice rather than learn new versions of Microsoft tools?

I prefer Word 2003 because Word 2007 and 2010 require me to relearn what I already know and what already works. I am all for making a produce BETTER, and I'm against making the same product DIFFERENT. Something is wrong with Microsoft. If I have to learn something new, I'll go to Linux and Open Office.

This one is quite sad -- but it illustrates an important point. Computers, both PC and post-PC are part of our lives and they have the power to upset those in our lives that we care about.

I feel somewhat savvy with computers. I have Win 7 and my wife recently got a Win 8 laptop. She is having a very difficult learning curve and asks a lot of questions and mumbles a lot. Unfortunately I'm not much help anymore. She hate's it if I poke around in her computer looking for answers so she spends a lot of time frustrated with both me and her new computer.

A couple of people made this point. Car manufacturers could not pull off what Microsoft did. Well, actually, they wouldn't even try.

The benefit of newer, more robust systems should be felt under the hood and not in the drivers seat. With cars, people don't redesign a driver seat, accelerator and brakes. They might play with the dash board instruments but most changes are along the same lines of what was there before. In other words it's relatively easy to understand dash board changes quickly.

I particularly liked this reader's point about Google benefiting from Microsoft making their tools harder.

Hi, I'm an information-management consultant who has to write a lot of reports and such, and I find Office 2010 much less productive than 2003. Finding stuff in the ribbons is a pain, and some of it disppears in some contexts. In the client office where I'm working everyone just uses Google to figure out how to do stuff in MS Office.

A few people commented on having this sort of post-purchase regret:

I made a big mistake of buying a special offer of Win8 when it came out. I put it on my laptop. I am glad I didn't put it on my desktop computer. I am thinking about getting if off of my laptop and going back to Win7. They didn't tell me some things before I installed it. It screwed up my Microsoft Office program so it won't even work.

This reader talks about "Corporate America", but actually it could be "Corporate Anywhere":

1. Corporate America didn't ask for a new OS, they just want a stable platform that is secure.

2. Corporate america doesn't want to re-train its users on how to user their systems.

3. Corporate america doesn't want to invest monthss of GPO policy development into an OS every 3 years nor do they want to test every application and system every 3 years.

Here's a longer message from a reader that talks to the frustration of being overloaded with information, and also talks to how they just don't have time to bend to Microsoft's will:

I do not like the Windows 8 Start Screen or tiles, they are counter productive. I need to view multiple application screens on multiple monitors and switch and share information between screens and applications easily. And, I need to be able to do that from the first day I use the system.

I don't mind learning new things or new products as long as they provide new capabilities and can be learned quickly and easily. Windows 8 is not quick or easy to learn, nor is it quick and easy to configure it so that it is more usable.

I personally am getting tired of markets and companies trying to herd technology as opposed to markets driving technology. Microsoft for many years has made every effort to control the market with no regard for their customers. I guess they think they can convince everyone they are wrong and should do things the Microsoft way. Well, I don't want to be like cattle and be herded into something I don't want.

More frustration, this time from someone who supports others. The second half of this quote talks about adding a "Old Windows/New Windows" switch -- Start8 and ModernMix can help with that.

I do NOT use Win 8 yet but I've helped many move to 8 and it is Hell to pay, for them. I've started just saying to people that there is a hugely-steep learning curve, non-intuitive and fraught with peril at every turn. NOTHING can just be "DONE" the way you are used to doing it in XP, VISTA, or 7. You will learn and change yourself or you will just be miserable. NOW, my thought is that if MS in all their glory would have started with a tad of empathy for the 90% then they would have installed ONE switch (like they did back when they started grouping icons into what they called categories for the control panel) that lets you "be normal", like you said about that $5 utility that puts back the START button.

Still more frustration, well put:

Us 90%'rs do not want to relearn a new operating system with each release. Once we have become proficient and passing the learning curve to achieve our objectives once, we do NOT want to relive the experience and step backwards. Nothing is more frustrating to see a screen like you described with NO directions. Some of us do NOT want to play around to see what works, we want to KNOW what works.

I liked this idea from this reader. It also would have given Microsoft plenty of telemetry as to what worked and didn't work.

Microsoft should have asked the question right from the beginning of the install ... "Will this be installed on a (select from three selections (for simplicity)), Desktop, Laptop or Tablet (of course, a tablet would already have RT or Pro, but you get the gist!). Then conform to what the user would like to see as a proper install of Win8, and then allow the user to dabble in a Tile World if he wants. And learn. Slowly. Not the draconian approach they did go.

Finally, a very rare piece of positive feedback:

I am a Windows 8 user,and have no problems with it,. to me its just a matter of common sense.Though I guess it does need a bit of computer savvy.

And there we have it. Plenty of feedback from readers there generally agreeing on this idea -- Microsoft needs to back out of the mistakes its made with the design of Windows 8.

Seems like a good time to be a spin doctor.

Grumpy Cat - Sleeping
It's been a busy week for Grumpy Cat. First SXSW and now front-page coverage on ZDNet. Time to sleep.

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

Image credit: Thanks very much to the owners of Grumpy Cat for their kind permission to use their kitten's likeness in this article

Editorial standards