Windows 8: the uphill battle for an OS ahead of its time
Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is an operating system that is trying to break new ground. Microsoft’s move to rethink their world famous platform is the grandest risk and endeavor that the company has ever taken. For those of us on Facebook, think of when an update is released and brings minor changes, but a major user backlash. The idea that people don’t enjoy change is just one of the battles the Redmond company faces as it climbs the hill to a new beginning.
The Learning Curve
Although the geek community generally embraces change and updates as a way to push forward, consumers see change as a hurdle to jump and little more. When I walk into an electronics store such as Best Buy, I continue to hear the same comments from those looking to purchase a new computer that I heard on the first launch day for Windows 8 – “I need a new computer, but I’m worried about Windows 8.”, “How difficult is this new thing to learn?”, and “Can I get it with Windows 7 instead?”.
Consumers are more concerned about learning to use what appears to be a new operating system than enjoying the new benefits that come with technological leaps. This puts the question on our minds- what is Microsoft doing to curb consumer worry?
With the introduction of Windows 8.1 the company has reinstituted the start button; it doesn’t function as it previously did, bringing up a small menu of your applications, but instead sends you to the Windows 8 start screen. While a small change for some, it appears to be well received by the majority – people who were previously lost on the desktop now have an obvious way to go back to their application screen. Less guess work for the consumer equals a happy consumer.
When a user first turns on their new Windows 8 laptop or desktop, a quick “introductory video” plays as the machine sets itself up, but the video itself isn’t exactly helpful and most users will ignore it while focusing on something else. Along with Microsoft’s devotion to change, the company needs to put a strong emphasis on helping new consumers beat the learning curve.
Microsoft had run a campaign when Windows 8 first launched in which those who bought a new machine would receive a free training lesson at participating retailers including Staples; this tactic was successful, but is no longer available. Here is an idea of what Microsoft really needs to do – a mandatory interactive tutorial on first boot. Sure, we hardcore geeks will hate it, but the majority of the population will benefit strongly from a tutorial that forces them to access corners and swipe edges while exploring the new operating system.
The Public Mindset
A sharp learning curve isn’t the only hill that Microsoft has to fight with its latest operating system; the mindset of how the company sees the computing future has to be worked into the public.
For most consumers there are three main devices: tablets, notebooks, and smartphones. Each device is in a different price category - $800 for a notebook and $400 for a tablet isn’t an uncommon thought. When Microsoft Windows 8 first hit shelves, the company’s dream of a hybrid device wasn’t cheap and people had to first be convinced that $1300 was really what they wanted to spend and what they actually needed – the idea of a “two in one device” had not fully been set into the mindset of purchasers. As we move forward, touchscreen laptops are coming down in price to as low as $399. Hybrids are also moving down and can be purchased for under $999 (my top recommendation – the Lenovo IdeaPad YOGA).
Microsoft’s future mindset of a hybrid world might be getting closer to a reasonable price point and consumers might be starting to understand the benefits of paying a bit more for one device that acts as two, but one last hurdle that stands in the company’s way is hardware.
The Hardware Limitations
The dream of creating an all in one computing device for endurance typing sessions, hardcore productivity, and kick back relaxation isn’t as easy as it may seem. Let’s take a look at the two hardware categories side by side and what we desire out of each. From a tablet, we expect a thin, small, and light device with extremely long battery life. From a laptop, we expect around the same with a little more bulk and a little less battery life which we sacrifice for increased power and performance. The ideal hybrid device for Microsoft’s future, a powerful tablet that is light and has outstanding battery life, just does not exist at this time.
Windows 8 hybrid devices can generally be broken up into two categories: Those that run lower power Intel Atom chips and obtain around ten hours of battery life, and those that run more powerful Intel Core chips and obtain around five hours of battery life. From a technology standpoint we are not in a position where the ultimate high power tablet with tons of a battery life and a thin frame exists. For those of you screaming about Windows RT devices – the OS is dead and we will cover that in another editorial from yours truly.
Just because Windows 8 hybrid devices aren’t currently obtaining the dream, doesn’t mean they never will. Intel’s latest microchip architecture, Haswell, promises to bring high performance and longer battery life to devices. Do I personally think that Haswell will be the answer for the ultimate Windows 8 hybrid? No, I do not, but it brings us closer to where we want to be. Maybe one or two more steps down the Intel microarchitecture roadmap will bring us to that future, but we aren’t there yet.
What does this mean for the consumer? Is Windows 8 a failure of an operating system? Are hybrid devices to be avoided until the technology can be improved?
The ultimate answer to all these questions is that Windows 8 isn’t a failure of an operating system – it is simply an unfinished dream and an unfinished fight. Microsoft put the bet of Windows 8 and their dream of an ultimate device into a landscape where the proper hardware was not yet available.
For those searching for the ultimate Windows 8 devices there are currently two options: Either grab both a touchscreen tablet and an Ultrabook to enjoy the best of both worlds or grab a hybrid that will sacrifice either processing power or battery life. For myself personally, I picked the former with my ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook and ThinkPad Tablet 2.
As we move forward into the future, we expect more people to adopt and become familiar with Microsoft’s latest operating system and for Intel to continue their development on more powerful, yet lower energy consuming, microprocessors. The battle for Microsoft and their Windows 8 operating system is an uphill one, but we do see success on the horizon for a company that dared to be bold.
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Microsoft went to fast with the chances and didn't leave time for people to adapt.
Yeah, I know that's on the original device manufacturers, to issue drivers.
But that's not my, or other consumers' problem. It's Microsoft's, at the end of the day.
I use a non-touch screen with 8.1 and I have learned to actually like it.
I had to go away from WP out of necessity, but I'm also looking to move to the Apple ecosystem for my primary means of computing. As I get older, I too, have become lazier with regards to things such as this. I used to love tinkering with all my settings and optimizing everything to no end....but now I have more important things to spend my time on. I think I'll have a Win8 hybrid device on hand as a tablet, but that's just the inner tech junkie in me not letting go.
I think Win8 as a whole is a great OS, but Microsoft left a bad taste in my mouth when they butchered some things in the process (Music, videos, podcasts, etc.....mostly things that would be ecosystem functions shared between Win8 and WP8). They should not have realeased Win8 when they did (even though that was the normal release cycle) and they should not have released it without massive pre-release advertising/training sessions.
With Win8, it takes me more effort to accomplish some of my most frequent tasks than it did with Win7. There was regression in some areas because the OS just wasn't ready. Everyone who grabbed the previews knew this, so it was no surprise when it happened.
For instance, in order to sync playlists to my WP8, I had to use the Windows Phone Tool from Microsoft. What does the Windows Phone Tool do? It scans for a Windows Media Player library, and an iTunes library. Strange, seeing as how the default media player on Win8 is Xbox Live Music/Video. I haven't used WMP since WinXP, and even then it was only for proprietary formats. Yes, I can, with my Xbox Live Music pass, have access to my music an playlist on my phone....but for streaming only, which requires data and/or WiFi, which are not always guaranteed. This should have never been allowed to happen. If you're going to ship a product that has features that "Mostly" work, then remove that feature and include it in an update.
That being said, I still think it's a great OS overall, and really want it to succeed. I have been able to change people's opinion of the OS just by spending 10-15 minutes with them to show them how to do the stuff they normally do, then showing them how they can make it easier than it was (in comes that lazy part again).
I think It's a multi-faceted problem that can't be solved just with just tutorials. MS should be as innovative in their methods of informing and helping people with their products as they are with making and designing their software and services. and W8 really IS innovative
I installed Windows 8.1 on a PC that was originally running Windows 7 (dual boot) and one of the first things I noticed was that is was faster & more fluid.
On my desktop with regular ol' W8, I compared opening OneNote in its different versions. The desktop version was up and running and ready to use within a second of clicking the taskbar icon. I then closed it and opened the modern version. The purple OneNote start screen with the revolving circles was up in no time, but I had to sit there and wait about 15 or 20 seconds (an eternity!) for that screen to disappear so I could finally use the app.
Face it, the modern apps open sooo sllloooowwwwlllyyyyy.
o) Boot to and return to Start Screen when closing apps o) Default opening media, etc to Modern Apps o) Simple tutorial for swiping to access charms, settings, etc Mouse
o) Boot to and return to Desktop when closing apps o) Default opening media, etc to Desktop Apps o) Start button with ability to Restart/Shutdown (and I think most would prefer this is a real Menu!)
EDIT: ONCE AGAIN, WORST "WYSIWYG" EVER EVER EVER F#*@$&*@&*ING ANNOYING!!!
8.1 has made a big difference in my opinion and after a little practice it's not much more than Windows 7 with a new wrapper or skin.
Windows 8 is an OS that only works at its full potential, outside the tablet-world, if you have a touch screen monitor. For a normal PC user who doesn't have a touch screen monitor, W8 is a headache and W7 is still a much better option.
I'm however waiting to see how the monitor market develops. The first touch screen monitors ready for W8 are only now being released. Once they become affordable and PC people can get them along with the computer, I think W8 will become a much more pleaser than at the moment. Microsoft may just have taken a step bigger than their legs.
(I used "American" and "Brazilian" on purpose to illustrate the point that MS released the OS in the derivatives of the original languages - British English and Portuguese - but not in their original European versions) Again, I'm fairly accustomed to Windows 8 on my Surface. Will I want it on my PC without a touchscreen monitor? Hell no. 8.1 may improve that opinion but I still will not go from W7 to W8.1 until I get a touch screen monitor. But from the regular consumer point of view...I know many people who went back to W7 after trying W8. The interface was just too unfriendly and new for them. Heck, I had to spend an hour explaining how Windows 8 worked on her new laptop. She simply finds it still too confusing. I still get calls from her asking for help 'cause she did something and has no idea how to correct that etc.
W8.1 only makes it better.
Windows RT has a great potential in the Enterprise and education realm. My Company already dropped our 75 iPads for Surface RT's and it has made everyone’s lives a lot easier and not to mention saved us money from having to develop a custom front end app to our ERP program for the iPads. By using SharePoint Apps and RDWeb on the Surface RT, we have gained full functionality of our ERP program right out of the box. Also rumor is on the finished version 8.1 we will get some kind of AD and GPO push to the Surface RT which this happens. I see a lot more iPads ending up on eBay.
Let's stop the stupid "RT is dead" bullshit. When Microsoft completes the deprecation of legacy apps RT and x86 machines will be indistinguishable.
That said, many people are admittedly frustrated when they buy one and realize they cannot install legacy programs. Frankly I don't understand their surprise (they cannot install these programs on iPads or Android tablets either), but it means that Microsoft needed to do a better job of highlighting the differences (they could've started with a better name: should've called it Windows Tablet 8, and then renamed Windows 8 > Windows Desktop 8 to complement Windows Phone 8). Honestly, I think that Windows RT is so much better of a tablet OS than iOS or Android that people were upset it wasn't the whole shebang whereas with the iPad everyone just accepted that it was just a tablet and didn't expect it to be a Mac. Plus, most of the mainstream media is biased against Microsoft.
Meanwhile, more open-minded individuals have been designing context-based UI/UX's and attempting convergence for years because it's the next logical progression in computing.
Windows 8, while nowhere near perfect is a great step toward ushering in that future.
Partners try to build devices that do more and are more attractive to people, but It's not the primary objective of Windows 8. In fact for Microsoft would be better if people buy many Windows 8 devices and not just one. This extreme fixation in the convertibles and the Surface Pro is an attempt of the OEMs and the hardware division of Microsoft to enter in the tablet wave with a product that is late and doesn't have many apps.
The negative effect of this strategy is that the OS is not evaluated by its features, nobody talks of how superior Windows 8 is in a tablet compared to iOS or Android. People, including you, only discuss how well the device can do many roles in the current hardware.
That's one of the reason why I think Microsoft should launch a “pure” 7'' Windows 8 tablet without desktop, so people can evaluate the small tablet in its own merit, not in how small the desktop looks. It wouldn’t take a big market share, as the first Android tablets also didn't, but it could show the potential of the OS with more clarity and open new markets for the company.
There also had better be a way to get rid of video tutorials upon a fresh install of Windows 8.1.
I think the significant difference between what MS are offering over Apple is a unified experience across devices. MS should be applauded for this. So your phone, tablet and PC work the same way. If Apple did this with their iPad, iPhone and Mac OS, imagine how they would be congratulated for being so innovative! Yet go from an iPad to a Mac and the experience is different. I'm not saying it's bad, but isn't a consistent user interface better, especially if that interface works?
I don't yet have a Windows 8 PC, however based on my experience with Windows 8 on my Surface RT, I'm actually looking forward to it. I got over the learning curve very quickly.
Actually this is nothing special, I heard of this numerous times since the release of Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7, some consumers always complain this, complain that, they always find excuses. Fine, except that MS doesn't hold guns to their brains, forcing them to upgrade to new OS.
Absolutely great article and i love the title of the article .Thats correct Windows 8 OS is a head of time.
Ultimately if people like what they see, they will buy it. The sad reality is, Windows 8 is an unfinished product.
My point is that a product that's "ahead of it's time" doesn't necessarily end up with the ton of criticism Windows8 has, and MSFT fans should stop giving themselves this excuse that it's the public who are stupid and don't want to change to their shiny new OS just because its intimitading.
You probably think of yourself as an alpha-hacker in your tiny little brain calling me a noob, but know this:
Noobs rule the world. Expert power-users are a miserably small minority, and the fact that only a tiny percentage of the user base is able to appreciate a device doesn't sit well with investors:
If noobs don't like it, sales will suffer, and changes will be made to make it noob-friendly.
"Ahead of its time" done right should have everyone drooling over it - not running away intimidated by it for you self-proclaimed non-noobs to say how stupid everyone is for not appreciating this.
If it weren't for that device, we'd still by pounding away on tiny Blackberry keypads with QVGA screens, or poking at resistive screens with a stylus.
I feel each successive release of Windows has improved on the previous version. Certainly, some things change which require my work habits to change, sometimes not to my preference, but I have to accept that as part of the relationship. The Modern UI and environment is nascent but will likely prove quite useful. The Desktop in Windows 8 is a definite improvement over Windows 7. In fact, in my opinion OS X is looking a little silly compared to it now.