Rebuttal: Windows 8 “May Or May Not” Be The Disaster This Video Makes It Out To Be

by John Kirk   |   October 17th, 2012

Steve Kovach at Business Insider has a few words of wisdom regarding Windows 8:

Microsoft’s new operating system for PCs and tablets, Windows 8, will have a drastic new look.
The Start menu you’re used to is gone, replaced by a touch-friendly menu of tiles that houses all your apps and settings.

It’s going to be incredibly jarring for people to use at first.

Tech pundit Chris Pirillo demonstrates that in a man-on-the-street video where he asks people to try Windows 8 for the first time. The results don’t look good for Microsoft. Almost every person in the video is extremely confused by the new Windows 8 interface.

Does that mean Windows 8 is a flop?

Nope.

So far, I’m with Steve. Discoverability is not the same as usability. Microsoft’s radical new Windows 8 interface changes – particularly on the desktop – may be new but new isn’t necessarily bad. Features may be hard to discover at first – but learn a feature one time and you’ve probably learned it forever.

I think we can all agree that the lack of discoverability on Windows 8 is going to cause some problems at first. But it’s the overall usability that matters most and I’m not going to judge that until I’ve seen how regular people – you know, people who are not first adopters like you and me – react.

It’s at this point, however, that Steve and I part ways.

This is how you push innovation forward. It’s going to be jarring and scary for novices. It’s going to take time for people to learn the new menus. But they’ll catch on.

Hmm. Not so very sure about that. Sure, innovation CAN be jarring a scary. And jarring and scary is often the price we pay in order to move technology forward. But that doesn’t mean that we should pay that price if we don’t have to. So the question becomes, did Microsoft have to extract a price – or did they sacrifice discoverability on the desktop in order to forward their phone and tablet agendas?

Imagine giving someone who has never seen and iPhone or Android device before and asking them to use it. That person would be just as confused as the people are in the video below.

Say what now?

Kids and total novices can use smartphones and tablets. Ninty-nine year old senor citizens use them. Baby’s use them. Heck, even cats and apes use them.

As a friend on Twitter put it, “If every interface were designed by man-on-the-street committee we’d all still have Windows 3.1.”

Yeah, about that. Maybe that’s not so very accurate. Or even a little bit accurate . Perhaps the way Steve’s friend on Twitter should have put it was: “If every interface were designed with the “man-on-the-street” in mind, we’d all be using iOS or Android.”

Take a look at Pirillo’s video at the bottom of the the original article, here.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Defendor

    This isn’t about driving innovation forward. This is about Microsoft trying to gain relevance in the fast growing tablet computing market, and flexing it’s desktop Monopoly to do it.

    A tablet interface on a desktop computer isn’t innovation. It’s retrograde, but it is also a numbers game, with users as pawns.

    No matter how confusing it is, no matter how reviled it is, and no matter how ill suited to the purpose Metro is, Windows 8 will ship on hundreds of millions of desktops/laptops in the next year. It’s good to be a monopolist.

    After that Microsoft will claim it’s touch capable market share eclipses iOS/Android tablets.

    Victory?

    It will be nearly impossible to gauge, how many people simply bypass all the metro elements and only use the desktop portion of the OS. This is what I would do if I wasn’t allowed to choose Win7 on my next computer.

    So this almost seems like annoying a lot of customers to score a propaganda victory.

    As one of those customers is really pisses me off to be a pawn for propaganda.

    • FalKirk

      “Microsoft will claim it’s touch capable market share eclipses iOS/Android tablets. Victory?” – Defendor

      Steve Balmer has boasted that there will be 400 million devices running Windows 8 this time next year. But if a substantial portion of those users are not on Windows 8 phones, Windows RT or Windows 8 tablets then it will be a hollow victory indeeds. The profits will be in the black, but Window’s future prospects will be black too.

    • Luke

      Let’s not forget it has been said that if the mobile side of Windows 8 doesn’t take off, development will dry up for the system as a whole. Windows 8 will have only a fraction of programs compared to the APP Store, which I see as a big turn off to any kind of user. The success of Windows, unlike any version before it, will be directly related to amount of mobile development it receives. I don’t see how MS can have it both ways — force their system on the masses, yet still believe people are still going to tolerate the inevitable lack of third party support, especially when there are other accessible (and much better) options now.

  • Rich

    A smart producer would design their new OS to meet the users’ needs. Microsoft designed Windows 8 primarily to meet their own needs. Do the two needs coincide? We’re about to find out.

  • steve_wildstrom

    The remarkable thing about the iPhone is that the UI immediately felt comfortable. This was not quite true of the very first version of Android, but has been at least since version 2.3. Windows Phone was different, but equally intuitive.

    Windows 8 is different. I’m reserving judgment on the RT version until I get some hands on time with it. But full Windows 8 still feels like a not very good mashup two different operating systems.

    I;ve said this many times before and I’ll say it at least once more: Apple made the right choice by keeping its desktop and tablet/phone UI distinct.

  • Ocelotty1

    I’ve been using it for 2 months now. The only thing it misses is a really easy shutdown option – enjoy: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2012/06/25/how-to-add-a-shut-down-button-to-windows-8/

    • FalKirk

      I won’t hold a difficult to find shut down option against Windows 8. Microsoft is trying to push sleep over shut down.

      Still, you and I are not the test market for Windows 8, Ocelotty1. We’ll have to see how the public at large feels about it before we can come to any firm conclusions.

  • looms ominously

    Windows 8 will more likely be a disaster for Microsoft’s hardware partners more than anything. Especially since companies like HP seem to be betting the farm on it, the situation isn’t looking good.