Microsoft demonstrates a masterclass in how backtrack on two years of PR while appearing as though it was planned all along.
If Microsoft had just come out with their hands up and said, “We got it wrong,” it may have saved this week’s bumbling on stage performance by the company’s head of Windows and Xbox software, Terry Meyson, and the numerous Freudian slips which betrayed his true thoughts on the subject.
Windows 8 has been a disaster for Microsoft. In both the consumer and enterprise markets the latest version of Windows has seen such a slow uptake that OEM manufacturers had to bring back Windows 7 to encourage customers to continue buying Windows systems. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Microsoft, with mobile devices encroaching on desktop market share and Mac and Chrome OS sales continuing to grow, Microsoft needed to reassure their customer base that Windows was the future.
The problem with Windows 8 isn’t poor performance, lack of compatible software, or a high price tag, it’s simply bad user experience. With Windows 8 Microsoft had everything in place, they should have walked it, but the bullet point they missed was one of Windows 7 core features — familiarity. With the iPad threatening to devour Windows’ huge lead Microsoft panicked and ended up designing a car with the steering wheel on the roof.
Windows 8’s tablet focused Start Screen and traditional desktop interfaces are such distinct entities that, for many, switching between them amounts to doing mental yoga. Some apps open in one UI and not the other, switching between apps often results in jarring jumps between screens, and UI elements that make sense on a touchscreen only serve to confuse the mouse user.
The sole reason I haven’t upgraded any of my 700 school desktops to Windows 8 yet is simply so we don’t have to retrain 1500 users to navigate the new UI. In our user experience tests there has been a consistently negative response to Windows 8.
In a Windows 8 update due this August, Microsoft is returning the Start Menu to its rightful place on the desktop and bringing with it windowed Windows 8 Metro-style apps. I know — windowed apps in an operating system called “Windows”.
The new Start Menu works in the same was as the one found in Windows 7 with the added benefit that users can add live tiles to the right of the menu. This allows users to surface live information — such as recent emails or calendar events — without opening the full application. How useful this will be in a school remains to be seen, particular if you’re not completely embedded in Microsoft’s ecosystem, but it’s nice to have the option.
Have you pushed out Windows 8 in your school yet?