Opinion: Why Windows 8 Has Flopped

Windows 8 Modern UIThe numbers are in and the numbers are disappointing. Windows 8 may be shipping in the millions (100 million to date) but against the half billion of Windows 7 licenses and the long tail of Windows XP, the Count Dracula operating system that refuses to die, it has a long way to go.

With sales now dropping off in established markets, it looks unlikely that, even with the burgeonging markets in the developing world, Windows 8 will be the unparalleled success that CEO Ballmer ‘bet the company on’ (actually he didn’t but that’s another story).

So what’s gone wrong for Windows 8?

Metro, Modern, Live Tiles
Windows 8 was conceived as Tablet Central; the go-to user interface for Touch. But there simply aren’t the numbers of Windows tablets being sold (thanks iPad and Android), which makes the all-or-nothing deployment of the Tiled Win8 interface on /everything/, without recourse to a Start Menu or boot-to-desktop option, bold or plain hubris.

Modern UI (as we’ve been asked to call it since Metro AG threatened to sue) is a flat, Fischer-Price stripping-down of Windows in favour of smart-phone app functionality. It’s all gesture and swipe. Quite difficult to do with a mouse.

Ugly and useless on a netbook or desktop, Modern UI is a passable tablet interface, but requires existing Windows users to forget huge amounts of learned Windows behaviour, for no other reason than it’s a tablet/phone way to poke and wipe without infringing on other companies’ patents.

Admittedly no version of Windows (or Android or iOS) is intrinsically intuitive, but, pre-8 Windows at least has a huge body of learning, literature and experience behind it. Familiarity may breed contempt but at least you know how to open and print a document.

And it’s not even pretty.

Innovation Starvation
Leaning heavily on existing smart-phone and tablet ideas, Windows 8 has brought nothing innovative to the desktop. Apart from a confusing dual-interface, that is.

Windows 8 may be faster than Windows 7 in processor clock cycles (measured in nan-seconds, but for practical purposes, the user inability to operate the OS slows them down by orders of magnitude.

Development Hell
Forced to throw away years of mandatory .NET, WCF, WPF and other proprietary acronyms, developers do not like Windows 8 with the steep learning curve for development tools. It’s proving a struggle to get new apps and port old ones to the Microsoft store.

Put it this way, if Windows 8 is so great, why has Valve Media moved its’ Steam games empire to Linux?

Legacy Windows Users Stay Put
As if the Windows Vista disaster didn’t say it clearly enough: change does not automatically bring users with it. Particularly if millions of them have Windows 3.1, XP and 7 applications running their businesses. They’re not about to spend big to re-train millions of employees, or to port mature legacy applications across to Windows 8.

Windows 8 downgrades to 7 on new machines are running into the millions. A Windows 8 license averages $30, many considerably more in the retail channel.

These customers won’t move unless they’re forced; as long as they keep paying their license fees, they don’t car what version they’re on so long as it keeps running.

Eyes on the Competition
Arriving two years late with Windows 8, cheap tablets, smartphones, and desktops are wiping the floor with Windows 8 devices. Expensive and complex? In low-margin devices, the Windows 8 tax removes it from some of them completely.

Blue is the Colour
So now we await Windows ‘Blue’, the service pack or point-release or interim version, whatever you want to call it (it won’t be the code-name ‘Blue’ for sure). Will it fix any of these issues? Whether it does or not (Boot-to-Desktop option,anyone?) Microsoft has form for making things difficult for users and developers, don’t expect them to help the Redmond resident now that it wants to shift more units. AJS

6 thoughts on “Opinion: Why Windows 8 Has Flopped

  1. OfficialGinger91 says:

    I think part of the reason why Windows 8 isn’t doing so well is that it is primarily designed with touch screen in mind- something that very few household PC’s actually have at the moment. Those big squares are only really handy if you’re selecting options with your fingers, and on a touch screen phone like my friends Lumia, the OS looks great.

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