Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Windows 8 is Killing the PC Industry

In my earlier post I offered an overview of how holiday sales are going this season. I now turn to making the case that Windows 8 is the primary culprit in poor Windows 8 laptop sales.

In my previous post I was quite hard on Intel-based Windows hardware, but that being said, remaining Windows 7 notebooks managed to clear the channel with only minor discounting. As is common before a major release, sales of Windows-based devices stalled, but all signs indicate they are still stalled, possibly worse than last quarter. I think it is time to discuss the real problem, Windows 8.

I think it is time we faced the fact that Windows 8 is bad... very bad.

Windows 8 is different, just to be different.

When you use Windows 8 with a mouse, you are continually waiting for things like the Start icon to pop up. Yes, there are keyboard shortcuts, but most people barely manage ^C and ^V. (In fact it is entirely possible that most people do not use even those shortcuts.) The simple truth is that Windows 8 is less efficient even for sophisticated users.

Microsoft should never have blended two entirely different user interfaces, especially switching between those paradigms without warning. I have a laptop that runs Windows 8 (because Windows 8 boots so much faster that I can always power off to preserve battery). I was sorting through pictures from the desktop's explorer. Every time I wanted to look at a picture in detail, it threw me into "Metro" mode's Photo app (which is a poor app). To get back I had to go through the Start screen, then to the desktop. I had to be in desktop mode as I use Google Drive for my photos. It was maddening. Doing this under Windows 7 was much easier. Doing this on a Mac is even easier than that. It is not a coincidence that Mac laptop sales are beating the general decline in non-tablet computing.

"Live Tiles" are a very, very, very bad idea. The problem is that they look the same as launch icons. It makes it extremely hard to figure out what tile launches the program you want to run. Android does this right, its live widgets look nothing like the launch icons, it is easy to scan for what you are looking for, which is the reason icons exist to begin with (humans pattern match images faster than text).

Microsoft may have felt a need for this bizarre conglomerate called Windows 8, but customers do not need or want this. Microsoft should be ashamed for treating customers so badly.

How did Microsoft let this happen? How could people inside the company not known how bad things were? Developers and other beta testers pointed to these problems from the start. How can Microsoft be so blind? Without massive changes, quickly made, Microsoft may just kill the consumer/SOHO portion of the PC industry stone dead.

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