Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Still Needs To Make a Case for Windows 8

Brien suggests some areas of action Microsoft should take to make Windows 8 a success.

Although Windows 8 reportedly had a big jump in market share in December, I keep reading blog posts and technology articles where armchair IT analysts have declared Microsoft's latest OS to be a flop. Personally, I think that the jury is still out on whether Windows 8 will be a success or a failure, but I do think that there are some things that Microsoft must do if Windows 8 is to be a success.

The best thing that Microsoft could do at this point is to actually make a case for Windows 8. Like all of the previous Windows operating systems, Windows 8 is jam packed with new features. Even so, I have not heard anyone say, "This is why you need Windows 8." Most of the demos that I attended around the release demonstrated the new features, but never actually provided anyone with a compelling reason to upgrade.

If I were running an IT department and was wondering whether or not to upgrade to Windows 8, I would want someone to say, "Here is the new OS. These are the problems that is solves, and here is why you can't live without it." The absence of such a message makes Windows 8 feel like "just another upgrade."

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that I think that Windows 8 is a bad operating system or that it isn't worth having. I am only saying that Microsoft hasn't done a good job of building excitement (or a compelling business case) for their new operating system.

Another thing that I think that Microsoft absolutely must do is to address the concerns that have been raised by customers and the media about the new interface.  While I don't claim to have a total solution for Microsoft, I do have two ideas.

The first idea is the most obvious. Put back the Start button. I completely understand that Microsoft was attempting to radically redefine the Windows interface, and that getting rid of the Start button was a key part of that vision. I get that. But you know what? That vision failed miserably. Microsoft needs to give the people what they want.

Windows 8 was designed from the very beginning to be a transitionary operating system between the old Windows 7-style interface and the new Windows Store UI interface. Microsoft accomplished this by requiring users to constantly switch back and forth between Desktop mode and Windows Store mode. Desktop mode looks and behaves almost exactly like the Windows 7 desktop (minus the Start button). In my opinion, Microsoft needs to make Desktop mode EXACTLY like Windows 7. That way, users can work in an environment that is completely familiar to them until they gradually start using Windows  Store apps.

My other idea for Microsoft is to repeat something that it did in the past. Today Windows XP is praised by many as being the best desktop operating system that Microsoft has ever made. However, it wasn't always this way. There was a time when Windows XP was hated -- probably even more so than Windows 8.

The problem was that Windows XP was plagued with security holes and the malware authors had figured out how to exploit pretty much all of them. In fact, I remember spending one summer cleaning malware off of friends' and families' PCs on what felt like a daily basis.

So what happened? The people at Microsoft realized that they had a huge problem on their hands. The powers that be solved this problem by doing something truly radical that needs to be done again today. Microsoft halted the development of Vista, which was well underway. All of the security enhancements that had been developed for Vista (along with some new ones) were added to Windows XP in the form of Service Pack 2.

In my opinion, if Microsoft wants to save Windows 8 from being a flop then it needs to think long and hard about Service Pack 1. For the most part Windows 8 is a good operating system. It is stable and reliable, but the user interface has proven to be a major stumbling block. Service Pack 1 is Microsoft's chance to give us a more intuitive user interface and redeem itself from the stigma surrounding Windows 8.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a seven time Microsoft MVP with over two decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written many thousands of articles and written or contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. When He isn't busy writing, Brien Posey enjoys exotic travel, scuba diving, and racing his Cigarette boat. You can visit his personal Web site at: www.brienposey.com.

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Mon, Mar 11, 2013 Anindya Biswas

The thing with Windows 8 is, if you can bypass metro ui it is an excellent os. It boots faster and kinda reminds me of windows 2000 by the looks of its desktop thing. But I find myself using startisback to get the start menu back and disable the hot corners and it's great so far. But I dont like metro UI. for one it looks like someone made this ui using 1980's graphics. And The square blocks make no sense. Why would I want one line news with a image on a app icon. Most of the time the app icon doesnt even tell you what app it is. Metro is a waste for desktop users I think.

Sat, Mar 2, 2013 Vlad USA

I have used every version of Windows from 3.0 to 8 and MS has had some very good versions, too bad W8 is not one of them. I read a lot of folks saying how stable it is, or how people just hate change, etc. These comments may all have some validity, but too many people are just not able to say it's a usability flop. I have been in IT for over 15 years and every time the UI changes it costs us many hours of retraining, e.g. lost productivity. MS dosen't listen and just plows ahead with junk like the W8 UI. So far there has been no value added anything indicated by upgrading to W8. But folks that get fed up with the UI look at the software "Classic Shell" it's freeware and it works, we have saved a lot of retraining with W7 by making most everything look like XP, but getting the few added benefits of W7. Never adopt any MS product until at least the first service pack is out, where most obvious bugs get fixed and hopefully a few enhancements are added.

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 CMC

Having been in IT line of work for many years I have seen, as have others, people adapt slowly to change 95>98>XP for example. With windows 8 its no different, don't focus on what you don't like and don't upgrade if you don't want /need to. I find that 8 is as good as 7 in all areas and better in sum, granted the move to tiles is a bit jarring but I'm able to support multiple SMBs from my laptop running windows 8 with no issues. I find that one simple change can make the tiles interface replace your start menu nicely - simply put the desktop tile at the top and remove unneeded applications. This is what you would have done with the start menu and you now have a new desktop short cut win+enter.

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 Rae Botsford

It's a very odd thing, but my mother picked up Windows 8 faster than I've ever seen her pick up technology, ever. I was sure it would be a nightmare for me, with her constantly asking where all the stuff was and why the screen was so many colors and what the boxes are for and why the start button is missing. Nope. It's the strangest thing. What helped, though, is that I gave her a thin book on Windows 8 and she started reading all about it before I ever even plugged in her new computer. So while the rest of the tech world is all "wtf," she's all "what's the problem?"

Tue, Jan 29, 2013

You nailed it Brien. There is no compelling business case. OS upgrades cost a lot of time and money in enterprise environments. May be it's good that MS comes up with a new OS , new UI , and etc. every few years and probably consumers enjoy playing with new gizmos. But in corporate offices with 10s of thousands of PCs , we don't get paid to play, we need to work. We just need a thin OS to boot up fast and reliable and a few business related apps to get our work done. Touch or gesture or these stuff adds no value to our business.

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 Asok Asus

"Windows 8 was designed from the very beginning to be a transitionary operating system between the old Windows 7-style interface and the new Windows Store UI interface" Could you explain to me how the Windows Store UI is going to facilitate hundreds of millions of enterprise and government workers in getting their jobs done? You know, things like CAD/CAM design, income tax preparation, registrations at government offices, and millions of other everyday tasks that real workers do on real PCs?

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 rGio NY

If only MS would have allowed the UI to be customizable to the device. Say, install a start button style Win 7 desktop UI for non-touchscreen computers, and the tiles interface for touchscreen enabled computers. That would mitigate a lot of the issues people have with the new OS. I run Win 8 over 1440P monitors and I find it very frustrating that I can only use two “tile style” apps on the screen at the same time. (One 75% and one 25% screen sized) It’s a lot of wasted desktop real estate for a touchscreen style app. (Skype and WMedia, I’m talking about you here) Microsoft needs to realize that you use a screwdriver for a screw, and a hammer for a nail. Apple realized this and that is why you don’t see them using their iPad/iPhone touch optimized interface on their laptops/desktops. They get it and understand it from a user perspective. MS on the other hand wants to force the new UI down everyone’s throats so the familiarity between phone, tablet, and PC becomes second nature. They want the new UI to be ubiquitous and people to “want” it the next time they buy a tablet or smartphone. (Or so Microsoft hopes) It’s pretty much the same tactic they used to kill Netscape back in the day with the bundled IE but recycled to use their market dominance on the PC platform again vs. Apple and Android this time. Windows 8 has been very stable so far and Storage Spaces is an awesome feature. If you own a 720P touchscreen laptop, I’m sure there is a lot to love about Win 8 and the Tiles UI. If only MS could show some empathy to 90% of the market that does not want to throw out their current computers and go out and buy a new touch screen PC. On the PC side of things, MS has shown up too early for the touchscreen party…

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 Steve Redmond, WA

I love new technology and new operating systems of all varieties and I loaded Windows 8 when it first came out in preview form. Later I spent the 3 months just before the official release running it as my primary operating system. It was disappointing when I realized that even after 3 months of continual use the Windows 8 tablet interface actually hindered my ability to get my work done. That is ultimately the primary reason I use a computer and an operating system. After being exclusively a Microsoft customer for decades and repeatedly paying for dismal products like Vista and Windows ME, Windows 8 is the last straw. I've finally given up and purchased a Mac.

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 TBL United States

I bought a new laptop with Windows 8 for my wife, (61 yrs old) and worked very hard for a week to make the desktop look and act like the XP she was used to. If I only had a Start Button!!!!

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 Jim Orlando Florida

For me its simple: when I am on a laptop computer I don't WANT to touch the screen.

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 Niall Gibb Scotland

I absolutely agree with Sonny Taragin. My support team is running Windows 8 on its desktops and laptops but we support 5,000 desktops that do not have touch and will not have in the foreseeable future (and that is a few years). We want to stay current with our desktop OS but there is no compelling user incentive to do so. We need an option to default to a Windows 7-like desktop so as not to traumatise our users and interfere with there existing practices unduly. The tiles are an irrelevance to them at present.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 Brett Los Angeles

My son got a cheap Acer i3 laptop with touch screen over the holidays. He has become proficient at all the available gestures and I have to admit, as a 20 year Microsoft tech vet, I have been skeptical of the interface until I saw him learn it. He FLIES through screens faster than I could with a mouse. It's a pretty amazing demonstration, one that Microsoft should be marketing.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 James Hevener Richmond, Va

Which, brings up another topic. Windows Phone. I say, what the Heck! Apple, Motorola, etc - pay spifs to the sales clerks to move those products. And they do. If you ask for a Windows Phone (and I did, I have the HTC Titan), the sales people look at your like you are from another planet. I love my phone. But, I can not even convince business people to try it - and I pull the stunts, racing them to take a pic and post to facebook, and more. No one is impressed. A marketing campaign should show it all working together. Xbox. Windows Phone. Office 365. Windows 8. Server 2012. And so on. People should be excited! But, alas they are not.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 James Hevener Richmond, Va

I could not agree with you more. What is the case for Windows 8? Seriously, I doubt anyone from Microsoft ever reads any blog or posts like this. Since the Consumer Preview of W8, I have had it in the Enterprise Lab to show people. I have kept updating it as releases became avail. The missing start button, does not bother me anymore - but, I can imagine what the other employees are going to say. I'd say 90% of the hardware being sold today - has no ability to take advantages of the cool touch integrated features. And, even if we did have the double or triple cost hardware that is available - what practical application usage is there? Microsoft has a lot of irons in the fire. You'd think a company that big would have some group whose responsibility is nothing else other than to organize and direct everything in one direction with a common mission. Take Office 365. I love it. I can not get anyone to look at it. I have even given away months of trials, and all they do is install and use and never look at Outlook, Lync, Sharepoint, etc. Then, there is the Surface. Doomed from the get go. My supervisor said - not going to look at any until the Pro is released. Why in the world were both not released at the same time. No matter what, the consumer is going to be confused - just read the blogs. But, at least the Enterprise could have started a little sooner. It just baffles the mind. I loved Novell NetWare. And, for almost two decades I made a pretty good living supporting it. And, I am happy Novell is doing well in Europe with Suse, and has some success in the US. But, one has to look and ask if Microsoft trying to do the same thing to itself. Microsoft so badly wants the new interface (officially unnamed) to be a success. I call it Tiles. Novell so badly wanted to move their customer base from NetWare to Suse. We tried moving from NetWare to Suse. No one wanted to completely learn a new operating system, tools, etc. Windows 8 is not completely new, but there are some fundamental changes that unfortunately affect the user base directly more than Novell changes would have. Novell's changes would have been mostly in the Datacenter. Desktop - was just not going to happen. I could not get other IT people to try Linux on servers, let alone on their desktops. Microsoft - what are they doing? Have you seen Server 2012? At least Server 2012 has enhancements they can hang a hat on - like De-Dupe, new filesystem, etc. But, why the need to disenfranchise the buying public? So, the public is buying iPads. And they are buying Chromebooks. And, when you bring in a Windows 8 system, even after showing them it is not that different - you'd think you'd shot em. Totally frustrated. The only thing that can save W8 is time, or a lot of marketing money - a lot. And, why not spend it? I'd flood the TV for 6 mos or more. And, I'd make some kind of real direct incentive program,

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 James Hevener Richmond, Va

There must be some mystery nirvana land where Microsoft loyalists do not question anything and have the budget to change out everything. I work for a small Enterprise during the day (under 500 stations), and I provide support for several small (under 50 stations) clients evenings and weekends. Both will go to Windows 8, but not how Microsoft envisions. The Enterprise has just started initial testing in our lab. My SMB clients - just got one notebook that came with W8. I just upgraded my notebook from W7 to W8 so I am prepared.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013

It seems Windows 8 is looking for a market rather than fulfilling a customer need. That is other OS’s fill the need of the customer (Windows XP, Vista, 7, Mac OS X, Linux, etc). Maybe Windows 8 is the greatest thing since Betamax but VHS still won. In time, when every monitor has touch, when people are begging for the latest touch device, Windows 8 may fill a need. Right now for most people, it’s something that is different, that is just not worth putting in extra time/money to figure out, not when [fill in what works for you] is working for them.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 Bruce Perrin United States

Sorry, I tried not to add this other comment. I would be willing to bet real money that most, if not all, of the nay-sayers either have not used Windows 8 at all or have not spent sufficient time to understand the remarkable performance improvements and the much more logical way in which it works. I have seen complaints from lots of people in the past about the shortcomings of Windows XP, Vista and 7 and now that Microsoft addresses virtually all of them, everyone has become a Luddite. I would question the real agenda of these whiners based on what I have read of their complaints. I cannot find anyone that can show me something that does not work better in Windows 8 than in any previous version. Sorry if I hurt any feelings. I hope you will take a real in depth look at the capabilities of the operating system and the dramatic improvement in boot time, shutdown time, time to launch apps and the wonderful tools available from the store.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 Bruce Perrin United States

After converting most of our executive team to Windows 8, one of the most frequent accolades centers around the search process. Where under Windows 7, a tiny box was filled in and the system ground away for a considerable period of time before listing a nearly worthless list of documents that might contain some relevance to the inquiry, now, just type on the start screen (Metro Screen) and the system will pull up a list of all similar documents in no time at all. We maintain nearly 30 thousand documents in a common file system plus all the docs on each of our individual PCs and it just doesn't seem to matter. Near instantaneous!!! That process alone has justified the migration. All 500 other users will be upgraded in the next couple of months. I believe it will pay for itself in time savings and productivity improvements.

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 Sonny Taragin United States

To go even further, Microsoft needs to make a compelling specific business case for enterprises to upgrade (non-touch screen) desktop and laptops to Windows 8. It's one thing to promote Windows 8 when there is a touch screen device (and related need) but quite another when you are in a traditional office role using non-touch screen sensitive applications (not apps!). It still seems to me that Microsoft cannot be successful with Windows 8 in the enterprise until, at the very least, they can make the traditional desktop interface (with the Windows Key :)) available as a default!

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