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 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and 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 health care 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. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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