Why was Windows 8 such a horrific boondoggle when so much was riding on it's success?

I’m not interested in getting into Windows 8 bashing orgy, lots of ink has been spilled on that topic. I’m more interested in how it came to be.

I tried Windows 8 in the store over year ago and was repelled (and pissed off) by how unintuitive it was for a desktop user. I skipped upgrading my notebook because it was so unpleasant and frustrating to use. This Ars Techina article discussing the 8.1 upgrade hits most of the nails on the head.

Windows 8.1: What a difference a year makes - Review: Not perfect, but 8.1 is an OS that actually works for desktop, mobile.

MS has billions of dollars at it’s disposal and the Windows 7 OS and associated applications are one the main legs of it’s cash flow. Whatever was to replace Win 7 had to work, be a compelling upgrade, and integrate with the workflow gazillions of users and corporations had invested in.

Instead was this bizarre, cobbled together mess that was neither fish nor fowl and was widely reviled. What was going on corporately that allowed this to happen? I’m scratching my head at the implementation because if you sat 100 randomly selected Win 7 desktop oriented business users down and had them do a hands on with windows 8 I can’t think the feedback would have been positive.

How do you get to place when you have hundreds of billons riding on the outcome where are you coming from that you decide to nuke your user core? How does that decision making get green lighted? How does that come to be?

I don’t know, but perhaps most of the professional people gave it more than a 90 second cursory look in the MS store, perhaps?

A lot of people gave it lot more time than that and came away frustrated.

Did Microsoft just admit Windows 8 is its worst operating system ever?

They needed to compete with Apple and nothing-ventured-nothing-gained.

Basically, they manned up and decided to go full in.

Unfortunately, Apple had some advantages:

  1. Steve Jobs lead the design and the company of iOS, so he could force a consistent UI.
  2. iOS for cellphones was designed from scratch to be what it was. There was no need to be backwards compatible in any way or to provide any more features than Jobs felt made sense.

So MS couldn’t win on either of those ground.

But MS had one theoretical advantage:

  1. You only need to learn one UI to work on both cellphone and desktop.

The problem is, of course, that that sucks. Or at least, their need to preserve backwards compatibility - i.e. a full-featured OS - left them with no option but to make something which sucked. Potentially, they could have made Windows 8 an elderly and non-techy only OS, but they wouldn’t have been able to sell it to developers or anyone (which probably would have been fine by both groups).

So basically, they decided they had to make the gamble, but didn’t have the structure or vision to realise that they didn’t have the structure and vision to determine that they didn’t have a chance.

While Microsoft dominates desktops and laptops it is a very poor third in the smartphone and tablet markets (after Google and Apple). The theory was to switch these desktop/laptop Windows XP and Windows 7 users to Windows 8 and then it would be very easy to sell these users smartphones and tablets since it was the same operating system.

Everyone knows desktops are dead, laptops are one with the dodo and only pocket touchscreen devices have any future at all.

Microsoft fell for this BS.

Hello All,
I agree with many of your points.
MS tried to make a ‘one size fits all’ kind of interface: Mobiles, Tablets and PCs. Clearly they dumbed it down to the lowest common denominator and it failed for PC users.
I use a Nokia 625 with Winphone 8.1 and am happy with it. I don’t use a Tablet.
The PC side is a bit more curious, Windows 8 was bloody awful, no ifs or buts, an abomination.

Now Windows 8.1 is fine, better than fine, excellent.
AFAIK it is more secure, (in a more insecure online environment http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/images/smilies/smack.gif than previous MS OSs.
It is quicker to boot than any other MS O/S.
It handles the 32/64 bit divide slightly better than Win 7.
Longer MS support than Win 7: http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/search/default.aspx?alpha=Windows+8.

Please note I’m no particular fan of MS nor of Win 8/8.1, indeed when I bought this current System Unit I also bought a copy of Win 7 Pro as a fall back as a fallback.
After six months I don’t want to change.
I appreciate my system is overkill in terms of specs, (i7 3770, GTX 760 and 16GB of ram) but I’d like it to last until Win 9.

If you’re after really awful MS Operating Systems then Vista and ME come to mind, along with a bottle of something strong and a baseball bat…
Cites are available on equivalent systems, for IT stuff I tend to use the Micromart forum:

On Unix/Linux I use Puppy Linux as a USB RAM only install to diagnose PC probs, I’m too old and set in my ways to re-learn!


There’s a lot of reasons, only a few of which actually have to do with the OS itself.

I think Win 8 really is a solid, usable OS. It has a learning curve that’s harder than it needs to be and they made a few choices that made its use on laptops and desktops clumsier than they needed to.

I think it’s big failing was that they didn’t find an audience. Windows tablet competition ran up against entrenched and well-liked iPads and cheaper, popular Androids and couldn’t compete out of the gate. I believe that market will improve and grow, but it felt like they launched Windows tablets to largely deaf ears.

As a desktop/laptop OS, I think its improvements were there but not enough to outweigh the very negative perceptions caused by vocal naysayers. There was also a perception going in that “even-numbered windows versions fail” (which I even saw repeated in mainstream publications) and it’s worth noting that Windows 7 was really, really very good.

I think part of the reason that even numbered Microsoft OS releases fail, is that they’re almost always coming on the heels of an established excellent odd-numbered OS, such as Windows 95, or Windows XP or Windows 7, and they’re trying to distinguish themselves by overreaching on the UI changes and flashy stuff, and almost always fails. This is what happened with Windows ME (although an ODD release), Vista and windows 8. There really isn’t a need for a new OS every 2-3 years, so things like Vista or Windows 8 are marketing driven, and I think people know that.

Beyond that general stuff, Microsoft didn’t do a good job of selling Windows 8 at all. It’s all well and good to try and unify your mobile, tablet, PC and console user interfaces, but when you have literally decades of users doing it more or less the same way, and you throw that tablet based crap at mouse and keyboard users, it’s inevitable you’ll get a lot of backlash

I didn’t realize that my phone was upgrading the OS when I got 8.1. I thought it was a minor update. It did not go well. It took a wonderful person at an AT&T store to fix it after many phone calls and attempts to fix it through a computer link. I had lost the tethering function which was a big deal for me.

When I reloaded my apps I found the updates to be nicer as well as the functionality of the standard features. Haven’t tried Cartana yet. Not sure I like the idea of the phone looking over my shoulder to interpret what I think I want.

Had to buy a new laptop, basically forced into 8/8.1

Hate, hate, hate it. But it took a bit of searching and a few hours to recover a few niceties like a proper start button, some safe freeware to play DVDs as well as a few system settings to Murder/Death/Kill the odious idiotic things like ribbons and charms to make the interface level things more amenable .

In terms of the new laptops , it’s nice (up to a point) to have a touch screen, and I like the fuller array of I/O slots, but the one-finger left click two-finger right click touch pad? Grrrr.

I’ve always thought the complaining about Windows 8 was 10% stupid people and 90% the sorry state of what passes for journalism these days. But it’s true that Microsoft did themselves no favors with the launch. (Although it wasn’t nearly as bad as the launch of the xBox One).

They didn’t have a unified vision going into those launches which means that decisions were made by competing departments in the company with different agendas and different ideas about how to implement them. They had to shove Win 8 out the door because they couldn’t wait any longer to launch a Tablet and they didn’t want to launch Win8 on the tablet unless they were launching it on the phones and desktops - only the phone manufacturers were pissed because they were leaving Windows Phone 7 without an upgrade path which killed sale on those phones. This left their major Phone partner as Nokia, which might have been brilliant only Nokia was determined to stick to their death spiral and it won’t be for another six months before major phones from other developers reach the market.

The xbox disaster was all about trying to force sales into the digital Microsoft app store, to the detriment of individual publishers like EA & Activision, while killing the used game market and forcing indie devs to make publishing deals, all while increasing penetration of the always-on, non-optional, camera for future marketing opportunities - all of that happening at roughly the same time as the Snowden/NSA thing was blowing up. And through it all, no one could answer simple questions, it was alwasy, “We’re still exploring that” and “we’ll have to get back to you.”

It was a colossal failure of communication on top of trying to stuff in too many features for reasons other than better serving the user.

So I guess the problem was 10% stupid people, 40% crappy journalism, and 50% lousy leadership at microsoft. Now that Ballmer’s gone, we’ll see if things improves.

Windows 8 like most products has its strengths and weaknesses. It improves a fair amount of the core PC experience but has some confusing UI features. It works well with touchscreen devices and at launch there were relatively few of those. Over a period of time that situation improved. I also think it erred by giving the user too few choices about how it should behave particularly for regular desktops. With Windows 8.1 that improved and free utilities like Classic Shell which can be installed in a few minutes made it even better.

Overall Windows 8 is a fine OS as of today. It has a bit of a learning curve but really not more than 15 minutes or so for the main features. If you want it to behave like Windows 7+ it’s pretty easy to do especially after 8.1 and as mentioned it definitely improves in the core desktop experience. If you have a touchscreen device the new parts of the UI work great a lot of the time.

And actually Microsoft is doing fine financially as a company. Its stock price is way up since the release of Windows 8 whose sales have been fairly solid.

The idea that Windows 8 has been some kind of disaster for Microsoft is pure tech journalism hyperbole.

Yes - MS misjudged people’s appetite for change and over-estimated the uptake/market dominance of touch-screen devices.

What they decided to do was implement touch, something needed for tablets. Past attempts at touch had always involved focusing on desktop and putting touch on top, and had never really taken off. They tried this new technique with Windows Phone (unlike Windows Mobile where it felt like they were shoehorning Desktop into a touch OS), and it has been a huge success. So their idea for Windows 8 was to instead start with touch, which they were getting good at from Windows Phone, and graft on desktop. And while this did lead to a rather nice touch interface, it left desktop users out to dry.

They also made the decision that they had to force desktop users into the new UI, knowing that they wouldn’t try it otherwise. They had telemetry data showing that people weren’t really using the start menu anymore, so they thought they could scrap it and replace it with the touch UI. They also made it the first thing you would see when starting the computer. This was all to get people to use it. Their plan to have people learn the new UI to make it easier to move to Windows tablets depended on people actually using the new UI.

That was the classic New Coke mistake. People might not be using the Start Menu as much, but they were still attached to it. And while people rarely used the All Programs part, they did use the Frequently Used Programs part occasionally, and that feature was not duplicated in the new Start Screen.

They also goofed in thinking that people would be okay with a full screen interface on a desktop. It’s a necessity on tablets due to the relatively smaller screen (especially when considering the lower precision of touch). But people don’t like it.

Ultimately, rather than make a sort of transition between the two different ways of handling things, Microsoft kept both. They thought they could basically ignore Desktop and people would be fine. They focused on touch to desktop’s detriment, and it alienated desktop users.

That’s not an unreasonable analysis, BigT. In addition, MS might have underestimated the social inertia of a situation like this - a lot of people I hear complaining about Win8 have never touched it (or have literally only tried it for seconds in a store) - they’ve just heard lots of other people complaining about it.

The OP’s article doesn’t even touch upon one of the major things I hate about Windows 8 - the removal of features that Windows 7 (and, in come cases, earlier versions) had and were great - heirarchal structure, support for DVD play, classic games like Solitaire and Minesweeper - an UPgrade shouldn’t be removing useful features.

I know this is not quite the scope of this thread but there is no way you can convince me the dislike of Windows 8 is just media hype and user error. I am very well versed in computers. I work with them for a living and I am a reasonably intelligent individual and I personally found Windows 8 EXTREMELY frustrating to use on a desktop and I am not alone. It was not good design plain and simple.

As far as why it happened, I think there comes a point were engineers have idea that sound great until they remember real people need to sue the stuff they are designing. Also it was designed with touch screens in mind and people not using touch screens were an after thought when that was the bulk of the user base.

I’ll tell you one thing for an example of why I took back an otherwise awesome ultrabook (Lenovo Yogo 2 Pro) to the store and bought a macbook:

I was using the 8.1 desktop, opened windows explorer to look at some pictures on an the harddrive, double-clicked on a jpg and it took me to a full-screen view of the pic and I could scroll really smoothly to other pics with my mousewheel. I love that. But when I wanted to exit, I hit Esc as that is what you do to exit most full-screen apps, and it took me immediately to another app called Photos not back to the desktop where I had been. In this Photos app there is no close button or any intuitive way to get back to the desktop. So I move my mouse to the lower-left hand corner and the windows symbol appears, I click it and I’m moved to the metro tile interface, still not the desktop where I was and wanted to be. So at this point I can click on the desktop tile and I’m back to where I began.

It’s all just so unnecessarily unintuitive.

My wife bought a new laptop shortly after Windows 8 was introduced – I was shocked at how user-unfriendly it was to use. I can understand wanting to have some sort of concession to (predominantly) younger users who are used to touchscreen interfaces; I cannot understand completely dropping a usable interface that’s been used by 90 percent of people for their livelihoods that remained substantially unchanged for decades.

The analogy to New Coke is spot-on: a massive misunderstanding of its core clientele by a behemoth company that absolutely had to know better.