Microsoft Windows 8 – it’s not too late

Channel Strategy
Microsoft Windows 8 on a tablet
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Too late for Microsoft to change its mind, that is

Every beta version of Windows I’ve installed – and that’s all of them from 3.0 onwards – has been a step forward from the previous incarnation, with the obvious exception of Windows ME. There have always been useful additions, usability, reliability and performance enhancements and the UI has been steadily prettified.

So it came as something of a disappointment to discover that Windows 8 is currently a big step in the wrong direction. I can see that Microsoft is keen to appeal to teenage America by providing a groovy smartphonealike UI in the form of Metro, but when that UI is as unattractive as a rabid badger suffering from mange, you have to ask why they bothered.

Coupled with the removal of the Start menu, you have to wonder what they were smoking. What might be acceptable on a phone – boring 2D boxes with words in them – looks frankly pathetic on a decent-sized screen and, coupled with the removal of the core functionality that all computer users have become accustomed to and comfortable with is frankly insane.

While Metro might make some kind of sense on a touchscreen device, it is without doubt the worst UI to appear on a PC since dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Yes, it’s the worst UI of all time.

Being used to the maturity of Windows 7, it’s something of a retrograde step to have to resort to firing up Task Manager and killing processes to get rid of apps. There may be a cute gesture that does this, but I could find no way of achieving it with a mouse and keyboard. This is also insane.

I tried every gesture I knew, some involving two fingers and some only one. I also tried harsh language, but Metro remained unmoved.

Every Windows app that ran under Windows 7 on the test machine worked fine under Windows 8, but Metro simply got in the way of running them. This isn’t top of my list of requirements for an OS. It should help the user, not hinder them.

But this is a Consumer Preview and the Start button could be reinstated before Windows 8 hits the shelves. Can I humbly suggest to Microsoft that if the Start Menu doesn’t rise, Lazarus-like, from the dead, they’ll have another Windows ME on their hands. Or Even a Bob.

Consider the huge installed base of corporate users for whom Windows XP is still dangerously-new. What is the likelihood of them adopting something as hopeless and clunky as Windows 8 in its current form? Does Microsoft seriously believe that these luddites a planning to replace every PC in the world with a touchscreen?

It could be that MS is sneakily only pretending that the Start Menu has been removed and will put it back in for the retail version, thus appearing to listen to customer feedback. But after a few decades of Microsoft watching, I feel this is unlikely to be the case and that it’s simple incompetence.

There is no point in trying to make Windows appeal to an audience of tragically-hip phone users if you’re going to alienate your core market of conservative corporates and technophobic Mrs Migginses.

And here’s the real clincher. I really like Microsoft products. I understand how they work. I delight in telling Linux users to get a proper operating system. I simple adore pointing and laughing at Apple fanbois. Now, for the first time ever, I’ve uninstalled a Windows Beta and reverted to its predecessor.

If that doesn’t bring Microsoft to its senses, I don’t know what will.