Meant to be a replacement for the well liked but little used Windows 7, Windows 8 was a radical departure from the traditional Microsoft desktop motif which became one of the shortest lived OS offerings of the firm’s history.
Problem 1: People were still using XP
Windows 8 wasn’t replacing windows 7 so much as the older XP OS, which was still the dominant version on desktops worldwide when Version 8 was introduced in 2011. The low penetration of the Win 7 operating system was not so much a reaction to the OS itself. Most people who bought a PC equipped with Win 7 were happy enough with their purchase. The problem was that millions of PC users were still very happy with XP and not in the mood for changing. While change can be positive, OS failures like Vista and Windows ME were still in the back of people’s minds, so much so that the bulk of the XP user base was willing to risk the effects of waning support and growing security threats to stand their ground. The result, when Windows 8.0 arrived, its major competition was an OS 2 times removed, and XP equipped PCs were still hot commodities.
Problem 2: The new User Interface
The look and feel of Windows has been essentially the same since windows 95, which had more in common with previous iterations of windows than it had differences. Suddenly, new Windows 8.0 users were faced with a radically new start up screen, which would be familiar to any with a Windows tablet or smart phone, but a mystery to the vast majority who had no exposure to these devices.
The result, total confusion out of the box.
And while it was fairly easy to switch to a more familiar desk top, you still had to navigate the active tiles screen to get at a lot of the system functions which were just a few mouse clicks away in previous OS versions.
The more fundamental issue was that while the active tile interface was successful on tablets and phones, where small screen and limited multitasking were a constraining influences on how the devices were used, desktop users did not like digging through the tiles to find their apps.
Many users also complained that when apps were launched from the tiles, they launched in full screen mode, something which makes more sense on a phone than a PC with a 21-inch monitor. Or two.
Even closing apps was a problem, which created difficulties for users trying to run resource hungry games and editors when other apps were still hogging the resources.
Even shutting down the PC went from 2 or 3 clicks in XP to a multi-step process in Win 8.
While many of these issues were addressed, in one form or another, by Windows 8.1, the OS never gained the trust of the Windows user community, and those migrating off of XP were much more likely choose Win 7 than any version of Win 8.
Was Windows 8 So Bad?
Unfortunately, that question will never be fully answered as the verdict of the public is final and without appeal. Microsoft has introduced Windows 10 as the new default OS while maintaining support for the still popular Windows 7.
In its defense, Windows 8 had a few good things going for it:
- Security Fixes: Windows 8, like Windows 7, addressed many of the security issues that were plaguing XP. Unfortunately, since problem preventing features are seldom appreciated as there is no daily reminder that they exist, this went largely unnoticed.
- Connectivity: Windows 8 was excellent at synching your data to the cloud, making backups more automatic and data loss less likely than ever before.
- Transmogrification: Windows 8 introduced a number of techniques for bringing your PC Setup along for the ride. This meant that you could sit down at a Windows 8 PC anywhere in the world, and with a few clicks, make it look and work like your PC at home.
Unfortunately, the full potential of Windows 8 will never be realized as it joins the ranks of good ideas that just went wrong.