The Guardian: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is confusing as hell; an appalling user experience

“Since installing, I’ve learnt to regard Windows 8 as being two operating systems. One part I’ve been thinking of as Windows 7.1. The “classic desktop” bits of Windows 8 is just Windows 7, minus the Start orb, with a new theme to replace Aero,” Matthew Baxter-Reynolds reports for The Guardian.

“Day-to-day, I use a virtual machine for Windows development but use a Mac for everything else,” Baxter-Reynolds reports. “One of the things that Apple has been been criticised about on the iPad is that you have to jump in and out of apps to do anything. There’s a very thunk … thunk … thunk context switch to using an iPad. That’s nothing compared to life in a world where you’ve got a classic desktop and Metro-style.”

Baxter-Reynolds reports, ” I have two monitors… First thing you notice is that both monitors get a taskbar. That’s really confusing. But the reason becomes clear because if you open up the Windows 8 mail app – BLAM! – the thing takes over the whole of the primary monitor, obscuring the taskbar. The classic desktop remains running on the secondary monitor, with a taskbar. Click on anything on the secondary monitor and – SHOOM! – the mail app disappears because Windows thinks you’ve dropped out of Metro-style. What this does for you as you use it is a whole world of “wait … what?!” Trying to deal with Windows when your driving results in it flipping between classic Windows and Metro-style app is like having someone sneak up behind you and flick you on the ear when you’re least expecting it. This massive context switching of ‘YOU’RE IN WINDOWS WAIT NO NO YOU’RE NOT!’ creates an appalling user experience.”

“What we have then is a line item in Microsoft’s product catalogue called Windows 8 that’s either a hybrid of Windows 7.1 and an as-yet-unnamed operating system, or a bastardisation of both those things. Whatever the non-Windows 7.1 bits of Windows 8 are, it’s sure as hell not Windows,” Baxter-Reynolds reports. “At present, I’m not sure which word is fair. ‘Hybrid’ implies a thought-through combination of the best of features from Column A and from Column B. ‘Bastardisation’ implies a slapping together of mismatched features to achieve a level of supreme clunkiness.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last spring:

Microsoft, in trying to cram everything into Windows 8 in an attempt to be all things to all devices, will end up with an OS that’s a jack of all trades and a master of none (which, after all, ought to be Microsoft’s company motto).

By the time this hybrid spawn of Windows Phone ’07 + Windows 7ista actually ships, one can only dream where Apple’s iOS and Mac OS X will be! For Microsoft, it’ll be more like a nightmare. Perhaps Microsoft will someday put some scare into Google’s Android/Chrome OS, but only time – and a lot of it when measured in tech time – will tell. We simply do not see the world clamoring for the UI of an iPod also-ran now ported to an iPhone wannabe that nobody’s buying to be blown up onto a PC display.

From what we’ve seen so far, Windows 8 strikes us as an unsavory combination of Windows Weight plus Windows Wait.

Not to mention that probably no one on earth knows how much or what kinds of residual legacy spaghetti code roils underneath it all (shudder). Is Microsoft giving up on backwards compatibility? If so, people might as well get the Mac they always wanted. If not, then Microsoft’s unwilling to do what it takes to really attempt to keep up with the likes of Apple or even Apple’s followers. No matter what, if Microsoft’s going to ask Windows sufferers to “learn a whole new computer” (and that’s exactly how they’ll look at it, regardless of how Microsoft pitches it), millions will simply say, “Time to get a Mac to match my iPod, iPhone, and iPad!”

Related articles:
The 9 versions of Windows 8 show one of the key differences between Microsoft and Apple – March 2, 2012
Windows 8 tablet vs. Apple iPad running iOS 5: feature by feature (with video) – March 1, 2012
Needham: Apple Mac growth to continue six-year run of outpacing Windows PCs – February 28, 2012
Tim Cook: Apple the only company innovating in personal computers, and have been for some time – February 24, 2012
More good news for Apple: Microsoft previews Windows 8 (with video) – June 1, 2011


    1. It was missed because their London trade rep fell down on the job. Normally a sentence that includes both “Microsoft” and “appalling” does not appear in the venerable Guardian. (Stateside, sentences with both “Microsoft” and “unsavory” (as with MDN’s self-quote, above) are commonplace (I suppose it would be “unsavoury” in the British case, but I’m not sure).)

    1. “Hello, I’m a Mac.”

      “And I’m a PC.” “And I’m METRO!”

      “Uh… PC? What’s up, buddy?”

      “Sorry, Mac, it’s just this new operating system I’ve got, Windows 8. I’m worried it’s giving me a bit of a split personality.” “NONSENSE! Heyyyy, look at THIS – I have colored TILES! WHEE! Tiles ROCK! Oops, gotta SWITCH BACK to the old DESKTOP now – SHOOM!”

      “Whoa… PC, you okay?”

      “Ohhhh, I’m sure I’ll be fine – just the usual unsettled Windows post-upgrade feelings. Though… I think I’ll go lie down a bit, just to be on the safe side.”

      “Sounds like a good idea… there’s a couch over there, feel free crash on that.”

      “Thanks Mac.” “YEAH, THANKS MAN! TILES to the RESCUE!”

      “Wow… I hope he’s gonna be okay!”


  1. Correct – WindSoLate (Win8) — definitely is confusing as hell and a horrible UI for mobile users.

    Swipe up down and all around because ‘swipe’ is so natural.
    That’s the Microsoft strategy… in a word SWIPE it.. like we did with the original Macintosh OS6 or 7. SWIPE or STEAL what we can not create.

  2. Of course it is. How else will IT Drones and their CIO Overlords who reports to MS Almighty will keep their jobs? How else will they control their pheasant worker subjects in the corporate world?

  3. I remember the OS-9 to OS-X transition. Nothing as complicated as this. Apple has done smooth transitions and has supported older software and equipment for a while to help people transition.

    I am not thrilled about Lion and its subtle iOS like interface as I still work heavily with pointing devices and still think Snow Leopard is the bomb but at least the transition is smooth and not perplexing.

      1. Yes, but millions of our fellow members of the computer community will continue to live in squalor and degradation! Their lives are appalling. 🙁 Their cries are deafening. 😥

        Please donate, or better yet volunteer, at a Microsoft-Free charity near you. You’ll be making the world a better place. :mrgreen:

  4. Windows 8 is irrelevant. Windows is, and has been for some time now, primarily a business OS. Most businesses, my employer among them, are only now getting around to migrating to Windows 7. Windows 8 isn’t even on the radar. It’ll be 2015 before these customers even begin to consider moving to yet another version of Windows.

    Like what happened with Windows 7, consumers will slowly migrate to Windows 8 as they replace their machines. But given how the PC market keeps shrinking, that’s not going to drive much growth.

    Poor old Microsoft. Trying so hard to be a fast-mover, while tying themselves to the slowest-moving customers.


    1. Our college’s IT goal is to get all the Windows users moved to Win 7 by June 1…

      The Rabbi’s blessing for the Tsar is appropriate: “May the Lord bless Win 8 and keep it … far, far from us.”

  5. The Guardian’s insights aren’t going to be the last user criticisms of Windows L8.

    The day Microsoft publicly releases Windows L8, be sure to duck because a hell-of-a-lot of sh*t is going to hit the fan. If you think Windows ME was the most hated version of Windows since versions 1 and 2, you haven’t seen anything yet!

    The horror. The horror… 😯

      1. I may need to get a copy of the new screen, use it as desktop wallpaper at work 😛

        edit it so instead of restart, insert something like burn/explode.

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