Editorial

Windows 8 failed at nearly everything it set out to accomplish

In the next few months, Microsoft will release Windows 10 and it will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who has been using Windows 8 since the platform was launched. When announced, Windows 8 was a bold step for Microsoft as it was an OS that was supposed to bridge the modern and classic computing environments, build out an app store for the company, and also bring in a new breed of devices that could use ARM-based processors instead of Intel or AMD silicon.

The mistakes started early with Windows 8 and initially focused around the removal of the Start menu in favor of 'hot corners'. The idea was that the Start screen would replace the menu, and by removing the Start button, there would be more space on the task bar for your open apps. But neither hot corners, nor the Start screen operated in a way that was intuitive for consumers and because the learning curve was so steep to adjust from Windows 7 to Windows 8, Microsoft shot itself in the foot before the OS was offered for sale.

The Start button goes on vacation

Starting with the desktop, Microsoft tried to transform how consumers had used Windows since the days of Windows 95. The Start screen proved to be a disaster as a replacement to the Start menu for consumers, as it was jarring to jump from the desktop to the full-screen menu. The removal of the Start button left consumers asking "where is the Start button" in Windows 8 only to be met with a long explanation about how to properly use the Start screen.

Hot corners was an idea that looked good on paper but was awful in execution. The corners to launch the Charms bar worked well enough but the top left hot corner frequently resulted in accidental clicks when trying to hit the 'back' button with any web browser.

The worst part about the removal of the Start button, the new hot corners and the new Start screen was that Windows 8 came with no out of the box tutorial; nothing. The consumer was left to 'figure it out', which is not a good technique when you are changing a fundamental means of interaction after 20 years of doing it the 'old' way.

An app store - we need one of those too

When Windows 8 launched, Microsoft had high hopes for the Windows Store and offered incentives to build for Windows instead of OS X/iOS or Android. But, roughly two and a half years later, the store is a sad collection of file compression apps and other low-profile software that falls well short of the other app stores. If you need any further proof, look at the top apps in the image below to see what gems are at the top of the charts for Microsoft.

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With Windows 10, the Windows Store will finally have a fighting chance with Universal apps but this is not a guaranteed path to success. First, Microsoft needs to convince the world that Windows 10 is the Windows they know (and hopefully love) to get mass-user adoption and if they can accomplish that, then they stand a chance of attracting the big name developers to their stores.

Maybe we should call it Windows RT - that won't confuse anyone

The biggest flop of all, out of the entire Windows 8 release, was Windows RT. The idea was simple and frankly, a good one, but the execution and branding was a colossal mistake that left consumers confused. Windows RT was supposed to be a modern computing environment that did away with the baggage of full-blown Windows. No viruses or malware to worry about - but this came at the expense of not being able to run legacy applications, which is where the entire plan fell apart.

The idea was that the Windows Store would make up for the fact that you could not run older applications with Windows RT, and Microsoft created a version of Office (that they gave away for free) that ran on the platform to fill-out the productivity needs for these new devices.

But, as noted above, the Windows Store never materialized into a place to find quality applications which left the consumer stuck with a bunch of third-party knock-off apps for their shiny new Surface RT or Surface 2.

Can someone write me a recommendation letter?

And then there were two other major issues with Windows RT: branding and Intel. Windows RT was confusing for consumers, and Microsoft did not make clear what the difference was between RT and Windows 8, but the situation became more troubled for Microsoft when it bet against Intel and lost.

ARM was supposed to be a way to create low-cost tablets to compete with Android but Intel found a way, using their Atom processors, to maintain performance and reduce heat output to beat ARM devices at their own game. The result was a market filled with ARM tablets and x86/x64 tablets priced at the same level, offering nearly all of the same specs, except that Intel-based tablets could run legacy applications and ARM devices could not.

In a head-to-head fight, why would you pick a Windows RT device over one running Windows 8?

And then there is Windows Phone 8. While not quite the same cut as Windows 8, it too, has been a disaster in terms of what it was supposed to accomplish. If you remember, Windows Phone 8 made a clean break from Windows Phone 7, a restart of the OS, only to still be at around 4% of the market, and always a distant part of any mobile conversation when iOS and Android are involved.

Microsoft did try to rectify all of these issues with Windows 8 in some way. For Windows RT, they rebranded the Surface RT to the Surface 1 (or simply Surface); and for Windows 8, they created 8.1 that brought back the Start button (but not the menu), tried to make the desktop more mouse- and keyboard-friendly with new shortcuts, improved control over hot corners and finally, added a tutorial about how best to use the OS.

The end result of Windows 8 is that two executives lost their jobs: Steven Sinofsky and Steve Ballmer. The two executives' run ended with Windows 8 and after seeing how badly the OS played out for the company, it's not too hard to understand why.

Windows 10 will be arriving soon and Microsoft is looking to push Windows 8 quickly back into the filing cabinet where it should have stayed. With a return to the classic desktop experience and having a similar feel to Windows 7, Microsoft's next OS does away with many of the features that shipped with Windows 8 and builds upon the success of Windows 7.

With the current success of the Windows 10 pre-release program, the future is looking bright for Microsoft and considering that it will be a free upgrade too, there is a lot to look forward to from the Redmond based company.

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