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10/24/2012
08:31 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve

Critics say the Windows 8 look and feel will confound consumers and enterprise PC users. I say it's the critics who are being dummies.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The New York Times weighed in this week on Windows 8. The verdict: anyone not as smart as David Pogue will be flummoxed by its "insanely confusing split personality," and should stick with something simpler, like maybe an abacus.

The Times' critic isn't the only one to accuse the general public of having the acuity of a houseplant. Numerous others have condemned Windows 8 because they believe average users just won't get the hang of it.

Detractors say Windows 8's supposed inscrutability makes it especially bad for the enterprise. White-collar workers, most of whom managed to get through four years of college or more, will be dumbfounded by the fact that it takes an extra click to get past Metro UI to the Windows desktop. The help-desk lines will melt amid the ensuing panic, the thinking goes.

Here's the truth. Windows 8 just isn't that hard to use. Win8 systems, whether Pro or RT, boot by default to Metro, or Modern UI, or whatever it's called this week. But if you want the classic desktop, just hit the tile that says, wait for it ... Desktop. From there you can access the control panel, files, and all the familiar Windows tools. Using a keyboard? Then it's even simpler--hit the Windows key.

[ The biggest threat to Windows 8? Microsoft. See Windows 8: The Most Confused OS Launch Ever. ]

If your employees can't manage either of those options, you might want to get new ones. You definitely don't want them, say, balancing your company's books or handling a big sale.

The controversy over the Start button's absence is overblown to begin with. I almost never use it in XP. I put shortcuts to most things I need right on the desktop. And you can do that in Windows 8. Or you can launch apps and full-blown applications like Word directly from Metro. More choices are good, aren't they? For those who do find the road from Metro to Windows Explorer still too winding, third-party tools, such as RetroUI, will let you boot straight to the desktop.

But for argument's sake, let's concede that Windows 8 is so different from past versions of the OS that it requires some real getting used to. Why is that an issue? The iPhone and iPod Touch were the first devices to carry iOS, which uses an interface that's very distinct from Mac OS, and they were runaway hits. I'll bet there were dissenters within Apple that said iOS was too radical, and I'll bet where Steve Jobs told them to go.

Our age is so dominated by technology that most everyone has learned to quickly grok how any machine with a UI works. How long does it take to figure out a new ATM, or a check-in kiosk at an airport? Or a Redbox, or your supermarket's self-checkout terminals?

I will concede this point. Microsoft needs to do a better job combating the FUD that's out there about how supposedly hard Windows 8 is to use. Most of its ads, like the one below, emphasize Metro. Not surprisingly, given that the new UI is the OS's most innovative aspect. But the ads also need to allay consumer fears by showing that the old, familiar desktop is just a click away. (On the other hand, if even zombies can figure out Metro ...)

Here's the bottom line: Windows 8's success or failure won't be determined by the interface's ease of use, or lack thereof. Its fate will rest on a host of factors that will decide whether consumers feel it's worth getting to know. Factors like application selection, stability, security, and, perhaps most importantly, price will weigh heavily. At $499, Microsoft's Surface RT matches Apple's new iPad--not a bad, uh, Start.

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majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Moderator
10/31/2012 | 12:04:28 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
For the most part I agree with you though your hammer example doesn't match up because in fact most carpenters have replaced their hammers with a fancier tool that took time to learn it is called a nail gun. Like your OS though they would not have replaced it unless it did at least some part of the job better, which it does, though only if you have a lot of nails to drive. If you need to drive only one nail, then you still carry and use a hammer.

As for the ribbon in Office, personally I think it does do the job better. Was there a learning curve yes, but once I had it down I found it easier to use. While I do not spend a large portion of my day in Office I do use it frequently. The question then is when Microsoft puts out a new version of Office do they try to cater to the casual users like you, the intermediate users like me, or the power users. Obviously they are going to cater to the more advanced users because those users will upgrade more often and thereby make more money for the company. In addition as new users come along that have never used the old office, should they be forced to use an old interface just because you donG«÷t want to learn a new one?

The question then for Windows 8 is does it do the job better for casual users, intermediate users, power users, or no one? I think the jury is still out on that. Was the new UI in Windows 8 the best option, I donG«÷t think so but for Microsoft to be able to create and offer fixes for their old products they have to have new products, which support new hardware and new ways of doing things. We can't all just keep using plain old hammers forever.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2012 | 4:31:57 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Yes, we can learn, but for what purpose as a desktop user? To be able to do the same tasks with more clicks and overall reduced productivity and increased aggravation trying to swerve around Metro the whole time?
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
10/26/2012 | 7:05:07 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Betcha said that about Vista, too....
Prototype
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Prototype,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/26/2012 | 7:02:43 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
I would say, to be practical, it would be totally worth learning a tech that would stay around for a long way into the future. Trust me thats where the whole world is going.
Prototype
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Prototype,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/26/2012 | 6:59:20 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Thank you very much for review. By far the most unbiased and rational review I could find on web.
NJ Mike
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NJ Mike,
User Rank: Strategist
10/26/2012 | 6:00:19 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Let's get real here. For most of us, the OS is just something that runs our computers so we can do our jobs. It is like a hammer or a saw for a carpenter. Does the hammer drive in nails? Yes. So will a carpenter look to replace it for a fancier tool that will take time to learn? Does Windows XP or Windows 7 run my computer? Yes, so why do I need to replace it? Will learning how to navigate around these tiles make me better at my job? I doubt it. But it will cut into my productivity while I'm learning how to do everything. I'm worried that it will be like that stupid ribbon in Office. I knew where all the commands were that I needed. But for some stupid reason, they changed where these commands are, and how they are accessed. I don't use Office alot with my job, so it is taking me a while to learn to relearn how to do simple things. And when I eventually learn, it will take me just as long to do with the stupid ribbon as with the old menu.

Can't they leave well enough alone?
Johnnythegeek
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Johnnythegeek,
User Rank: Strategist
10/26/2012 | 3:08:42 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Paul is totally a geek and simply has forgotten the average consumers tech challenged mind. My wife is a perfect example of a super smart high IQ person who has already tried Windows 8 and failed. She simply does not want to relearn Windows because Microsoft decided to change it. I bought her a new laptop just because she did not want to deal with Windows 8 in a few months when she really needed a new PC. My wife is not a person who is not up to challenges. She teaches other teachers, she is a very creative person. I think Microsoft and some geeks have way under estimated how much this will affect a average user.
rcpar
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rcpar,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/25/2012 | 10:26:41 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
I couldn't agree more with this article. As a MS partner, I already deployed the OS to three end users. Two of them didn't care becase they were getting newer computers. The other (who was the least savvy) was so thrilled with the "cool" factor of the OS that he learned it just as fast as the other two who were far more computer literate. The doom and gloom critics are full of it.
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
10/25/2012 | 2:15:54 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Actually, I believe the Metro UI and Windows 8 are more to reduce costs by having a singular interface (at least most of the coding) across mobile (Windows Phone or tablet) and desktop environments. I would challenge Paul to sit the help desk for a week after a Win8 rollout for a realty check, I think he'd be surprised starting with the "fact" that most office workers using the technology have college degrees and working the rest of the way through the many assumptions in the article. They will definitely work through software upgrades, there is little choice as they like death are the few inevitable realities of life.
Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Strategist
10/25/2012 | 4:59:39 AM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
The comment about "But if you want the classic desktop, just hit the tile that says, wait for it ... Desktop." is very misleading. Yes there is a tile for the desktop but what non-experts really want are the desktop applications. The big problem users will face are multiple ways of doing things. Try finding a picture using the ModernUI on a network mapped drive. Try explaining to a senior accountant that they use file manager to find the pdf file but when they double-click on it and the ModernUI pdf reader comes up they can't use the file manager any more.

heck, I have users who are just barely learning about alt-tab functionality. Now spending my time explaining that sometimes it works and sometimes you have to swipe down from the invisible upper left corner instead, is a needless waste of time.

I think Win8 will be a tough sell for many companies at least for awhile yet.
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