Software // Operating Systems
Commentary
10/24/2012
08:31 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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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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Lloyd M
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Lloyd M,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 4:36:24 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Finally, a rational look at the changes coming in Windows 8!
dcssteve
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dcssteve,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:01:15 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
I could not disagree more. I think it is you that has no feel for the corporate environment where social media and phone type interfaces mean nothing. We supply software to corporations and this it too big a change to be adopted with any speed. Unless Microsoft makes some changes for corporate environments, Windows 7 will be here a long time. There just is no need in corporate America for this. There are more things in life than Facebook, Texting and phone apps. Business environments are very different. Change costs money and time and needs to pay.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
10/24/2012 | 5:01:52 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
But Paul, why would I want to change? Yes, anyone could learn to use Win8, just as anyone could learn to use the utterly stupid Tool Ribbon in Office, but why would I want to subject myself and my users to the irritation and reduced productivity just so Microsoft can help force us toward newer products that we'll have to buy to 'keep up?' Tell me with a straight face that M$ actually *needed* to get rid of the Start button, or had a technical reason why I can't get Win8 to boot to the desktop; go ahead, I dare you. You know as well as I do that those changes were made to force users to get used to the new UI rather than make them more productive.

I'm sure Win8 is a perfectly serviceable OS, particularly since its pretty much Win7 with clown makeup, but it has negative value for me. I'm not interested.
stoneyh
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stoneyh,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:15:32 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Another good title for this article would be "can you learn to use an ATM or put gas in your car?"or "Are you Forest Gump?" Icons are easily added to the enigmatic and algebraically hard Metro UI (dripping sarcasm).. and because Windows 8 is a mullet in reverse - Party in the front and business in the back - the desktop replete with Windows 7 goodness, taskbar and all is but a key stroke away. As for enterprises they will be upgrading in WAVES.... from XP to Win7. Windows 8 will not be player in the Enterprise... But Windows 9 will.
ianlee74
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ianlee74,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:38:36 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
I'm sorry but it's hard to take this review seriously considering the author is still using Windows XP and is still calling the Win8 UI "Metro"... But, I agree completely that anyone capable of finding a Start button is also capable of figuring out Win8 within a couple hours of use.
SHL-FL
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SHL-FL,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 5:44:50 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
You say in the article that, "More choices are good, aren't they?" So why not a choice to keep the Start Menu?
jimbo0117
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jimbo0117,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 6:21:04 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
I agree with you Steve. However, MS isn't launching W8 in order to take the corporate world by storm. They're trying to create an OS that will meet the desktop user's changing needs over the next 10 years.
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 6:29:23 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Did you know that XP was full of issues and people were going to have to be trained on how to use it instead. If you really cannot figure out a way to include a one or two page hand out on Win8 basics to get them going . . . BTW there are plenty of none UI changes that are specifically for businesses included in Win8.
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 6:31:54 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
My thinking is MS's long term goal is to evolve the Modern UI to the point that it can phase out the Desktop. This would include the excess baggage the OS has of all the legacy interfaces that bloat the OS.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2012 | 6:43:58 PM
re: Windows 8: You Can Handle The Learning Curve
Big yawn! It is just a freaking O/S after all. A way to find and launch programs, and a way to save your data where you can access it later. Beyond that it is all a bunch of needless window (pun intended) dressing trying to be "cool". I'm not sure if this experiment (and that is what it is) in trying to combine mobile and desktop O/S's will be a success. But for Microsoft's sake, it had better be. In the meantime, I won't be upgrading my aging Windows XP box to Win 8, even for $40. Why? Because the apps I need to run (Solidworks) will not run on a 32-bit version of Win 8 (big rats!), so for another year, I'll still be using Win XP. Believe me, I wanted to jump to Win 8 for the good price, but as a consumer I have to go with the path of least resistance and what makes economic sense. I won't be upgrading to Win 8 until I buy a new 64-bit processor PC or lap top that it comes pre-loaded on. I'll load Ubuntu on my old XP box in late 2014 and use it for the Internet. And one last thing: All these tiles are cool and all, but they are more or less just big fat icons. With so many people already tied in to Apple's iOS via iPODs, iPhones, and iPADs, will consumers that aren't planning on buying a Surface tablet embrace using Win 8 at home, or see the "Modern UI" as just something to get past in order to do their work? BTW, once it has been out for a while, will it still make sense to call it the "Modern UI"? Maybe they should have just stuck with Metro for the name...
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