I’ve been using Windows 8 (and now 8.1, though I rarely see any differences) for well over 6 months now on a laptop. It is not a daily occurrence, but I’ve been using it enough that I thought I had a pretty good handle on it. I have still yet to find a metro app that appeals enough to use it for more than 5 minutes, but I had thought that after 8.1 maybe the bleeding for Microsoft had stopped. Boy was I wrong!
I have basically turned Windows 8 into Windows 7 (the first thing I installed was Classic Shell and then migrated to Start 8). I never see the Metro interface and even though I miss Aero Glass, I find the experience OK. It’s not really any better than Windows 7, but it isn’t that much worse for ME, because I had heard about Windows 8 long before using it, and knew about all the issues I basically had a bunch of workarounds that made it work fine for me.
However I realized this Christmas that this is not the case for people who do not spend their lives following computer news. I gave Lisa, my wife, a new laptop for Christmas (she is mostly a Mac user but has an ancient (6 year old) Windows laptop that she uses for work). She needed Maximizer and Simply accounting originally so she decided to get a windows laptop rather than a Mac one and I, perhaps foolishly, decided that I would continue on that course. I picked a nice Asus ultrabook (not the super high end, but hardly the low-end) that had a Core i5 and was a huge improvement in every way over her 2008 HP that she had been rocking. The look of delight when she opened the wrapping paper and then box containing laptop gave me endless joy, “It’s so light!”, “It’s so pretty!”, “I love it!”
The first bad sign was her Mom’s offhand comment, “Is that Windows 8? Sherry bought a computer with that on it and She hates it”. Don’t worry I assured her, “it comes with Windows 8 but I’ll upgrade it to 8.1 as soon as you have signed in.” The first few screens of the windows install process where ok, and although she was frustrated that she had to sign up for a microsoft live account she accepted it. The furst problem was the second after she finished the “Personalization” she was taken to the Metro Home Screen. This completely baffled her? “Where is my desktop?” “What the fuck are all these boxes?” “I hate this, can’t I just get my old desktop back?”
Once again I tried to come to the rescue. “Just click on the Desktop icon,” I said. “It will bring you to the desktop.” “What’s the desktop icon, where is the desktop icon, I hate this!” “It’s down their in the lower left corner” “This is fucking stupid, why would they change this. On the Mac you just have your desktop” “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it so you never have to see this screen again by upgrading to Windows 8.1, but for now just Click on the Desktop Icon”. So I showed her where the desktop icon was (though it wasn’t clear to her that it was the desktop wallpaper with the word desktop written underneath it since she yet to see her desktop wallpaper which had been set up by Asus. Next she wanted to install Firefox, “OK I know need to run IE to install Firefox, how do I do that?” “Ok,” I said, “In the lower right hand corner where the start menu used to be there is a rectangle, click on that” “I don’t see it,” she said. “Yeah, it’s really hard to see,” I agreed. “Just press the Windows Key” “Arghhh the boxes are back,” she frustratingly cried. “I know, I know, you have to start everything from this screen until I fix it”. “How do I start Internet Explorer?” “Start typing Internet Explorer and it will show up” “You are shitting me, who was the idiot who thought this was a good idea? This is stupid, bring me back my start menu and then I will try again.”
So I installed Classic Menu for her, and spent 2 hours trying to get the updates required to install Windows 8.1 First there were the 80 updates in windows update that just sat there endlessly downloading until I realized that a reboot was required because new updates had been installed. It didn’t tell me that, it just showed an endless progress bar but after waiting for 30 minutes I realized that it wasn’t working and the next step is trying to “Turn it on and off again”, where I saw that there where updates that needed to b installed before windows update could proceed. Eventually I got everything done and had the download of 3Gigs going for Windows 8.1 so I let Lisa back at it so she could install Firefox and Skype. A few minutes later she was almost at the point of tears, Firefox had switched to some malware site as its search engine, it had 4 toolbars added, and 4 or 5 pieces of malware had been installed on the system. Apparently she had googled Skype and clicked on the Ad which had wrapped Skype in some horrible malware. This was all Windows 8’s fault and it was time to return the stupid laptop and get Macbook. Never mind that it was double the price, nevermind that old laptop was fine except that it was slow (and some Java Update thing was always poping up), Windows 8 was awful and nothing I could do could fix it.
After calming her down, and spending an hour removing the malware I promised I remove windows 8 and install windows 7. We’ll see how that goes, but this has left me feeling that even though before I thought Microsoft had repaired the damage caused by Windows 8 with Windows 8.1, I no longer think that is true. I have never seen such a visceral reaction to something as the hatred Lisa showed to the Metro UI. She spouted endless common sense, “I don’t see why they changed it?” “Why should I have to learn something new that provides no benefit to me?” “Mac’s just work, they have a desktop and I can use them. Where do I put all must documents if not on the desktop?” “How do normal who aren’t computer experts use this?” “It seems to me that they should have made the whole thing simpler not more complicated”
She hates Windows 8, her mother who has never used it hates Windows 8, their friends all hate Windows 8, and now they will be talking about how bad Windows 8 is for months. Maybe that is why Chromebooks have become the best selling laptops this Christmas, their cheap, and simple. If only Apple had $700 notebook option I probably would have returned the laptop and gotten that.
Microsoft should have done 3 things with Windows 8.1, made the default option go to the desktop. Bring back the Start Menu not just the Start Button. Create a safe environment where major programs (like Firefox, Skype, etc) can be installed with there being no chance of Malware being installed. The fact that major software like Java and Flash installs crapware by default is a blight on Windows eco-system and that will probably be end of Windows more than any other thing. I know that Windows Store App (WinRT, Metro, whatever) are an attempt to create a safe sandboxed environment it is an absolute failure if desktop apps do not get the same functionality (allow power users to install anything they want but create a way to safely download required applications, life the Mac App store). Also the current Windows 8 store is such a mess that they should burn it in a fire start again with proper vetting of applications. You should not be able to create an app called Instagram Plus or Intstagram Pro and use the Instagram Logo and have the developers have nothing to do with Instagram. I look at non-technical peoples computers with all of the malware they have on them and feel that this is one thing Microsoft has to fix if Windows is going to survive as a consumer operating system.
And this is why I believe that Windows 8 is still killing Microsoft, and until something is done to fix these 3 things the bleeding will continue.