Is Windows 8 A Failure?

microsoft-surface-pro-windows-8-tbalet-0That’s the gripe. Windows 8 has pissed off a lot of people, making it perhaps the most divisive operating system it has ever released.

The chief gripe is the new desktop. You’re pretty much forced to use the “metro” desktop rather than the traditional icon-based desktop and start menu. People don’t like that.

Microsoft insists that Windows 8 is a big win, quoting the fact that they’ve sold over 100 million licences to it. Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, said:

We recently surpassed the 100 million licenses sold mark for Windows 8. This number includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8. This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January. We’ve also seen the number of certified devices for Windows 8 and Windows RT grow to 2,400 devices, and we’re seeing more and more touch devices in the mix.

The way I see it, though, that’s an incomplete picture. It isn’t as if end-users are choosing to use Windows 8 in droves. The fact is that the many PC OEMs out there are simply pre-installing it on most PCs, so it is pretty difficult to buy a PC without Windows 8.

Despite that, people calling Windows 8 a “failure” are obviously just looking for traffic based on controversy. Any OS which has been purchased 100 million times, despite the conditions of that sale, is obviously not a failure.

But, the reaction to Windows 8 does go right to the heart of a very large problem that Microsoft has – and has had for some time.

Microsoft is trying desperately to adjust to the world of mobile computing. They have the Microsoft Surface now, but contrary to Bill Gate’s insisting that people don’t like the iPad because of the lack of a keyboard, the numbers don’t lie. The iPad dominates while having no keyboard, and sales of Surface are at a MUCH lower level. Much of the computing world is now dominated by touch.

Microsoft is trying to move with the times, but they’re trying to also find ways to keep the old-school folks happy. As D.B. Grady, from The Week, said,

The company’s brilliant engineers must feel like velociraptors handcuffed to brontosauruses

Apple doesn’t have to deal with supporting years and years of old legacy code. Apple is one company that moves forward and doesn’t feel obligated to support everything it has ever released. It gets to a certain point where Apple will just say, “Hey, you want to use this? Buy a new Mac, will ya?” Plus, Apple has the marketing chops to convince it’s users of just how awesome it is. They’ve always been awesome at marketing.

Microsoft isn’t that awesome at marketing. They’re trying to move forward, and they’re trying to do it using one operating system that can fit everything. They did it without really listening to the needs and wants of their users (I highly doubt anybody actually was hoping they’d ditch the start menu). And, it backfired.

Microsoft can’t keep the enterprise crowd, who are historically VERY slow to change, happy while simultaneously plowing forward to compete with Apple in the mobile space.

These are two separate audiences, and Microsoft is trying to have it both ways. Only with Microsoft, for instance, does the most modern operating system they have still need to sport support for a floppy disk, or some old piece of crap software which was created in the early 90’s. Apple moves forward because they don’t have the enterprise baggage. Microsoft tries to move forward, but they’re tied at the ankles.

There’s only two ways out of this. OK, well three.

  1. Release some frankenstein mis-mash compromise between old-school and Modern UI, which I’m guessing is what they’re about to do with the “Blue” update. Paul Thurrott called it an “apology” release, and that’s probably fairly close to accurate.
  2. Do a fork and maintain separate incarnations of Windows for different audiences. Surely to be a nightmare for Microsoft.
  3. Suddenly get good at marketing, and use really solid marketing to draw enterprise over. SHOW them how this will be a boon to productivity. Totally embrace the “new” Windows and convince enterprise to come along for the ride.

For now, I’m betting they’ll continue to have problems, though. Microsoft is a criss-crossing company in conflict with itself right now.

Case in point, Microsoft Office is still in full-on traditional desktop mode. Whereas Windows is trying to embrace the Apple model with the walled-off “Windows Store” and the Modern UI, MS Office is still a traditional desktop app. Word is, however, that may change with something code-named “Gemini”.

Microsoft has a challenge ahead of it, through. Nobody said change is easy.

What do you think? Do you think Windows 8 is a failure? Chime in below in the comments.


  1. Whatever Windows you are running, this Dell PowerEdge R720 server has a nice overview:

  2. test 123

  3. M$ says 100 million licenses sold but they leave out the part where they require enterprise to buy Win8 then they use the downgrade option to Win7. M$ did the same with Vista they never admitted it was a flop. Win8 will end up worse than Vista. It’s just a POS.

    The only fix is to wipe the drive and install Windows 7.

  4. You seem to belittle MS for trying to please the customer while at the same time give Apple marketing kudos for doing just the opposite and telling it’s customer base ‘too bad, buy a new machine.’ Personally, I commend MS for supporting it’s older software and attempting to keep it compatible with a plethora of hardware configurations. Where as Apple has left its customer base “out in the cold” a few times.

    Please, I’m not trying to start a Windows/MAC debate. I have always believed that the MAC is/was a superior computer (no, I don’t use one). But, if Apple was a genius at marketing, we would all be using MACs and there would be no discussion.

    I run Win7, but I was under the impression that there were ways to get the “classic desktop” and the “start menu” in Win8. maybe I’m wrong or maybe it needs 3rd party software, but I’m confident that its possible.

    Just my 2¢

  5. I agree with MrZip. The way Apple does business should be illegal. I refuse to buy anything made by Apple. Now if M$ wants to copy the Apple model I’ll stop using their products.

    I’ll stick with Win7 till 2020 if need be as “Blue” appears not to be a fix just a tweak that will not fix anything. Linux is looking better all the time now.

  6. I have Windows 8 on a new desktop. I created a desktop screen just like I had on my old desktop using XP. You can create the same screen with little or no trouble at all. It just takes a few minutes to create it. What’s the big deal ????

  7. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the UEFI nightmare, imposed by Microsoft in a desperate attempt to screw the competition (mainly Linux) and because they’re to lazy to correct vulnerabilities within their OS. With UEFI, dual-boot installations with any operating system have become a big time headache.
    I consider Windows 7 to be MS’s greatest accomplishment since Win2000; why didn’t they stick to that??? No, they had to screw things up, as usual.

  8. I don’t know. I like windows 8. At 1st I had a little trouble with the start menu thing and installed software to make one. I also wasnt use to the way you have ro close programs in the left side of the screen. But I have been playing with it a while and dont have any problems with using 8. I unistalled the start menu software! And to only cost me $40 to upgrade over $90. Its not bad at all!

  9. g55rumpy says:

    windows is a failure

  10. I think their mistake here is trying to have a uniform user interface for widely different devices. The Modern UI is well suited for touch devices without a keyboard with the large icons and full screen applications. But it is just CLUMSY as heck in a non-touch laptop or desktop with keyboard and mouse. Microsoft should have provided the option of installing different UI for different devices. Keep the WIndows 7 interface with the good old start menu for non-touch devices and have the Modern UI for touch devices. Although you can switch among both interfaces easily, it is completely clunky for non-touch users because the start button is missing and when do a right click on a Modern UI screen object you get a bar at the bottom of the screen with the available options (which require additional mouse movement) instead of the more logical place where the cursor is located. Also what’s that thing about not having a close button un full screen Modern UI applications? It is clunky to close them by dragging with a mouse. Sure, there is a keyboard shortcut but still is clunky not having a close button. Multitasking, which is very often done in the desktop environment even at home is a breeze with the venerable taskbar. The Modern UI is not well suited for multitasking since it is not as intuitive to switch between applications. If you don’t know the keyboard shortcuts, it is harder to use Windows 8 with keyboard and mouse.

    Using the Apple example too, I don’t think a MacBook Pro has the same user interface as an iPad or iPhone. Similar and consistent? Absolutely. But to each device its own interface.

  11. Doug Seabury says:

    My wife and I both have win,8, Hers is 32bit, mines 64bit WE LIKE IT, I have an IT/ITC Dip.Hed. We both find it east to use a;though iv’e modified them so my programs are listed seperately on the taskbar and my wife’s boots straight to the desktop. I’m looking forward to blue tho, to C what they come up with.

  12. Another thing about the 100 million licenses. I bought a cheap upgrade from Amazon and then reverted to Win7 on my PC. I absolutely hated Win8.

    I don’t see why “forking” the OS’s, one for PCs and one for touchscreen devices, would be such a giant headache for MS. Having a hybrid OS is pretty much why so many people hate Win8. You don’t want the Metro UI if you have a desktop or big laptop — I mean, why run single lightweight “apps” on an Intel i7?

    On the other hand, you don’t need the desktop with its heavyweight features on an internet appliance.

  13. Kermit Bengtson says:

    Have had only one chance to use W-8 Basic was on a very low priced HP that I got for a niece for less than $300 at Walmart. It came with a manual introducing W-8 I fooled with the computer and optomized it in the manner discirbed by Monte Russel in his great book (found at Could not put my finger on it but W-8 is missing something that were carry over from Xp into Vista and W-7. Am not a tablet user nor a smart phone user as I feel that they are an unneed expence but do have 12 computers and servers all but 3, I built with OS’s that range from 98se (old Dell lapotop) XP home, XP Pro, Vista, W-7 home prem W-7 Pro 64bit and am comfortable with these systems. Learned the easyest way to access the desktop was to press the Windows key on the keypad which opened a limited (4) functions you have to page up to access the rest of the the functions. Over all was not impressed with W-8 Basic did have a smaller footprint on the hard drive but again it is Basic. The laptop did have 3 gigs of memory a 320gig hard drive and an AMD processor. I did shrink the C-drive and created 2 more partitions for data and misc files. Will I buy W-8 to upgrade the computers not as long as I can still get W-7, am not impressed with all the apps and having to mouse the right side of the desktop to find settings to shut down the computer. I don’t care for the OS. My $.02

  14. Well, sounds good until you look at how large the installed base of older systems is today.

    Also there is a run on free third party app called “Classic Shell” that will unwind most of the “metro” GUI. So far of the people I know it is a push. Most feel driven to accept Windows 8, but often they come to me to help me “re-work” Windows 8 to a classic gui, dual boot it to Linux so that they can jump ship later, or buy a Mac; which I tell them is just another UNIX / Linux clone under the covers. Mac is BSD with a friendly Mac face and I show them the differences.

    I have also been told that many of their friends are holding on to their old hardware, just to avoid Windows 8. I personally can use a warm rock with spit on it, but if you look at the frustration of these people you can see they don’t want to waste the time, again, again, again, relearning a new OS GUI. I have also heard from my Linux friends that they are dropping Ubuntu, Unity for the same reasons since it is so Metro-like for Mint.

    You can look at this two ways. The old Microsoft GUI was a screaming success if so many people are clutching to it so strongly. You would think that they would want to build on this instead of throw it away, especially since it has created so much acrimony.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that some pencil necked wonder kid business type is trying to get a one size fits all system to cut down on costs. However, if you have to sit in front of a screen every day to do your job you don’t want to learn a new OS every other year not to mention the other draw backs. I can’t see people hunched over a postage sized screen pawing at the monitor to do a presentation, with the device precarious perched on a knee.

    Serious users, doing serious work, for long stretches of time, want a nice comfortable desk and chair with two maybe three monitors, a large keyboard and mouse or roller for the odd moments when they have to lift their hands off the keyboard. Some of the larger laptops also fill this bill as well and for serious gaming, forget the tablet as well. Yes, you can do card games etc., but to seriously rock and roll a tablet or phone doesn’t work for me either.

    If I was still in the industry, I might try to steal the march by providing fast, clean (no junkware), inexpensive machines with a free OS worked to look like and work like an old XP box with a classic desktop. I would also provide real tech support not some third, third party help line to a country that has a slippery grasp on English and using people who really don’t care. I remember when Word Star or was it Word Perfect that dropped tech support and Microsoft ate their lunch by providing live tech support from someone who actually knew what they were doing, seemed to care and added cross over help in Windows Word. Last time I called tech support, I ended up troubleshooting the problem the tech support guy had as he was ordering a warranty replacement PC for me.

    I know that the computer industry moves at light speed, but I think this issue is going to take some time to unwind. The U.S. market is PC saturated and we will have to wait for people to get off the dime before we see what will happen in the long term. The one thing that irks me is I can’t buy a full stand alone version of Windows 8 for love nor money. I even called the evil empire and they told me to go away. I won’t buy it until I can get all the bits in a box so I can do a clean install.

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