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November 16th 2012 11:49 am

Is Windows 8 already a failure?

According to a new survey published by USA Today, "few [Windows users] have immediate plans to upgrade" to Windows 8. The newspaper says that the results of the survey, which was conducted by Antivirus software company Avast, "underscore lukewarm response to Windows 8."

While there has been a lot of criticism of Windows 8 (including here on gdgt, where we gave the OS a "Wait to Buy" designation), is the situation necessarily as bleak for Microsoft as USA Today says? After all, most consumers don't upgrade their OSes except when they buy new computers, and businesses are even more cautious about upgrades. As of October, 40% of computers tracked by Net Applications were still running Windows XP, which was released over 11 years ago.

While it's true that consumers and businesses have been slower to embrace Windows 8 than Windows 7 at its launch three years ago -- Net Applications says that Windows 7 was on 2.3% of computers after its first month on the market, vs. just 0.45% for Windows 8 -- there's an obvious reason for that: Windows 7 was a replacement for the disastrous Windows Vista, and there was a strong incentive to upgrade. With Windows 7, however, Microsoft put together a reliable, stable operating system, and there's less of a reason for most consumers and businesses to replace it.

This doesn't mean there aren't real problems with Windows 8. These include the confusing (some would say schizophrenic) user experience created by the dual desktop/"Metro-style" environments, the disappearance of long-standing UI elements like the Start menu, the lack of any real need for the Metro environment for non-touch computers, and confusion over the real differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. And the fact is, if you don't have a touchscreen PC, there's no real reason to upgrade to Windows 8, and even if you do, it will be a while before the touch-based side of OS is mature enough to fully replace the more keyboard-centric desktop.

So, is Windows 8 a failure? No, certainly not an epic failure like Vista. But it's already clear that it's not a must-have upgrade like Windows 7, and that's reflected both in the responses to the USA Today poll and the Net Applications upgrade data. However, within a few months, it'll be difficult to buy a new PC without Windows 8 pre-installed, and in a few years, businesses may even start using it. Hopefully, by then, Microsoft will allow users to set the desktop as their default environment if they find it more suitable -- or at least bring back the Start button.


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14 replies

That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Win8 is a huge improvement over 7 both in form and function.
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I agree.

The thing that I think will really get everyone to upgrade is the speed. My Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga ($1000) boots up in 3 seconds without any modifications and everything launches instantly. Although even if it was the same speed as Windows 7, I'd use it so I could have Metro.
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I always wonder why people seem to "want" Microsoft products to fail. There are more exciting computers after the release of windows 8 than in -- well anytime before it. I don't see how anyone could label the os as a failure in anyway...if it is what is it failing on? Personally I have used it for about month or so now, in boot camp on a macbook (of all things) and I have had no problems of any kind. It takes a little getting used to because it is so different but after using it for some time and seeing others use it i understand why they did what they did. Not everyone uses a desktop heavy programs. I actually think the "desktop" should be relegated to an app-like thing that you use when you need to work in photoshop, word, auto cad, or other heavy duty program. If you are not doing intense work like that why do you need a desktop to be front and center all the time?
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It isn't the desktop that needs to be front and center, it is the multiple windows (or even multiple windows on multiple monitors) that are invaluable. However, I agree that many users . . . maybe even most users are single taskers - and the new UI is just fine to great for that.

If one were to peer something like a decade into the future, isn't it kind of darkly humorous that one can now see a time when it will finally be the year for Linux on the desktop? True. It may only happen because Apple and Microsoft have abandoned the desktop . . . but this may represent a trend where the computing needs of power users, gamers, PC enthusiasts and geeks are marginalized. Maybe this whole Steam PC thing isn't so far fetched.
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I bought alienware with windows 8 and nokia lumia with windows phone and no problem to report. For me it is perfect
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I think "failure" is a bit extreme. You pretty much summed up why there are low inital numbers: Windows 7 is a very solid OS (so it's not essential to upgrade right away like it was from Vista) and some things in 8 are less than perfect at the moment, though it's certainly not bad. Personally, I expect to upgrade to 8 once I buy a new form factor PC that's better suited to utilize it / enjoy it on, and until then I'm perfectly happy with 7. I think a lot of consumers are in that mindset as well.
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I hope XP dies soon. 11 years as way too long to support an OS in my opinion. I think it is finally being cut off early next year if I recall correctly.

I know someone who just got a brand new laptop for work last month (came with Windows 7) and he had to immediately send it to the IT department to get XP installed on it (removing W7). I thought it was ridiculous, but it had "Corporate Approval". I am not sure if Windows 8 has the same legacy/compatibility support as Windows 7, but I imagine it would. This is why it bugs me so much to see it still with a (as per your post) 40% share.

I am one of the users who is waiting to upgrade to Windows 8, and may in fact wait until my next computer. So I am guilty of hanging around with Windows 7 for now.
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WinXP was (is) a very solid and very usable OS. Win7 is following in that line - very solid and user-friendly. But yes, time for XP to go away.

As a former Microsoft employee since the days of B.XP. (before XP) through Win7, I have seen first-hand how MS releases (client) OSes. Without getting into too much detail or timelines, the general pattern follows this:
-release decent great OS
-either [1] follow-up too soon with poorly-thought-out or bug-ridden OS, or [2] follow up after a proper length of time with new features folks aren't ready for or don't need or that just plain don't work, or rarely [3] follow up with another decent/great OS.
-release decent/great OS
-lather, rinse, repeat

All in my opinion, of course:
Win3.1 - decent
Win95 - game-changing, yet very poor at first (decent after OSR2.5)
Win98 - decent, great-for-the-time after Win98 Second Edition
WinME - Made a top-25 list of worst tech inventions of all-time
WinXP - great, esp after SP2
Vista - ugh.
Win7 - great
Win8 - ...not impressed...

I honestly think Win8 is a known-entity in that it gets the technology they want out there, priming users for the next OS that will "suck less". I doubt it's meant to be a "great" OS.

"But that's just my opinion; I could be wrong." ;)
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I appreciate your insight. It is very true that a bunch of the OS releases were better after service packs. I indeed used all of them throughout the years and agree with your assessment.

Windows 8 is a radical change, but slowly people will get used to it. I have no doubt W8 will be refined as time is moved on, and at that time I will be willing to jump in.
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Microsoft's extended support for XP actually runs through April 2014, so you could be looking at XP for a while. A lot of corporations are still using older equipment, and are reluctant to move up to Windows 7 for fear that it won't run well or that there will be driver issues with older equipment.
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On the anecdotal side, I was at a tailor picking up some clothes and a woman who I would guess was in her mid-to-late-70s was having a conversation with the tailor about whether or not she should upgrade her computer to Windows 8. If a non-tech savvy (which was apparent from the way she was talking about the upgrade) lady in Charleston, SC is aware of Windows 8, my guess is that Microsoft's problem (or potential problem) isn't familiarity, but it's demonstrating clear, additional utility over Windows 7.
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Biased I can understand. Didn't expect gdgt authors to be uninformed. So despite the truly awesome array of devices, in 3 weeks its time to talk about a failure? And the gripe: start menu and not defaulting to desktop. I would expect this from someone who hasn't tried using it, but was hoping for more from a reviewer.
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It doesn't have to break your computer like Vista to be a problem. They need to find a way to stop the bleeding from iPads, iPhone, Android and Macbooks. Sales of traditional computers are going down. Windows 8 is to transition Microsoft to new devices like the Surface and new touch screen laptops while maintaining their declining desktop OS monopoly. They know companies won't move to it for awhile except maybe in the laptop space. My guess is they are not liking what they are seeing in sales despite heavy advertising but its early. I know I'm not excited by what they are doing.
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Windows 8 IS already a failure. The preschool colored blocks of touch screen UI have no place on a Desktop or Laptop. Time will bear this out. If it weren't for the "start screen" Metro crap that looks like it was designed by a preschooler, I would upgrade to Win8 in a heart beat.

I refuse to use the Metro crap though.
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