Windows 8 is not a failure

Three weeks have passed since Microsoft released Windows 8 to the public and there already is chatter on the Internet that the operating system is a failure. There are rumors that sales are not as good as Microsoft hoped they would be, and the leaving of Steven Sinofsky certainly adds fuel to the Internet rumor mill.

I do not want to write about sales and projections because frankly, we do not have any data from Microsoft or other sources that can be used for an analysis of the system's financial success or failure. What we know is that Microsoft sold 4 million upgrades of the operating system in the first three days after release. It is not surprising that updates sell like hot cake, considering that they are heavily discounted until January 31, 2013 and that Microsoft charges the same upgrade price regardless of the previously used operating system. What we can do however is to look at the operating system from a user's point of view.

When you look at the major points of criticism that users have regarding Windows 8, they boil down to two, maybe three issues that every argument seems to concentrate on. The criticized elements are highly visible, while the majority of improvements made to the operating system itself are not.

Features like improved security, reset and refresh, support for UEFI, secure boot, better multi-monitor support, file history, storage spaces or hybrid boot are not as visible as the new Start screen or the missing start menu.

Start screen

The Start screen is new, and greets users when they launch the operating system. Microsoft has been heavily criticized for making this a mandatory part of all Windows 8 operating systems. While I imagine it to be a great thing on a tablet computer, it is simply not as practical on the desktop.

The Start screen is optimized for touch devices, for tapping on those big rectangular tiles to start applications and programs. But desktop users make use of mice and keyboards that allow finer options to control what's happening on the screen. The two big issues here are that it feels like a second interface that has no real connection to the desktop, and that it does not add anything on the desktop that the Start menu did not offer as well.

Missing Start Menu

Microsoft has removed the Start menu from the operating system's desktop, likely to make users use the Start screen instead, which acts as the primary program launcher and search tool.

The problem that many users see is: it is necessary to switch to the Start screen whenever programs need to be started or searches conducted. While it is true that the actual process does not take any more clicks or keys than before, it is the switch to another full screen interface that is criticized here.

While not mentioned nearly as much as the two points above, aspects like secure boot, the locked nature of Windows Store, integration of Microsoft Accounts, the touch-friendly new interface elements or the need to train users to get accustomed to the new interface are also mentioned by critics.

My Point

When you look at the criticism you will probably notice immediately that there are already workarounds available to invalidate them. Programs like Start8 or Classic Shell add the start menu back to the operating system and offer to bypass the start screen on log on.

They turn Windows 8 into the Windows 7 update most users expected it to be for desktop PCs.

Let's say Windows 8 stays behind expectations sales-wise because of the new interface or the missing start menu. What if Microsoft would react to that by adding the start menu back and including an option to boot directly to the desktop? Where would that leave users who criticize the operating system?

What I'm trying to say here is that the two major points of criticism can be easily fixed either with third-party software or by Microsoft to turn around the public perception of the operating system.

Let me ask you a question: Will your opinion about Windows 8 change if Microsoft adds a Start menu, option to bypass the Start screen, and a few minor changes to it? If not, what needs to be done to make this a worthy Windows 7 successor for you?

Photo Credit: William Perugini/Shutterstock

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