Windows 8: It’s a Disaster

Windows 8

When Microsoft released Windows 8 in 2012, it hoped that the operating system would quickly eclipse its predecessors.

In light of that, it wouldn’t be untoward to describe Windows 8’s marketplace performance as a disaster: Not only does the platform continue to lag behind Windows 7 and Windows XP, but new data from Net Applications hints that it’s actually lost incremental market share over the past two months.

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“While in June Windows 8′s user share came dangerously close to the sluggish uptake tempo of Windows Vista, in July Windows 8′s pace fell below Vista’s for the first time,” Gregg Keizer wrote on ComputerWorld. “That Windows 8′s uptake performance has not matched Vista’s is important because the latter, widely panned at the time, has earned a reputation as one of Microsoft’s biggest OS failures.”

Even if Net Applications’ numbers are off, the fact that Windows 8 hasn’t yet overcome Windows XP could be construed as something of an embarrassment for Microsoft, which has spent the past several quarters trying to convince the world to give up the aging XP in favor of a newer operating system. But even cutting off official support for XP hasn’t dissuaded millions of people and countless businesses from using it.

Windows 8’s marketplace failure also exerts a drag on the broader Windows ecosystem. When Microsoft first announced Windows 8, it had high hopes that third-party developers, tantalized by the prospect of Windows’ massive installed base, would build a wide variety of apps for the platform. Within a year and a half of Windows 8’s release, however, its Windows Store featured only 150,000 apps—not exactly a blockbuster number, when one considers the hundreds of thousands of apps populating the Google Android and iOS app stores. At the time, InfoWorld (citing data from MetroScore Scanner) even suggested that the number of apps posted to the Windows Store was on the decline.

Why did Windows 8 crash and burn so spectacularly? Pundits and analysts have widely blamed it on Microsoft’s decision to give the operating system a dual interface: In addition to the “traditional” desktop, Windows 8 features a Start screen filled with colorful, touch-friendly tiles linked to applications, the better to operate on tablets. Many customers who loved the desktop interface found the Start screen a confusing addition and decided to stick with their current OS rather than upgrade; meanwhile, those in the market for a new tablet didn’t find the colorful tiles a compelling enough reason to switch from their iPad or Android device.

But at least Windows 8 (combined with its upgrade, 8.1) has surpassed Windows Vista’s overall market share. Now that would have been an embarrassment.

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Comments

  1. BY raj says:

    The only reason it surpassed Vista is that there was XP and then 7, both good OSes. People just skipped over Vista (and are STILL holding on to XP). ~Two years wasn’t that long of a wait. That said, my wife just bought a Mac. She was using 7. Didn’t even bother looking at a PC. She has an iPhone. It’s the ecosystem (not the “economy”), stupid! ;-)

    • BY SullaFelix says:

      My parents continue to run XP (on my Mom’s system) and Vista (on Dad’s) only because I live three hours away and can’t get the time to switch them to something better. My Dad’s laptop can handle Win7, which I’ll probably install, but Mom’s computer won’t run Win7 with any speed, so I’m moving her to Linux Mint.

      I’d switch them both to Linux, but Dad’s set in his ways and likes Windows. I use Win7 at home on my gaming system, but everything else is Linux, phones are Android, my kids’ laptops are all Fedora systems and my netbook runs Gentoo. If Linux gaming gets going, I’ll scrap Win7 as well.

  2. BY Joe Dempsey, Sr. says:

    @RAJ You are exactly right. My son switched over to a Mac and the entire Apple line of products, Macbook Pro, IPod, iPad, iOS, OS X, etc. In other words, he drank the Apple Kool-Ade and never looked back.

    As for me, when my old PC bit the dust I got a re-furbished HP 64-bit with Windows 8. I don’t have a touch-screen so the “Metro” interface didn’t do much for me. However, I got a copy of ClassicShell so I never see the “Metro”, unless I want to.

    My problems with Windows 8(.x) are:

    1) I can no longer run any of my old 16-bit programs which is a total annoyance.I realize that I can run a Virtual Machine but it is cumbersome and the programs run too slowly. I would like Microsoft to support 16-bit programs in subsequent Windows versions but I’m not going to hold my breath.

    2) Those “Metro” (or “Modern”) programs A.K.A. “Apps” are still running in the background taking up precious main memory and CPU cycles. I’d like to eliminate them altogether on my PC. If I had a Microsoft Surface product, it wouldn’t be too bad.

    3) Microsoft still likes to hide the tools used to customize the behavior of Windows and Windows 8 has moved them around again so I had to re-learn where all the bodies are buried all over again. There seems to be little logic as to what program controls which function. The separation of functions starting with the Control Panel seems arbitrary to me. I wish they would at least settle on ONE way to configure things and leave it at that and stop hiding stuff under multiple layers of menus and tabs.

    On the plus side, the new Windows Explorer is more streamlined but they moved the Search function to a strange place. I would they did a “Copy” rather than a “Move”. In other words, keep the Search function where it is in the Upper-Right but PUT IT BACK on the Right-Click Sub-Menu.

  3. BY ajag says:

    @Joe Dempsey, Sr:

    1) That’s been the case for every 64-bit version of Windows (XP/Vista/Win7/Win8); that’s nothing new with Win8. Are they 16-bit DOS applications? DOSBox might be useful.

    2) Metro apps, when backgrounded, are suspended. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh464925.aspx No CPU cycle usage; they may still occupy RAM but may be removed to make room for anything else needing RAM. iOS and Android have a similar model.

    3) Agreed, but this has been the case with nearly every major release of Windows.

  4. BY J says:

    People are shocked when I tell them Windows 8 makes Vista look really good. I’ve been working with Microsoft products for the last 15 years and I’m an MCSE. Now I’m taking a 180 on Microsoft products and going to Apple and learning Linux. I think it’s time consumers start revolting from Microsoft being a bully to the consumers telling them what we want and not listening to consumers. If Microsoft stuck with Windows 7 and Office 2010, then consumers would be happy. I hear Windows 9 will be better than Windows 8, but that’s not saying much. The only improvement will be a start menu and maybe a Desktop. Start learning OSX and Linux now or pull your hair out with the Microsoft products that will disappoint users. To add insult to injury Microsoft wants to start charging a yearly subscription to the OS and Office Products. Consumers will not own software in the future. It’s going to get worse and not better.

  5. BY Joe Dempsey, Sr. says:

    @AJAG

    1) I’m painfully aware of “what is”, I was expressing what “could be” if Microsoft only listened to their users. If I made arbitrary changes to my software such that it broke my clients procedures and usage, I wouldn’t be in business for very long. Microsoft, however, is the 400 lb. gorilla. It does what it wants and does not take its customer’s complaints seriously. They are slipping down so fast that even their new CEO won’t be able to stop it.
    Bottom Line: I want everything to be backward compatible. I don’t want my stuff to break because Microsoft no longer considers it important. That’s my call, not theirs.

    2) The Metro Apps are not suspended when not being viewed. They update their views continuously whether the Metro screens are being viewed or not. And they still take up precious RAM. I want them GONE! I don’t use them, I don’t want them. It’s really that simple. But Microsoft doesn’t listen.

    3) Again, I couldn’t care less what “has been the case with nearly every major release of Windows”, This is just another in a long line of Windows Annoyances that they’ll never fix because they don’t listen to their users. The very fact that it has been going on “with nearly every major release of Windows”, is not a reason to accept their garbage, it is an even greater reason for them to fix it!

    Bottom Line: I don’t care “how it IS” I only insist that things can be made “how they could and should be.”

    • BY ajag says:

      1) First off, Microsoft cannot implement 16-bit compatibility on 64-bit operating systems using the same technique. On 32-bit Windows, the NTVDM subsystem uses the Virtual-8086 mode of the x86 processor; however, this mode is unavailable (at the hardware level) when the processor is in 64-bit mode.

      Microsoft would have to implement a complete 16-bit 8086 processor emulator in order to run 16-bit applications, which would be a significant investment in new, unproven code that would need to be completely bug-for-bug compatible with Virtual-8086 mode, in order to support the relatively few 16-bit applications in active use today. And because it would likely not be exactly bug-for-bug compatible, it might still end up breaking your software in some way and so you’d still whine about Windows 8.

      Furthermore, the entire notion of ‘Microsoft cannot break backwards compatibility ever’ means that Windows carries around a hefty cost in disk footprint and architecture in order to support every API they’ve ever released, so then you end up with people complaining about how much space Windows consumes on their laptops and tablets. (http://www.cnet.com/news/microsoft-surface-pro-software-devours-disk-space/)

      You say that if you made changes that broke compatibility you couldn’t stay in business, but I offer a counterexample: Apple breaks users’ procedures and usages in every release, because they do deprecate and remove APIs. I have bought-and-paid-for software for OS X, built for PowerPC, that simply does not run on any modern Mac. Apple does what it wants and it’s the darling of everyone (with the financials to back it up). Customers have spoken.

      2) If you’re considering RAM as ‘precious’, then you are coming at this from a DOS mentality. In any modern operating system, unused RAM is wasted RAM; the operating system intelligently uses it for things such like filesystem caching behind the scenes. (You can see this in the Memory Composition view in Task Manager.)

      But if it really bothers you you can uninstall nearly all of the Metro applications.

      3) They *do* listen to their users. Microsoft gets a huge amount of usage information from the Customer Experience Improvement Program, and reacting to the ways people use Windows. Dispite what you seem to think, they aren’t just pissing in the dark. Sinofsky went into quite a bit of detail about it here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/10/11/reflecting-on-your-comments-on-the-start-screen.aspx

      • BY Joe Dempsey, Sr. says:

        1) It is a relatively trivial task to switch the 64-bit x86 from 64-bit to 32/16 bit mode on a task by task basis. I have run VirtualBox and my 16-bit programs run fine albeit a bit more slowly. Furthermore, Microsoft could implement something akin to Linux’s Virtual Container like Docker. All the old dll’s could be provided to run already existing .exe files. Problem solved. It is not necessary to implement a mode which is bug-for-bug compatible. I’m not looking to develop new 16-bit software, just want to be able to run already existing 16-bit .exe’s so nothing would “break”. Your whole argument is a strawman.

        Complaining about Microsoft’s many annoyances is not, as you would put it, “whining”. There are whole books written on the subject and most of the annoyances have STILL TO THIS DAY have not been fixed by Microsoft. Many have been fixed by third-party developers but it SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY. Microsoft still DOESN’T LISTEN TO THEIR USERS. Hence the exodus to Apple and Linux. I’ve spent the better part of my career doing what other people said can’t be done or weren’t able to do. But there are cases where it is the responsibility of the OS vendor to clean up their own act. As far as I’m concerned, they can start with re-designing their messaging system from their ludicrous broadcast model to a multi-cast model. I imagine that concept is beyond your level of expertise. I simply don’t have the time do everything myself. I’m just a bit fed up with nay-sayers like you.

        2) Any resource which is limited is precious. That includes RAM, disk space, and data line/communication bandwidth. This is not a DOS mentality. I simply don’t want to have anything running on my machine unless I initiate it. I generally mod my hardware and de-crapify my installation to suit my needs. What I want Microsoft to provide is simply a Desktop-only mode where NO Metro “Apps” run. I shouldn’t have to remove them from my hard drive. Perhaps they’ll address this issue with Windows 9 or Threshold or whatever they’re going to call it.

        3) Microsoft has cornered the market on paying lip service to listening to their customers. But only action will prevent another fiasco that is Windows 8.

        And finally, I really hope you don’t work for Microsoft but it wouldn’t surprise me.

        • BY ajag says:

          Your hopes would be correct: I’ve never worked at MSFT. I’m a Windows driver developer for a third-party hardware vendor. I’ll let you assume whatever you want about “my level of expertise.”

  6. BY den1313 says:

    I have spoken to Microsoft reps and asked why I have to keep learning new OS’s and where things are kept. I mentioned that I was perfectly happy with XP, and why could they not come up with a new “XP-Plus” that would allow more memory, 64-bit, and larger hard drives, etc. Of course, I was poo-pooed as not keeping up. I am still using my Win 3.1 CAD program that works just fine.

  7. BY jo says:

    Windows 8 is possibly the worst thing I have ever seen on a computer. The good news is, Apple is the cure. I fought the good fight for Microsoft, but they clearly don’t care about us, so why should we keep buying their crap. Not a Mac “fan boy,” just sick of awful products.

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