Monday, October 29, 2012

Poll Finds Lackluster Demand for Windows 8

PC Magazine is reporting a poll that shows people aren't exactly rushing to jump on the Windows 8 bandwagon: 

In a new poll of 1,200 U.S. adults conducted by the Associated Press and GfK, about 52 percent of people had not heard of Windows 8.  Of those who had heard about the OS, 61 percent were not interested in buying a new laptop or desktop with Windows 8.  Only 35 percent said they thought Windows 8 was an improvement over Windows 7.

This is as I have predicted in several previous posts.   The problem is that, having run out of original ideas, all of Microsoft's "innovations" for the past ten years has been increasingly bent on simply making things look different.  Take the ribbon interface in Microsoft Office.  It isn't an improvement.  In fact, a lot of people think it is confusing and, overall, a worse user interface.  But it is different!  And that is supposed to justify Microsoft's huge customer base laying out hundreds of dollars per PC to get the new thing!

Now, for fear no one would buy a new version of Windows unless it had a substantially different look and feel, Microsoft has taken the most used operating system on the planet and given it an interface like a Las Vegas slot machine or an airport kiosk.  Did they really bother to test this interface among the computer literate public?

Microsoft says they want to have the same user interface across all their devices, including the Windows 8 phone.  There are two problems with that:  (1) In a world already dominated by the iPhone and Android (with which people are perfectly happy), the Windows 8 phone will never (I repeat, never) gain a significant enough user base for most people to experience the same interface on their phone and their PC.  (2) People really don't care if their phone has the same interface as their PC.  What they want is for their phone to have the interface that works best for doing what a phone does and their PC to have the interface that works best for doing what a PC does.  

While there may be an overlap, in that phones, tablets, and PC's can do a number of the same things, people use them differently.  People will get e-mail, browse the web, and (occasionally) open Office documents on their phones.  But no one does serious word processing or creates spreadsheets on their phones, not to mention graphic design or publishing.

Every time my antivirus software does a scan, I watch as it runs through over 600,000 files.  That is not surprising--my whole digital life is on my PC.  I need a powerful file system that will allow me to find and manage those files and an operating system that will allow me to do this as efficiently and quickly as possible.

All those 600,000 files will never be on my phone, and I don't want them to be.  All I need on my phone is an interface that allows me to quickly find the relatively few photos, or songs, or e-mails, or documents I choose to carry with me. 

Having the same user interface on my phone, tablet, and PC does not help.  In fact, it makes the experience worse on each device, since compromises and trade-offs inevitably have to be made for the same OS and user interface to span all three types of devices.

And, finally, I DO NOT WANT TO TOUCH THE SCREEN ON MY DESKTOP OR LAPTOP!  The idiots at Microsoft and various PC manufacturers need to get this through their heads.  I may be content to wipe my tablet off with a clean cloth every other day, but I do not want to have to take a bottle of Windex to my desktop or laptop that often--in fact, not ever.

Microsoft just isn't getting it.  They have run out of original ideas, and under the pressure to come up with something new, they are turning out products that are actually making things worse for their customers.  Given the size of their company and their user base, the results will take time to show up.  But this isn't going to end well for Microsoft.  In five years, I expect to look back at this column and say (sadly), I told you so.