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  (Source: flickr)
Windows 8 has some good ideas but not for the PC form factor, the report's author argues

The baby of now-departed Microsoft Corp. (MSFTWindows President Steven SinofskyWindows 8, was supposed to be a dynamite follow-up to Windows 7.  Instead the successor to the best-selling operating system in history is perhaps becoming best known for its deeply divisive impact on users.

Users tend to be split into two camps.  On one side are folks like Steven "Woz" Wozniak, Apple, Inc. (AAPL) co-founder, who takes the perspective that Windows 8 (and its mobile brethren Windows Phone) are wildly innovative.  "The Woz" commented in a recent interview, "I've seen more of the type of innovation (from Microsoft) where you see something: 'Whoa - they really changed things drastically. Whoa - they aren't even going the same direction as everyone else' - meaning the iPhone and Android operating systems."

But others, like typically pro-Windows blogger Paul Thurrott (who compared Win8 to Windows ME) and Valve’s Gabe Newell (who called the OS a "disaster") are decidedly unhappy with the radical shift.

Such sentiments have been compiled and perhaps most eloquently analyzed by Jakob Nielsen of UseIt / AlertBox, who compiled a rich, multi-page study on what he feels are the flaws of Windows 8.

Windows 8 boxes
Windows 8 boxes on diplay at Wal-Mart [Image Source: The Verge]

Among his major gripes:
  • Double desktop (Windows 8 UI vs. the traditional desktop)
    Why? creates interface slowness and cognitive dissonance
  • Switch to single windowing
    Why? Hard to remember what you have open for complex tasks
  • "Flat" look of Windows 8 UI tiles
    Why? Hard to tell where tile boundaries are, icons are more likely to be less distinctive
  • Photo/graphic heavy UI themes
    Why? While nice to look at they convey information at a lower density than "uglier" themes
  • Live Tiles
    Why? Third party developers show less sophistication than Microsoft, toss together confusing tiles that don't enhance usability or understanding.
  • Charms
    Why? Harder to use on traditional devices, are hidden (and thus forgotten), and don't work universally across Windows interface, so they confuse.
  • Gestures
    Why? Nielsen says the gestures are error prone and overly complex, such as the multi-step gesture to reveal running apps.
  • Tablet UI for Desktops
    Why? The above problems are less obvious on tablets, or in some cases not problems at all; he argues "One Windows" is a bad strategy for Microsoft
Windows 8 ugly live tiles
Mr. Nielsen gives these "Live Tiles" as examples of the UI tempting developers into sloppy, confusing design. [Image Source: AlertBox]

He tries to buck the inevitable hate train that's coming down the tracks in his direction, telling Microsoft fans (which he claims to himself be one of):

Because this column is very critical of Microsoft's main product, some people will no doubt accuse me of being an Apple fanboy or a Microsoft hater. I'm neither. I switched from Macintosh to Windows many years ago and have been very pleased with Windows 7.

I am a great fan of the dramatic "ribbon" redesign of Office (we later gave several awards to other applications that adapted this UI innovation), and I proclaimed the Kinect an "exciting advance in UI technology." I have many friends who work at Microsoft and know that it has many very talented usability researchers and UI designers on staff.

I have nothing against Microsoft. I happen to think that Windows 7 is a good product and that Windows 8 is a misguided one. I derived these conclusions from first principles of human–computer interaction theory and from watching users in our new research. One doesn't have to hate or love a company in order to analyze its UI designs.

I'll stay with Win7 the next few years and hope for better times with Windows 9. One great thing about Microsoft is that they do have a history of correcting their mistakes.

Of course there are plenty of counterarguments to his points.  For example, blaming Microsoft for poorly designed live tiles or uncreative overly similar flat tiles is perhaps unfair.  Many gestures have backup keyboard shortcuts for traditional PCs.  Mobile-heavy users have already gotten used to hidden multi-tasking so hiding windows isn't the end of the world.  Graphically rich themes may pack less information, but they encourage users to dig in and grab more information.  The double desktop only becomes a hindrance if you have to keep going back to the traditional desktop as a crutch.

As the above counter-arguments illustrate, there's two sides to nearly every argument regarding Windows 8.  Perhaps that's why it's proved so utterly divisive.

Our survey shows that roughly half of readers (45 percent) have made the upgrade to Windows 8, but a significant remaining portion (36 percent) have strongly negative opinions about it and no plans to upgrade, comparing it to such loathed releases as Windows ME or Windows Vista.

Source: UseIT / Jakob Nielsen

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RE: All valid Criticisms
By Mitch101 on 11/21/2012 5:41:38 PM , Rating: 4
Vista was fine if you had the memory. Eliminate the dupe memory model and you nearly have Windows 7 and OS I think is easily better than XP was. Im onto Windows 8 now and Office 2013 the transition was smooth with a few times I said where is this but once I pinned all my usual apps I don't notice it any more. In Fact I find things in Windows 8 that are a nice step up like task manager and I use Windows Media Center inside Windows 8 works just like the previous version. The amazing part is Windows 8 found network devices on install like my Silicon Dust dual tuner. I still had to install the drivers but cool that it found items on my local subnet like my printer. Very cool Microsoft. I also like having the ribbon of options in file explorer. Oh and I love the built in ISO Mounting ability. Finally.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By bobsmith1492 on 11/21/2012 8:39:43 PM , Rating: 3
Agree, I use Vista at home and 7 at work. The only thing I miss on Vista is drag-and-drop to snap windows into fullscreen.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Kurz on 11/22/2012 10:29:55 AM , Rating: 2
Just drag the window to the top of the screen for windows 7.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By RjBass on 11/25/2012 12:15:45 AM , Rating: 2
That's what he is saying. He loves it on his 7 machine at work and misses it on his Vista machine at home.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By lucyfek on 11/21/2012 10:59:08 PM , Rating: 4
You say windows media center works in 8. But can you have it on top of other windows (this did not work in preview)? Unless they fixed this feature my hdhr is more usable on 7 where i can browse and have small media center window running in the corner. I can tweak the rest (unencumbered by the Charms of Metro) but the way MS did it I can't even try it anymore (enterprise or pro trials don't come with mc, not activated copy won't let you add the feature, I'm not spending $ just to find out essential stuff does not work - I can use Linux for browsing Internet). Other little thing - MS removed "previous versions", sorry but true backup is not a substitute. And don't mention Windows Store - what a bunch of crap, as if I needed middle man to let me install software (they approve of).

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Mitch101 on 11/22/2012 2:59:47 PM , Rating: 2
Media Center works in 8 and can be on top of other windows unless im misinterpreting what your saying. Ive re-sized it small down to maybe 1x3 inches but generally I make it take up my third screen. I have seen networks in the windows market but haven't tried them yet. Recordings are excellent like before to me its the same as it was on Windows 7.

Ive also added windows essentials like movie maker and a few of the others but haven't tried them yet.

I rather like the store what I think we will get out of it is cheap and free apps instead of paying $20-$60.00 we will find a lot of free-cheap apps that are rated and easily updated much like steam provides. I think the App market place will cause better and more frequent bug fixes to otherwise shoddy apps especially when they can be rated.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By bug77 on 11/22/2012 6:56:39 AM , Rating: 3
Vista was fine if you had the memory.

The thing is, most people didn't. It cost a hefty amount to buy the amount needed back then. And then there was superfetch, indexing that took a while to tweak into something reasonable. The UAC was annoying as hell, too. Once all there were addressed, Vista was ok; it's was we call Win7 these days.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Mitch101 on 11/22/2012 3:04:11 PM , Rating: 3
UAC didnt bother me I rather liked knowing what apps wanted to talk over the internet and being able to block them as a choice.

Its amazing people complain about UAC yet Android does the same thing about apps that want to access your information but no one is complaining about that.

Kind of an annoying double standard put on Microsoft but do it on Android and everyone's suddenly ok about it?

RE: All valid Criticisms
By erple2 on 11/25/2012 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
Its amazing people complain about UAC yet Android does the same thing about apps that want to access your information but no one is complaining about that.

I think that the difference is that Android asks once and Vista will typically ask every time, particularly for poorly implemented software.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Wolfpup on 11/24/2012 1:40:46 PM , Rating: 3
Most people didn't have the RAM because most people run shoddy, low end, broke down systems, not because it was a big deal to have enough RAM for it at the time.

Superfetch is cool...worked well, and is still there in 7 and 8. UAC is a good idea, only caused issues because developers were developing things wrong for years. If they'd been following reasonable, even common sense guidlines it would have caused zero issues, and whenever Microsoft finally started enforcing that it was going to break poorly written programs. If Vista hadn't added it, then 7 would have been the era dealing with people whining about it. It's a no brainer idea that now causes basically zero issues, but provides protection.

In other words, Vista was fine. It was better than XP. 7 is better still (mostly some nice interface tweaks, although it is missing some handy programs built in to Vista, unfortunately).

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Paj on 11/22/2012 7:55:36 AM , Rating: 3
Completely agree. Have been using Vista on my lappy for a number of years and have had 0 problems with it. The UI and core programs are far more efficient and usable. UAC is easily disabled, so its a non-issue. Its far superior to XP in my view - I shudder whenever I have to use XP now.

I believe that the initial backlash against it was largely due to it being bundled with underpowered PCs, and poor driver support. Both of these ameliorated over time.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By tamalero on 11/22/2012 11:57:14 AM , Rating: 2
Incorrect, Vista had so many problems during launch...
they only made decent thanks these days due of patching with service packs and other updates.
Infact, it has a lot of windows 7 feel now.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Mitch101 on 11/22/2012 3:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
Vista was not the problem. Vista was a memory hog and plagued by horrendous driver development. The original charts showed NVIDIA as one of the biggest offenders of the problem at launch. Hard to use your computer with buggy video drivers. This was also around the time of bumpgate and buggy motherboard chipset drivers from NVIDIA also.

If anything Microsoft should have worked closer with vendors like NVIDIA on driver development but eventually NVIDIA got it right as there was confusion surrounding how to develop for Vista properly.

The second problem was vendors not writing drivers for a lot of their recent and legacy product causing consumers to be agitated that their recent say scanner/video capture card wasn't supported. Wasn't Microsoft's fault there. The people who sold the scanner/video capture devices wanted to sell you a new scanner and in order to do that you had to buy their new device which supported vista. If they wrote you a driver you would have no incentive to buy another one of their products.

RE: All valid Criticisms
By Kaleid on 11/24/2012 11:34:30 AM , Rating: 2
No, it was still bad. After boot it keeps on using the harddrive for up to 10 minutes for no good reason. For people who have noisy harddrives that must have been anything but pleasant.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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