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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: Opinions are like asses...
By dark matter on 11/21/2012 6:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
I hear this tired excuse all the time.

Explain then why my children prefer Windows 7 to Windows 8. They are 5 and 7 years old.

I installed it on their machine, and let them fly, without putting any preconceptions in their heads.

No doubt they can't learn new things either.

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By hankw on 11/21/2012 6:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well then how about teaching them?
My 2 year old didn't know how to use the iPad either until I showed her how.

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By martyrant on 11/21/2012 8:40:43 PM , Rating: 1
lol...most 2-3 yr olds figure out the ipad on their own...just open a stupid simple game...they'll figure it out.

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By hankw on 11/21/2012 9:36:58 PM , Rating: 2
Uh there's more to an ipad than just playing "stupid simple games"....
Obvious if you play around long enough with something you'll eventually get it, but the point here is that if you want someone to know something right away it's a matter of show and tell.

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By Arsynic on 11/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: Opinions are like asses...
By WinstonSmith on 11/22/2012 10:29:26 AM , Rating: 2
"Most frustrations with Windows 8 can be chalked up to the initial loss of productivity which isn't unique to the OS."

However, unlike previous version of Windows which all (except, arguably, 98SE) actually provided upgrades in desktop usability, Win8 will be found to be a detriment by advanced desktop users even after the lack of familiarity is overcome, just as the reviewer and I have found.

There is zero added value for desktop users in this "upgrade." The claimed new security features will be compromised overnight via the bazillion bugs undoubtedly present and there's nothing new in terms of important things like the file system even remotely as significant as was the introduction of NTFS. The roadblocks to desktop usability are made obvious in every review I've seen or read, all of them mentioning "workarounds."

Just as one example, I use multiple windows all of the time which was the whole point behind a windowing OS for god's sake. But since 4" screens on smart phones can't use them, I don't have them on my 24" desktop monitor either. Complete BS.

This "upgrade" OS is nothing more than a strong arm attempt to force all Microsoft OS users into a common UI, even if that UI actually causes a downgrade in desktop system usability. I'll pass...

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By Ramstark on 11/22/2012 1:44:41 PM , Rating: 3
People really REALLY should use and CUSTOMIZE W8 before posting opinions on sites, or publishing them like "studies" please, opinions ARE NOT studies....

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By andre-bch on 11/21/2012 6:28:08 PM , Rating: 2
Yet there are children who can use 8 with no problem.

The point is, every new thing has a learning curve.

I consider myself a power-user, though not an expert, and have no issues with 8 on desktop.

Seeing that desktop still exists, and start is simply a screen and not a menu, I customized it and got this:

I get pretty much the same amount of clicks as 7 and because of bigger tiles, compared to small icons, can launch the desired program/folder faster.

IMO Mr. Nielsen is just nitpicking.

RE: Opinions are like asses...
By SlyNine on 11/22/2012 3:57:39 AM , Rating: 2
The real question is, Why bother. Is this somehow going to improve my experience? My answer is no; in no way does windows 8 improve my experience. In fact, windows 8 is slows me down because the most useful feature is the explore.

Now if only windows 8 explorer had a mini metro that would appear in the lower left hand corner, now that'd be useful.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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