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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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Relatively easy to learn but for what benefits ?
By max_payne on 11/21/2012 7:03:21 PM , Rating: 5
It's funny that people who like W8 seems to think that the rest of us are idiots. No I am all for changes and learning new things too. I spent a few weeks getting use to W8 and see what it's all about. I learn it through and through. Still I cannot find in what way that this is progress over the previous iteration. It is just a bad design half way thought of which, beside minor tweaks easily ported to 7, is in no way a step forward for PC (non touch) users. The main reason I can see for MS pushing so hard head down, is the store. Don't be fool, this is where the money will come eventually, continuously, days after days for them. A new model different from the income of buying once the OS. You are all dupe.
So ask the dented apple guys where the money flow ?

By RU482 on 11/21/2012 9:46:52 PM , Rating: 2
someday maybe, right now, it's a bunch of crap in the store

RE: Relatively easy to learn but for what benefits ?
By nangryo on 11/21/2012 9:49:57 PM , Rating: 3
The true benefit is not for you, but for Microsoft.
Did anyone but me see this?

The true purpose of Win 8 GUI on desktop is to create the same ecosystem and experience between the mobile and desktop version, which in turn will increase win 8 ecosystem quickly, so people will get used to the same ecosystem for the mobile version, thus help Microsoft mobile market penetration.

It's all about future mobile strategy

By Chadder007 on 11/21/2012 10:16:23 PM , Rating: 5
Too bad it makes me want neither.

By mindless1 on 11/21/2012 11:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yes that was obvious, but they can only get away with it because of their monopoly on the desktop.

By cyberguyz on 11/22/2012 6:39:09 AM , Rating: 3
A lot of companies are working in that One OS direction - Apple, Google and now Microsoft.

I can see the attraction. Only one code base to worry about rather than 2 or more distinctly different.

The only reasons I am running Win8 is (in order of importance):

1. It cost me a whopping $40
2. I can use 3rd party utilities to get that metro crap out of my face.
3. I have hopes that some enterprising software developer will come up with a way of making the desktop theme look more like my beloved Aero themes (transparency with blur, rounded corners, non-flat 'blah' window graphics) in the near future.

If it were not for these I would have stayed with Win7. I have a PC that is more than capable of supporting a graphics-heavy windowing system. I want an OS that makes use of that capability.

By max_payne on 11/22/2012 9:59:01 AM , Rating: 3
"1. It cost me a whopping $40
2. I can use 3rd party utilities to get that metro crap out of my face.
3. I have hopes that some enterprising software developer will come up with a way of making the desktop theme look more like my beloved Aero themes (transparency with blur, rounded corners, non-flat 'blah' window graphics) in the near future."

1- your W7 was already paid for (btw you were not aware of the "Great Pirates W8 Gave Away program" ?)
2- no metro crap in W7.
3- W7 has aero right in !

If that's the only reasons you are running W8 then don't bother ;-)

By MrBungle123 on 11/22/2012 4:21:20 PM , Rating: 3
The only reasons I am running Win8 is (in order of importance):

1. It cost me a whopping $40
2. I can use 3rd party utilities to get that metro crap out of my face.
3. I have hopes that some enterprising software developer will come up with a way of making the desktop theme look more like my beloved Aero themes (transparency with blur, rounded corners, non-flat 'blah' window graphics) in the near future.

This is why I will not run Win 8... I have to go through all this agrivation of dealing with yet again relearning how to do what I alreay know how to do or buying 3rd party hacks to turn it into a usable OS. Whats the point? The only features I even care about are pausable file copies and possibly the new task manager... the rest of it is either something i care nothing about or something that is just going to get in my way and raise my blood pressure.

The fact is for desktop users or someone that does more than post status updates to facebook Win 95-7 are a superior designs. With Win 8 you bend over backwards to try and get your productivity back, you have to deal with Metro being in your face, or you have to modify the OS to get it to function more like a previous version.

Its not that Win 8 doesn't have much to offer its that Win 8 takes away key design elements that made the previous versions easy to use. It is change for the sake of the MS app store and nothing more. The sole reason for the existence of Metro and Win 8 to a greater degree is the app store and MS's dreams of being the new Apple. No one outside of the casual computing crowd or a few freaks that like to jerk off to microsoft product training manuals is getting anything approching their money's worth out of this thing. It is a downgrade through and through, they should be paying you to use it not the other way around.

By kattanna on 11/26/2012 11:59:55 AM , Rating: 2
possibly the new task manager.

I have never understood WHY MS has never directly implemented process explorer as the default task manager for windows, especially since they own it nowdays.

Whenever i build a new computer, or work on someone elses, its usually the first thing I install and setup.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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