Four months in, Windows 8 needs help

Microsoft needs to fix Windows 8 to make it easier for the average consumer to use, says IDC.

My Dell Adamo has a definite affinity for Windows 8. It's more stable and faster than Windows 7. But Microsoft should seriously consider some design tweaks.
My Dell Adamo has a definite affinity for Windows 8. It's more stable and faster than Windows 7. But Microsoft should seriously consider some design tweaks. Brooke Crothers

After four months of tepid Windows 8 PC sales, maybe it's time for Microsoft to make a few changes.

During a conversation I had this week with IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell, he volunteered the following statement, which sounded strangely like my experience.

There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed. Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button. Those two things have come up consistently. We've done some research and people miss that.

And there are a lot of people that as soon as they boot into Windows 8, they go to desktop mode and do most their work there and occasionally back to Metro. But the point being they're much more comfortable with desktop mode.

Bingo.

I understand that this issue has been around since Windows 8 beta. And, yes, there are ways to boot to desktop mode and apps for getting the Windows Start button back. I'm not writing this to whine about how hard Windows 8 is to use. It's not -- for me.

But Windows 8 PC sales are "horribly stalled," as O'Donnell put it. So maybe Microsoft should rethink the design, as IDC -- whose business it is to get input from PC makers -- thinks the company may be doing.

"It's possible [Microsoft] is making changes to the OS [to allow a boot to desktop mode]. There's a lot of debate about it. Certainly if you talk to PC vendors, they'd like to see Microsoft do that. Because they recognize some of the challenges that consumers are facing."

And that's the point. I'm guessing a lot of consumers don't get (understand) Metro. And I'm guessing that a lot of consumers aren't that savvy about using a PC and don't know about workarounds to boot to desktop mode or get the Start button back. Even though that may vastly improve their experience.

There's a place for Metro of course. It's not a bad place to start when using Microsoft's Surface tablet. And if there were more Metro apps, there would be more reasons to spend time there. But if you're doing productivity stuff (hey, isn't that what Windows is for?) it's not a big factor in day-to-day use.

Microsoft may "stick to its guns" and leave everything pretty much as is, O'Donnell added. Pride goes before the fall.

Surface Pro: Even on the Pro, a lot of time can be spent in desktop mode.
Surface Pro: Even on the Pro, a lot of time can be spent in desktop mode. Brooke Crothers

Addendum: Note that Redmond is considering Windows 8 price cuts for PC makers to boost PC sales. More on that next week.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. PST throughout.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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