Three Killer Problems That Threaten Windows 8

Brad Wardell, president and CEO of software company Stardock, recently said that the upcoming Windows 8 operating system is so severely flawed that it will hurt the PC experience and, therefore, PC gaming. How bad does he think Windows 8 is?

Since he's using the preview version and runs a successful PC software company that also publishes some great games, we figure he's a qualified expert. We asked him to explain. He obliged.

Here's Brad:

Windows 8 has a lot of features to recommend it. It's smaller. It's faster. It's smoother. However, it has three flaws that worry me a great deal.

#1 It's schizophrenic. Is it a tablet OR a desktop OS? It tries to be both... and neither.

Let's say you're on the desktop and you want to load up Mass Effect 3 or Microsoft Word. You are expected to move your mouse to the bottom left, wait for a tile to be displayed, click on the tile. That action whisks you away from the desktop to the Metro environment where you can then look for those programs.

The Windows 8 experience involves jumping back and forth between the tablet environment (Metro) and the desktop. They have nothing in common. Metro's task list won't list desktop apps and the desktop won't list recently active Metro apps. They're separate and yet you have to use both.

#2 Forcing apps to be full screen is obnoxious. Imagine Notepad running full-screen with no border, no title bar, and no menu bar on a 21-inch monitor. That's what a Metro text editor would be like to use.

Metro apps want to be full-screen. Always.

You can snap them to use 1/3rd or 2/3rd of the screen, vertically, but that makes usability even worse in most cases. Take your most common apps and resize them vertically as mentioned and tell us what you think of that.

Try getting any serious work done like this.

#3 It's a usability nightmare. Let's assume you can accept/adapt to items one and two. You're adaptable. What's the problem? Answer: The rest of the user base.

Less savvy users are in for some serious grief.

Nothing is visually discoverable. There are no visual cues. It's all based on touch, which means for most users, moving the mouse moving around the screen until it finds an invisible hotspot.

There's no Start button or Start menu on the desktop (unless you use a third-party utility like Start8 which is not going to be acceptable for corporate customers).

Multi-monitor user? Forget it. Metro doesn't support multiple monitors, at least presently. Additional monitors can be the Windows desktop but Metro always reserves one monitor for itself.

Why are they doing this? I can't think of any reason why they would do this — except for the hypothesis that they are obsessed with some group of users who would be better off with a tablet.

Take a look at Microsoft's own promotional video. This isn't a "one in a series" video. This is THE video promoting Windows 8 right now. What does that video tell you about Windows 8?

Other than three seconds at the tail end showing someone on the desktop, it's all about using it as a tablet OS. I don't mind Metro being included. I mind being forced to jump between it and the desktop to get anything done.

Move your mouse to the top left and swipe down. You get this list of things that are running.

This is the Metro version of Internet Explorer. How do you create another tab? No idea. Does it support tabs? No idea. Windows 8 also includes a traditional Internet Explorer too but you can't easily switch between the two.

This is what one of Microsoft's included Metro apps actually looks like when you first run it. That back button does nothing.

This is what Metro looks like on a system running a typical screen resolution.

Microsoft: You Can't Party Like 1999 Anymore.

I've seen Windows 8 advocates say that if you don't have a tablet you should just stick with Windows 7. I think a lot of people may do that.

But here's the problem for Microsoft: This isn't 1999 where they could ship a Windows ME type product and users had no real alternatives. 2012 is the year in which millions of users are using an iOS or Android device.

By the time Windows 8 is released, it's going to be facing a market where displays are going start including AirPlay and/or Intel WiDi. That means mobile devices will be able to stream their output to large screens. Connect a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, gamepad and suddenly that mobile device could become a real threat.

I'm a PC developer. I want Windows 8 to succeed. I have Windows games and software in development with releases dates far in the future. It's a pretty big deal to us that Windows 8 not fail.

Lest you think I'm yelling about falling skies or preaching doom, let me say that I have great faith that between now and the time Windows 8 ships that someone at Microsoft will realise the peril they're putting their flagship OS in.

Microsoft can fix these issues before Windows 8 ships. Don't force users to jump around between Metro and the desktop. Allow users to live within a single, consistent environment if they so choose. All we need is for Microsoft to release a solid, non-crazy version of Windows 8.

Brad Wardell is president and CEO of Stardock. He's been previewing Windows 8 for some time. Stardock is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. The company is the world's largest Windows desktop customisation software provider with products like WindowBlinds, the Object Desktop suite, Object Dock, Fences and more. They also publish the hit strategy game Sins of a Solar Empire.


Comments

    I think you are using it wrong.

    From my understanding, Windows 8 is best when run with a touch screen long side your normal setup, allowing you to quickly access apps on the fly through the touch screen rather than using the mouse. The best setup I've hear is having a small 17" or 15" touch screen located just above your normal mouse placement

      Are you fuckin' kidding me. That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

      A seperate touchscreen to access apps? Why not keyboard shortcuts?

      My desk it crowded enough as it is.

    the only issue i have with windows 8 is bf3 causing my pc to fuck itself(5fps max...) after a few hours, didnt happen in windows 7, and my rig is good...
    other than that w8 is fine, note to author, think less and grow a pair

      So you're complaining that a Pre-release OS doesn't run a game 100% solid for multiple hours... Yeah that's smart...

    what if i dont have a touch pad and resent getting one? Why does a pc need a touch screen, if i wanted that i would have gotten a tablet.

    I downloaded and played with the consumer preview for a couple of hours and in most cases I disagree with Brad. I like the look and feel of the new OS, I think the tablet style interfaces will make a lot of sense when the next xbox has a tablet controller (maybe), windows 8 tablets are released and laptops go with the multitouch scroll pads you see on macbooks. It seems to be a win for MS but there are a couple of concerns. I don't get having two versions of IE10. It's like they couldn't think of a way to integrate both styles, so they just put them both in. WTH? Also, Brad's right about the lack of visual clues. It took me a bit of experimentation to work out where on the screen you had to go to do certain things, and in the metro IE, that right clicking brought up the tabs and address bar. It makes sense now, but would someone like my mum be able to work it out? Heck no. A lot of people are ready for a new version of Windows, I'm certainly hoping they haven't shot themselves in the foot with this one.

    Well, any credibility this guy might have had goes out the door if you've tried his company's idea of a solution to one of these problems. Start8 makes Win8 unusable.

    #1 - There is no "jumping back and forth". It is a simple matter of the Start Menu being replaced with something much, much better. It is not jarring, it is not confusing. Quite the opposite, it is beautiful and amazingly flexible/customisable. It fixes the biggest problem with Win7 - the awful Start Menu. And contrary to what I've read here and elsewhere, using ALT+Tab allows you to see all your running programs, whether they are Metro apps or desktop apps. Task Manager also shows both, so I don't know what "apps list" he is talking about.

    #2 - Apps aren't "forced" to be full-screen, they are designed for it. The email app, for example, is fantastic and has completely replaced my old email client. It is also very happy to sit across one edge of the screen, show me new emails and allow me to easily reply, while I run my normal desktop in the bigger part of the screen. I love it. More importantly, I get "serious work done" on my Win8 PC every day and I cannot imagine ever going back to Win7.

    #3 - Firstly, if you want to make all the hidden stuff discoverable, the simplest solution would be a desktop wallpaper with arrows to each corner and edge, with labels to tell users what's what. Simple, elegant, sorted. Or a quick tutorial like you get the first time you fire up Zune. I detest multi-monitors but, from what I've read, they are just as configurable as they have always been. Yes, the default is to have the Metro UI on one and the desktop on the other but I've seen images of users with the desktop spread over both monitors, so clearly it is doable. I can't imagine why you'd want to spread the Metro UI over more than one, so I don't see this as an issue.

    There is some merit in what the guy is saying - removing the Start button seems bloody-minded to me. It doesn't hurt to keep it and it would end 90% of complaints. That said, after learning just one thing - to move your mouse into the corner of the screen where the button used to be - you are over the hump and flying along. It is hardly the end of the world.

      How long have you been working for MS?? I mean, beautiful... really? In a desktop OS? And I love the 'not forced, but designed for it'; not expecting any software to run written prior to Windows 8 then...

        I run all the software I was running on Win7 on Win8. Applications on the desktop run in EXACTLY the same as they always have - you can minimise, maximise and resize windows just like you've always been able to. Only Metro apps are full-screen, hence my comment about them being designed that way. Any standard Windows software works like it always has. Here's a link to my Win8 desktop, so you can see for yourself - http://www.novakill.com/stuff/Win8_Desktop.jpg

        As you'll notice, it has all the familiar features of the Vista/Win7 desktop, including gadgets, desktop shortcuts and applications pinned to the Taskbar. I've got 3 application windows open, with Photoshop minimised, and it all looks so completely familiar that you probably don't even notice that the Start Button is gone. Notice also that I've created shutdown and restart buttons, which are a real necessity, as MS have hidden the shutdown command behind a couple of layers of menus.

        Here's another screenshot showing IE in the split-screen - notice how well IE 10 renders Gizmodo in the tiny strip - with Autodesk Combustion open on the desktop in the main window - http://www.novakill.com/stuff/Win8_Split.jpg
        And if you drag the divider towards the centre so you can give IE your full attention, this is what happens to the desktop - http://www.novakill.com/stuff/Win8_Task.jpg

        It is very easy to poke fun at Win8 but once you start to use it, you just have to admire what MS has done here. It really is awesome and, as I said, I wouldn't want to have to go back to Win7 now. Sure, it isn't perfect but it beats the pants off what anyone else is doing.

    The article had no complaints about windows 8 for tablets or touch based inputs. The issue was that it is bad to use with the traditional PC interface, especially in a business environments.

    I've got no real intention to go on to 8. If only microsoft could go back to winning ideas, like putting a scroll bar for the application section on the bar for vista/7.

    I think I'd actually prefer to go back to windows vista than on to windows 8. Sure 8 boots faster, but the only other new thing they're offering is a terrible user experience.

    I couldn't agree more with this article. I tried the preview last year at TAFE and it's just a pile of balls. It shouldn't even be on the PC imo. It just feels like it's ported horribly from a tablet. The Metro interface is very awkward to use with a mouse. I also remember at TAFE, the tutors would joke about Microsoft releasing a good OS, followed by a crappy one, follows by another good one... Makes sense when you consider XP (good), Vista (crap) and 7 (great) :P

      Well there's your problem. You only used the developer preview. The Consumer Preview is a huge improvement over it.

    You haven't really USED it have you Brad?
    Issue 1: This is irrelevant similar when you're playing games and typing up articles or watching a movie. You have to jump from 1 full-screen application to another. Also for some programs you can't or really shouldn't run them at half size i.e. photoshop. General consumers who aren't savvy are by definition NOT multitasking like a power-user therefore wouldn't be bothered. Power-users who need multitasking will know how to use it. You again have not though this through Brad.

    Issue 2: Getting real work done? What real work do you do other than have a internet browser and word open for typing your articles? I am in Business operations for Telstra and I typically have 4 different spread sheets open and several word docs with power-point, PDFs etc and I normally snap them left and right or when I'm at my work desk I got spare monitors. Again your point is irrelevant as a non-savvy user won't miss what they don't know how to use and a power-user will easily know the most effective way to have his windows.

    Issue 3: Same point I keep driving Brad. Power-users like myself didn't and won't even bat an eye at these problem and will see solutions around them instantly. Non-savvy users will not run into these problems. Also you a tech person didn't know how to make tabs in ie10? What sort of tech journalist are you?

      Are you done pulling your e-penis over how much of a power-user you are? I could hardly understand what you were trying to say with this reply and when I finally did it seemed like all you were doing was explaining how much of a power-user you are and how much of a "non-savvy" user Brad is.

    "The company is the world’s largest Windows desktop customisation software provider with products like WindowBlinds, the Object Desktop suite, Object Dock, Fences and more"

    Conflicted much?

    Windows 8 is the biggest pain in the ass I've ever used. I've been in the IT industry for 15+ years and I can already tell that the companies I sell volume licences to and setup their systems with Windows 8 will hate it.

    I've been using the Consumer Preview as my primary OS on a spare laptop I had laying around and it's damn near unusable. Bouncing between two different UIs is a major pain in the ass. I want Microsoft to release an operating system that incorporates all the wonderful things they've done with Windows 8 (intergrated ISO mounting, app store, performance) into a desktop only version of the OS.

      Tell me, exactly when are you "bouncing between two different UIs"? Because I only do it when I want to, there is never a time when I have to.

    I intended to upgrade to 8 right away. After using the piece of shit, I'm never touching it

      Why not? I bet you haven't even seen it, let alone used it.

    I have been developing for windows 8 on a samsung series 7 slate.
    For the most part it works well but still needs a lot of polish.
    The consumer preview is not designed for a desktop, it's very tablet focused, more over the transditional desktop feels like a vm.
    I think it would be better if Microsoft developed two separate operating systems.

      Rubbish! The traditional desktop feels EXACTLY like the traditional desktop. Any difference is purely in your mind.

        Really... hows the start button and programs menu treating you... oh wait it's not there is it.... but other than dropping half the "classic" functionality the "traditional" desktop work exactly the same way right???

    I don't think everyone is getting the point here, all Brad is saying is that the Windows 8 OS is just a prototype for now, but can be improved. Yes it works brilliantly with the tablet but not so much with a desktop, let me explain: When you use the OS on a tablet you know what to do instantly because you expect something that requires you to interact with the interface on the screen but when using this on the desktop you don't expect to do anything since previous users are used to the Windows 7 GUI in which shows you everything and is more convenient to use. There should be a tablet version and a Desktop version for this operating system to not confuse the features and use of it. Therefore let me remind you that the OS is still not complete and may change or improve once it's released.

      EVERYTHING that Win7 does is there in Win8 and 99% of it is EXACTLY the same as it is in Win7. And everywhere that it is different is a significant improvement over Win7. e.g. Task Manager has had a massive overhaul and is greatly improved. But you still open it the same way(s) you always have. As you can see from the screenshots I posted links to above, the system tray is still there and it works exactly as it does in Win7. Same with the Taskbar, desktop shortcuts and everything else. The main difference is that they have replaced the horrible, useless, awful Vista/Win7 Start Menu with something much better. Everything else in WIn8 is extra and you can use or ignore at your leisure.

    All respect to Brad, I agree with all the problems he discusses with Windows 8. It is dead on arrival for all desktop users
    I truly believe anyone who can justify the use of Windows 8 on a desktop is a Microsoft apologist, and will be proven wrong
    "Why are they doing this? (Windows 8)
    I am so surprised an industry veteran like Brad doesnt understand - Microsoft are forcefeeding the metro GUI on all windows users, hoping that by being exposed to it Windows users will then feel comfortable then buying a Windows 8 tablet product.
    However, I predict that most industry/enterprise users will ignore Windows 8, and only upgrade current OS when Windows 9 comes out.
    I couldnt say it better than a phrase I read elsewhere"
    "Windows 8 is an ugly child, and to make matters worse, its momma dresses him funny"

      Why Kevin? Can you please point out exactly where the Win8 desktop fails. Because I've been using it on and off for 6 months, 6-10 hours every day for the past month, and I'm just not seeing it. In fact, most of the time I forget that it is Win8 at all because it is EXACTLY like Win7 and I use it in EXACTLY the same way, unless I want to use split-screen for some reason or other. I'm sure that if you'd actually used it, you'd see how wrong you are.
      And Win9 is only going to take it further, not pull back.

      Oh, and BTW, I can tell you exactly why MS are doing it this way - to encourage developers to create Metro apps. Windows tablets are going to have a tiny market share for some time yet, so no-one is going to bother developing for it (current problem with WinPhone 7). But if Metro apps have the potential to reach hundreds of millions of Windows users on desktops and laptops as well, then it is a far more tempting proposition. Its highly manipulative but its a smart move for the long term.

        Of course... hobble the PC experience to encourage tablet uptake, that makes sense.. burn your current market in the hope of getting more of a new one from the encumbent trendy company (Apple) and the one with the cheap OS (Google Android).

        Don't get me wrong there are some great Win 8 features, but they have removed some of the classic features (keep in mind I am talking latest RC not the original), from my perspective adding HyperV is awesome... but the metro interface crapola is pointless for a PC, if it could be switched off and you could run win 8 like win 7 you could have a winner, but as it stands I expect the majority will just skip it and stick with win 7, just like the majority skipped Vista and stuck with XP.

          You CAN run Win8 like it was Win7. My PC boots straight through to the desktop, automatically and without me having to set anything up. If I don't need to use the Start Screen, and having already done everything in my power to avoid having to use Win7's awful Start Menu means that I can, I can spend all day on the desktop and never be aware that the Metro stuff exists. Nothing's hobbled, just lots of things improved.

    This horrid thing actually makes a lot of sense when you consider it as a tablet OS, that isn't designed for early adopters or people willing to embrace change. If you consider the 'tard who is too afraid of a new interface paradigm that changes things this is actually a pretty clever thing, in that the destop os is there so that they can feel safe and not have to worry about being confused by the new operating system. But the main idea is to get them using the tablet OS side, because that's just what works better on a tablet.

    So tablet OS for people afraid of new technology, now it has been labelled, we can stop bitching that it isn't aimed at us. And just use windows 7 for our pc's and android for our tablets like rational people should.

    I gave Windows 8 a crack (not sure which version) but yeah - my experience is basically summed up in points 1 and 2 of the article. Overall, it looks like it might work for a touchscreen computer or tablet, but no way am I replacing Windows 7 for this

    Lol..

    Like Stardock has any credibility anywhere... anymore!

    Here's a link to the kind of simple wallpaper that will make Win8 easy and obvious for everyone - http://www.novakill.com/stuff/Win8_Wallpaper.jpg

    Windows 8 isn't nearly half as flawed as Stardock software.

      you are so right. This guy cannot criticize from a position of weakness. Many stardock products are released broken or crippled.
      I think the real problem is that a lot of stardock products work intimately with the OS (ie. windowsblinds, cursors, fences etc) that W8 is making it difficult for him, as the environment is completely redesigned.

    3 problems should be: OSX and iOS. i know this is only two, but these are so great they need the extra place

      Great? Are you on drugs? I use OS X at work every day and it is just another OS. The problem is that the good things about it are quite minor compared to its flaws, like horrendous window management. So for every good thing I encounter on a daily basis, I have to deal with that 4 or 5 times, or the stupid dock getting in the way of my status bars, which is not a fair trade-off. As for iOS, I am too old to have played with Fisher Price toys as a child, so it doesn't make any connection with me at all.

    I have been using Windows 8 CP and I agree that it is a shock to use after all other windows, I had to find the keyboard shortcut to get control panel and device manager... And when I use the touch screen on my Laptop it was a major pain figuring out the gestures to close apps, to get the start menu, etc...

    Still while it has a steep learning curve it is for the better, once you get used it that is, you can't help but like it better as it does everything better, sure the metro is annoying that is until you realise it is the new start menu and use it as such.

    Get used to it and you realise that it is something special as it has features implemented on you users voted on, it is speedier than before and even more so with a recent update.... Honestly the only issues is driver support for the NVidia Optimus, and the fact that it defaults to not have opengl support WTF... Every other driver works fine.

    The main reason I'm upgrading to Windows 8 is because I can use it exactly like Windows 7.

    acually, if you open the seach charm on the right side of the screen, it shows you all of the programs and apps installed on the device, no need to use the start screen. Know what you are saying before you say it.

    the Metro interface is a departure from typical windows style interaction and that scares a lot of people (especially those businesses who have put a lot of money into their own software development for older platforms). But the argument can be made that current OS' designs are not as efficient as they could be (windows, OSX, ubuntu etc).
    Should the desktop/window +keyboard/mouse interaction paradigm exist forever? Is it the most perfect means for a person to interact with an operating system? Why shouldnt forays be made into trying new ways to do things? Some ways are bound to fail, some may be destined to become standard.
    Touch and gesture based interfaces are going to become highly prevalent in PCs, there is no denying that and no resisting it either.

    Windows 8 revolves around the idea that you hit the Windows button.. hard to understand I know but give it a go.

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