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Microsoft, have you lost your mind again?

Level 15

For years I've been using Microsoft© products. I thought as the maker of the most well known operating system, Microsoft would ultimately get it right. I thought wrong, and here we are. Before we go any further, let's start at the beginning. (I'll omit some OS versions I deem less noteworthy for this exercise.) Let's pretend that Microsoft is in charge of building cars, in addition to operating systems. Below are some very brief reviews of the Microsoft operating systems over the years from a user's point of view, as well as their automotive counterpart:

Windows 3.1

  • The Good: For those of you who don't remember, Windows 3.1 was the new thing by grouping files in these things called Windows. The Apple Mac did the same thing really, but I won't argue the differences, technically or legally.
  • The Bad: Still in its infancy.
  • The Car: Basic 1966 VW Beetle. Does the job, but not too flashy or powerful.

Windows 95

  • The Good: This was the game changer. Some of the new features introduced were the Start button, the Taskbar, and desktop shortcuts. Simple to use and efficient.
  • The Bad: Stability was so-so. Needed more functionality.
  • The Car: 1966 Mustang. Flashy, cool, and powerful. Could use more uumph all around.

Windows ME

  • The Good: The only saving grace was that it still had the look and feel of Windows 95.
  • The Bad: Complete train wreck. This OS had more bugs than a NYC sewer. It got to the point where I actually began reading the text on the Blue Screen of Death because I saw it so often.
  • The Car: AMC Pacer. Functional, in between its frequent falling apart episodes. (Side note: Pop had this car and loved it. I called it the leper car because everything I touched fell off.)

Windows XP

  • The Good: At last, a stable version of Windows 95, Start button, Taskbar, and all!  I ran this OS as long as possible with nary an issue. Then, wanting to be on the bleeding edge of technology, I did the unthinkable. I bought Vista, and boy did I bleed.
  • The Bad: Nothing.
  • The Car: Corvette Stingray. Cooler, stable, and more powerful. More uumph found.

Windows Vista

  • The Good: Aero glass effect was introduced. The Start button, desktop shortcuts, and Taskbar, remained intact. USB RAM also introduced.
  • The Bad: After two long weeks of being stymied by countless security pop-ups and various other incompatibilities, I had had enough. Vista was garbage from Jump street. Out it came. This is what I should have done with Vista.
  • The Car: Undercover police cruiser, starting and stopping constantly. Not allowed to do anything. Had power though.

Windows 7

  • The Good: Aero glass effect still alive, as well as the Start button, shortcuts, the Taskbar, and the USB RAM. The ad campaign focused around the user building Windows 7, and it worked. It looks like actual users had input into this version. Best OS to date.
  • The Bad: Nothing.
  • The Car: BMW 3 series. Luxurious, stable, and powerful.

Windows 8

Well, here we are. Look at this screenshot for just a moment and really soak it in.

  • The Good: Faster boot time. Incorporated touch screen technology for supported devices.
  • The Bad: No Start button. The Taskbar is "hidden." The tiles are intrusive and annoying.
  • The Car: The Partridge family's bus. Looks funny, not easy to drive, but has power.
    windows 8.jpgbus.png

Let's take the new OS apart piecemeal:

  • Where's the Start button and Taskbar? These were introduced in Windows 95 and caught on quickly. Everyone loved them and every Windows OS since has had them. The removal of the Start button and Taskbar from the home screen in Windows 8 is like having built a new car and replacing the steering wheel with voice commands! I have to re-learn steering? Really?
  • Tiles as the home screen? This looks like my computer threw up! Anyway, tiles are supposed to provide you real-time information on just about anything from news to weather to sports scores. Do I need all of this information at once and in my face? I think not. Brain still works, don't need a computer for the obvious every second of the day. And what's with the random colors of each tile? Do the colors mean anything? Can I change them?  At first glance it looks as though Picasso had a cubist moment.
  • Where are my desktop shortcuts? Better still, where is my desktop?! Right-clicking the home tile screen solves the shortcut mystery, to a degree. Nothing is obvious though.
  • Desktop found, sort of. There is actually a tile for the desktop. Opening the desktop brings you to a half-@$$ Windows 7 view where you can view these things called windows. The problem is, you can't access your programs from the desktop tile without going back to the home tile screen first. Useless waste IMHO.
  • For an OS called Windows, all I see are tiles. Minimize, maximize, and close buttons? Who needs them? Umm, everyone. Put them back please.
  • The touch screen interface is cool, but not very practical for home or work computers, especially since we still type. The mouse is just too darn easy and efficient. Granted, we'd all love to have that cool holographic computer in Minority Report, but we're just not there yet.
  • A computer is not a tablet! People have to be more than entertained by their computers. They need to be productive.
  • How do I close apps short of launching the task manager?
  • Even turning the OS off is perplexing. You have to now navigate to Settings > Power > Shut Down to accomplish this minor miracle.

Linear thinking meets a fork in the road.

Windows has improved on itself over the years by adding new features and retaining the successful ones (ie: The Start button, the Taskbar, desktop shortcuts, etc.) They've also learned from their mistakes (the more stable XP replaced ME, the less restrictive 7 replaced Vista). After looking at Windows 8, I think Microsoft will have a great deal to overcome. I suspect "Windows 9" will look quite a bit like Windows 7 after the Windows 8 dust has settled. Whoever took the lead on this project (probably the same joker who introduced the ribbon to MS Office) hit a brick wall (most likely tiled).

Don't force us to relearn everything again and again.

Remember the ribbon episode with MS Office? Well in their infinite wisdom, Microsoft decided to put the ribbon in Windows Explorer for Windows 8. (I lost a lot of time and work because I couldn't find my file menu items because of that enormous idiotic ribbon - believe it or not, people can still read.) Build upon your successes Microsoft, add to them. Don't change them. Here are some tips just for you, Microsoft:

  • Don't remove features people like and use by replacing them with things you think are better. They're not. Remember Vista? Didn't work out too well, did it? I'm sure you'll catch a lot of flak for killing the Start button and killing our desktop with tiles. Be ready with a serious update, and soon.
  • Talk to a wide variety of your customers. Find out what they want, like, and dislike.
  • Let the user decide what's best. Everyone is different. Provide options, not requirements.

All signs are pointing toward world domination.

Windows 8 is now on computers, tablets, and phones. And that's fine. I'm sure they all work well together. But does that benefit the consumer? For me, it's all about control. If I cannot get what I want, I will go somewhere else. This is precisely why I ditched my Windows phone for an Android. Hopefully Microsoft will learn from this and actually get to know their customers like we do here at SolarWinds. Try less domination and more innovation Microsoft. But that's just me.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft took the least popular phone OS and threw it on a computer, with a Windows 7 knock-off lurking somewhere in a tile. The new OS upgrade costs $15-40. Take that money and grab a beer or 12. It would be better spent at a bar making jokes about Windows 8 with your geeky friends.

83 Comments

start menu is still there, but the interface is still disappointing. The intent of keeping a consistent codebase and UX across a variety of interfaces is a horrible idea.     

Level 12

Funny you chose Cars for analogy. There was a joke floating around internet, what if Microsoft made cars. The punch line of that joke was "You will have to press Start to shutdown your Car". Perhaps they felt Start menu was no longer relevant to modern users, pulling up a start menu and carefully navigating your cursor across multiple triangles and countless level of sub-menus to access one item was no longer considered cool. At this age, people expect everything to be at least one click away.

Anyways, you can think the Start menu is still there, it is just called Start screen and it fills the whole screen. And to go to any item, just press windows key and start typing. Everything you needed to access from start menu is available in the search results. And if you are very used to Pinned items on the start menu, just pin them to start screen. As I said, Start screen is just another start menu, just bigger.

But the absence of Task bar in metro mode is a real pain. It makes you disoriented, as if you are lost in another universe. Task bar is always the anchor of user experience in Windows, it provides a point of reference. To forego Task bar, in order to mimic other mobile OS, even on a big PC platform never made any sense to me, especially considering how much screen estate is wasted on big screens on big fancy fonts. They make sense on tiny screens, you don't need to squint your eyes to see them, but on big screens it is just on your face. They could have always made some space for task bar, and still make it aesthetically coherent with rest of the modern UI.

I think Windows 7 concept of Task bar is the closest any OS got to perfection on multi-tasking. But even within Windows, there was a disparity between how different applications could take advantage of the task bar. Read this brilliant post on Task bar paradigms by Peter bright, if you have time and interest.

Level 12

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on Windows 7 being the best... I think XP was the peak of Windows quality. I've grown up with Windows from 3.1 through to 7 (thankfully skipping ME). I really don't like the start button and task bar in 7 - one of my biggest gripes is the way when I click on the IE program group, for example, I then get a 2nd "menu" show up with all my tabs. I just want you to open the program and I can choose my tab once I'm there! I've also found the search functionality in 7 to be about as useful for finding things as Mr Magoo!

Personally, I think Microsoft are starting to change things for change sake. I really loathe the new "Ribbon" interface in Office 2007 and later. I've used the old style menus for so long I instinctively know where things are. I now can't find anything without hunting around for 5 minutes. I think part of the issue is that Microsoft is a commercial company, and they need to find a way to keep making money. Unfortunately, to do this you need to come out with a new poduct, and this gets harder as you improve your original offering. It's one of the reasons I like the idea of free/open source software - there isn't usually that same commercial drive to innovate for the sake of it. I'm also going to point the finger at Apple here... They have got caught up in the same cycle and it will soon start to hurt as people realise that iPhone x+1 isn't really that different to iPhone x and not worth the stupidly inflated price.

What I will definately agree on is that Windows 8 is just awful... I think it was one of the Cheezburger sites that came out with this comparrison...

demotivational-posters-history.jpg

Level 15

Like the "motivational poster." Yes I too loved XP, but I think 7 has just a little more going for it. Consider yourself lucky for having missed ME.

Level 15

Agreed. That's like putting the same engine on/in your car, bicycle, and rollerblades.

Level 15

Should have been called Microsoft Window.

Level 12

I will still stick to my opinion that Win 7's task bar is the best I have come across in any operating system. Firstly, it over came several idiosyncrasies with older XP style task bar. The application icons are re-arrangeable, crucial space was not lost to the less-used quick launch bar, fixed cluttered up systray icons. What really appealed to me are those new power user features.

  1. Right-clicking to pin to task bar, no need to navigate to program files and create short cut in quick launch bar.
  2. The jump list on right clicking an icon, it gives access to recent documents and special commands of each application. Of course the software should support it, but I find this to be the most useful feature. I often right click on my outlook to write new mail, on RDP icon to access recently accessed servers, on Firefox icon to open new tab, window etc., After using these, I feel very handicapped with my home mac dock.

Of course, nothing is perfect. There are quite a few people whose use-case relies heavily on collapsible Quick launch bar. Many more who are used to seeing all open windows in a two row tall task bar without having to alt-tab. Or your case, which is actually specific to IE (I don't face any such problems with FF). It aims to reduce mouse travel at the expense of an additional click, which is not the right trade-off IMO (you are hearing this from a trackball user!)

I rate one better than another simply based on which one I would choose given a choice. Based on my cross-platform experience across Windows, OSX and several flavors of Linux I find Windows 7 close to be the best on task bar front. I suggest you give it a try. It is worth the effort for power users.

Level 13

I personally like this comic regarding the main OS players.  Just wanted to share because this is sooooo very true.

comic-15.jpeg

Level 15

Oh how true!

Level 15
Level 13

Ok. I was going to dig up a 6 month old topic, but since Bronx has done it for me (and pointed me here) He can take the blame

The first thing I did prior to ever purchasing Win8 was read everything I could on it, and found numerous tips on making it more Windows-ish.

By the time I was done customizing, I had everything I wanted out of the old OS's and the new features and capabilities far outweighed any extra steps or relearning that needed to be done.

Plus: My favorite feature - Hyper-V. Yeah we've been doing multi-boot for years, but now you can quickly and easily have the best of both worlds by just setting up a VM of WinXP or Win7 without having to shut-down and reboot.

You can bash all you want, but I think windows 8 has done some really nice things, and to be honest, windows 7 had a steeper learning curve from XP for me than from window7 to Windows 8.

YMMV as always.

Acy

Level 15

Fair enough, but personally I don't think re-inventing the wheel is such a great idea. Even MS agrees with that thought - see FT article above. I'm sure Hyper-V does the trick, but that's tantamount to putting a round wheel over a square one. (Should be round in the first place.) Anyway, we all can argue our opinions forever. I just cannot see a tablet OS on a computer for production purposes - but I could be wrong.

Level 13

True, we wouldn’t have options if we all agreed ☺

I think your analogy for Hyper-V is a little biased though. What you have is a more practical multi-boot platform, so it is an improvement. And it would be more like the Partridge bus pulling a trailer with the corvette on it. You can still park, and take the corvette for a drive when you need to…

Level 15

LOL - very good.

Level 15

As I wrote above:

"Linear thinking meets a fork in the road.

Windows has improved on itself over the years by adding new features and retaining the successful ones (ie: The Start button, the Taskbar, desktop shortcuts, etc.) They've also learned from their mistakes (the more stable XP replaced ME, the less restrictive 7 replaced Vista). After looking at Windows 8, I think Microsoft will have a great deal to overcome. I suspect "Windows 9" will look quite a bit like Windows 7 after the Windows 8 dust has settled. Whoever took the lead on this project (probably the same joker who introduced the ribbon to MS Office) hit a brick wall (most likely tiled)."

Looks like SOMEone has been reading my stuff!

Is Windows 9 Microsoft’s secret weapon to get people to dump XP? - Yahoo News

Level 9

I will let the New YOrker spread the dirt here but Windows and Mr. Gates even cant work it out....http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2014/02/gates-spends-entire-first-day-back-in-o...

Feel free to make up your own minds.

Level 11

Great review Bronx, you couldn't have done this better. I like this part most:

LINEAR THINKING MEETS A FORK IN THE ROAD.

Windows has improved on itself over the years by adding new features and retaining the successful ones (ie: The Start button, the Taskbar, desktop shortcuts, etc.) They've also learned from their mistakes (the more stable XP replaced ME, the less restrictive 7 replaced Vista). After looking at Windows 8, I think Microsoft will have a great deal to overcome. I suspect "Windows 9" will look quite a bit like Windows 7 after the Windows 8 dust has settled. Whoever took the lead on this project (probably the same joker who introduced the ribbon to MS Office) hit a brick wall (most likely tiled).

I'm thinking along the same line.

Level 15

Level 12

I want Windows XP version  2 if possible..................

Windows XP

  • The Good: At last, a stable version of Windows 95, Start button, Taskbar, and all!
Level 11

wait...

¿where is carmen sandiego? i mean... windows 98!

The maker of bsods

Level 15

BSOD.png

Level 9

Overwhelmingly user-centric thinking... which is valid, but misses the mark with regard to what is actually good/bad within any OS. User preference is relevant, but has little to nothing to do with what makes an OS relevant under the hood.

Primary thought in reading this article: written like a user

Level 15

Written like a user because I am a user. If the user has problems using the OS, then yes, there is a problem. What good is a car with 800 horsepower if it cannot be driven?

Level 9

Valid point... and I agree with your general premiss. I guess my expectations were higher after reading the headline.

Anything that trashes Microsoft is valid in my book.

One thing I'd like to add regarding Win3.1 vs. Apple... Apple did theirs a full 6 years before Win3.1... and Win3.1 worked like garbage after MS played 6 years of catchup.

For the record, I'm a former Apple professional turned Linux professional. (*NIX FTW)

Level 11

Every time I see that meme - I would love to know what happened when Gates got off the stage, and went back to the "Developer" area.    Or better yet, when the Developer area watching it thought when it blue screened.

Level 13

I was thinking "written like a workstation user".  Like Bronx's point, the appropriate user has to be able to use.

If the Windows Server versions were included I would put NT 3.51 as the most stable and best, regardless of what the desktop looked like.  That was my experience in previous lives as a server admin.  Once the Win95 look was applied to the Server product (i.e. NT 4.0 and later) stability of the box decreased due to too many console-centric functions (i.e. sound+graphics) being moved to ring 0.

Level 15

Well, over my career using Windows, I have been a software developer, network admin, power user, hacker, and the basic "look at the pretty colors" user. I really have lived through every version of Windows. I still have version 1.0 tucked away somewhere. Again, if you're just surfing the web or reading emails, Windows 8 could be fine for you. But when you need to be productive and get actual work done, fighting with the interface does not put a smile on my face. There are tweaks that make life a little easier in the new OS, but those tweaks pale in comparison to the God awful UI, IMHO.

Level 12

All these comments for Microsoft OS. I used mostly from Windows ME. and I loved the ME look and feel. This is really serious. On my Windows 8.1 PC, i just prefer to use my classic shell sart up menu which i customize to my taste. It's somtimes boring trying to search for things. Though the Windows 8.1 is an improvement to 8.0

Level 12

Nice comic Richard

Level 13

But then, if you so much as touch the left side of the corvettes steering wheel (mousepad) your corvette is immediately parked and you are suddenly sitting back on the bus (When you ACCIDENTALLY pull in from the left side of the mousepad and it switches to the last open app)

Level 9

Seems to me everyone agrees, it's about getting work done and not having a device that creates headaches for the user. A pretty UI can certainly aid in productivity, but only if the system under the hood can pull the load in all categories... something MS has struggled with from day one... and still does.

To be fair, that is the struggle every developer fights. I find it horribly ironic that a variety of *nix's manage to achieve that goal without much sacrifice, yet MS and Apple (to a slightly lessor degree imo) both fail to achieve said goal far too often.

Level 15

In all fairness to MS, it is a fight to get the UI perfect. (I'd be happy if they left it alone.)

Here at SW, I have input into the new features that are being developed, but the problem is there are many others with differing opinions. I'm not a big fan of collaboration (Too many chefs...). It's as though the louder you yell, the better you will be heard. It really is like Congress, only we're more efficient and produce something of value.

Level 15

Since Windows 95, every other OS has been good:

Windows 95 - Good

Millennium - Not so good

Windows XP - Great

Vista - Not so great

Windows 7 - Very Nice

Windows 8 - Not so Nice

Level 15

The is the ME I remember. (Made it tough to work)

bsod.png

Level 15

Someone should write a brief review on all the Windows operating systems. Oh wait.

Level 9

Which is exactly what sent me to *nix... don't like something, on nearly any level, you change it to suit your needs. Of course, that can get out of control quickly if foresight is lacking.

Level 13

Just kill you winlogon process to keep this from happening! Still works to speeds things up in 7,8,8.1 today!

Level 15

Ha. Then you may enjoy this: A Geek's Tale

Level 13

<sarcasm>Maybe you meant someone who is good at writing </sarcasm>

Level 15

<sarcasm> Now I'm sad </sarcasm>

Level 13

JK? Ohhh! I see the problem! I forgot to add my <sarcasm> tags around it! h/o

Level 15

Nice try.

Level 13

Better now?

Level 15

All gooder - I added the same tags.

Level 13

Lol

Level 9

I'm old... so to me, the phone is just that, a phone. I have little desire for an all-in-one solution for my pocket (as my laptop tends to do the trick nicely). If I didn't carry my laptop and have to rely on the phone... that's the best excuse ever for saying "can't, need my laptop - see you on Monday."

Of course, reality is rarely that cooperative.

Level 15

Here are my gadgets:

  • Galaxy S5 (kinda big though)
  • Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (kinda big though)
  • Quad core I5 Win 7 laptop - Main computer for doing real things like website building, programming, photoshopping, listening to tunes, etc
  • Chromebook  - quick and nifty, grab and go for writing/surfing, no power cable, mouse, or any other accessory needed.
Level 13

I always love comparing gadgets/tech with people!

I have (with me, in my Thwack backpack (thwackpack)):

$700,free!! (from a friend, probably ~$400 though), $799,$700,$269,$59,$249,$40,$250,$13,~$150 (more including random 4gb and less),$100,$40.

$3769 of tech in my backpack with me every day. And that's not including protection plans, RAM upgrades, software on the computers...Wow, that's kind of striking. Can I insure my backpack?

Level 15

Oh if you wanna get into peripherals...

Level 9

- iPhone 5, cuz it's a phone and it works (here in NYC)

- Quad i7 dual boot laptop (system76), Ubuntu for daily work, Kali for nightly work... VMware (workstation10) for 20 or so platforms for which to play with.
And that's all I carry...

Home, the list is too long and I ignore most of it, but 2 workstations, 2 servers, a rather beefy Cisco lab... and stuff everywhere (though mostly in neatly contained boxes (clutter is evil)).