Are even early adopters of Windows 8 reluctant to fully commit to the new operating system? A growing undercurrent of grumbling may indicate that that’s the case.
According to a survey by Hong Kong-based ForumsWindows8.com, more than 53% of the site’s users prefer Windows 7 over Windows 8. Only 25% of the site’s users voted Windows 8 as their favorite OS. Remember, this is a site that’s devoted to Windows 8 users. >Incidentally, Microsoft declined to comment on the Windows8Forums report.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson responded: "Windows 8 is the most-tested Windows OS to date, and we have been pleased by the response during the testing process. We are working to make the transition to Windows 8 as seamless as possible for customers and will have more to share about tools we’ll be making available to help customers as we get closer to general availability. We hope people will download and try the final version of Windows 8, and we are open to and seeking feedback on all of our products, including Windows 8."
Granted, this survey is simply anecdotal evidence. Pro-Windows 8 supporters could probably find hundreds of users who enthusiastically embrace the new technology. But if the Windows8Forums survey have any relation to the real world, the numbers could spell big trouble for Microsoft. Windows8Forums counts 64,011 listed members, meaning that almost all of its users had to weigh in to reach that “more than 50,000” user number that the site cited. That either presupposes a passionate user base or a poorly managed survey that’s susceptible to gaming.
More Windows 8 Issues?
More importantly, the survey is only the latest in a series of issues suggesting that all is not going smoothly leading up to the Windows 8 launch.
Recently, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini reportedly characterized Windows 8 as buggy, in a private speech to Intel employees. Intel later dismissed the report as “unsubstantiated,” touting the company’s relationship with Microsoft, both historically and in testing Windows 8. But the damage was done. (Is Windows 8 really buggy? Unscientifically, not any more than any other pre-release Microsoft OS.)
A Dearth Of Windows 8 Apps?
Granted, it’s only been a few weeks since Microsoft opened its Windows App Store to developers, when Windows Store partner program manager Ted Dworkin, said that Microsoft has "seen fantastic interest from individual developers, large development houses and component and service providers" throughout the preview period.
It’s unclear when, or if, the number of Windows 8 apps will begin to take off, but the smart money is on after the launch - as developers have noted, several books on how to develop for Windows 8 have yet to ship: here’s one example. While developers can rely on Microsoft itself for documentation, the more assistance they receive, the more likely they’ll develop Windows 8 apps.
There is always going to be some percentage of users who are reluctant to upgrade, who latch on to the old way of doing things and are unwilling to let go. It (correctly) happened with the transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista, and occurred with the switch from OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” to OS X 10.7 “Lion”. Both can be explained either by a drastic change to the UI (Vista), performance, or by compatibility concerns (Lion).
With Windows 8, both issues rear their heads. The interface formerly known as “Metro” (I’ll keep calling it Metro until Microsoft comes up with a new name) represents the most significant change to the Windows UI in well, ever. Not only is the updated interface thrust front and center at the user, but the familiar “Start” button is completely gone. There’s the need to learn new swipe gestures and discover new shortcuts. My parents still use Windows XP, primarily because my father, an engineer, “doesn’t want to learn any of that new [stuff].” What works for him, works.
Change vs. Choice
Interestingly, the home page of Windows8Forums is done in the Metro style. Swipe down on your touchpad, and the page scrolls sideways. It feels completely counter-intuitive. But the page also offers a big, easy "Change Style" option to switch to a more conventional blog style, too.
That option is available to Windows 8 users, too; just hit the otherwise largely unused "Windows" key on many keyboards.
If Microsoft wants to hold on to its huge base of Windows users, it should make sure that option (or a better one) is obvious and available to users. Otherwise, I’m betting a significant percentage of Windows users will simply decline to make the switch.