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Recently, HP updated their website to offer Windows 7 PCs for consumers with the byline, “Back by popular demand”. Not sure why they did this, but I have to assume it has something to do with HPs inability to market and sell Windows 8 as an operating platform. Will it help HP? Guess we will need to wait to find out. Logically, it makes little sense to offer new consumer PCs (businesses have their own agendas) with an old operating system. Especially when Windows 8 is not much different than Windows 7, minus the Start screen. So instead, point user directly to the desktop when they boot up, as ASUS did with the desktop I purchased on Win 8 launch day in 2012, and fuggetaboutit. Might want to also add the Start Menu to the toolbar by default. That way, consumers would have a new OS that they wouldn’t have to pay for later, and they could explore the Win 8 Start screen when they built up the confidence.

I tried to put myself in a noob’s shoes and could (almost) appreciate HPs point of view. While anecdotal based on my small sampling, I see a trend where users are a bit intimidated by that Windows 8 Start screen. First case, my sister. Now this is really extreme, but it helps to make my point. She is in her late 60s and until two months ago, was using a very old desktop with a dial-up connection and Netscape subscription. About four years ago, four years after I gifted her one of my old MPC boxes with XP, the PC was not turning on occasionally. So I took a look at it while I was visiting. After getting it started, fearing that there might be a hard drive or motherboard problem, my first order of business was to get anything backed up ASAP. To my surprise, after more than four years my sister had never downloaded a single file, image, nothing. Not a single thing. All she used the PC for was to go to the Netscape home screen, read some news articles on that screen and send/receive mail. (Btw, the monitor connections just needed a cleaning-PC was fine-hard to kill an MPC). Two months ago she finally switched to broadband and last month she went out and purchased a low end HP Windows 8 laptop. Today she is totally lost. I bought her Windows 8 for Dummies as a Christmas gift, but it hasn’t helped. When she encounters the Modern Internet Explorer, she has no idea what to do or where to go. I will admit that Modern IE even makes me uncomfortable, always wanting to go back to my desktop IE comfort zone. She has really gotten frustrated with Windows 8. Can’t figure out how to right click to get top/bottom bars to appear in Mail, People hub, etc. Honestly, she would probably be a bit confused even with Windows 7. But the Start screen appears to exasperate the issue. I have tapped in to her local library to give her some one on one help (they have a computer lab four days a week). Hope it helps.

Part of my job responsibility is to help new sales rep hires setup their personal laptops with our presentations, videos, email account, etc. More recently I have been seeing mostly Windows 8 machines. Of the seven Win 8 machines I have seen since last November (after Win 8.1 was released) only one machine was updated, and that’s because it was a spanking new Toshiba with Win 8.1 preinstalled. Several of the other machines had 10-15 app updates available on the Store icon. Two machines had the Store icon unpinned from their Start screen, so they didn’t even know there were updates available. For those who don’t know, since last November, as soon as you open the Store in Win 8, the first thing you see is an offer to update to Windows 8.1 for free. You can’t miss it. What this tells me is all of these users have never visited the Store. And don’t know or care if their Win 8 apps are updated. I honestly don’t think they know what a Windows 8 app actually is. Many had not activated their Mail tiles, and most still had their weather defaulted to London. It’s fair to say, after owning these machines for at least a few months (except for that new Toshiba), these users had not yet embraced Windows 8. Most sort of shrugged when I told them how much I am enjoying Windows 8. Oh, and I did show them all how to update to Windows 8.1 when they got home. Want to bet how many actually have.

It can’t be disputed that the biggest change in Windows 8 “is” the Start screen. And the Start screen “is” comprised of apps. But if you don’t really know what an app is, pre-loaded or otherwise, how the hell are you supposed to embrace this new operating system. It may be hard to believe, but more than 40% of cell phone users in the US still don’t own a smartphone. And of those who do own a smartphone, there is a large number of users who have never installed an app. It just works, right? People, to a fault, are a victim of habit? How did a majority of pre-Windows 8 users access their email from a PC? They definitely didn’t have Outlook or Windows Live installed. Maybe via Chrome and open GMail at launch. Or open IE and navigate to Hotmail/Outlook.com. Why do you think that would change with new users to Windows 8, unless someone holds their hand and actually shows them a better way. Same for accessing the browser, reading news, checking the weather, etc., etc., etc.

I don’t have a solution for Microsoft, but I think they need to find a better way to show potential and new users the advantages of Windows 8 rather than ASS U ME ing that “everyone” is just going to love all those apps and embrace it. What I know for sure is whatever they are doing now is not working as well as anyone had hoped.  Part of this falls on the front line workers;  those sales reps at; BestBuy, Wal-Mart, OfficeSupply stores, and other retailers. Rather than showing a prospect how cool it is to touch the screen and move stuff, open a few of the pre-installed apps, and maybe the Store, to introduce user to the concept of apps, most of which are free, and what they can do to make life easier. Make people comfortable with the concept of apps and Windows 8 will flourish. Wait for them to figure it out themselves and Windows 8 will flounder. Any ideas?

6 COMMENTS

  1. Guess that depends on who you ask. Coming straight from XP, I love Win8. It’s faster, lighter, and more efficient than anything I have used before. I really enjoy all of the apps that are available, many of which sync seamlessly with my Windows Phone for a complete ecosystem. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Windows ME, Vista, and even 2000 to an extent, were bombs because they were buggy and didn’t play well with lots of accessories. Windows 8 on the other hand is smooth as silk. The biggest overall knock appears to be the way the interface looks and navigation between screens. Primarily because users are resistant to change. If they simply spent a little time familiarizing themselves, most would be singing a different tune. But that’s in Microsoft to change the mindset of its users.

  2. If you never used Windows 7 and went straight to 8, I could see that you’d enjoy it much more, but Windows 7 is MUCH more effective as an everyday OS. Windows 8 won’t see adoption until the ‘metro’ interface can be disabled entirely. We aren’t even considering it at work.

    That being said, I still prefer my OS X much more than anything from Microsoft. ;)

  3. The only thing I will add is that in my limited exposure to Win 7, compared to Win 8, it appears to be a heavier OS, taking longer to do almost everything. Unless it’s installing an update, my 6 year old Win 8 PC boots in seconds.

    As mentioned, you can virtually hide the Start Screen today if you prefer. Unhide the existing Start Menu, use Outlook (or web mail) vs. the built-in mail app, make IE desktop the default browser, change how the PC boots up, and you don’t need to see the Start Menu all day. That gives you the advantage of a faster OS, without having to deal with tiles unless you really want to.
    I don’t recommend it, but that’s how an OEM/retailer can pitch Win8. Eventually users will get up the courage to look at the new fancy tiles. All good things take time.

  4. What happens when you press the start button on your keyboard? If it’s anything to do with the start screen I wouldn’t ever want anything to do with it. The Start button/menu in Windows 7 was a million times more user friendly and productive IMO. Am I rare case pro-user? Probably, but I’ll stick to my guns on that one.

  5. Understood. Yes, the Windows key will take you to the Start Screen. But the old Start Menu is hiding in the C:/Program Data folder. All you need to do is pin it to the desktop taskbar and you almost have everything you had with Windows 7. At least until Windows 8.1 Release 1 comes out. I use it mostly on my mouse only machines. But if the Start screen is 100% off limits, that won’t help. For those that need the security of the Start menu while discovering the Start screen, it’s a good transitional step.

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