Each time I read articles like those published this week regarding the less than stellar sales of personal computers and blaming Windows 8 as the primary catalyst of such demise, I have to wonder: “Where are these people getting their information?” Is it from the same guy who blames traffic on the rain, because it’s raining, only to find that it’s because some Mom reached back in her minivan to calm her untethered tribe and sideswiped an innocent? Or is it the result of one of those silly surveys that I give an accuracy factor of +/- 25%? Hopefully, it’s feedback from the Best Buy and Staples Director of Consumer Feedback (if they don’t have one, they should), but I think not. Oh, and just a general observation. Unhappy consumers always have more to say than those who are content. Note that before we begin this journey, I am not arguing that PC sales in general may be declining (not everyone needs a computer today if they have an adequate tablet and/or smartphone). I am saying that Windows 8 is not the primary cause.
WARNING: tl;dr – drop down to the last paragraph if you’re in a hurry.
Let’s take a look at a few of the objections and see if I can’t develop a convincing argument to adopt Windows 8.
Where is my beloved Start Button?
Well, it’s hidden, but it’s still there. Microsoft has substituted the Start Button/Menu with the Start Screen by default in Windows 8. Yes, it’s a shock for some users and impractical for others. But the next generation of computer users will give you a “deer in the headlight” stare when you refer to the Start Button a few years from now. Get used to it. I am using Win 8 on four different devices, and I have activated the Start menu on each of them. Here is what three of them look like.
The first is my Win 8 desktop. As you can see, there are a crapload of programs (vs. apps) installed on this machine. As a result my split between usage of the desktop and Start screen is about 60/40. Next is my notebook, which is a touch device but doesn’t have the juice to do things like video rendering. I would put my desktop/Start screen split at 40/60. Finally my Surface RT with its sparse Start menu. My desktop/Start screen split here is about 20/80, or maybe 10/90. My office desktop (not pictured above) has a Start menu similar to the home desktop and I would put my desktop/Start screen split at 80/20. I probably don’t need the Start menu enabled on the notebook and Surface, as I can pin a few apps to the taskbar or desktop and be done with it. But it does not hurt having it there. (I know there are third party solutions, but I don’t like messing with the Windows shell – always turn out bad in the end).
I would have preferred if Microsoft had a Wizard in Settings to unhide the Start Menu in Win 8 to help pacify the Windows veterans. But if I was working at Best Buy and the only objection a potential buyer had was the lack of a Start button, I would be sure he/she knew how to find it. Cha-ching! Another happy customer.
There’s no real advantage over my current Windows (or other) PC
Ok, let’s get the easy ones out of the way. XP was a breakthrough OS, in its time. But its time has passed. Win 8 is a leaner, safer OS that will do things you didn’t think were possible. I liken it to toll booths (XP) vs. EasyPass (Win8). Sure, they both collect your money, but do you seriously enjoy waiting in long lines and cranking down your (XP) window in a snowstorm. Suck it up and send that XP machine to the recycling center.
Vista = crap. Any questions?
And finally Win 7. This is a tougher sell for sure. Having jumped from XP directly to Win 8, I have little experience with Win 7 as an OS. From my limited exposure though, the desktop looks and works nearly identical to Win 8, except for the Start button of course. One thing I have observed on the half dozen Win 7 machines I have worked on or upgraded to Win 8 though is how surprisingly slow boot times are. Not much different than XP. Maybe even slower in some cases, taking upwards to 2-3 minutes to cold boot, get past the login and see the desktop. By contrast, my Win 8 machines, even my 5 year old office machine, take 15-20 seconds to get to the login screen, and another 5 seconds (or less) to open the Start screen. Win 7 machines also seem to run slower, at least to me, compared to the new OS. Credit the leaner Win 8 for that. If that’s not enough though, keep reading.
What’s with this Start screen thing with all the fruity tiles? And what’s an App?
Most people are by nature resistant to change, myself included. The Win 8 Start screen is a radical departure from the Windows desktop that we have all become accustomed to. But everything changes. Since the advent of the smartphone, and more so since the introduction of the iPhone, Apps have become the new buzzword. There is an App for just about everything. And multiple choices to do any one thing. The Start screen introduces Apps to users in a Windows environment. Truth be told, from my observations most typical computer users (not you and I), never intentionally install a single program on their computers. Except for maybe Office or some Anti-Virus suite, after an attack. They are content with syncing their phones and cameras, maybe doing some homework, printing, using the built-in/OEM supplied programs, and browsing the Web. Generally, consumers are intimidated by the thought of installing a program. And certainly scared off by the cost.
Win 8 Apps change all that. One click and it’s installed. Intuitive, with very little to learn. Apps give Win 8 users a whole new, and safe, world to explore. Unlike programs, which were designed for business or power users. While many apps in the Store are free, let’s not forget that if you do purchase an app, you can install it on up to five different devices that use the same Windows Store login (not associated with the PC login). That’s a good deal. So apps overcome the two biggest obstacles that programs have historically presented to users; complexity and cost.
Yes, the Store is still light on high quality apps. But is that a reason to not buy a Win 8 PC today? There are plenty of great choices available. Here is a small handful of my personal favorites; Hurricane Tracker, All My Storage, Metro Twit, Search All Pro, Modern File Explorer, Chaos Control, I Heart Radio, YouTube RT, Netflix, Vimeo, Shazam, MusixMatch, ESPN, Sports Now, USA Today, TNW, ABC News, EBay, Skype, Nat Geo World Atlas, Package Tracker, Back to the Drawing Board, Amazon, Skyscanner, Traffic Cams, Advanced English Dictionary and Unit Conversion. And let us not forget all the great apps that come included with Win 8, like; Mail, Messaging, People, Calendar, Maps, Bing, Photos, Music, Video, News, Sports, Finance and Weather.
All of the above work equally as well with touch or mouse, which leads us to our next objection (misunderstanding).
Windows 8 is made for touch. I use a mouse.
Well, so do I. Old habits are hard to break. Yes, Win 8 is optimized (as opposed to being) for touch devices, but it works equally as well with a mouse or touchpad. Is Win 8 more exciting to use with a touch screen? You betchya it is. And you can find touch enabled notebooks for as little as $499 today. But you don’t need a touch device to enjoy the speed, apps, and other unique capabilities of Win 8. My two desktop (home & office) machines are mouse devices, and they make up about 75-80% of my total weekly computing time, which I estimate to be 55 to 65 hours. That’s a lot of mouse time. And about 99.8% of that time is spent frustration free using Win 8. So yeah, if you want to buy a nice Ultrabook that you are going to have for at least 2-3 years, look for a touch device. If you just need a knock around portable, look for an inexpensive touch notebook, or one of the many Win 8 tablet convertibles. Or, buy a $389 non-touch special (Pentium / E1) but don’t get very attached. Expect to be disappointed by it’s lack of performance (still better than XP though), and replace it in 18 months when it dies. If your flavor is desktop, use your existing non-touch monitor for now (or buy a $99 cheapo) but replace that dog of a PC with a shiny new Win 8 i5 or i7 (or i3 if you must). The price of large screen touch monitors are already dropping and by next January, should be affordable for anyone’s budget.
I think that covers the primary objections that have been floating around with regard to Windows 8 adoption. Consumers, and businesses, simply need to be educated. With only 360 days (and counting) of XP support remaining, many businesses need to act soon. Win 8 is the logical option, but who said businesses ever did anything logically. Put an employee on an old workstation that costs “them and we consumers” an hour of “wait” time a day. That only works out to about $4500 per year/ per user in non-productive time. Could buy some kick ass machines for that cost, every year. Consumers won’t even realize their not being bothered by update notification anymore, but the bad guys will take care of convincing them to replace their computers. That’s a certainty.
So, why are overall sales of “all” personal computers down nearly 15%, year over year (Q1)? IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID! Couple that with the fact that the last two OSs from Microsoft have been more than stable (not talking about you Vista) and PC manufacturers, to their credit, have figured out how to sell a PC for under $500 and have it last for 5 years. Well done. If I had to choose between buying my kids clothes for school, or buying a faster, cool looking new PC, think I and 99.9% of others, would chose the former. Don’t be fooled by the unemployment rate dropping a few tenths of a percent. Those are simply the poor sobs (I was one) who exhausted their benefits and are now living on fumes, or relatives, or some part time cash job. This past holiday season did see a little spurt, but that’s because people can only repress their urge to spend for so long. They are probably regretting it today, and passing up that Win 8 computer for still another month. Old cars and computers are just things. If they look old, or run slow, but still get the job done, no need to replace them just yet (unlike a spouse for example – just sayin). Can’t say when the economy is going to change. Maybe Mr. Simmons can enlighten us.