Windows 8 Will Destroy Microsoft and a Bunch of PC Makers, Too

Windows 8 reminds me of a drop-dead-gorgeous woman who’s also a violent psychopath: you want to touch, but it might kill you. Windows 8 is so bad that a major shift is about to hit the PC world. That shift will hurt people who make their living on Microsoft-based PCs.

What’s so bad about Windows 8?

It has two distinct UIs, as different from each other as night and potatoes.

Windows 8 Desktop UIWindows 8 Metro or Start UI

The two UIs look and feel completely different.  The Desktop side looks like Windows 7’s desktop without a start button.  The other UI (formerly called “Metro”) looks beautiful and elegant and intuitive.

You’d think that you could work in the desktop side and play in the Metro side.  But you can’t.  Microsoft blocked your ability to work in only one operating environment.   Instead of a start button, you have to navigate to the Start page (the Metro UI) to open a program. Productivity killer. Every shift in environment interrupts your brain.  In other words, Microsoft won’t let you focus on your work: it demands that you multi-task.  Microsoft forces you, the customer, to work around its engineers' failures. That sucks.

Here’s an example.  I was on the Desktop UI.  I wanted to start a blog post.  I had drag the  mouse to the lower left-hand corner to expose and click the link to Metro.  In Metro, I found the tile for Windows Live Writer and clicked.  FLASH! I’m back on Desktop UI. Then Live Writer loads.  Horrible. But it gets worse.

It has two distinct versions of IE, and the pretty one doesn’t do very much.

The old looking IE with thick, top tool barThe awesome new Metro IE with NO TOOLBAR

Internet Explorer on the Metro side is fabulous.  They’ve moved all the controls and URL bar and all that garbage to the bottom of the pane so that the important stuff rises to the top.  I love that.  Plus, that bottom tool bar slides away when you’re not using it, devoting 100% of your screen to the thing you’re working on.  Brilliant!  Awesome!  Best Browser Ever!

But about half the time I’m working in that beautiful browser, I’m told that I’m requesting services only available in the (ugly) old Desktop browser. Click. FLASH!  Desktop UI. In other words, the beautiful new IE doesn’t really work, but Microsoft shipped it anyway.

I want to work in the Metro environment, so every time I'm jerked back into the semi-functional Windows 7 desktop, I'm frustrated.  Teased.

What about performance?  Who cares?

Windows 8 Task Manager

It feels about the same as Windows 7, but, in Windows 8, I’m always so frustrated and angry that I don’t really care how fast an app opens.  Everything requires many more keystrokes than Windows 7 did, so everything takes more time, energy, and thought.  But the new Task Manager is fun and useful for geeks who like to know what’s going on under the hood.

Windows 8 Is a Disaster

In short, Microsoft has ruined the PC and driven millions of PC users closer to Apple. Yes, it’s usable, but it’s a giant leap backward for PC users.

I could go on, but why?  Windows 8 sucks.  I am sorry I upgraded to it.  I feel bad for people who make PCs and the many programmers who imagine, design, and code desktop application for Windows. Microsoft’s utter contempt for design has put all these people’s jobs in jeopardy. This OS is so awful that I expect computer makers will give customers the option of Windows 7 to prevent a complete sales disaster at Christmas.

Can Microsoft fix it?  Windows 8 is software by committee. Designers, engineers, and users got equal say.  And the result just sucks. So, Yes, Microsoft can wake up from this nightmare.  They need to leave design to the designers, complete the Metro design, and kill the Desktop.

But they might not have time.  People have put off buying a new PC. They won't wait much longer. And they won't buy a PC running this crappy OS.  They'll buy a Mac.

On the other hand, Microsoft's email system is so awesome that I fired gmail.

Note:  I’m using Windows 8 RTM on an HP Pavilion with 8 GB of RAM and quad-core AMD processor.

3 Sites You've Got to Read

Sometimes life just serves up some great discovers.  Photo by J. Gardner

I'm searching for some ideas for a project. I need to find out patterns in ecommerce. Instead, I'm finding some really great blogs and sites that I've never seen before. Or maybe I've seen but didn't note. 

Feeling particularly generous, I submit the 3 best new finds in the web:

99 Percent:  This blog validates all of my prejudices.  What drew me here was this amazing story about streamlining desision-making.  I will explore much, much more in this rich site over the weekend.

Co.Design: Okay, I lied. Co.Design has been in my Google reader for months after it provided an idea for a web design. But I hadn't really gone back unti today.  Wow. This one sentence in one story makes the whole site worth bookmarking:

To me, and a handful of practical purists, design was meant to serve people and make life easier, not just better looking.

Corbett Barr:  This dude went stand-up about the same time I did. Plus he took the time to blog about. One quick look at his blog, and I knew I'd be back.  

Now you have a weekend's worth of new blogs to check out. And if you write your own list of newly discovered websites, I hope you'll include 


De-sign the World

Google’s success as a search engine has nothing to do with its algorithm. It has everything to do with design.  When you land on, there is nothing to do but enter a word or phrase into the lone box and wait for an answer.  No instructions necessary. No signs.

The more signs we post, the more accidents occur.

In Holland, a study showed that by simply removing warning signs along dangerous stretches of road, the number of accidents dropped.  So the Dutch are replacing dangerous intersections containing tons of signs and signals with simple roundabouts, or traffic circles.  The result? Less congestion, fewer accidents, and a more visually appealing roadway.

I believe we can spread this finding across many areas of life: how we design software systems, how we treat employees, how we design buildings.  In fact, if we must have a rule, let’s make it this:  no signs, no warnings, no helpful little messages to users.

Hans Monderman is a Dutch traffic engineer who’s championed the elimination of road signs. 

Monderman considers most signs to be not only annoying but downright dangerous. To him, they are an admission of failure, a sign - literally - that a road designer somewhere hasn't done his job.  "The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there's a problem with a road, they always try to add something," Monderman says. "To my mind, it's much better to remove things."

In software design, this means software would require almost no documentation. Forms on a web page would have to be self-explanatory.  Every page would need to be extremely minimalistic to avoid distraction and confusion.  By eliminating the crutch of signs, we must eliminate the problems that make signs seem necessary.

In the end, outlawing signs requires good design.  Like Google’s simple search page.



Try this today.  Rip out just one sign that you’re responsible for. And remove the impediment, the hidden danger, or the complexity that made the sign seem necessary.

  • Is there a “Watch Your Step” sign nearby? Why don’t you remove the trip-hazard and the sign? 
  • Does the application you’re building have a paragraph of text to explain how to fill out the form?  Redesign the form so that the user can’t screw up. 
  • Does a door say “Push?” Why not replace the handle with push bar so that the door’s swing direction is obvious.

Designing to make signs unnecessary makes the world safer, easier to use, and aesthetically more beautiful.  We can all share that responsibility.