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Windows 8: Upgrade to Confusion

October 22nd, 2012

Windows 8 will be released very soon, and when it comes out, we’ll see if Microsoft is completely stupid or not.

The test: whether or not Microsoft has added a tutorial to Windows 8. One which pops up immediately and tells people how things have changed, and how to get around the OS.

With Windows 8, the Start Menu is gone, cannot be brought back, and has been replaced with the now-infamous start screen. Going from one place to another now requires new actions which are not apparent because they are not visible on the screen. It is anything but intuitive to figure out that moving your cursor to a corner will bring up a screen you are looking for.

When I first downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I was hopelessly confused. I could not figure out how to get around—and I’m no n00b to Windows, either. There are bound to be lots of people who will be stymied when they see Windows 8, and who will hate the transition. “What?! I can’t bring back the Start menu? Why not?!?”

As I noted previously, Microsoft itself, when making a case for how it was better than the Mac OS, used as one of their key points, repeatedly, that Windows was better because people were familiar with it, and would have to spend time and effort readjusting to the Mac OS.

When I downloaded the Consumer Preview for Windows 8, however, there was no tutorial. Nothing to prepare you for things being different.

That astounded me. You completely change the UI and you leave users completely in the dark about how to operate things? Not even an apparent “Help” icon? Are you kidding me?

When Windows 8 comes up for the first time, it should have a tutorial (which can be dismissed, of course) which points out all the new UI features and the ways users can operate them. Once finished, the tutorial should then shrink to a small question-mark button on the Start screen, and stay there, with a note to users that they can disable the button if they wish.

Anything short of that will be, in my mind, proof positive that Microsoft is being run by morons. Even with it, Microsoft is throwing away one of their key advantages as they themselves define it. Without it, they are virtually begging for another Vista-level migration to the Mac.

Seriously, they have had eight months to realize that people are being stumped and aggravated by the lack of instruction. It should have been obvious before the Consumer Preview; it should be positively glaring by now. And there’s not shame in a tutorial; lots of people do it, it’s considered a feature, not to mention a necessity often times. Without it, people will be lost.

And then there’s the “What For?” effect: Windows 8 is mostly an upgrade for tablets. The new UI is the only notable new feature, aside possibly from the App Store—excuse me, the “Windows Store.” (Really, Microsoft—if you absolutely have to integrate mobile and desktop operating systems into one, why not make the desktop features dominant on desktop machines, and tablet features dominant on tablets, and have both set of features accessible on both? Why force desktop users to use an OS which is not appropriate for a desktop?)

This means that people who “upgrade” to Windows 8 on a laptop or Desktop will be getting a new and confusing user interface designed for something different than their current device, while at the same time, they get to be confused by a new and unexplained interface setup and lose the one tool they have spent most of a lifetime getting accustomed to—the Start Menu.

That’s pretty much it. A few other bells and whistles, like having a USB-based version of the OS, a new backup system (strikingly similar to Apple’s), and a smattering of other changes they won’t notice because they’ll be spending too much time trying to figure out how the hell to do even the most basic things.

So, Microsoft. Tutorial? Or not?

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