Analyst: Win8 Users Want Desktop, Start Button Back

Interesting article from Brooke Crothers needs a fairly lengthy excerpt, but it’s worth your time:

During a conversation I had this week with IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell, he volunteered the following statement, which sounded strangely like my experience.

There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed. Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button. Those two things have come up consistently. We’ve done some research and people miss that.

And there are a lot of people that as soon as they boot into Windows 8, they go to desktop mode and do most their work there and occasionally back to Metro. But the point being they’re much more comfortable with desktop mode.


I understand that this issue has been around since Windows 8 beta. And, yes, there are ways to boot to desktop mode and apps for getting the Windows Start button back. I’m not writing this to whine about how hard Windows 8 is to use. It’s not — for me.

But Windows 8 PC sales are “horribly stalled,” as O’Donnell put it. So maybe Microsoft should rethink the design, as IDC — whose business it is to get input from PC makers — thinks the company may be doing.

“It’s possible [Microsoft] is making changes to the OS [to allow a boot to desktop mode]. There’s a lot of debate about it. Certainly if you talk to PC vendors, they’d like to see Microsoft do that. Because they recognize some of the challenges that consumers are facing.”

I can’t find fault with anything either gentleman has to say. Win8 has a pretty steep learning curve for non-techy users, and IT departments seem to mostly hate it, at least based on the feedback I get here at VP. But there might be a deeper problem, as well.

It’s my feeling that what might bother users the most is that a single operating system has two operating modes. There’s the classic Desktop everybody knows and loves (or at least tolerates). And then there’s the new-and-maybe-not-so-improved Mode Formerly Known As Metro. You don’t have to use MoFKAM — unless you’ve bought a newer app through Microsoft’s app store. All those must operate in MoFKAM and nothing but MoFKAM.

You can always use MoFKAM, even if you hate it. But you can only mostly use Desktop, even if you hate MoFKAM. This is a hassle people just shouldn’t have to put up with. Modes are a mistake.

When Apple switched from OS 9 to OS X, they forced users into a similar situation. Old apps operated in Classic Environment. Classic and X apps could work side-by-side on the same desktop, but it was far from an ideal situation. What MS has done with Win8 is even clumsier than that. Fortunately for Apple, their user base was tiny and fiercely devoted — fewer people to annoy, and they were more willing to put up with annoyances. Through no fault of their own, Microsoft enjoys neither luxury.

Just a few years later, Apple switched from running on Power PC processors to completely-incompatible Intel CPUs. Thanks to emulation built into the first Intel editions of OS X, the process of running Power PC apps was invisible. The older apps loaded and ran slower, but the emulation process was invisible. Maybe something this is what MS needs to do to “fix” Win8.

There are third-party Win8 add-ons to help users get back that classic Windows 7 look and feel — but if it doesn’t come from Microsoft, most users will never install it, or never know it exists. That’s a problem from an OS with the width and depth of the Windows user base.

The problem seems to stem — again! — from Steve Ballmer’s “Windows Everywhere” strategy of shoehorning a semi-touch OS into every imaginable device. But instead of “no compromises,” the end product is a series of bad compromises — when it was smart compromises that should have been made.