Why did Windows 8 fail?
Why did Windows 8 fail?
While most of us have, at one point or another, used Windows, many of us don’t remember (or don’t like to remember) using Windows 8. Why has an OS that was such a big step forward for Microsoft failed to gain any traction?
While there are many reasons why Windows 8 flopped, one stands out: users couldn’t adapt to the new interface.
Let’s see what made Windows 8 a bad product for many users and why it ultimately failed.
What was Windows 8?
Released in 2012, Windows 8 was Microsoft’s follow-up to Windows 7. Windows 8 marked a departure from the traditional Windows user interface by emphasizing touch-friendly interface elements such as the Start screen.
In essence, Windows 8 was supposed to be the next evolution of Windows, one that would transform the OS from a pure desktop affair to one that would also be at home on a tablet.
But as we now know, Windows 8 has fallen to the surface.
Why did Windows 8 fail?
The failure of Windows 8 was the result of a combination of design and usability issues. From a poorly designed user interface to the gratuitous removal of essential features like the Start Button, Microsoft dropped the ball hard with its 2012 OS.
The Start menu is one of the basic Windows functions. Every version of Windows since Windows 95 has a Start menu except Windows 8.
With Windows 8, Microsoft removed the Start menu and replaced it with a touch-friendly Start screen. As you might expect, the removal of the Start menu did not sit well with users.
To begin with, users knew how to use the start menu. Removing the feature and replacing it with something that required a significant re-learning effort on the part of the user annoyed many customers, especially Microsoft’s enterprise customers.
Moreover, there was also no Start button on Windows 8, resulting in a confusing user interface design.
2. The Start screen replaced the standard Windows desktop
When users first booted up a Windows 8 PC, they were greeted with a new Start screen, not a desktop like every other version of Windows before or since. This confused many users who were used to a desktop with application icons, a taskbar and a Start button.
Moreover, the Windows 8 Start screen had a user interface dominated by Live Tiles. Live Tiles were app shortcuts implemented in Windows 8 to make the desktop OS more touch-friendly.
Live Tiles was an ingenious concept that replaced static app icons with dynamic rectangular shortcuts that could display real-time information like the weather and notifications. Unfortunately, Live Tiles were never popular, and the developers also didn’t support the feature too much.
In a sign of how much users hated the Start screen, Microsoft did away with the Start screen altogether with Windows 10. Similarly, Live Tiles were also shelved in Windows 11.
3. Lots of sudden changes
One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is the sudden and sudden changes that Microsoft implemented in the OS. For example, the Metro user interface in Windows 8 was not for everyone.
Additionally, the removal of the Start menu without any prior notice, the removal of the Start button, and the introduction of a new UI design language, among others, were radical moves that caught users off guard.
As a result, not many people upgraded. According to a 2018 report by Net MarketShare, Windows 8 and 8.1 had a combined installed base of 7%, even less than Windows 7, which was more than two generations old at the time.
In short, due to the sudden changes in user interface and features, Windows 8 required a significant investment of time and money to learn the new OS from both users and enterprises. The bet didn’t pay off and Windows 8 could never come close to the success of Windows 7.
4. Incoherent mix of old and new UI elements
Maintaining legacy elements of Windows to maintain compatibility and ease of use has been a struggle for Microsoft for a long time. For example, years after the introduction of Edge, Internet Explorer was still in Windows until 2022.
Even Windows 11, Microsoft’s next-generation OS built for a modern audience, still has elements from the ’90s.
The problem of keeping legacy parts of Windows was immediately apparent in Windows 8. The OS had a strange and often tasteless mix of old and new UI elements. For example, Microsoft introduced a new, modern Settings app in Windows 8, but the old Control Panel with the old user interface still existed.
Although the situation has improved a lot with Windows 10, and now with Windows 11, Microsoft still has a lot of work to do if the company wants to completely leave legacy elements behind.
5. No clear vision and unsuccessful execution
Microsoft designed Windows 8 to be usable on both traditional desktop computers and the ever-growing range of mobile computing devices such as tablets and 2-in-1 devices. But Windows 8 failed in both market segments.
For starters, while touch usability has improved compared to previous versions of Windows, the OS is far from touch-friendly. For example, the overly flat nature of icons and typography made it difficult to identify clickable targets. Many users often found navigating/searching certain features difficult.
Essentially, Microsoft went too far into the tablet market with a confusing operating system and ended up disenfranchising both desktop and tablet users.
Windows 8 gave way to Windows 10, a much better operating system
In 2015, Microsoft debuted Windows 10 without the unnecessary additions of the Windows 8 user interface. The Start menu, like the traditional desktop, returned and has remained until today.
Still, Microsoft hasn’t abandoned all of its Windows 8 ideas.
For example, the Start menu in Windows 10 is a combination of the traditional menu design with Windows 8 Live Tiles. Not only has it brought back the much-loved user interface, but it has also gained even more useful features.