Monday, October 01, 2012

Windows 8 Great for Phone and Tablets - Not So Much For Desktops

I've been using Windows 8 for many months now. I recently installed the RTM (release to market) version. That's the final code being pressed onto DVDs and installed on computers for sale after October 26th.

In the Spring SMB Nation event (MVP Nation) I saw previews of Windows 8 on various platforms, including desktop/laptop, tablet, and phone. The most exciting of these is the phone. In fact, I liked it so much that I will actually move to the Windows 8 phone when it's available. After being committed to BlackBerry for many years, I have been using a Droid for some time and find it very disappointing. So I'm ready for a change and Windows 8 Phone looks like the winner.

Windows desktop is another story. I think we'll recommend the following:

- If you're buying a new computer, and it comes with Windows 8, that's fine. You might not like it.

- If you have any business critical software that's not made by Microsoft, it may not work in Windows 8. So hold off until every one of those programs has been tested with Windows 8.

- Do not EVER upgrade old computers to Windows 8 (or any operating system). There are a hundred reasons for this, but they basically amount to one truth: That hardware wasn't made for this operating system and this operating system was not made with that hardware in mind. Doing this always leads to extra labor and disappointment.

- If you are a power user of any kind, you will be very frustrated with Windows 8. There are many functions that you can't get to with keyboard commands - or they are so cumbersome that you give up. So you'll be spending 40% of your time moving your hand between the keyboard and mouse.

The Flash Show-Stopper in Windows 8

Many programs fail to install in the release version of Windows 8 for one simple reason: Flash. Here's what's going on.

First, Internet Explorer 10 is built into Windows 8 and can't be removed. It is part of the operating system.

Second, IE 10 (and therefore Windows 8) does not allow plug-ins. At all.

Third, as a result, Adobe Flash has been integrated into the operating system (internet explorer) because it can't be a plug-in.

Those three truths result in the show-stopper. Many programs check to see which version of Flash you have. If you don't have it at all, they install it for you. Well, in Windows 8, these programs never find Flash because they're looking for a plug-in that can't exist. When they go to install Flash (either from their own installation CD or the Adobe site), it fails. Because it's not allowed.

Warning for technicians: Don't waste time trying to get around this. When you try to install flash from a CD it fails. When you go to the Adobe site, you get a notice that says "This content requires a newer version of the Flash Player. Please download and install the latest version of Flash Player from the Windows Update site before continuing."

All Flash updates on Windows 8 have to come through Microsoft, not Adobe. Period. Note also that Flash is currently available only from Windows Update and not as a download from Microsoft. You can't take it out and you can't install an older version because older versions are plug-ins.

This is a show-stopper because you can't trick programs into seeing and using a plug-in that doesn't exist. Maybe Microsoft and Adobe could create a program to do that, but why would they? So programs fail to install, and the only fix is to wait for a version that understands the new Flash configuration in Windows 8.

I don't see Intuit, Adobe, or other software manufacturers making patches or work-arounds for this. They'll adapt to it in the latest release of their software - so your client has to buy new software.

As a result of all this, Windows 8 should not be deployed until you have compatible versions of all critical software in hand. One of the things that killed early adoption of Vista was that both hardware and software manufacturers didn't commit to it until more than a year after it was released. So lots of things didn't work. Windows 8 may experience something similar.

Other Annoyances

Windows 8 has no shortage of annoyances. It is really designed around tablets to compete with iPad. That's great if you have a tablet. But most desktop/laptop users need a good old desktop operating system.

Windows 8 has abandoned the desktop user. It's like using a mouse to control your phone. Pain in the ass.

If you have extra money laying around, consider buying stock in Stardock and other makers of Windows shell modifications. They'll be busy creating a usable desktop you can lay over the Windows 8 operating system. Stardock already has a widget that puts the Start button back where it belongs.

(I'm not sure why Microsoft is so adamant about eliminating the Start button/orb. In the developer preview of W8, you could use a registry hack to enable it. But in the Customer Preview, RC, and release editions, that's gone. Why is this a "force of will" stand by Microsoft instead simply giving people options?)

It's not particularly hard to navigate in Windows 8, but power users will find it less productive even after months of using it.

Another key annoyance that I assumed would be fixed in the release version is the choice of default programs. Program registration is different in W8, so your favorite program may not be on the list of programs to select as a default program. And even if it is, that selection may not stick. So your most-used tools might not be associated with the files you always open. VERY annoying.

I am now assuming this fix will come out shortly because it affects many programs.

The Metro (or whatever it's called now) file picker is also extremely annoying. I don't care who you are or how much you love the mouse, that's an incredibly slow way to find files.

. . . And there are lots of other annoyances. Pick your favorite!

The Enterprise Desktop Will Not Adopt Windows 8

Updating software and operating systems is a bit of a chicken-and-egg relationship. Windows 8 (or 7, or Vista, or XP, etc.) forces software vendors to change. Software vendors resist change unless they are going to make enough sales to make it worthwhile. The operating system's adoption rate is slower when it can't run programs. Without an installed base of the new O.S., the software vendors can't sell enough copies to make upgrading worthwhile.

One key market for any operating system is the Enterprise - really big corporations. These guys are always a little slow to adopt because they have lengthy vetting processes to make sure the new O.S. will work in their environment and with all of the other "approved" software.

Just four days ago Gartner released a research note predicting that enterprise customers will avoid Windows 8 for quite some time. The primary reason: The touch-centric nature of the operating system. Tens of thousands of users working with touch screens instead of keyboards simply won't happen. That leaves them using a keyboard with an operating system that is un-friendly to keyboard users.

Most are expected to finish their move to Windows 7 in the next few months. They are - according to this research - not adding Windows 8 to the mix. See the original report and this follow-up article from ComputerWorld.

- - - - -

I'm not sure why Microsoft is so adamant about reducing the choices we have to access our computer systems. But they have clearly committed to this path.

Here's the good news for you: FUD.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt are always an opportunity to make money consulting. That means labor. Training. Educating. Demos. Public discussions that place you in front of a room full of confused business owners.

Even if you recommend staying with Windows 7 for now, you're the expert!



  1. Hey Karl

    Windows 8 is certainly dividing people!

    Just wanted to add to the Flash/IE10 thing.

    The full screen version of IE10 doesn't allow add-ins.
    The desktop version of IE10 does.

    Confusing? Yes....very!

    Not entirely sure why we need two slightly different versions of IE - especially when most users won't be able to figure out the difference between the two

  2. True, Andy. But the operating system still won't let last year's QuickBooks recognize that it doesn't need to install Flash.


  3. Karl,
    That's because Flash is installed as part of Metro IE and is basically JUST for Metro IE and really it is just for certain sites. If you add a flash control to your blog here and try to view it in Metro IE, it won't work. Go to and it will.

    It is one of many weird design decisions.

    I disagree that Windows 8 isn't ready for a desktop. I've been using it for a few months on my Desktop (RP and Gold since 8/7). It is basically Windows 7 with some improvements and some things that are different. I don't even notice the new start menu, but I always pressed the button on my keyboard and never clicked. I don't ever get into the Windows 8 charms bar for anything and I just forget it is there.

    I can't wait to get a great Windows 8 tablet to see the OS really shine. But it is more than serviceable on the Desktop already.

    PS - I'll live with the quirks just for the ability to pause file copies.

  4. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Sorry I'm not going to disagree, It's another VISTA, what People seem to realize is just what you posted. Enterprise doesn't have TOUCH Screens. I worked for Intel for 16 years, and trust me the last thing they want to do is roll out a NEW OS that No one knows, and they have to have "Training Classes" for Carpet Monkeys (Yes I said Carpet Monkeys or Carpet Dwellers as we called them at Intel) Even switching a little in a Program and people YELL "I WANT TRAINING" They are that Dumb! So Expecting Places like Intel to Roll out WIN8 in the next year is Way too much to expext. (No I can't speak for Intel I do have friends that still work their and Officially I couldn't say anything) However From knowing how They WORKED when I worked there, this will not happen, this is more likely going to happen.. CEO's and Where budgets will allow, they will get MS Surface. Then some Touch Screen Desktops I don't see too many. Next there will be those "Groups/Departments that Always get what they want, they will CLAIM for "Business Reasons" they need WIN8, Management will Cave to that group, and give them WIN8 they will buy everyone in the group WIN8, They will not like it and replace all their PC's back to Win7 then Corporate will say, We are delaying WIN8 Deployment for at least 1 year... TouchPads Will be purchased, but Desktops, Will ONLY Be Replaced on a case by case basis, and Deamed Critical to business.. (Trust me this is what will happen.)

  5. I agree with some of your predictions, but not totally. People always refresh their hardware and with the lineup of hardware that is coming down the pipe, people are going to be very happy with Windows 8. I have been using the desktop with the Pro Edition for sometime and frankly Karl, I don't see the problem. The charm is still there. Just put your mouse in the bottom left corner as always and it appears. Just a different start menu than you are used to with Windows 7. I find it much more productive just being able to type from the new Modern UI and the program is just there. Yes, some new stuff to learn, but seriously it is not hard to learn how to use this OS with a keyboard and mouse. Not harder than learning any other new version. I know I work for Microsoft Karl, but dude, I have been using Windows since the beginning and I wasn't working for Microsoft then. This is no big deal. The flash stuff, I am not sure I agree. I haven't found a site that has flash that hasn't loaded for me yet. I am on the RTM version. So, again, specify some sites that don't work and I might bite. In terms of app compat. Not sure what apps don't work that worked on Windows 7. Again, specify some apps that don't work. Every app I had for Windows 7 works with Windows 8. It is why we are providing an upgrade path for users. Specifics will always help. Kevin Beares

  6. Sean (and Kevin), I have not had any issues with web sites that I've noticed.

    And I agree that it's largely a facelift for most users.

    It is a great step forward for the growing workforce that walks around with a tablet computer and uses their finger as the primary input device. But for the massive workforce that sits at a desk and moves between Word, Excel, Outlook, QuickBooks, and a Line of Business, the operating system needs to fast and easy without a finger - or a mouse.

    I really don't have a lot of complaints. The flash issue is a real show-stopper. Kevin, if you want an example, try to install QuickBook 2010 on Windows 8. And think about all the accountants and enrolled agents who insist on haveing every version of QuickBooks ever made. Whether I think that's a good idea or not, those are the people who will balk at W8.

    The funny thing is: That specific install worked on the developer preview and customer preview versions, but not the RTM.

    I like the fact that I can press the Windows key and type any program. That's actually the same as Windows 7. I'm not talking about annoyances related to look and feel. For me productivity is key.

    I've never been a mouse user except when browsing the internet. So the very fact that you need to use a mouse (or finger) for some functions is a major setback as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to put my mouse over the corner, the side, or anything else.

    The bigger mystery is why this version has no options to behave like the last version. Even in Windows 7 I could choose a classic theme and it would look like XP. I don't want something that drastic, just a file management system that's not a huge step backward.

    Bottom Line: A desktop is not a tablet. A great, efficient interface for a tablet shouldn't work like a desktop. And a great, efficient interface for a desktop shouldn't work like a tablet.

    Anon: The Gartner report supports your viewpoint for the most part. I love the phrase "upgrade fatigue." My experience at HP was that they are very careful with upgrades. It's incredibly expensive for companies that size.

  7. Here's a video showing the difference between the Windows 7 style file picker and Windows 8 file picker.

    Windows 7 style file picker and Windows 8 file picker


  8. Well, I am glad that there's a video provided here. At least I could the performance and that might convince me. Thanks for having it here.

  9. My Windows 8 smartphone is not that smart as I can't see any flash pages r scripts to run over the net

  10. My smartphone running windows 8 will not show embedded youtube on web sites or google adds... so not so smart

  11. I mean... I don't know which version of Windows 8 you're using, but Desktop works just fine for me with Win8Pro x64. The only thing missing is the start menu (no huge loss there, it's just a tree'd way of starting programs), which is easily supplanted by hitting the Start button on your kb and just typing what you're looking for. The Explorer is still there, and you can easily just install Chrome if IE10 isn't your thing.

    I mean, did you TRY making this something you like at all before bashing it? I have to admit, I didn't like it for the first 20 minutes either, but 20 minutes later I made it work for me... I have to admit, it's legitimately a faster OS too, UI issues aside.

  12. Paul: There's a battle of the titans as Apple and Microsoft are now both solidly anti-Flash. Adobe is obviously resource-rich, so they won't just disappear. Look for a battle ahead.

    Thanks for the feedback, Unknown. Yes, I have been using it has my primary desktop for about five months. My personal experience is that I am significantly less productive with Windows 8, particularly when the file picker from hell pops up and I can quickly go where I want to go.

    I believe many people will have a positive experience with Windows 8. I believe power users will not.


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