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back to article Microsoft 'touches 16k shop workers' to flog Windows 8 hard

Microsoft says Windows 8 PC sales were cursed by the unholy trinity of a slow economy, incursions by Apple and Android tablets, and the "ambitious" user interface design. But the software giant insisted it is working with retailers and manufacturers to supply hardware that people actually want in time for the peak sales season …

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Linux

Microsoft 'touches 16k shop workers' to polish their turd hard

Mythbusters show the way.

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Facepalm

ManagementSpeak overload

"evangelising"

"touched"

"experiential"

There you have it.

Anything other than "we tried to sell something people don't want".

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Trollface

Re: ManagementSpeak overload

Yes, well they knew this would be a touchy subject!

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Paris Hilton

"very touch centric"

Eeewww, I thought we were beyond this kind of work place harassment in this day and age!

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Technology change?

What change would this be? The only major changes in laptop technology over the last year has been the introduction of touchscreens on a lot more models, and that is something Microsoft themselves demanded.

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Re: Technology change?

It's less a technology change than "the middle of an economic environment that none of us experienced before"

Translation: We seem to have lost our cosy monopoly arrangement. Where did it go?

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Re: Technology change?

Schultz,

I assume he's meaning a rather nasty lack of growth in the advanced economies. After all, MS still have an extremely healthy unhealthy monopoly in PCs.

Weirdly by technology change, I think they mean technology stay the same. I just realised I bought my PC in 2006. And it still runs all the most current software perfectly well, apart from the most demanding games. I don't think that's ever happened before, and consumers don't tend to upgrade their OS. They buy it with a new PC. So because of that (and shiny) tablets are the next big thing. Not because they're replacing PCs (at least not yet*), but because the PC is good enough, for the diminishing number of things you do with it.

* Is an Asus Transformer good enough to be a PC replacement yet? I suspect the MS Surface Pro will be a perfectly fine laptop replacement, but probably a bit heavy/power hungry as a tablet.

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Not to Spartacus

There is lots of growth in microelectronics, but the new computers (i.e., phones, pads, integrated devices) don't follow the rules created by MS. I like to think that people at MS look at the shiny new world and wonder where, when, and why the rules of the game suddenly changed.

It's surely in parts an issue of 'good enough' devices: no need for the newest hardware supported by Windows-only drivers. Any Chinese company can knock together a good enough device with good enough software to fulfill 90% of the market needs. Suddenly the high-res screen, better touch sensitivity, or a random app-of-the-day becomes the decisive factor for a purchase and MS doesn't have an edge in those fields.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Im impressed that for once seems like quite a balanced argument as to why W8 isnt doing so well. Touch interface doesnt work so well for Laptop/Desktop environment as it puts the user in an uncomfortable position, but is ideal for tablets/phones.

MS need to do a rethink, I can understand where they were coming from with the all platforms one (software) form factor idea, but they seem to have stopped the brainstorming session there without looking at the obvious problems. Maybe W8 SP1 could remove tifkam from the desktop/laptop environment and maybe that will make people happier and more inclined to use it! But who knows??

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Jay Holmes,

I don't think MS needed to remove TIFKAM, just make it really easy to remove it. Now they may have built up as much techy-hate as they had at the worst point of XP security nightmare, or Vista-crapness, I wonder if it's too late, and the damage is done.

I suspect most users would quite like TIFKAM if it were set up properly. My Mum does nothing but upload piccies from her camera, email, browse the web and type the odd document on her PC. And doesn't even know how to get 2 windows side-by-side properly. So for her, a well set-up TIFKAM would be better than the (perfectly fine) Windows 7 she's got. Probably not enough to be worth £40 though.

Also, as a caveat, I said well set up. From what I can see from reviews, things can be a bit jarring. Some tasks launch in Notro, others in desktop - so you need to know how to set the preferences to launch in the right one. The TIFKAM browser doesn't do Flash, so how do you open the same site in the desktop browser? Why should you even need to, and not have it happen automatically? Why even write 2 browsers, rather than just having a Metro front-end on the desktop IE?

Imagine if they'd implemented the launch preferences better, allowed users to turn off Metro, but had a nice easy way that you could remote desktop into your PC from your tablet, and have it default into touch-friendly Metro? Suddenly I think people would be calling them geniuses (or at least quite clever), and PC's could be easy media servers and people might pay to update so they could hook the iPad to the computer really simply. But they didn't. Oh well...

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

@I ain't Spartacus

TIFKAM is already very easy to 'remove', or at least to avoid. I assume that, like everyone else here, the thing you're complaining about under the title 'TIFKAM' is just the Start screen. What would you like to see in your updated Win 8? The machine boots straight into the Desktop without anyone having to click the 'Desktop' icon first? You can already do that very easily. Once in the Desktop, there's no need to go back to the Start screen for the rest of the session.

Your improved version of Windows 8 is virtually indistinguishable from the current version.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Making it so I never have to see TIFKAM ever again unless I really want to play phone apps on a computer would be nice. The Win7 start menu could make a reappearance. You know, the menu with the commonly used programs available straight away, and the heirarchical tree to help avoid information overload?

No, "install a 3rd party start menu" is not a solution. That's what you do if Canonical has fucked up the UI again, but their stuff is free. Microsoft's is anything but.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Chris Long,

Your improved version of Windows 8 is virtually indistinguishable from the current version.

Well not quite... First, declaration time: I've used Win8 for 2 minutes, in a shop - and I've read a handful of reviews. So I'm claiming no expertise. However:

1. As I understand it pressing the 'start' button takes you out of the desktop, and into Metro. Obviously you can get some third party software to change this, but in my opinion MS should have allowed it as an option. For the non-power user it's probably fine, you just pin the 5 programs you use to the taskbar, and the desktop works as before. However, as soon as you used more than 10 apps regularly, that's just silly. The taskbar is only the width of your screen. Unless people start using 35:10 mega-widescreen monitors or something...

2. The OS seems to operate inconsistently when you take an action, as to whether it launches the Metro appo or the desktop program. This is just a configuration issue. However if I handed something like that to my Mum, it would be unusable for her. Sure, I could customise it for her in half an hour - but not everyone knows someone who can set their PC up for them. It needs to work better 'out of the box'.

3. PR is important. Techies aren't the majority of customers, but they make more noise than average on the internet, and people ask for their opinions. Pissing them off is therefore stupid! MS have done good work over the last few years in improving their image, by improving their security and software and being less naughty. They may have blown a large chunk of that good work, and it will take years of more hard work to recover. Not being arrogant, and giving the customer options was just basic common sense - and would still have achieved their objective. Techies would have switched it off, and not complained, normal users would probably not have minded, and would now be indoctrinated into the delights of WinRT and Win Phone 8. If they don't do an update in the next couple of months, and apologise, they will have blown a large proportion of the goodwill they've painstakingly built up over the last 5 years. Which would be stupid and arrogant.

Vista wasn't actually that bad - it's slower than XP but hardware is better. Almost all the problems were down to third parties. OEMs putting it on dog slow machines and driver and software issues that were mostly down to others. I remember my brand new Creative sound card didn't get a Vista driver for 10 months after launch, even though it was sold after launch, and Vista had been in public beta for over a year before that. Yet MS got the blame, and still people make jokes about how shit Vista was. There's a PR lesson in there somewhere that MS need to learn.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

@I ain't Spartacus

Thanks for the detailed reply - most people haven't responded to my questions about what *specifically* they object to.

So, you haven't actually used Windows 8 properly - that's a key point. Your main concern is with the Start screen and the default file associations, on the basis of which you're writing off the entire OS.

Re: 1 - You're right, to start a new, non-pinned app, you tap the Windows key, start typing 'Exce...' and then click on the Excel icon ('tile') when Search finds it. Or, you can click directly on the Excel tile if you know where it is. I agree, this sounds like it's the recipe for a bad user experience, but you should try it first. Switching to the Start screen and back the Desktop are instantaneous operations, very smooth and not disruptive at all.

Re: 2 partially agree wit you - it's not inconsistent about individual file types, but the most annoying thing I found was that clicking a PDF link from Firefox would (out of the box) open the PDF full-screen in a Metro app, requiring a tap of the Windows key to get back to the desktop. I installed Foxit to remedy this. And really, it wasn't that bad anyway. A lot of non-techy users tend to run everything full-screen, and at least Win 8 comes with some sort of PDF reader, which it never did before.

Re: 3 - Clearly Microsoft is suffering a PR disaster, the question is whether it's justified. You're correct about the importance of techy opinions, but your criticisms are from a techy point of view - I think a normal user (running only a few applications, surfing, checking email) will have far less to complain about in Win 8 than most techies. Windows has never been designed primarily for techies.

I would genuinely recommend that you spend at least half a day using Win 8 for real work before condemning the entire OS as a disaster. It's mainly a perception thing. I've read many reviews saying that Win 8 'relegates' the desktop to the level of a 'mere app'. This is ridiculous. TIFKAM, the Start screen and Metro apps are a thin skin over the old and familiar Windows that we all know and love. If you just think of the Start screen as a full-screen Start menu, it doesn't seem so scary, does it?

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

A full screen start menu with no folders, that spews icons from anything you install all over it, thus demanding reorganisation every single time you add something to your computer.

It does everything the old start menu does, but worse. Oh but hey, it's shiny.

I wouldn't say it's scary. More... crap.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Chris,

I think we mostly agree. I haven't used Win 8. I was going to take the opportunity of the January special offer to download it onto my machine, and replace Vista. Should be a nice speed boost, and then I can play with Win 8. My home machine gets used for less and less, as I have an iPad - and I barely play games nowadays. Then I could see what all the fuss is about - and I can always re-install if it's that bad. Just not had the time.

I didn't ever dismiss Windows 8. I think a lot of the criticism is way over the top, and from people who haven't used it. And to dismiss Metro as a touch interface is obviously silly, when it works perfectly well with a mouse. However there are some major (and minor) configuration problems they should have fixed before going to market, otherwise what was the point of a 6 month public beta? And whoever thought that it was a good UI idea to have invisible icons (or areas of screen that turn into stuff when you hover) was an idiot. If you can't see it, you don't know you've got it.

But I think it's a PR disaster. And getting worse. And MS have no excuse. Apparently their OEMs told them it was a bad idea to focus on touch, and many/most who played with the beta didn't like Metro on non-touch. After pissing off so many people with the Ribbon in Office, and with all the comments before launch, they were utterly stupid to have ignored the issue. The correct response at this point is an apology and a quick service pack with an off switch. Cost almost nothing. Gain, almost nothing monetary... I doubt sales will be particularly affected, I suspect that's mostly hype too Business is happy with 7, consumers get Windows when they buy new hardware. But they've got to stop pissing people off for no reason. MS are trying perfectly rational things to expand into the growing bits of the market, but they do need to work on the image, as well as the software. Possibly the image is more important. Windows Phone is now pretty good, Windows 8 too, but they do have to sell it, in a way they haven't for a long time. It's incredibly hard to get the balance right between listening to customers but ignoring the stupid ones and making good stuff...

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@Chris Long

" tap the Windows key, start typing 'Exce...' and then click on the Excel icon ('tile') when Search finds it"

...and as I'm getting tired of pointing out, it doesn't work very well. It only seems to search Metro's private startmenu folders - if the app's not in there it won't be found. Which means more than half the useful apps and links with parameters on my system just aren't visible. Despite the fact I can see them on my desktop and in the classic start menu!

Without wasting an afternoon manually adding links direct to the underlying folders (something beginners won't even know about) they'll stay hidden from the search. Some of use prefer to keep some apps away from OS partitions we might need to reformat, reinstall, or want to share them with another OS.

It's no substitute for a real, user configurable setup process even beginners can understand. With Metro, you take what MS offer, do without or get hacking, the whole experience stinks of it.

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Re: Touch interfaces are expensive

Drivers for laptop touchpads were not available on time for Windows 8, according to Samsung and some retail store associates. This left the touchpad even less useful as an input for W8 laptop devices. But it's all botched up. Windows 8 is a hammer with two handles.

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Stop

"consumers didn't understand touch-based laptops"

Or is it that they did and realised it didn't make sense? It's different...

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FAIL

"Confusing software and expensive hardware doesn't sell" shocker

Confusing software is confusing, so nobody bought the expensive hardware that runs it properly.

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Re: "Confusing software and expensive hardware doesn't sell" shocker

Also: "People don't want fingermarks smeared all over their screen shocker."

Ever tried a full-fat touch machine? Worse than useless as anything more than a very unwieldy and hugely overpriced tablet. You'll need a bottle of cleaner and a microfibre cloth to hand and use them regularly for any serious use. MS need to get those gesture sensors they're working on to market ASAP, or they're screwed.

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Facepalm

Re: "Confusing software and expensive hardware doesn't sell" shocker

The last thing we need is more hand-waving, or "UI"ercise.

:-)

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Coat

Re: "Confusing software and expensive hardware doesn't sell" shocker

"The last thing we need is more hand-waving, or "UI"ercise." -- Are you sure? I'm quite looking forward to watching our end-users trying to write an email by flapping their arms in the air and shouting "Send! Send!".

it would also be nice to actually point to a printer and say "There, look it is connected and turned on you stupid bloody computer"

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Re: "Confusing software and expensive hardware doesn't sell" shocker

>MS need to get those gesture sensors they're working on to market ASAP

I thought it was already on sale and called the Kinect ...

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"Ambitious"

Once again Microsoft come up with a new and weird definition of an existing word.

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The "ambitious" user interface design...

One presumes that in the UK, following Yes, Minister, the word that would be used instead of "ambitious" would be "courageous".

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Happy

Re: The "ambitious" user interface design...

Do you think someone said, "I think you're being very courageous Mr Sinofsky", at any point in the last few years?

As subsequent events have shown, he didn't listen...

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Crystal Ball

Except that MS had something even better than a crystal ball - thousands of beta testers who all gave MS countless warnings that the Windows 8 UI was not fit for purpose. They were ignored and MS are suffering for it. Office 13 won't do well either for the same reason.

And as for the surface marketing - anyone with any knowledge of how people use computers could have told MS what a terrible campaign that was. What the hell were they thinking? The surface ad makes it look as though the (admittedly novel) case-keyboard is an add-on, which needs to be carried around separately - it's misses the whole point.

Fail all around at MS. Hopefully it'll give them the kick up the backside they need though.

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Re: Crystal Ball

Yep! Myself and others SAID here and other tech sites that win8 was crap. Not usable for a desktop or notebook. The concept seemed good to me, until I tried it out on my Thinkpad. It took me 15 mins to hate win8. Then I tried LinuxMint... For a while, then back to win8 to give it another chance. My test Thinkpad will become my Linux test system for me to learn. That's a fact... I see windows as a dying platform... Killed by Microsoft in their stupidity. I only know one friend with a touch based AIO PC, they used the touch for about 2 weeks, then went back to mouse full time. Dirty screen and muscles required was not worth it.

Win8 desktop mode is also ugly... There is so much stupid things done to win8, who wants to use it? With win7, many of us couldn't wait for it... I ran win7rc on 3 of my PC for a month or so after retail release. It worked that good.

I still know nobody with win8, while win7 exploded quickly. At a local pc store, about 20% of their PCs are win7. Nobody is BYO with win8. Every pc I've built and sold is win7. Some because they don't want to be stuck with win8 or 9+ metro UI pc anytime soon. Hell, I could have bought 5 of those win8 upgrades for $40 for my own PCs. Why would I waste money? I even built a new I5 desktop for myself just after the release of win8. The $140 win7pro was worth it over the much cheaper win8. I wish it was worth it and save me $100.

This week alone, ive sold and building 4 new win7 PCs.

Also... Office 2013 is butt ugly blinding crap design. What. Idiot came up with this?

I typed this on my iPad1, touch screen. Don't want to wake wife with the desktop and it's 24" display.

Again... Thanks to Microsoft... Windows OS has become irrelevant.

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unholy trinity

the unholy trinity of a slow economy, incursions by Apple and Android tablets, and the "ambitious" user interface design

Only one of those is outside of MS's control (the economy) or ability to affect, but it's hardly hurting Apple or Lenovo who both recorded increased sales. Maybe...just maybe...Win 8 simply isn't good enough?

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Anonymous Coward

If it needs a hard sell

Then the product is shit.

Interestingly MS are adopting a double glazing sales strategy for Windows.

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Unhappy

Fear is one solution...

I once had an hour free while passing through central Birmingham, and was browsing in the local PC World. Not that I buy there, I was just checking out the laptop market. It was around the time of the release of Vista.

An assistant made a half-hearted effort to sell me something, and I made a half-hearted effort to sound interested. But then I told them that yes, the laptops were all very nice, but I had heard terrible things about Vista, and I mused it would be ideal if they could instead sell laptops with no operating system on them at all.

I knew it was pointless to say such a thing, although I wasn’t deliberately trying to waste their time – I do make genuine purchases (three separate computers since then) from manufacturers who don’t bundle Windows.

“No, we can’t do that,” replied the assistant. “That would be ILLEGAL.”

It seemed the assistant was accidentally mixing up the idea of civil legal liability (in terms of the agreements that manufacturers have with Microsoft), with that of criminal liability. But as a sales tactic, it seems solid gold…

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Holmes

Re: Fear is one solution...

I've heard that one before. It was related to playing a DVD out of its intended region.

Next time somebody tells you that something is illegal, ask them for the law that applies in this case.

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Anonymous Coward

peak sales spring season

don't you just love this unfaltering optimism? I see it more like, naturally, spring cleaning :D

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Re: peak sales spring season

Is Microsoft selling to consumers or to business?

I thought the peak sales season for consumer electronics was the run up to Christmas ...

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FAIL

Well duh..

I think most of us could have seen this comming right from the first announcements of TIFKAM.

I just can't see ANY advantage to having touch on a laptop or desktop. On a desktop especially it would just be unwieldy and tiring on the arms when you have the screen in a good location, or very taxing on the neck and back if you place it conveniently for using it as a touch device...

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Re: Well duh..

Laptops and desktops are a dying format for consumer computing. Desktops are still essential for professional content creation - whip those Xeons hard, boy - but most consumers don't need that kind of power, and can't afford it even if they want it.

So it makes *no sense* to package a tablet as a true laptop replacement[tm] and then force everyone to use a touch-based UI on it.

For most people the definition of PC is 'Windows UI'. World+dog would have been fine with a tablet version of Win 7 with multitouch and gestures, including some clever way to emulate mouse hover.

So MS could have sold Win 8 as the improved touch version of Win 7, and made Notro an optional add-on pack. If there were enough 'Requires Notro' apps in the store, punter would have bought it *because they wanted to.*

But Ballmer decided the tail should wag the dog, and Sinofsky drowned in a 'We can make it all one code-base, right?' unicorn fart and rainbow kisses fantasy.

Instead of Windowising tablets, they tableted Windows.

Win 8 products aren't PCs. But they're also not tablets, because they're trying to be PCs. And they don't have a cool touch UI, because Notro isn't a cool touch UI.

As Eadon would say - FAIL.

Which is sad, because with some real insight Windows could have wowed tablet users who want something that can do real work - design, media, music, photo editing, even Office. And there's endless potential for cool games.

Instead we got a weirdified version of the Xbox interface running on a PC, and one of the worst marketing campaigns in living memory.

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operating system

You only buy a new operating system when you buy a new PC. Who cares if it has Windows 7 or 8, I will pick the cheapest.

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Re: operating system

This might apply to Joe Punter, but to most techs here, I suspect performance and usability will dictate OS choice.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: operating system

I was going to buy a brand new laptop last week. Then I found that the models I wanted came with Windows 8. So I've decided to stay with my ancient 2ghz Pentium Mobile - until it either runs out of spares or won't suffice my daily lightweight processing needs. Then I'll buy a nice secondhand Windows 7 laptop at a reasonable price - or go to Linux.

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Re: operating system part 2

..and besides, choosing an OS on price should automagically direct you to a LINUX build anyway. And without the windows bloat will probably be faster too.

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Re: operating system

>I was going to buy a brand new laptop last week. Then I found that the models I wanted came with Windows 8

Why are you reading the Register and buying in the high street?

Windows 7 laptops are available, only you have to buy from the 'business' ranges. this is very easy to do on the web or if you like the personal touch and convenience of being able to drop off a malfunctioning laptop for repair then you'll need to explore the smaller businesses in your area.

2ghz Pentium Mobile? is that still running Win2000? If so you're obviously managing to get good value for your money!

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Coat

Re: operating system

That'll be Linux, then ;-)

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Re: operating system

Funny you should mention that. I went throughalmost exactly the same exercise for the same reasons and came to the same conclusion.

Windows 8 really does seem to be an unmitigated pile of crap

I'm also eternally grateful I'm not expected to use it at work.

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By ambitious they mean broken

It's very clear that Microsoft made a beeline to tablet land with their metro interface and didn't pay much regard to what the experience would be like for mouse / keyboard "encumbered" devices. And now they're feigning surprise that the reaction from users and the market should reflect that.

I hope that MS have gotten over the hump of making their OS touch friendly they can set about fixing these problems for conventional systems. It probably doesn't radical modifications, just a refinement (e.g. being able to change the zoom level of tiles, tile groups, some form of compact launcher and so on). After all, Vista introduced some not-inconsiderable changes to the user experience and got a slagging for it too but once MS polished the experience up in Windows 7 people were generally very favourable about.

I hope that's what happens with Windows 9 or 8.5 or whatever. And until it does expect the general disquiet to continue.

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FAIL

"Windows 8 was never going to be explosive on its first weekend"

Hah!

Explosive? More like a damp squib.

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