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Microsoft Blames PC Makers For Windows Failure 913

Posted by timothy
from the touch-makes-life-more-bearable dept.
rtfa-troll writes "The Register tells us that Microsoft has begun squabbling with PC manufacturers over the reasons behind the failure of Windows 8. Microsoft is 'frustrated with major OEMs who didn't build nearly enough touch systems.' PC manufacturers have hit back, saying that they 'would have been saddled with the costs of a huge pile of unsold units,' claiming that customers actually avoided higher-end touch products which were available and instead bought lower-end, cheaper laptops while 'Microsoft is not blaming itself for' the failure of its own touch device, the Surface RT. The PC manufacturers' claims that touch is the problem seem to be backed by reviews, and some educational rants from users and opinions from user interface design experts. However, Microsoft sees this differently. Microsoft is planning to strike back at the PC vendors in February with Surface Pro; with a shorter battery life and much heavier than a normal tablet, this is being seen as a direct competitor to traditional laptops. By using its desktop operating system franchise as a lever, Microsoft will be able to enter the lower-specification end of the laptop market with a cost advantage which make make life difficult for former partners such as HP and Dell. We've discussed previously how some PC manufactures such as Dell have failed in generational change whilst others have diversified to survive market changes; Samsung with Android and the (still) bestselling Chromebook. ASUS with their successful Nexus tablets. We also discussed the ergonomic problems which are claimed to make touch screens unsuitable for PC use."
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Microsoft Blames PC Makers For Windows Failure

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  • by johnkoer (163434) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (reoknhoj)> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:36AM (#42706787) Homepage Journal

    I see touch screen computers all the time at best buy, so the PC manufacturers are definitely making them. The problem is, they don't market them very well. All of the PCs and laptops are lined up in a row and you could walk right by one and not know it is a touch screen.

    I think Microsoft is trying to create a market of PCs that act like tablets, when that market doesn't really exist. If people wanted touch screens, they could get them today. Most users either want a tablet or a traditional computer. The users who want both usually want them as separate devices.

    Microsoft screwed the pooch on this one and it will probably mean the end for Ballmer. Hopefully the next OS corrects the issues and slashdot can find something else M$ to bash.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:49AM (#42706833) Journal
    This goes deep in time. Most of the computer users in the early 1990s who were reared in character terminals and Unix have always had a clear separation in their mind, between content and presentation. Clear enough for them to create documents that post script pinters print at 300 dpi, using plain VT100 terminals. HTML files created in ASCII editors. Graceful degradation of the presentation quality etc etc. But Microsoft pushed WYSIWYG and came up with heavily dumbed down word processors.

    This time is content creation vs content consumption. Everything from typing a quick memo to video editing falls under the content creation. They usually need a full complement of input devices, a full keyboard, a good mouse, larger the screen it is better. But content consumption does not need all these user input devices. Oftentimes, a tap, a touch, a click is all that is required to passively consume content. Ch+ , Ch-, Vol+ and Vol- buttons cover 99% of the usage in a TV remote!

    Microsoft first missed the boat in creating a simpler device for content consumption. It had been shipping WindowsCE and other such "simpler" devices for ages. But its idea of simple was less functional PC. It never understood the split was content creation vs content consumption. Eventually Apple got on to that divide, with at least some of its managers who came from deep unix background.

    Then it decides to attach OS with two completely different goals (consumption vs creation) with some band-aid and baling wire to create a rickety contraption and call it Win8. Consumers of one do not want to pay for the other. I would not touch, literally, a touchscreen and smudge it up if I am also typing a doc or code on it.

    The hardware makers also remember the days when 90% of their revenue came from WinTel boxes and how Microsoft walked roughshod all over them. They eviscerated the hardware vendors and danced on their entrails with hob-nailed boots, to conjure up a vision from PGWodehouse. Now WinTel accounts for a much smaller percentage of their sales and even lower percentage of their profits. Now it is payback time for Microsoft from these vendors. What went around is coming around to Microsoft.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:49AM (#42706835)

    There is a NPRM coming out Monday from OSHA proposing the nationwide ban of non-handheld touch screens in the workplace while their ergonomic issues can be investigated.

    A coalition of insurers that includes Aetna, Cigna, and others, plans to file the request with OSHA over concerns of the potential for repetitive stress injuries from use of full-sized touch PCs. The document will list several potential RSIs along with reports of injuries by touch PC owners that include:

    - Torn or irritated rotator cuff injuries
    - Back pain from disproportional development of upper arm musculature (gorilla arm syndrome)
    - Elbow tendonitis
    - Fatigue

    Apparently this is a much larger problem than we all thought.

  • by tomboy17 (696672) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:54AM (#42706865)

    So my wife just got a Windows 8 touch machine from Asus, and I have to say that two weeks in, it is very nice.

    The problem was in the first week. The first night of using the machine it seemed incredible how many usability problems there were. There's no real "how to use this machine" intro when we booted up and the key things you need to do are not intuitive enough that you can just "learn" them right away. Now you might think that's an immediate strike against the UI, but the principle of discoverability is routinely violated by Apple, and there UI's are universally loved (there are tons of secret tricks on Macs that you have to read about to learn and the most radical thing about the iPod was that it had no on button, meaning it wasn't even clear how to start it when you first saw one). Anyway, the lack of an intro was compounded with some software problems -- specifically, there was a bug with the app store so we couldn't download anything at first and had to drop into a windows troubleshooter to clear it up (thanks Google!).

    Now that we've got the app store thing ironed out and we've learned the swipey commands, the machine feels really graceful and fast to use. At least as simple to use as my Gnome shell, which I dearly dearly love. It actually has many of the same goals -- apps are always full screen, which is usually what you want, typing to search works nearly *everywhere*, etc. And the touch screen is fun. And if there are apps that haven't been app-ified, you have the old school Windows desktop mode to fall back on.

    In short, Windows 8 manages to merge many of the conveniences of iOS devices with many of the conveniences with a full operating system. It's quick and easy to use once you know what you're doing. Slick packaging and attention to detail seem essential, however, and this is where Windows is at a disadvantage compared to Apple, since they don't in fact control the whole user experience. Do we blame Asus or Microsoft for the fact that our machine shipped with a buggy OS and a broken App store? Is Asus or Apple to blame for the fact that the one "intro" video Asus included was just advertising for the machine that showed us how beautiful it could look, and not anything that showed how to use the touch screen interface? It's not entirely clear to me.

  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @09:59AM (#42706891) Homepage

    I don't like Windows 8, but I wouldn't mind it so much if they just made a classic mode setting in it that allowed you to go straight to the desktop without having to jump through hoops (or hacks).

    We were doing work at a Sheriff's office and the PC they purchased for us to use had Windows 8 on it. No problem, I thought. It is just Windows 7 underneath. Yeah, it was a problem. They ended up using the PC for something else, and we had to have someone drive us a Windows 7 machine from three hours away.

    So what happens in the business world when you can't get Windows 7 machines anymore. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

    Microsoft has *got* to come out with a "business edition" of Windows that doesn't change as rapidly as the consumer versions.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:00AM (#42706895)

    The only reasonable explanation is really, really bad leadership.

    Why would that be the only reasonable explanation? Windows 8 is the result of choices made by several engineers and designers. I bet there are lots of people inside Microsoft who have had their say on it, not only Ballmer or Sinofsky.

  • by isorox (205688) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:03AM (#42706919) Homepage Journal

    My ten year old daughter was in tears because she couldn't figure out her new windows 8 laptop.
    Now the laptop was underpowered, but it couldn't play DVDs out of the box and she couldn't figure out how to run her software on it thanks to the removal of the start button. Also, Toshiba added its bonus software which seemed to take over the whole computer periodically since pop ups now take the whole screen.
    I was frustrated trying to use it until I found a start menu hack and added it back.

    I installed VLC so she can play DVDs and she has a start menu and now is very happy. Perhaps MS shouldn't have tried to do too much too soon?

    No, we've had 2 years of microsoft fanboys on slashdot telling us how great windows 8 is. They can't be wrong. It's the people (bot) buying their product that're wrong!

    Apple provided an integrated ecosystem. It sold brilliantly. itunes, ipod, iphone, ipad, all hanging off your imac. No OEM spyware slowing everything down, no HP printer drivers clogging up your screen, no dire warnings from mcafee when your anti-virus ran out. Even flinging your screen to your apple tv was trivial.
    Then Jobs died.
    Then ios5 wiped out the maps application off your phone.
    Then the iphone5 came out which didn't work with any of your existing power cables and docks.
    The high end market where you'd get an iphone as it just worked well now had stumbling blocks. It wasn't an obvious choice any more.
    Then apple's share price fell.

    Microsoft should have been there to take the lead. The android ecosystem just doesn't work well -- too many disparate devices, too much choice. People like uniformity and simplicity. They weren't.

  • by MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:07AM (#42706933) Homepage

    Hey Microsoft - I'm part of the problem. I've used Win 8, hate the interface and I'm avoiding it. I'm also telling people to stick with Windows 7 because 8 looks like a massive tech support problem for me. So I flat out tell people that I won't support Win 8. Use Win 7, Ubuntu, or buy a Mac. Life is better for me, and it sucks for you.

    Your mistake is FORCING the new interface onto users, rather than making it an option. Had you produced Win 8 with a start button, and made Metro (or whatever you call it) something users could grow into, it would have been something I'd support. But you made it a Take-It-Or-Leave-It deal and what do you see users doing? Yeah - we chose to leave it.

    I'd suggest you guys quickly come out with Windows 8.1 and add an option to put the old Win 7 interface on it. In my opinion, Metro feels unrefined, inconsistent and not ready for prime time. Make it an option and all will be forgiven.

    And stop blaming others. Everyone else saw this coming a mile away. You make a bad decision - own up to it. Blaming others makes you look stupid and totally clueless. This is causing us to question your ability to deliver in the future, as it indicates you are not listening to your customers.

  • Blame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tx (96709) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:10AM (#42706943) Journal

    The telling thing about Windows 8 is that even the most rabidly pro-Microsoft people, when you look at their comments on Windows 8 as a desktop OS, they're basically saying "You can ignore Metro, and it's almost as good as Windows 7". I really haven't seen anybody try to claim that Windows 8 is a step forward over Windows 7 on the desktop. Since it was pretty obvious the Suface RT and it's expensive RT friends were going to be pretty niche, and not trouble the mainstream, affordable tablet market, it's a lose on the desktop and a lose on tablets, so I don't see how Microsoft can blame anyone but itself.

    " By using its desktop operating system franchise as a lever, Microsoft will be able to enter the lower-specification end of the laptop market with a cost advantage which make make life difficult for former partners such as HP and Dell."

    Yes, Microsoft won't have to pay for a Windows license. However since the Surface RT with keyboard is already more expensive than a low-end Ultrabook, and Microsoft will have to either keep a decent price differential between the RT and Pro, or withdraw the Surface RT from the market, I don't expect that the Surface Pro is going to be keenly priced enough to worry anybody. It will be priced up there with the mid-range 13" ultrabooks, but with worse battery life and a screen that's too small if you plan to use it primarily in laptop mode, it will be a niche purchase.

  • Re:Dear Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:12AM (#42706951)

    Just make sure you don't get a high reflective shiny touch screen. The matte touch screen of my Thinkpad doesn't display greasy finger smears (unless you have just been digging into the potato chips I guess).

    Touch is a nice extra, but as the main input for a system that needs to be productive it doesn't justify the costs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @10:52AM (#42707143)

    According to MS, people love Win8 and their sales are terrific. This begs the question as to why they are complaining about their PC vendors though (????).

  • by Tridus (79566) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:05AM (#42707211) Homepage

    People do not want touch PCs. It's really that simple. Microsoft is trying to move the market in a direction that it doesn't want to move, and the market tends to react negatively to that.

    Metro on a desktop PC is fucking awful. It's best used like Windows 7, where you try and pretend that Metro doesn't exist. In that case, why wouldn't I just use Windows 7? It's not much better on a laptop. The UI is just not built to do real work. It's built for phones, and it works fine for that. When I'm trying to do my job, it's something to fight with as it decides that I really didn't want three windows visible at once.

    "Windows 8 - almost as good as Windows 7!" isn't much of a marketing slogan.

  • Re:Former partners? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:13AM (#42707249)

    It's just a "lover's spat" till she kicks you out and changes the locks. When you also see she's taken the local mafia enforcer psycho into bed, you better be looking for a new girlfriend. Knowing Microsoft they will be waiting with a cleaver when HP tries to come back in through the window.

    Apart from the way Microsoft is entering the hardware market in all the areas where the PC makers could grow (tablets and phones), there are already rumours of Microsoft buying out Dell [techcrunch.com]. This would match other markets that they have come into, e.g. in databases they partly bought out Sybase and then destroyed everyone else who wasn't prepared for total war. Presumably part of the aim is to reduce the apparent value of Dell so that they get it cheap. The others like Acer, HP and Nokia that are trapped with Microsoft are in deep trouble.

  • Re:Former partners? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:44AM (#42707407) Journal

    Acer makes some fairly decent Android tablets, so they aren't completely chained to Microsoft. The 10" Iconia even has a USB host plug, so you can transfer data in and out of it with a conventional thumb drive. Connectivity is important for those of us who haven't sipped enough Google kool-aide and don't want to push all our data into the fog.

  • by nanospook (521118) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:58PM (#42707951)
    My company was using a touch screen add-on for Macintosh's back in the early 90's to allow them to be put in Kiosks so we could hide the keyboard/mouses. It was a simple film you put on the monitor and would act as a mouse. Despite this technology being available, I haven't seen any proliferation of touch screens in a box for people to use for their computers and laptops. How does MS come up with the idea that everyone wants this on their pc's/laptops?
  • by painandgreed (692585) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:32PM (#42708731)

    People haven't stood in line to buy a Windows operating system since Windows 95, where the real motto instead of "start me up" as sung by Mick Jagger was "it sucks less."

    Not true, I remember standing in line at midnight at a CompUSA with a friend of mine waiting for Win98.

  • by business_kid (973043) <business.kid@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:33PM (#42708739)
    If windows 8 hasn't failed yet, it will. It is certain to fail. It is such a dreadful experience that it makes even (spit!) Vista look good. It's been forced out by manufacturers, and bought by rote, not by people choosing it. I have an install for a 17.3" screen that thinks it's on a mobile phone and has a minimum of 5 consecutive menus to navigate before you can do squat. I couldn't abide it even as the other os on my box. And then there's that EFI B.S. locking people out of their own PCs - plenty of fun to be had there yet. I've seen M$ shoot themselves in the foot before, I have never seen them do it with such a large canon
  • by kmcrober (194430) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @03:10PM (#42708953)

    I am the perfect target of Windows 8. I use a touchscreen laptop (Lenovo x220t) and I love it--I work with the pen as much as possible, even when typing would be more efficient, simply because I like it.

    I and users like me have been complaining since Windows 8 released that it's simply not a good touch/pen interface. Windows 7 had an excellent pen input system. Microsoft scrapped it and replaced it with a much less useful and less practical input interface in Windows 8. It was a bafflingly stupid decision--they dumped the best interface in the industry for something that's barely functional.

    Reviewers haven't paid much attention to this problem because, I think, relatively few people are using the pen as a significant input device. But Microsoft is trying to change that. If they want Windows 8 to succeed, or PCs to move towards a touch/pen interface generally, they need to ask some hard questions of whoever is currently in charge of those design decisions. (I'd recommend, "Can you name any single way in which the Windows 8 pen interface is superior to the Windows 7 interface?", "Then why did you change it?", and "Have you been drinking on the job?")

  • Re:Waste of money (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @04:25PM (#42709459) Journal

    Would you rather buy an ultrabook/laptop without trackpad to save money?

    Yes. Emphatically yes, and I'd even pay a bit extra to avoid the things.

    I disabled the trackpad on every laptop I've had which was handicapped with one. They are an ill-conceived nuisance which prevent natural positioning of the hands and lead to unexpected and unintended mouse movement. On ThinkPads, the keyboard clit works quite well, but on other brands it's generally a disappointment (and hence usually gets disabled also). Since work lumbers us with Dell laptops which have a rotten keyboard clit and an abominable trackpad, I carry a small wireless mouse and have a wireless receiver permanently in one of its USB ports. Even if there are no usable level surfaces around, it's still far better than any trackpad.

  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @04:45PM (#42709615)

    Microsoft shouldn't have tried at all.

    If they would just realize what they have (with XP and 7 at least) works and stick to that, they would be much better off. I even HAVE and USE a touch screen, but I still run XP. There's no reason their OS has to try to push that frontier before anyone actually wants it.

    Also, the Metro UI is HORRIBLE. It is fucking the worst computing experience I have had in about 30 years. It is tacked-on and not integrated properly, frequently toggles between the 'Regular' desktop environment and the stupid satanic bullshit tiles. They don't work properly, take huge screen real estate at will, and do absolutely nothing to improve the user experience or functionality of the OS. Why did you even bother?

    Go back to regular, start-button-driven desktops please, Microsoft. And XBoxes. That's all you do well.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @05:01PM (#42709729) Homepage

    You just try that whole "bottom left corner" thing via RDP pal. Unless you line up the mouse cursor pixel perfect on the edge, nothing activates. Same holds true with an LMI (LogMeIn) and Team Viewer session. Oh, and the excessive GUI animation makes remote access painfully slow. I've had an RDP session time out from a frame buffer overflow because of it (and you thought Flash was bad).

  • by smash (1351) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:56PM (#42712441) Homepage Journal

    Except in the process of implementing this new garbage they have broken search. Metro search doesn't know about desktop apps. It is also crippled to the extent that I can't even do simple stuff like search for a search term across all content types (like if i was, say... looking for file related to a particular project). Desktop search doesn't know about metro apps.

    People with no clue keep claiming 'oh but the desktop is still there!", but the fact is that there are plenty of things broken between the two UI platforms, and other features that have been crippled - for no real benefit to outweigh the brain damage.

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