You may have read reviews or seen news articles about Windows 8 and its lukewarm consumer reception since its release in late 2012. Microsoft gambled big by changing the Windows interface, and, unfortunately, it hasn’t really paid off.
Why? It isn’t because Windows 8 is half-baked or faulty software. It’s as stable as Windows 7 and by no means a repeat of the Vista debacle. But in terms of its viability for business use, Windows 8 is a flop because the new interface is frustrating to use, especially for users who are accustomed to the time-tested Start Menu—which no longer exists.
Instead of the Start Menu, Windows 8 gives you the Start Screen (pictured on the left). With the Start Screen, the stacks of menus that we’re all so used to is replaced by a separate menu screen with customizable tile icons. Don’t get us wrong; the Start Screen is attractive and works wonderfully—even elegantly—on a tablet. The problem is that it’s not as cool with a mouse and keyboard. In fact, it can be downright confusing for the traditional PC user. We get that the trend for computer OS development is toward merging PC and tablet technologies. But what Apple realizes, and what Microsoft has failed to realize, is that this merging needs to happen gradually, with as little interruption to the user’s daily functioning as possible.
Certainly, there’s a time and place for OS refreshes and interface redesigns—but only when the learning curve for the user is rewarded with helpful new functionality or streamlined workflow. This is especially true in the business world. You don’t want to slow down your workforce with new technology in the short term unless you’re fairly certain that this technology will increase productivity and profitability in the long run.
From what we’ve seen, Windows 8 doesn’t offer that much of an improvement in most business environments. It took us nearly two full weeks to really get used to using it on a daily basis, and once we did, we were underwhelmed. That’s why we recommend that most businesses stick with Windows 7, even on new machines. There are exceptions to this rule, but most companies with a Windows-driven workforce will probably want to stand pat for the time being.