Windows 8 Needs Crucial Interface Tweaks to Win Over Users, Boost Sales

NEWS ANALYSIS: Windows 8 really is a great operating system for most computers. But the fact that it's not optimized to let users work with computers in the way they are familiar with is hurting sales.

Let's get one thing out in the open right away. I really like Windows 8, and I've installed it on most of the computers in my lab where I do product reviews. And yes, I've gone out and spent my own money to do this.

The primary reason I've moved many of the test machines to Windows 8 is because I think it's important that other products work with the latest Windows edition.

But I haven't moved everything to Windows 8, despite the fact that I like it. The computer that I use for writing and the primary laptop I use when I travel still run Windows 7. The reason I haven't moved everything to Windows 8 has a lot to do with the reasons why Windows 8 isn't selling very well. The operating system certainly isn't meeting preliminary sales expectations.

When Fujitsu President Masami Yamamoto held a press conference in Tokyo on New Year's Day, he claimed that PC sales are slumping partly because of poor sales of Windows 8. According to a report by Bloomberg, Windows device sales have dropped 21 percent in the last year. Part of the problem is that there are more viable alternatives to standard Windows computers than there were a year ago. But another part of the problem is that Windows 8 is a mystery to most users.

Microsoft's primary design concept for Windows 8 bears much of the burden for the sales slump. Basically, the Windows 8 tiled interface is designed for a touch-screen device. And Windows 8 operates beautifully on a touch-screen. I like it better than I like iOS 6, especially on a tablet.

I've also gotten used to the tiled interface on a standard mouse-and-keyboard PC where my most commonly used functions and applications show up as tiles, which I can launch with a single click. But until you learn how to use this interface, it's a mystery. And when it comes to computers, most people don't like mysteries. Most people simply want to be able to use their computers without thinking too hard about it.

Keeping in mind the fact that most computer users don't want to be mystified by their operating system, nor do they want to change the way they've been using the computer they already own, here's what Microsoft needs to do if the company wants Windows 8 sales to pick up.

First make the standard Windows 7 desktop available as an option, complete with the start button. While it's probably true that the tiled interface is more efficient for applications that work with tiles, it's really a pain to run a program that doesn't.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...