Blog post

Windows 8 Review – Part 3: As seen through the eyes of a desktop user

By Gunnar Berger | July 18, 2012 | 19 Comments

Disclaimer: Gartner analysts use their blogs to share their personal views and opinions on subjects close to their hearts.

If you’ve been following me this week you know I’ve covered Windows 8 as a business decision, Windows 8 through the eyes of a tablet user, today I’m going to be covering Windows 8 through the eyes of a desktop user, and in my opinion this is where the story starts to get interesting.

As I’ve stated before my primary focus is end user computing (EUC) technologies, which covers desktop virtualization, server based computing, and application virtualization. One thing about EUC being my primary coverage area  means I’m more concerned about Windows 8 from an enterprise perspective. I’m not really that concerned about the tablet market, or the desktop market, or a thin client market, in the EUC world I want whatever OS the organization is running to work from any device that an end-user consumer is going to use.  This approach enables consumerization which also enables bring-your-own-device (BYOD), but it also means I get to take the stance of not being tied to any single end point choice. My job is to enable organizations to deliver a similar experience regardless of the end point. Which leads me to today’s discussion: What is the experience like on Windows 8 when the end point isn’t touch enabled?

As you know I think there are a lot of good things about Windows 8, we’ve been over that, but where the story changes is when you attempt to use Windows 8 from a non-touch device. I’ve said already that I am very happy Microsoft sent me a slate device to test with because before they did, I had been trying to understand the logic behind Windows 8 and it was truly lost on me. Extremely important menus in Windows 8 are hidden off screen, easily brought in when using a touch and swiping with your thumbs, are absent when using a mouse. (I was at TechEd when I learned the trick, you have to drag your mouse to the top-right corner, wait a second, and the right thumb menu will pop out.) Prior to this incident, I can’t tell you the last time I had to ask someone how to do something in a client OS.

This problem of the corners being heavily used is multiplied when you access the OS remotely. I often remote into a client OS, I imagine many IT administrators do the same, these menus that are difficult to access locally using a mouse and keyboard become next to impossible to access when the OS is accessed through a remote window. Imagine my frustration of needing to bring up the Metro interface (the new Start Menu) on a remote computing when my local computer would interpret the Windows key and there was no way for me to get this key stroke to be sent to the remote OS. The only way to access the remote OS’s Metro was to get my mouse in the bottom left hand corner of the remote display (which is difficult considering I’m doing this windowed and can’t just drag my mouse to where it stops in the corner), wait a second for the mini Metro icon to pop up, then click on it. This is one of my more disappointing moments in my testing of the new OS because remotely accessing a Windows OS is my thing. I already was struggling using Windows 8 on a local desktop, I gave up using it on a remote desktop, and that was very disappointing considering I’m very excited for the RemoteFX features in Windows 8.

As I said in Part 1, I think the decision to move to Windows 8 was a solid buiness decision to get into the tablet market. In Part 2, I even praised the OS when used from a tablet because it’s so much more than just a tablet OS, its Windows. Unfortunately, my area of expertise is enterprise desktops, and those desktops have a keyboard and a mouse; and as much as this doesn’t make any sense, it seems to me that Microsoft forgot about this when they designed Windows 8.

The two issues I shared in this blog only scratch the surface, I have many more thoughts about Windows 8 and its lack of mouse input, but those thoughts lead me into tomorrow’s blog where I stop looking at the end point and just focus on the OS itself. I expect it to be pretty interesting and for those of you who have tested Windows 8 you can be assured this is where I dig into the Metro UI, see you then.


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  • Harley says:

    I strongly disagree with your desktop PC evaluation. I am currently using the Release Preview and there is no issue with keyboard and mouse usage on this system. The ONLY thing that changed, was a full sized start menu with more options, and overall speed improvements. Is it really that hard to press the Windows key on the keyboard and use the scroll to navigate the Start Screen?

  • Gunnar Berger says:

    Hey Harley,

    Thanks for the comment. I tried to address some of your comments in the next blog, however today I was messing around with Office 2013 and had to do some cleaning of my Metro menu after the install. As I was doing this it occured to me that this is what I was talking about when I talk about excessive mouse movement, so I recorded it and dropped it on youtube.

    I do see your point, use use of hotkeys is easy enough, I tried to address that in my next blog post for you.

  • Give me Coice? says:

    When will these companies learn to give the user a choice and not to force something onto them?

  • Steffo says:

    Windows 8 is utter crap. Have been using Windows since 3.11 and ever edition of Windows ever after. It took me less than 10 minutes to conclude that Windows 8 is the worst crap ever from Microsoft…

  • Vamp898 says:

    There are a lot of such Interfaces in the last time.

    First was Ubuntu with the Ubuntu Netbook Remix (now Unity) in October 2007.

    Then came KDE with there Netbook Interface in February 2010.

    Then came GNOME 3 with there GNOME-Shell in September 2010.

    So im used to such interfaces but Windows 8 really is the worst one which i ever seen in my life.

    I really hate the GNOME-Shell but i´d rather use that piece of crap before Metro.

    Metro maybe have some good points, but only some few good points and a very lot of tons of bad points.

    Also other Desktop Environments have those good points since years (partly since 2007) and dont have all those bad points.

    It really always wonders me that Windows is the last one brining new stuff and every time the worst one.

    Microsoft, do you hear me? When you copy other DEs, then make them better, not worse. Nobody complains by improving things but bring worse software for higher price is just plain stupid.

    I hope you´ll make a lot of red numbers to shake you awake that you have _no_ monopole and so can _not_ force users to use more crap than you produce right now.

  • FredBloggs says:

    You make the classic, Microsoft-encouraged error of reviewing Windows 8 as though it were a single OS. When in fact it is two. Most positive reviews of Windows 8 have tended to result from this gullible conflation of the positive aspects of two very separate products.

    On the one hand there’s the ARM-based RT version, which isn’t a terrible tablet OS… but which is not Windows in any way, and has zero compatibility with actual Windows. And the Pro version, which is Windows, seriously butchered by the awkward grafting-on of the Metro interface, yet with almost nothing done to enable touch in existing applications.

    To take advantage of tablets, both versions of Win8 really require users to start over with a whole new set of apps. So there’s no leverage whatsoever on the Windows heritage. And once you admit to yourself that on tablets Win8 really is a brand-new OS, you must also acknowledge that both Android and iOS have absolutely comparable functionality, far better continuity with the traditional Windows UI and a huge head start in apps support. You’d have to be madly in LOVE with the Metro UI to choose Win8. (Even the PlayBook is, by all logical criteria, a more promising choice.)

    Meanwhile, the vast majority of existing Windows users who are perfectly happy with their desktop and laptop PCs, and their existing library of applications, are forced by Win8 to re-learn the habits of decades… to no purpose but the enrichment of Microsoft. Again, there’s no way of painting this as anything but a massive FAIL.

    Bottom line, this idea of making Windows 8 \both a tablet OS and a desktop OS,\ which you called \brilliant\ in part one of your review, is not only not brilliant, it’s no more than a smoke-and-mirrors Microsoft marketing fantasy. For real-world users of both tablets and PCS, Windows 8 should be more accurately termed \deceitful\ and \counterproductive.\ Or maybe \the worst of both worlds\…

  • George Ou says:

    All you had to do is hit ALT-HOME to access the remote window. The START button opens the start menu on your local desktop and you can use CTRL-ESC.

    I do get your point that most people don’t know this. This is why Microsoft should allow an easy way for OEMs & ODMs to enable a START button especially for desktop and notebooks. Even for tablets in docked clamshell mode, it could automatically show. It’s not going to kill Microsoft to do this and they’re really picking an unnecessary war.

  • Martin Payne says:

    The problem, as always with Microsoft (well since Windows 1st appeared), is confusing the OS and the DE. Sell me an OS if you must, offer me a choice of DEs (not themes, DEs) but let the community provide DEs as well.

  • MightyMoo says:

    Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that I would argue is copying from Linux. Honestly with Unity and Gnome 3.x this whole tablet on the desktop thing is like a disease that is spreading through different OS’s. At least in Linux you can call up a package manager and pull down a more sensible desktop environment that doesn’t look like it came from a phone.

    Also Windows XP -> Windows 7 for my mother was a big enough jump to confuse her for a while. I don’t even what to think what Windows 8 will do to her now that she’s comfortable with the Windows 7 desktop finally. I’d rather have continuity then the mess they’re about to release.

    (No, having the Windows 7 desktop as an “App” doesn’t count at all.)

  • jerry says:

    i too have worked with windows 8. for building metro style app for Insight (BI) it is not a big difference other than better UI. rather than saying UI a better marketing for Windows mobile. since people are not easy with live tiles in mobile, Microsoft was playing with this strategy otherwise there is no point or plan to bring windows 8 which does not help anyone with productivity. but windows 9 will do the best on server side.

  • AS147 says:

    What is this constant moaning about an unfamiliar interface that many users will struggle with?

    How well known was Android or iOS when they came out and look how popular they are both in the consumer and now increasingly in the enterprise. Yes there are things in any new OS that will be “unintuitive” but once known (use the keys as discussed) they will be no less or more intuitive than any of the other peculiarities of an OS.

  • ebb says:

    The \old\ remote desktop still exists (System32mstsc.exe)

  • Bill says:

    gunnar, thanks. If you need anything, just say.

  • Michael Charlton says:

    Steve Ballmer is an idiot. I’m still wondering why he decided to put a tablet OS on your desktop and treat your desktop as a tablet app…then take away the start button so it’s less functional. Even if there is a way to turn off Metro, the desktop is less functional than the last operating system. Why the heck would I want to upgrade? I can’t imagine anyone being excited about buying an upgrade so their work can be more complicated.

    At least with Linux, there’s be a way to turn it off and change it so it actually works.

  • Robert R. Gaudet says:

    I agree with Micheal Charlton, this is the reason why I recently purchased a new system with windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit, 3770K ivy bridge system…… wanted to make sure I had a system that would outlast this abomination OS called Window$ Hate.

  • Josh Drake says:

    I remember when I first downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview and it took me 15 minutes to figure out how it works. In my opinion, it isn’t user-friendly and it takes sometime for you to get used to it, if you’re using Windows 7. Anyway, thanks for the article Gunnar.

  • Stephen Dickinson says:

    I am utterly disappointed with windows 8, in fact more than disappointed – I feel I wasted my money buying it (even though the upgrade only cost me 25 quid) I wasted loads of time installing it and trying to get all my windows 8 drivers etc to work with it, I found the new metro interface a total frustration. How exactly are you supposed to manage suits of software each having multiple applications – take for example Visual Studio 2012 which around 15 applications within it and Open Office containing 7 apps. I ended up dumping as much of the Metro as possible purchasing a separate start menu (Start8 which is quite good) which at least allowed be to regain some of the useful functionality of Windows 7. I seemed to be starting to make some progress, however now Windows Explorer has started crashing with great regularity (several times a day) which is wasting me even more time.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Gunnar, most of the people are saying that Windows 8 isn’t working for them. so i stop my horses here otherwise i was planning to get that.Thanks peoples 🙂 stay blessed.

  • Windows 8 has been designed purely with tablets in mind- leaving behind a medium that is still Microsoft’s biggest remit – the desktop.
    Stick with Windows 7 for desktop.