With less than a week to go before the big Windows 8 launch on October 26, everybody seems to be converging on the same unambiguous conclusion about the new software: bafflement. The business community is baffled about whether the new operating system can deliver the turnaround that Microsoft's stock needs right now. The technology community is baffled that Microsoft is tossing out a lot of widely known Windows conventions like the Start button and filling the screen with squares full of Facebook updates. Most important of all, consumers are just plain baffled. Nobody can figure out how to use the thing!
Various versions of Windows 8 have been floating around demo tables and developer's offices for weeks now. However, a lot of regular every day computer users are just now seeing the software for the first time, and even though the operating system is designed to work equally well on phones, tablets and desktops, lots of folks just aren't buying the huge icons and designed-to-swipe layout. "On a desktop, it just felt really weird," one first time user told the Associated Press. "It feels like it's a tablet operating system that Microsoft managed to twist and shoehorn onto a desktop."
Then, there's the issue of the missing Start button. With over a billion users, Windows is the biggest operating system in the world and even little changes like that can derail even the savviest of them. "It took [longtime Windows user Keith] McCarthy several minutes just to figure out how to compose an e-mail message in Windows 8, which has a stripped-down look and on-screen buttons that at times resemble the runic assembly instructions for Ikea furniture," The New York Times explained in its coverage of the software's public reception. "'It made me feel like the biggest amateur computer user ever,' said Mr. McCarthy, 59, a copywriter in New York."
Time will tell whether or not people catch on to the Ikea instructions-like interface. As Microsoft comes off of a rough quarter, the company could use some good news, though it seems like the business world has its worries. As The Times points out, the PC market has been hit hard by the explosion of mobile and, well, pretty much everything Apple has done lately. Since Apple went the opposite direction and made a distinct mobile operating system, maybe Microsoft is doing the right thing by integrating everything. It's also worth remembering that Apple is the world's most valuable tech company and can't stop breaking sales records, so maybe they're on to something over there.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.