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Microsoft's Reller Acknowledges Windows 8 Learning Curve

Tami Reller released some official statements on the state of Windows 8 at 90 days in the form of a Q&A posted on Microsoft's Web site earlier this week. While the Windows CMO/CFO repeated a lot of data points Microsoft had previously shared -- 60 million licenses, 100 million apps downloaded, etc. -- she did have some interesting things to say about the learning curve.

Windows 8 is essentially two operating systems. One OS is the Windows 7 desktop minus the Start button, while the other OS is the new touch-centric, tile-and-app-filled, next-generation interface. Especially on the tile side, navigating the operating system requires intricate gestures and mouse movements that are not intuitive.

As we've said here at RCP in reviews and blogs, the payoff is high but the learning curve is steep. In the Q&A, Reller's questioner, Brandon LeBlanc, asked about the "learning curve" (quotation mark emphasis Microsoft's).

After talking about all the pre-release usage time and testing, Reller got into some interesting data points based on Microsoft's post-release collection of usage data.

Reller said:

  • "Fifty percent of users get through the out of box experience in less than 5 minutes."
  • "On the very first day, virtually everyone launches an app from the Start screen, finds the desktop, and finds the charms."
  • "Almost half of users go to the Windows Store on that first day."
  • "After two weeks, the average person doubles the number of tiles on Start."
  • "People find the new features in the context of what they are trying to do, and incorporate them into their everyday use after finding them."

Those numbers seem reasonable. Some of the basics of using the operating system that Reller covers aren't difficult. A two-week learning curve also seems like a plausible amount of time for people to get comfortable with an operating system that is substantially different from a paradigm they've used since Windows 95.

There's something to be said for giving Windows 8 a couple weeks before passing judgment on it. (We based our review on a month of usage.) That said, there are plenty of vocal users who have given it that long, gotten over the learning curve and still don't like it. What remains baffling is why the Start button needed to go -- former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky's lengthy explanations notwithstanding. The Desktop gives users a way to not only run legacy apps but to run the OS the way they want.

Maybe in the process of the ongoing updates to the OS that Reller refers to vaguely later in the Q&A, Microsoft could provide a formally sanctioned option for restoring the Start button and launching into Desktop mode. It would give users who don't like the new interface a way to feel like they haven't wasted their money, and it would give Microsoft more time to turn current haters into future converts to the new interface.

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Posted by Scott Bekker on February 06, 2013 at 11:58 AM


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