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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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Reader Comments

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 Steve

Thank you for mentioning the start button. I have used Windows from the days of DOS and I could use a new machine now and I will not buy a windows 8 machine till Microsoft put the start button back. I am looking into getting a chrome os if they don't. I am not a computer savy fellow, physician by trade, so I really don't care what bells and whistles windows 8 can do that windows 7 can't. I have no time to fiddle.

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 Dave

If you want to sell apps, then you want your users to spend a lot of time in the apps environment. Putting the Start Button back takes away from the time you spend in the apps and thus reduces the desire to visit the store and pick up that must have app. It's about marketing and sales. I'd love to read your columns, and others without the ads, but hey you gotta eat too.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013

This is a "secondary" scenario, but it is critically important when you need it--remote access isn't always full screen. Which makes the absence of a Start button REALLY, REALLY hard to use. Similarly there's no (short of very obscure) way to restart a Windows 8 PC when you are RDC'd into it. Many small business (and larger, for that matter) folks RDC into their system at the office from home, while on the road, etc. The current Win8 UI is almost useless in this scenario.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 Asok Asus

"On the very first day, virtually everyone launches an app from the Start screen, finds the desktop, and finds the charms." You know, that's pretty much like saying that after someone buys a new car, that almost everyone managed to get it started, find the brake and accelerator pedals, and figure out where the steering wheel is, though perhaps not necessarily how it works. Would Honda, for example, declare victory with results like that for such a new car model?

Thu, Feb 7, 2013

In addition to the aforementioned inherently awkward/unintuitive "flat" metro/modern design where you can't tell what's clickable and what isn't or where UI components are "hidden", They fail to mention a few other "quirks" of OS - oops, Windows - 8, like a crippled media player, awful email, and ads popping up in what should be dedicated, fully-owned software that doesn't require you to pay a monthly fee for its use. How much of a "learning curve" does it take to get past those kinds of "gotcha-s"?

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