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The Early, Early Reviews of Windows 8 Are ... Bad

We hope you're all wearing your yellow and blue for the arrival of Leap Day William today! If it weren't for the legendary character that emerges every four years from the Mariana Trench to trade candy for children's tears, Microsoft's release of a Windows 8 consumer preview would have been the biggest news in the world today.

Alas, Microsoft chose Feb. 29 to give average folks a look at its forthcoming, and fairly revolutionary, operating system. However, as Leap Day William teaches us, Leap Day is the day when we can do things we wouldn't normally do. It's kind of the day when things we do don't actually count. (Really, if you don't watch "30 Rock," you should have stopped reading a long time ago. But we'll get away from the TV references now.)

Perhaps that's why Microsoft chose such an unusual day for a fairly big unveiling. It's impossible, of course, to say after just a few hours how folks outside the technology industry are accepting Windows 8. Inside the industry, there's definitely skepticism about its prospects, but a lot of pundits (your editor included) like the looks of it and the concept behind it a lot. It's got potential, many of us say.

But what do the (presumably) technologically unwashed say about Windows 8? For now, we have only a tiny sample of reactions -- not even to the actual OS really, but mainly to pictures of it -- but they tend to be a little less than positive. For a first look at consumer reaction to Windows 8, we went to America's blandest and least controversial news source: USA Today. This is where, we imagine, regular folks hang out and talk about stuff in the comments sections of blog entries.

If that's true, then Microsoft has some convincing to do with Windows 8. The comments after this (actually very good) blog entry -- so far, anyway -- are a little less than promising. Let's see some of the early returns, not edited for content, grammar or anything else:

"I tried them all and I like my XP. Your computer will be a brick or very slow if forced to swap to 7 or 8. It's a nasty game they play with hardware and software. to force you to spend money, I'm sick of it. My next OS when XP support stops will be Android for PC, Linux or GOS. MS & MAc can kiss my behind."

"I'm not impressed by the screen. to me it looks like a user interface nightmare. I have to agree with a different poster that it looks like something Microsoft would invent. I like Microsoft, but apple does make better user interfaces."

"is it me or does that look awful? it just looks like something that microsoft would invent - and i am not a microsoft hater. why can't ANYONE get something right at microsoft??"

"windows 8 not for me always been a fan but what are the developers thinking this looks terrible maybe its time to go to MAC"

We had no idea Jack Kerouac had such influence on USA Today commenters, but we digress. That's a pretty darn representative sample of the earliest reactions to what people see of Windows 8. And it highlights something we've been saying here for a while: Microsoft and its partner base are going to have to convince people that it's OK to use an operating system that doesn't look anything like what they've seen from an OS before.

The heaping of praise on Android and iOS and Mac OS is interesting in that those environments basically look the same as each other and don't really look radically different from what OSes have looked like for a decade or more now. Windows 8 is a huge departure -- visually, functionally and even culturally -- for Microsoft. Partners need to know this. And they need to understand that as Microsoft's sales force, they're going to have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for convincing users that Windows 8 in all its forms really is great, even if it's not familiar. Everybody's a consumer, after all, even CIOs and IT pros. And in a very real sense, Windows is still the face of Microsoft for many users. (We suppose it's the "window" into the company, but that just sounds stupid.)

Windows 8 isn't even out yet. It has a long way to go before it either pulls a Vista or a Windows 7. But if the very, very early returns from what could be a tiny subsection of a broad swath of consumers mean anything, Windows 8 is going to face a bumpy road to acceptance. Then again, today is Leap Day, so maybe none of this will actually matter tomorrow, anyway.

Have a take on Windows 8? Leave a comment below or send it to lpender@rcpmag.com.

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Posted by Lee Pender on February 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM