On Why the Windows 8 Launch Didn't Touch Users

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Steve Ballmer at the Build 2013 Day 1 Keynote:

When we brought out Windows 8, we talked about touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, touch and more touch. When you went into the stores last Christmas to look for a Windows 8 machine, most of them didn't have touch.

He didn't look very happy. Furthermore, most, if not all, people who've upgraded their machines to Windows 8 have done so on a machine not optimised for it either 1. Microsoft encouraged these users to upgrade early by giving them a financial incentive to do so. This may have accelerated the number of existing Windows users who moved over to Windows 8, but there was a concession made. These users' first impression of Windows 8 wouldn't be on the stage that Microsoft would've preferred them to initially experience it from. 

I'm not suggesting Microsoft shouldn't have allowed the ability to upgrade on non-touch devices, but that making it inexpensive to upgrade to a touch-first Metro environment yet needing to use a mouse and keyboard once upgraded has inadvertently negatively contributed to Windows 8's perception. 

The good news is that Metro apps in Windows 8.1 are more conducive to non-touch input. Whereas I perceived them to be functionally inferior touch-first alternatives to existing Desktop apps on Windows 8, I consider their Windows 8.1 updates to be modern touch-friendly interpretations of Desktop apps and, more significantly, potentially effective replacements in the medium-term.

1. The upgrade was available not only to Windows 7 users, but also Vista and XP users.