As might be expected with any new software from Microsoft, early users of Windows 8 are complaining about malfunctioning apps, device driver woes, installation snags, and a burgeoning managerie of other bugs — except that in a new twist, the first crop of early users this time around includes consumers and business customers, not just developers.
In a sharp departure from earlier practices around Windows 7, XP and Vista, for example, Microsoft has decided to open up experimentation with the developers version of Windows 8 to the general public.
Judging from user postings to Web-based forums, early reaction ranges all the way from displeasure over the green color scheme of Microsoft’s new Metro user interface (UI) to consternation over apps that won’t open and printers, displays, and other devices that won’t function properly with Windows 8.
“How do you change the Windows 8 Metro green color scheme? If it is even possible, how do you do it?” asked Duck Tales LOL, on the forumswindows8.com Web site.
“Looking for an answer for this also. [I'd] love to change it to blue or purple,” agreed jayquik03.
Questions about more crucial Windows 8 issues, such as how to get apps and devices to function, are being raised by developers and more garden variety users alike.
“I just finished installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview. I can’t open any of the apps like Weather, News, Paintplay, games, etc. Only Internet Explorer and the control panel open up,” noted EvilAsh, in the same forum.
“You shall set your resolution to 1280-by-800 or higher. Then you can open these applications,” intoned another forum member.
“BTW, even under 1280-by-800 resolution, a few applications can’t be opened either. I think we need higher resolution,” chimed in ninjamonke.
“When I click on an application tile, nothing happens. How can I launch the Metro applications?” echoed Keith, a professional developer, in a developers forum on MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network).
Replied Michael of Microsoft Support: “If nothing happens when you click on a Metro UI application tile, first check that your screen resolution is 1024-by-768 or higher.”
Other developers then responded that apps either wouldn’t work — or wouldn’t even open at all — even after they’d upped the screen resolution.
“So far I can confirm that Build, Memories Your Life Book, [and] Note Space…open but nothing [happens]. Have a nice day,” elaborated Fritzly.
For apps that open but won’t work, other developers suggested trying workarounds such as switching from a Live ID account to a regular one (or vice versa); rebooting the system; and changing the order in which the apps are started.
Some pointed out that resolution of 1280-by-800 or higher is commonplace today, except on netbooks, a hardware platform that some are using for Windows 8 exploration.
“[Even] once [netbook users] get past they screen resolution issue, they’ll still end up getting pinched by the network, live log-in, and admin account issues,” predicted DeathByVisualStudio.
Drivers for printers, displays, and other devices are turning out to be another bugaboo. At this point, drivers supporting Windows 8 are available for some devices, but not others.
“The computer in my office is running with Windows 8 64-bit, and I have attached to it a Samsung [multifunction device] printer, scanner, copier. I have installed the recommended driver from the Samsung Web site and the device now prints and photocopies fine. But what’s strange is that it won’t scan,” wrote one unhappy business user, HongMay, on forumswindows8.com.
Evidently, other drivers can be tougher to find. “My father’s PC is an HP Pavilion Dv6…and he just upgraded his system to Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit. However, the Blueooth doesn’t work well and I couldn’t [turn it on]. Do you guys know where to download the drivers that support Windows 8?” wrote a user dubbed win8 in the same forum.
Users also blame video driver incompatibilities for an unwelcome extra dose of screen brightness. “I have been longing for Windows 8 operating system for a long time. So last evening, I tried to install Win 8 on my laptop by myself, [as] a computer novice. But after the installation, I found that the brightness of the screen was too bright. Then I tried to adjust it, but I failed to adjust it. I do not know why!” HongMay contended.
“Then try to download and install the latest video device driver/software from your brand seller,” recommended sophip.
Meanwhile, over in the MSDN forum, developers complain about receiving “required device driver missing” errors upon trying to download the 64-bit edition of Windows 8.
“I have tried to install the 64-bit Win8 dev prev on all 3 of my machines and get the same ‘required cd/dvd device driver missing’ error on all 3 computers…thought maybe my dvd burn was bad so I did a second burn with a different burner software…all 3 machines same error…never had any install problems with windows 7 beta,” said a developer named darthgault.
MCITP (Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional) Rich Prescott advised darthgault and others engangled in these installation snares to re-download the ISO, the downloadable image of the Windows 8 DVD that Microsoft provides as a free download. The ISO “can become corrupted during the download process,” according to Prescott.
‘Developers Preview means BUGGY’
Could Microsoft’s new willingness to share its early software development efforts with an expanded user base end up backfiring? That’s certainly possible, if enough users decide that there’s more to dislike than to like about Windows 8.
On the other hand, though, indignation over bugs in early Windows 8 software seems quite mild in comparison to the outrage that exploded upon the general release of Windows 7 over installation and driver incompatibility woes. Certainly, many developers understand that Windows 8 isn’t yet a shipping product.
“Developers Preview means BUGGY,” noted widdybear, over in the MSDN forum. “That’s why we have beta testing to get the BUGS out. It’s good to go through this. It isn’t like Microsoft is going to just send ‘er out of the ole garage.”
End Users: A Spirit of Tolerance?
Are consumers and business users dabbling with Windows 8 under the same spirit of tolerance? In an analysis by Mashwork of nearly 10,000 tweets on Twitter showing initial consumer reactions to Windows 8, 47 percent of the tweets expressed excitement about Windows 8, while only 20 percent voiced skepticism.
Another 33 percent of the tweets offered suggestions to Microsoft around how to improve the new operating system (OS). The analysis of initial reactions is part of a larger study of nearly 66,000 opinions of Windows 8 tweeted between June 25 and September 22 of this year.
In other results, almost 18,000 of the tweets drew comparisons between competing OS and Windows 8, an OS that runs on both PCs and ARM-based tablets. Of roughly 10,500 tweeted comparisons to Apple’s iOs, 63 percent favored Windows 8 over iOS. Of about 7,300 comparisons to the Android OS, almost all favored Microsoft’s upcoming OS.
Just as for developers, expectations about early Windows 8 software don’t seem to be nearly as high among end users as these would be for a commercial product. After all, the download is free, right?
Microsoft, of course, is hardly the first to engage consumers and business users in early software testing. Google, for example, is beating that drum with its beta tests for the Google+ social network.
For Microsoft, Free Usability Testing
So what’s in it for Microsoft to open up the Windows 8 testing process to more early users? After all, as with any pre-release of previous Windows software, developers belonging to MSDN are able to provide Microsoft with formal feedback by filling out bug reports.
Yet the comments from consumers and business customers publicly posted on end user forums — and tweeted about on Twitter — can’t help but give Microsoft valuable feedback as to how Windows 8 is actually behaving in the field and what end users are thinking about it.
What’s the upshot? End users get to satisfy their curiosity about Windows 8 by playing around with the software before it’s turned into a commercial product. Meanwhile, Microsoft gets to do tons of free usability testing. With much luck, a better Windows 8 will emerge in the end. If Microsoft has any sense, it’s keeping a close ear to the ground on this one.