Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tech Note: Why Windows 8 Fails

What is the most commonly used application on your computer or tablet? Chances are it is the web browser. We all have our favorites and we all know what we want out of a browser. The Metro version of IE 10 which is the only browser available on Windows RT and is the default browser in Windows 8 Pro, is quite simply the worst web browser ever made. You hear people gripe about the Safari browser on the iPad, but it would rate as one of the best browsers ever made when compared to IE 10 Metro in Windows 8.

I don't think I would have ever believed that anyone could build such a bad browser that it could actually hurt the product line, but Microsoft has. I have been very tempted to buy a Windows RT device, but I absolutely will not until either Microsoft fixes the browser or allows other browsers to be installed on Windows RT devices.

Why is it so bad you ask? The developers of the browser put form way ahead of function. They decided that in a tablet environment what you need from a web browser is a browser that gives as much landscape as possible to the web pages. In theory this makes some sense. You have a much smaller screen and so if you can tuck away all the bars and tabs and everything it should make it easier to read text off full web sites, etc. Problem is when you bury the functionality completely, as they have done with IE 10 Metro, the browser becomes a clunky, hard to use, and unfriendly piece of software for much of a users everyday life.  Take me for instance.  As I type this I have six tabs open.  One for another web site of mine, one for a web based game I play, this blog entry, a tab for Microsoft where I got the picture at the top of this page, and two tabs of different stuff on the Heath Post.  If I want to jump to one of the other tabs for some reason I simply click on the tab at the top, I'm there I do my work and boom I click right back to get here. 

This is not the case in IE 10 Metro.  First off in IE 10 Metro I would not be able to sit here and look at the top of my screen as I type and tell you the tabs I have open.  In order to see the tabs I have open I would have to right click on the screen or swipe down.  Then I could choose my tab, get what I wanted, then swipe or right click to get back to the other tab.  It sounds like very little effort, but believe me adding in an extra swipe or click feels very burdensome, when you know how easy it should be.

Another example is my web based sports game I play.  That game loves to launch other tabs.  Want to see a particular players ratings, click on his name it will pop up another tab, you can read what you want then X it out.  Well that is in IE 10 desktop.  But not IE 10 Metro.  In Metro you would click on his name and it would pop up another tab, it would display it to you at the top of the screen.  Trick is it would not become your current tab and before you can touch it or click it it disapears on you.  Now I've already done one click or tap to launch the players info.  Now again I have to swipe, etc.  Anyhow you get the picture.  The browser is non-functional with how we all expect a browser to work. 

To my mind Microsoft has made the same mistake on their Windows phone with IE, but at least there you can download alternatives and find something that works to your expectations. 

I have been using Windows 8 as my primary computer at work now for just over two months.  It is stable, it is quick, and in most every way it is a very good operating system, but IE 10 is so bad that I could not recommend anyone buy a Windows RT device where you are so limited because I know from user experience just how bad the IE 10 Metro browser is. 

It is very hard for me to fathom that Microsoft put out this browser as is.   I hope that Microsoft fixes this sooner rather than later, and I would very much like to see them allow other browsers. 

It may seem like a simple thing, but again think about how much you use a web browser and how you use your browser and I think you'll understand why something so simple could cause so many problems.


  1. The examples you provide here of why it's a problem are totally, totally compelling illustrations of your issues with the software. Fantastic, devastating review.

  2. But what's the other web site of yours that you have open? Is it some kind of Tracey Thorn-appreciation club?