Ok, a little venting required.

I recently purchased a new laptop computer for my Mom. The plan was to take it home and – because my Mom is not the most computer-savvy person in the world – take some time to set it up as I think she would like it. Then I was going to take it to her, half a country away, and teach her how to use it. I had in the back of my mind that the new Operating System – Windows 8 – would be on it. I figured there would be a learning curve, but I didn’t expect too much trouble. After all, I am somewhat capable, having been exposed to computers for a couple of decades now. I expected a few new things from Windows 8 – you know, improvements – changes that help me find things more easily, and work with me to make the computing experience better.

What I didn’t expect is corporate lockdown.

This is where my complaint begins. Windows 8 – advertised with images of bouncing, spinning, diving, dancing, jiggling young people – forces itself on the user. When it should be a tool to help us, it actually takes control. For example, I could not activate the computer without signing in to, or signing up for a Windows Live account. What that account is needed for is subject to speculation, but I could not activate the computer without it.

The main difference I saw with the operating system is that the desktop is different to the activity screen – or whatever they call it – and that there are important controls completely missing. There’s no Start button, for example, so I don’t know where anything is or how to activate any of my own programs. Even the Control Panel – the place on the computer which allows the user to control their own computing experience – is a stripped-down, bare bones version of its former self with probably 70% of its former options completely gone. For example: is it possible to turn off the password to even access the machine? I couldn’t find it!

I started to get mad after a while. I started to picture a bunch of bouncing, spinning, diving, dancing, jiggling young people wagging their fingers in my face, telling me what I like, what I want, and how it has to be. I started to think about Microsoft and what they’re doing with the information of all the people who are now forced to activate and maintain a Live account that they did perfectly well without before. And then I got mad, knowing that if I phone the number to complain all I’m going to get is a three-hour wait on hold, a journey and a half trying to find the number that tells them I’m even eligible for assistance, then a most polite person in a foreign land who is incomprehensible to me, and to whom I am incomprehensible, but who I know is just sitting there, smiling, towing the company line in explaining why and how this is all for my own good, so I really should just relax and let corporate control wash over me.

The thing is, though… I did this for my Mom – who is just barely starting to get used to Windows XP. How can I expect my Mom to learn this new thing – this monster – if I can’t figure it out myself? How can something that’s supposed to be so easy actually be so atrociously difficult?

People at Microsoft: in my opinion your new Windows 8 is like reinventing the wheel by making it square: it doesn’t help, it’s not a comfortable ride, and it’s not an easy experience. Please remember – everyone who ends up using your products is not 26 years old, computer savvy and blissfully ignorant of the corporate motive. The data mining and information selling you must be doing with the Windows Live activities may be another boost to your bottom line, but it’s another kick in the ass for the customer, whose personal information is becoming less and less private all the time. Frankly, I should not have to consent to a privacy agreement just so I can get on to my own new laptop. By forcing the Windows Live account you are dipping just a little too far into the private lives of your customers.

My computer guru is now in the process of removing Windows 8 altogether and replacing it with Windows 7. It’s costing me extra, but it’s worth it.

Next time I’ll consider a Mac.


One thought on “Microwhotsit

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