Windows 8/RT touch interface confuses, frustrates early users

Many long-time Microsoft Windows desktop users face a steep learning curve, analysts say

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Separately, the Touch Cover, available in five colors, costs $120. The Type Cover (with mechanical keys) comes only in black costs $130.

Both covers include a track pad for navigation as well as directional keys and other standard keyboard keys.

Microsoft is conducting Windows 8 training sessions for large institutions, enterprises and universities. Volkman said part of the curriculum for those classes focus on helping users of the traditional Windows operating system adapt to a touch interface.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company has done extensive research to determine the difficulty average users will face in navigating through Windows 8.

The company studied how users reacted when trying to figure out the new OS on their own, when given hours of training and everything in between, he said.

"In the end, the sweet spot was to show them some basic concepts [such swipe from the right for functions] and people found it enjoyable and easy to discover things on their own from there," the spokesman, Jordan Guthmann, said via email.

"There will clearly be a training and adjustment period with the Windows 8 interface," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "It is different enough so that if you are a long time Windows user, you will have to re-learn how to interact with the device." Gold estimated it could take up to two weeks for many users to become proficient in using the new interface, possibly longer if previous Windows-based apps that a user is familiar with are not optimized for a touch interface.

Volkman and many other experts recommend that workplaces skip the Windows RT tablets in favor of Windows 8-based tablets or the Surface Pro when it ships. The latter devices function with many Windows applications that have lomng been widely used in work settings.

Volkman recommends that his clients wait for a Windows 8 tablet that has "full bore Office" instead of the Home and Student version now shipping with Surface RT.

"Demand for Windows 8 will be driven by existing Office apps. Having full-fledged Windows all the way up, from smartphones to tablets to workstations [means that you] don't have to wait for a software provider to rewrite their entire system for each device," Volkman said.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said enterprise IT shops should wait for some Windows 8 tablet designs that he's seen but are still not announced. "Gartner is only going to recommend Windows 8 on x86 processors," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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