Release after release, Microsoft pushes Windows forward. Yet the operating system is continually undermined by the “value-focused” low-end machines pushed by the majority of OEMs. This race to the bottom has tarnished Windows for a decade and now threatens to derail Windows 8. Microsoft must do something to stop the crap before it’s too late!
Attack of the Craptops
The Windows PC market is a scary place. Consumers are bombarded by “latest-technology” hype and meaningless specs. Walk into a typical PC store and you’ll see rows of flashy laptops surrounded by stickers and signs breathlessly proclaiming features you’ve never heard of. And everything is available for low, low prices that make the Apple Store seem like a complete ripoff.
As Paul Thurrott noted yesterday, the latest Best Buy circular says it all: “Upgrade to the latest technology”, the headline reads. The Toshiba Satellite notebook directly under this headline lists for just $369.99. Unsurprisingly, it’s an outdated piece of crap. Sure, the AMD Trinity “APU” (combo CPU and graphics processor) is fairly recent, but it’s not as good as Intel’s low-end offering. And a 500 GB 5400 rpm hard drive and 4 GB of RAM? No thanks!
So what’s so “latest technology” about that Toshiba notebook? Windows 8, that’s what. But that Toshiba and its ilk aren’t going to offer a good Windows 8 experience because they lack a touch screen, have limited RAM, and use a slow hard disk drive. There’s nothing “latest technology” about most of the PCs you can buy off the shelf at places like Best Buy!
Not Enjoying Windows 8
At Dell World, I tried out Windows 8 with a touch screen and it was a revelation. Suddenly the bizarre
Metro tiled “start screen” made sense! Once I learned how to switch windows and tasks, I was impressed by the smooth animation and innovation in that interface. A convertible tablet like the Dell XPS 12 really does right by Windows 8!
It brought to mind my MVP trips to the Microsoft campus, where it seems every employee has a convertible tablet with a touch screen. I was also reminded of my time putting a Surface RT tablet through its paces. The “Metro” Windows 8 experience really is enjoyable, productive, and innovative!
Unfortunately, Windows 8 is let down by two body blows:
- Switch back to the old desktop or use a non-Metro application like Office and you’re going to be frustrated with the touch screen input method. You’ll be glad you can convert your XPS 12 back into a laptop or snap a touch cover on your Surface tablet! Your Windows 8 touch experience is continually frustrated by the flood of old fashioned and plain non-compliant applications!
- A bigger issue for the mass market is the fact that the vast majority of PCs are fatally under-equipped to deliver on the promise of Windows 8. Sluggish I/O from old fashioned hard disk drives, bare-minimum RAM, and slow CPUs and graphics chips are bad enough. But using Windows 8 with a touchpad really doesn’t come near the experience on a touch-screen device!
These two factors combine to ruin the Windows 8 experience for most buyers. Even if Microsoft gets their marketing message across, drumming up some excitement among customers, the vast majority of Windows 8 PCs on offer are a disappointment.
Kill the Craptop
Microsoft should take matters into their own hands. OEMs are locked in a race to the bottom, and big box retailers are playing along. Microsoft must put a stop to it, but it might already be too late!
The craptop/netbook factor is already strangling the Windows PC market. Most consumers really don’t like Windows anymore, believing it’s a bloated mess since it runs so poorly on the “latest technology” PC they just bought for under $500.
Picking up a good Apple or Android smartphone or tablet seals the deal. An iPad or Nexus 7 runs smoothly all day on battery power and does 90% of what consumers want. Microsoft’s own Surface puts the average PC to shame, too! Consumers will eventually give up on PCs if they’re not compelling. And that spells doom for Microsoft!
The “Touch-Only” Option
Microsoft should cut off low-end devices and require a touchscreen for Windows 8. They should also demand a decent amount of RAM, a fast CPU and GPU, and all-SSD storage. This is pretty drastic, but it would place a stake in the ground, at least where laptops are concerned.
The OEMs would freak out, but this would be in their best interest, too! Not only can they escape the low-margin craptop game, they can improve customer satisfaction and salvage the laptop PC market.
Dell, HP, and the rest are perfectly capable of producing quality machines, but there’s no market for them right now. By requiring decent hardware to get the latest and greatest operating system, PC buyers would finally have access to the good stuff. They’d learn that Apple’s MacBooks aren’t magical after all!
But what about the desktop? As Ed Bott notes, multi-touch trackpads are acceptable with touch-enabled Windows, but the wow factor is seriously diminished. And my imaginary all-touch no-desktop Windows Touch wouldn’t be a great fit on the desktop or the server. So I guess this leads to another idea.
The “Split Windows” Option
This probably wouldn’t fly, since it would instantly double prices and would leave desktops and upgraders in the lurch. So this leaves another less-drastic choice: Microsoft should split “Windows Touch” from “Windows Classic” and let the market decide.
- Windows Touch would be all “Metro” squares and touch applications. The Office team could port their iOS app to Windows rather than the other way around. And there would be no desktop or classic application compatibility. Windows Touch would run on ARM or Intel with fat binaries or an all-app store ecosystem. Imagine the iPad of laptops and convertibles!
- Windows Classic would ditch the tiles and continue with a hands-off desktop, keyboard and mouse metaphor. Continue to support craptops, netbooks, and desktops but make it clear that this is the past and Touch is the future. This would be the default OS for Windows Server, too, since Metro makes no sense at all in the datacenter.
The biggest issue with a “Touch versus Classic” battle is that consumers would likely opt for the cheaper path and sink the whole thing anyway. Sure, that Dell XPS convertible with Windows Touch looks awesome, but you can buy two or three Dell Inspiron laptops with Windows Classic for the same money!
It’s a rare company indeed that is willing to sweep away the past and move into the future, and this is rarer still in the computer industry. Apple has done this repeatedly but at less risk; after all, no one cared if they went under! I can’t imagine Microsoft taking my advice and killing off the low-end crap, since it would nuke most of the PC market at the same time. I could imagine a “Split Windows” future, but it’s destined to fail. So goes the market, and so goes Windows.
Maybe Microsoft should continue Windows 7 for ‘craptops’ and more importantly, for machines and users that do not want (to invest time or hardware for) Windows 8.
But me, I’m sticking with my Mac 🙂
Mark S. A. Smith says
Great observation, Stephen. I’m stunned by the low cost of the craptops and dismayed by the lack of performance. Your suggestions are noteworthy and as you point out, likely to go unheeded.
By any serious objective standard, any modern computer sold is a supercomputer (2ghz+ CPU, 1gb+ram, 100gb+storage). If Microsoft is unable to create a 2D Operating system that performs adequately on such hardware, it is hardly the fault of the hardware makers (plenty of other platforms produce fluid touch interactions with a fraction of that hardware).
I use a 250 dollar (post-tax) single-core refurbished laptop for audio and video production, parametric and mesh 3d modeling, 3d skeining and web browsing, and aside from taking twice as long to skein as a higher end machine, my computer is eminently adequate for the tasks I ask of it.
The ‘craptops’ are the greatest values in computation available in the history of the industry, they can do anything you want them to, if you’re willing and able to run the right software on them. Don’t fault the hardware for your poor choices in host software.
This is the dumbest article I’ve read in a long long time. It’s Microsoft that tried to force every desktop user to inherit a touch screen interface. Just because they write a bloated OS that can’t run on a minimal spec modern day computer doesn’t mean there is no market for them. I pray for the day there is proper Linux support as I don’t think I will install another MS OS if they continue to push for closed system touch screen interface on desktop machines. Then again every other OS Microsoft puts out is complete shit.
Dan Oelke says
If they did this – your “low-end” Windows box would then be a $1500 machine. Sounds great if everyone had to buy a Windows box. However, I think it would cause the $400 tablets (Apple or Android) and $500 Android or Ubuntu notebooks to flourish. Yeah they will be making better margins, but on far less revenue.
This the dumbest comment I’ve read too. You can pour all your sweat praying from you garden of fool and your god linux will not see the light of day.
Maybe the average consumer, the one that knows no better, doesn’t really need the latest flashy OS, a quad core processor, or 8GB of RAM. The laptops they buy tend to be for YouTube, web browsing and social networks. I can almost bet that not everybody will what to spend what that sort of hardware costs either.
I could not disagree more! this article is complete nonsense!I agree with the review below, worst article I’ve read in a long time.
How much you wanna bet the author is an Apple user
You are an elitist. Why would it matter what the low-end of the hardware market is. Should Hyundai stop producing the sonata and only sell the Genesis?
Actually, the author is a Microsoft MVP. So you might be a HATER~
Again, you are a hater. just hate everything you couldn’t understand.
As I said before, the author is a Microsoft MVP.
So, hello hater, goodbye hater.
Roger Luethy says
Stephen, good article. It’s about time Microsoft cut some of her ropes to the past to successfully move to the future.
Note to Guest: Linux is a computer operating system, not a god. It currently runs 42% of consumer web enabled devices and it runs quite well on the great majority of existent computer hardware for those who prefer it. It’s seen the light of two decades, let alone a single day. What the fuck are you on about?
As someone who runs a 250 post tax ‘craptop’ I sincerely have to ask: what lack of performance are you on about? I can cold boot and have chromium playing a youtube video within 25 seconds.
Why the hell would you tell me (and the rest of the computer-using world) that I shouldn’t be able to find an inexpensive machine because your preferred computing software platform can’t provide a reasonable computing experience on it? I mean no offense, but that’s pretty selfishly dick.
For a modern flash-ready web machine at least 2 ghz cpu, 2 gb ram and 20 gb of long term storage is ideal. For most users, a dual core is also probably pretty high on the list of useful features, as modern operating systems will run one of the two as a watchdog thread to guarantee the UI never blocks on the CPU, making machines ‘feel’ much faster.
It just so happens that this same setup will also be a passable video/image creation workstation, and is even usable in a pinch for 3d object modeling… All for well under $200 in hardware, and zero software costs.
This is the real reason Microsoft should try and kill of the ‘craptop’ market- because they simply cannot compete with it, in terms of price for functionality to the user. Fortunately for the non monopolistic computational world, they lack the power to do so.
Mike Wilson says
I’m surprised by this article.
Surely the biggest problem with the ‘craptops’ is the preloaded software that they’re packed to the gunnel’s with? Bloated antivirus, “internet security” and proprietary updaters, downloaders, sports scores apps and so on. Sometimes you even get preloaded media centre software (I’m looking at YOU, Sony) that almost everyone simply doesn’t need. Even HP do it. A clean installation of Windows 7 or 8 would see them perform beautifully – even if the build quality is a bit creaky in places.
All the best,
I’m not buying it. Windows 8 runs better on low-end systems than does Windows 7. I have it on five different machines, two are modern but low-end and the others are obsolete. No complaints about performance.
yes, insist on touchscreen for windows 8. Windows 8 was designed for tablets it does not work on a desktop or non touchscreen laptop, I can attest to this having been asked to evaluate it for the school I work for. by extension this would mean that a PC without touchscreen would run a desktop OS like windows 7, far better all round.
I do find it ammusing that my first PC purched in 1996, running windows 3.1 seemed faster than a a modern PC with about 1,000 times the power
Sir William Baggins says
Gave up on Micro$oft years ago even for my home PCs. – my employers have had Linux on all our machines and servers for a long time. Our IT section looked at Microsoft’s latest offerings (7&8) and apart from the many, many disadvantages of operating a Windoze based network, it would cost the company loads in licence fees etc. I can’t think why anyone in their right mind would even consider M$ whan Linux is available – it has come on leaps and bounds – if you go to the bank cash machine, watch sat tv etc, or log on to your ISP, you are already using it every day!!!
That’s because big industry has been fighting hard to force us onto *cloud computing* which for many reasons that takes too long to explain on here and that you can find elsewhere is several steps backwards. Cloud computing is equal to going back to 1970s data terminals where instead of owning your own content you have to always be *plugged* in which in those days was necessary due to memory restrictions.
If you go into Best Buy you will noticed that the newer PC models don’t even have a hard drive where you can modify it meaning you are stuck with whatever memory it comes with.
Smart phones have little to no onboard memory so you are forced to do everything on the cloud and depend on *store apps* which locks the user in a walled garden and continue to *feed the meter* like paying to park. Microsoft is simply giving in to the trend likely being bribed or threatened by higher powers.
I suspect likely due to terrorism and piracy the big companies are pushing us this route so they can control all the content with strict DRM and because the US Government were able to spy on terrorist using cell phones and used them as guidance beacons for IBCM’s or smart bombs that can be directed into an actual room so it’s easier to rope us all into cell phones for crowd control.
If the US Government can convince the big industry that smart phones are the ONLY future then they can spy on us unlimited and control what we see and hear then control what we think!
When civil war breaks out you will soon be thanking the *conspiracy tards* for warning us of these events leading up such as the 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and hollow armor that Home Land Security has purchased and pracitcing shooting unarmed American citizens of all ages.
This death of the PC Market is NO mistake and is being carefully planned because having a computer gives people the opportunity to be smart and learn how the world works and false lies about how state ran communism is our only answer to *greed*.
Basically MS is being lead by higher forces and as far as I am concerned since Windows XP days they are not the same Microsoft.
Bill Gates has little to no say and only had moderate influence on Windows XP then left all together.
Windows 98 especially the SE version was their best software and had very few blue screens. It was a major improvement over 95 which had TONS of BSOD.
Windows 2000 ME I really liked how it talked to you when you logged in or logged out but it was very buggy and crash prone. Windows XP was the stable verison of it.
However since XP Bill Gates has had little to no influence over Microsoft so MS is really a sinking ship trying to rearrange the deck chairs and plug the holes instead of getting onto lifeboats and radio for help.
Linux Mint we have and it’s quite stable actually. People who have experience with Windows and hate Microsoft have kept improving on it.
Linux Mint is awesome for multi tasking where you can switch screens on the fly without any special add ons or tweaks.
Windows 10 continuum or whatever it’s called is just a copy cat.
Read Jack Tramuel and how he learned how to strategize *if I spelled that right as I am hot and sweaty too think* the commodore 64 machine which despite it’s 64K limit you could do quite a bit with it and unlike today’s PC’s could be plugged into any TV like a game machine.
Except Commodore 64’s were full fledge personal computers that had a wide range of software both professional and *geeks* in their garage who offered their stuff via Load Star Tower on the Commodore BBS. (Q-Link)
Wanna know the price line of a new C64? Not 2,000$. Not 1,000$ Not 800$ but only 500$ dollars! and later 300$.
Unfortunately all I see are commercial links on Google instead of the blogs I once found for Commodore 64.
We need that model of openness again to bring the powers of computing into the hands of common people. In those days they were not called *PC*’s. Instead we used the word *Micro Computer* which I think is geekier.
We need a new kind of *Micro Computer* that anybody can learn to program with and be cheap enough at retail value for families to use to revive the computer industry again.
If you are talking about Linx Mint version it is totally awesome. I love using it over even 7. Now that MS has announced they are releasing the Windows Core hopefully there will be a Linux version of XP or Win 98.
Axeoasis R. says
Windows 7 preforms way better on low end machines, and that is from personal experience. Windows 8 has higher CPU and GPU requirements, along with higher requirements for RAM (A minimum of 2, ideally you would need at least 4). I have an old Dell Inspiron 530s (CPU upgraded to a Intel Core 2 Duo) that originally came with windows Vista. While it runs Windows 7 pretty well, Windows 8 and 10 tend to stutter quite more and often lag (10 being the worst). People tend to think that the newer the OS, the better it runs on older/low end machines, however this isn’t necessarily true. When building a low end PC, i normally go with Windows 7 since it’s still supported and runs quite perfectly on anything i put it on.
Axeoasis R. says
I couldn’t agree more, we’ve had computers for generations now, isn’t it time we perfected performance first? I’ve taken old XP computers and new Windows 10 computers, put them side by side, and a lot of the time Windows 10 is actually slower! Ever since Windows XP, Windows has been moving towards features rather than performance. I’ll admit, Windows Vista was beautiful and can be used today since the bug updates. But with Windows 10 & 8 being metro (which looks like windows 3.1 btw) they should not be having these performance stuggles on even low end machines.
3 1/2 years later, these craptops are still around. And they still have the same specs, that are even more dated today! Low-end Celeron/E-series CPU, 1366×768 TN display, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB 5400 RPM HDDs, loaded with the same bloatware. They are absolutely a miserable experience to use.
The only way to get any use out of these things is to buy a model that can be upgraded easily (most aren’t), and buy some more RAM and an SSD, install them, then clean install your OS of choice. Put the HDD in an external USB 3.0 enclosure for additional storage.
Valerio Pucci says
Could I just add something. Most high end PCs don’t have touchscreens. The reason why is because a gamer (Who would need those specs) dosent need a touchscreen to play CSGO (Nor do they want to). I do agree with the fact that we need laptops to be marketed as they are, and the specs should be listed on the add (CPU GHz, Ram). Also, we need to stop putting up ads that say “6th Gen Core i7 processor” because most likely it is a 6th Gen Pile of Shit.
Windows makes the top crap, not the other way around.