Windows 8 explained with smiley faces and Venn diagrams.

Note: Also see my updated Windows 9 version of this graphic

For some reason I’ve always visualized the debacle of Microsoft Windows 8 with smiley faces and Venn diagrams. In particular I imagined a Venn diagram showing lots of unhappy regular users surrounding a tiny sliver of happy power users. So for this post I wanted to try something a bit more whimsical than usual by creating a series of panels leading up that image, plus a few going beyond it. Enjoy!


Supporting notes:

  • The last panel in the series is a reference to my belief that voice interaction will become a major force in mobile computing in the next 2-5 years. And that Google will be one of the big winners when this happens. My posts on this 1) Apple’s strategy tax on services versus Google. Voice interaction becoming the “God particle” of mobile, and 2) The God Particle Revisited: Augmented Audio Reality in the Age of Wearables.
  • For details about what’s wrong with Windows 8, see my September 2012 post written just before Windows 8 was released. Quote: “it doesn’t bode well for Microsoft that they’ll ship a compromised hybrid UI.” Nothing’s changed since. Marrying the multi-touch and keyboard/mouse user interfaces results not in the Venn diagram union of both markets, but rather the Venn diagram intersection.
  • At this point the investment in the Windows 8 hybrid interface is a massive sunk cost. So it’s not worth reverting. There are some benefits to a unified Microsoft operating system, especially for developers. Though I remain skeptical of whether switching between the multi-touch interface and the keyboard/mouse interface will ever become mainstream. Swapping out the entire interface is inherently a power user move.
  • Obviously Android is a big part of the story above. But when I put an Android frame into the series it got complicated and clunky. So I left the added complexity out. Always a good design choice.
  • Source for the public domain smiley images used above is Pixabay. They have some good ones. smiley-oh

Update: Looking at the comments, it’s worth a short update to say I’m a power Windows user. While I don’t own a Surface, I’ve played with them enough to know I’d prefer one as my primary work computer over my current Windows laptop. So there’s a real market for Microsoft Windows 8 hybrid devices. Which is what the panel above showing the happy niche power users wanting (or more accurately being ok with) 2x the complexity is all about. That’s me! Niche power user. The great and unfortunate tragedy for Microsoft is this hybrid device market is a small subset of existing Windows users (Venn diagram intersection). And is way way smaller than the smartphone multi-touch device market.

By Nathan Taylor

I blog at on tech trends and the near future. I'm on twitter as @ntaylor963.


  1. the next time you drive a car, pretend that you are driving with with voice control. Turn left, stop at the light, wait for the green. voice control is incredibly inefficient and poor for most interfaces. Humans are stuck with voice control as some sort of database compatibility option.

    But anytime there is any need for efficiency, any kind of precision, then we abandon language and go to things that work much better like dials buttons and switches.

    What is easier adjusting the volume of your stereo with a dial or with voice control. “Lounder, softer, softer, louder. Make it an 8 in loudness, make it a 7.5 make it a 7.” Compare that to the efficiency of a simple dial or slider.

    I know you have an audio mixing board. Look at all those sliders dials and buttons and imagine trying to control it with your voice.

    Voice control is a database compatibility option nothing more nothing less.

    Still hoping for a return to the fusion topic! 🙂

    1. I’m not arguing voice will replace all existing tech. Knobs and dials are awesome. Good analogy is gui:command line::voice:touch. GUI didn’t eliminate command line. Just added a layer/option. Typical of new tech. More options, old tech doesn’t go away. Certainly you can argue how useful that option will become. I think it’ll be quite useful, but we’ll see.

      Also, not doing another post debunking fusion. I’m sticking to my claim it’s beyond my skill level. But did like your comment “How is it beyond your skill level you bum. This is simple quantum tunneling and the boltzman distribution. It’s not string theory or tensors just a little statistics with a proton cross section.” Could dust off the math, but think it’s more interesting to get educated about viable next gen fission possibilities. Thorium versus molten salt. Or solar economics. E.g.

    2. There was an interesting /. “summary” about 1.5 decades ago on CLI versus GUI. Even when CLI power users operate at same speed as a GUI, they perceive themselves to be more powerful / faster.

      In response to the post, I forgot to install a 3rd party Start button on a Win8 PC, and actually it’s a casual computer so realized I don’t really need to bother.

      In my tweet queue, my suggestion for MSFT is to build weaker hw Surface. Equivalent to parts of a $650 homebrew NUC w/o screen. I would buy one of those. If it had a permanent hinge.

      I guess the hinge is out of the question though. May as well load full Linux on a Chromebook as expect a low m^3 “x86” Surface. Except no one will make distinct two button mouse pad for laptops except Dell.

  2. You can’t compare iOS with Windows 8. Windows 8 is a hybrid operating system. You should really look at Windows 8 RT, which is “pure” mobile OS. Now… try again. Thanks

  3. This is my first time reading this blog and I am not encouraged to return. Like so many I have a non-touch PC for which Windows 8.1 is a more than adequate OS. The ‘Modern’ desktop is easy via the mouse as, of course, is MS Office etc via the desktop.
    I also have the original Surface RT (on which I am typing this) plus Nokia 620. Although still not perfect the way that they all interact is the way forward.
    Apple build superb quality but at a price that most cannot afford, Android is becoming an open source jungle. Windows offers a cost effective total approach to communication.
    Tell me what I have wrong in this thesis??

  4. Truly your September of 13 review is adequate for you to make your recent post of how windows interface currently is. Shows how little you know, and how little thought you put into your post. Back in September I owned a dell latitude 10 with windows 8 on it. I bought it as something to goof around with. I was an avid android user. It was okay, but then the 8.1 update came out and that was a whole different beast. I went from an ‘its okay’ user to fully thinking it is by far the best OS out there. I even went and bought a surface 2 pro and gave my dell to my apple loving daughter who now loves 8.1 instead. I am a tech professional, and I think it is ridiculous that people like you continue to post about something you know so little about. An early windows 8 review is what you base your ridiculous post on. Wow. Impressive.

  5. Thanks to a Daring Fireball refer, I found your superb blog and am having fun digging through your archive. I love finding someone who challenges my thinking and shows me new ways to consider previous ideas (your latest on disruptive startups as possible natural monopolies was an eye-opener).

    In this article I’m not clear about what you mean in your 3rd supporting note:
    “At this point the investment in the Windows 8 hybrid interface is a massive sunk cost. So it’s not worth reverting.”

    If the Windows 8 hybrid interface is a sunk cost, Microsoft should completely ignore it when considering future investments of time/money/effort. I think it is more of an issue of ‘there are substantial costs in backtracking’. Interestingly, MS is essentially backtracking with Windows 8.1 and its subsequent updates. Massive UI change + new hybrid interface (and all of the interleaving complexities) = major hassle for most users.

    M brings up one point despite his derisive tone — Windows 8.1 is a far better beast than Windows 8. Even so, Windows 8.1 is more like Windows Vista than Windows XP or Windows 7. Here’s hoping Windows 9 (or whatever they wind up calling the released version) manages to get the two interface types more cleanly integrated. That would be a heck of an achievement.

    Thanks again for the wonderful posts!


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