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Chris Pirillo, of LockerGnome fame, was trying to make a point when he sat his dad down in front of a Windows 8 machine for the first time, and had him try to navigate back to the new Start screen from the traditional Windows desktop. After four minutes, his dad gives up, and Chris makes his point.

“Who put this out?” his dad asks.

“Microsoft,” Pirillo responds.

Windows 8 brings up navigational thumbnails when users hover over invisible hotspots in the corners of the screen.

“They trying to drive me to Mac?” his dad says.

The video highlights the risk that Microsoft is taking as it makes the shift to a dramatically different user interface in Windows 8 — the biggest change since the launch of Windows 95, by the company’s own admission. Since testing the Windows 8 Developer Preview last fall, we’ve been warning that it would be a big adjustment for longtime Windows users, with the new tile-based interface replacing the traditional desktop as the default opening screen.

In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, released earlier this month, Microsoft went a step further and eliminated the Start button from the traditional desktop view, as well. That’s where Pirillo’s dad runs into problems in the video above. If he had moved his mouse to the lower left or any of the other corners, Windows 8 would have called up different menus and commands to help him navigate, but there were no visual cues to prompt him to do that.

Microsoft’s Jensen Harris, director of program management for the Windows User Experience Team, told me during a recent Windows 8 run-through that the company hadn’t ruled out the possibility of putting navigational cues into the interface to help newbies figure things out when they’re first using the new operating system.

Although Microsoft hasn’t confirmed the timing, Windows 8 is widely expected to be released later this year.


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