Is Windows 8.x The Last Microsft OS?
Bill Quick

What the Heck is Happening to Windows? | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

I do have some advice for the Windows team. And it’s as obvious as it is necessary.

I always accepted the messy bits of Windows in the past because the system addressed such a large audience. But given the way things are going, Windows should evolve into a system that is laser targeted to the customers who will in fact continue using it regularly. That’s mostly business users, but even when you look at the consumers who will use Windows, that usage is almost entirely productivity related. Windows should focus on that. On getting work done. On an audience of doers. Job one should be productivity.

Everyone likes to compare Apple or the Mac to BMW and, you know what? Fair enough, and if that’s true then Windows is obviously GM, the overly-big messy GM of a decade ago. But Microsoft can’t afford for Windows to be like GM anymore—just like GM couldn’t, for whatever that’s worth. Maybe Windows needs to be more like GMC, the part of GM that only makes trucks (and truck-based SUVs). After all, while many people choose to use a truck for basic transportation, they’re really designed and optimized for work. You know, as should be Windows.

You can’t please everybody, Microsoft. So stop trying. It’s time to double down on the people who actually use your products, not some mythical group of consumers who will never stop using their simpler Android and iOS devices just because you wish they would.

Well, you know.  I always slammed Apple and Android as being toy systems, entertainment OSes.  And I said that for real productivity you wanted Windows, and its vast store of legacy software.

I still feel that way.  I don’t use my Samsung smartphone for productivity, and so Android and its gigantic app store (of which I will never use more than the tiniest fraction of its offerings) works fine for me.

But I do use my Asus hybrid tablet for productivity, and so I really like the ability to switch between the Metro GUI (for use as a tablet consumption device) and the traditional Windows desktop for actual work using applications that aren’t available in any other mobile OS.

I haven’t found it terribly difficult to adjust to Windows 8, or 8.1.  Of course, I’ve been adjusting to new OSes, and new generations of OSes, since the days of CP/M, and DOS.  I use a couple of add-ons to make that separation sharper between mobile and desktop.  Classic Shell  gives me the start menu I’m used to, and Stardock’s Modern Mix opens Metro apps on the desktop – not a critical function for me, by the way.  I don’t mind leaving the desktop to use Metro apps for consumption.

In short, I’m not as upset about Win 8.x as Paul Thurrot seems to be.  Nonetheless, Thurrot and a couple of others are good windows (ahem) into the thinking inside Microsoft itself.   If he’s talking like this for public consumption, I can only imagine what is being said behind  closed doors in Redmond.

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Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.

Comments

Is Windows 8.x The Last Microsft OS? — 20 Comments

  1. Whether you agree or disagree with this analysis depends to a great extent on whether or not you agree with this assertion:

    “Technology used by consumers inevitably becomes the next generation of technology for business users.”

    Steven Sinofsky agreed with this totally, and from that was derived the entire strategy and decision-making philosophy for Windows 8. He knew he couldn’t just dump an OS making billions of dollars, but he intended to get as far from there into the consumer space as possible.

    I disagreed with that assertion the moment it was made public at Build 2011, and I still do. I know where it comes from: the decline and fall of IBM and OS/2 in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    PCs during that period were often bought by individuals, and mostly brought into companies against the wishes of the mainframe guys then running IT. Many at Microsoft were convinced that iOS was going to do something similar and endanger their back-ends, making conversion of customers to the cloud a lot more chancy. Ergo, they needed to become a competitive or dominant force in consumer-based tablets, both to be competitive in client computers and to become the dominant player in cloud computing.

    But much has changed since then. The tech ecosystem is fantastically complex compared to the 1980s – the difference between a savannah and a rain-forest. The presence of tech in business has soaked into everything people do. There’s plenty of room in that ecosystem for products aimed at producing instead of consuming.

    That’s *always* been my personal distaste for the iPad and Android tablets. I toggle between consuming information and producing content/software sometimes several times an hour. Tablets are fine for consuming, but absolutely suck for producing – to the point where my frustration keeps me from getting anything of value done on them.

    So I agree with Thurrott. Microsoft needs to target Windows for that massive space of people getting work done.

    That doesn’t prevent them from making consumer-targeted products too. The Windows Phone is actually pretty good, and the stumbles by Apple plus continued fragmentation in Android mean some room there for opportunities.

    But the idea that those products need to be based on traditional Windows is, I think, fatally flawed. The Windows Phone isn’t really Windows as anyone would recognize it. It’s designed for a mobile experience, and that’s why it works.

    This point was raised when Windows 8 was announced. People pointed out that Apple has two different OS products for desktop vs. tablet. Microsoft executives sneeringly replied that Apple just did that to sell more devices. The idea that it actually makes sense to *design* two completely different experiences for two such difference circumstances apparently never occurred to them – another example of their appalling lack of design-oriented thinking.

    • Well, I guess I do sorta lean in that direction, given that a couple of days ago I wrote:

      Microsoft Makes Up Its Mind: Nadella In, Gates Steps Down as Chairman | Daily Pundit

      Consumers are also workers. Microsoft is so strong in enterprise because the vast majority of consumers use Windows and the gazillions of apps already existent for it in their daily lives away from work.

      Apple is making inroads in enterprise because consumers who use it at home want to use it at work as well. That’s how Microsoft eventually achieved its enterprise dominance over CPM, OS2, and other competitors.

      In other words, we seem to be in violent agreement, more or less.

      The question is, does M$ lack of penetration into the current golden form factor, mobile, threaten its dominance of the enterprise? You say maybe not, I say maybe.

      This is from January 2012:

      Apple’s enterprise mojo: One in 5 use iPhones, iPads, Macs at work | 9to5Mac

      Nearly half of businesses, or 46 percent, now issue Macs to their workers. That is up by more than half in two years (36 and 30 percent in 2010 and 2009, respectively). Moreover, hardware decision makers envision a 52 increase in Mac adoption in their companies this year.

      And this from 2014, just two years later:

      Overlooked in Q1 report, Apple soars in enterprise sector | MacNN

      Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer revealed that the iPhone is now at 97 percent share among Fortune 500 companies, and in 91 percent of the Global 500. The numbers for the iPad are equally impressive: 98 percent of the Fortune 500 are using Apple’s tablet, and 93 percent of the Global 500 are as well.

      Obliterating even the iPad’s dominance of the consumer tablet market, the iPad made up 90 percent of all corporate tablet activations, and the iPad accounts for 78 percent of the total US enterprise market (a figure that includes the government and educational institutions). The iPhone held a 59 percent marketshare in the overall US enterprise market –but more tellingly, Apple’s iOS platform accounted for 95 percent of all app activations, suggesting that alternative platforms used in enterprise are not much engaged with the Internet. Apple’s numbers in enterprise were referred to as “unbelievable” by CEO Tim Cook.

      So, okay. How much of an influence does this wholesale adoption of IOS by enterprise threaten M$ dominance in the enterprise? I see two ways of looking at that question: First, how much does mobile threaten desktop? Second, how much do Apple apps threaten MS Office?

      I really don’t agree with the idea that it is for some reason necessary to have a mobile OS and … something else OS. Especially if the desktop form factor is going away, which it may well be doing.

      Okay, everybody, don’t howl. But I, for one, will probably never buy a desktop computer again. I am a one man enterprise, and I operated on M$ software and PC hardward for decades. Now I don’t. The hardware, at least. At this point, given the money I chose to spend, I’m a bit underpowered for a real desktop – although I don’t notice that very often. By next year, I don’t expect to have to even put up with that much.

      I can’t believe that enterprise CFOs won’t welcome replacing huge, expensive desktop machines that do one, and only one thing, in one, and only one, location, with machines that can do many things in many locations, and with a much lower investment in hardware nuts and bolts.

      There are some cases where high-powered dedicated workstation style machines will probably be necessary for a good while yet. But most jobs will be able to be handled by docks, screens, and mobile devices.

      Or so it seems to me. And I think if M$ wants to participate in the new world of “mobiletops,” it needs to keep on pushing its own hardware out into the consumer world.

      UPDATE: BTW, I’m claiming first dibs on the usage of the term “mobiletop” as a descriptor for mobile machines used as desktops as well as mobile machines.

      • “I can’t believe that enterprise CFOs won’t welcome replacing huge, expensive desktop machines that do one, and only one thing, in one, and only one, location, with machines that can do many things in many locations, and with a much lower investment in hardware nuts and bolts.”

        Wha…? Ignoring for the moment the lack of portability of desktops, what exactly can’t you do with them?

        Desktops won’t completely go away as long as they’re more powerful and/or cheaper (try pricing a high-end gaming laptop). Developers aren’t going to work on machines that are underpowered. Heck, Eclipse is fairly slow on my new overclocked Core i5; how do you expect it to work on a Pentium, let alone an iPad?

        Also, the comment about CFOs? As long as there’s old-school guys out there who think we should come to work in suits, or who don’t believe in working from home, you can bet they won’t be open to replacing desktops.

        • Those types of power users are a tiny, tiny minority of the entire enterprise market. As for suits, well – you’re showing your age. And code jocks have never worn suits – in my experience, which only goes back in terms of enterprise programming a mere 47 years. And FWIW, long predates desktop computers. And will likely postdate them, too.

          Finally, I’m not really making an unsupported prediction. What I’m talking about is already happening.

  2. If anyone in Redfield had the brains of an earthworm the emphasis would have been on bringing XP along rather than trying to stuff those three gay cabolleros – vista, 7, and 8 – down everybody’s throat. Vista was a disaster followed by the NEW!!!! IMPROVED!!!1! VISTA – otherwise known as win 7, which took the better part of a year to get to where it would do what XP was already doing. And win 8; who besides a phone junkie wants to turn his computer into a touchpad phone, heh. Ah me, when the dumbos dump XP in a few months I’ll probably go over to the dark side.

    • I don’t suppose tablets enter into your worldview at all?

      I liked XP, but it’s a dead duck in today’s computing environment. Heck, I liked w95 and W2K, too. BTW, “bringing XP along” is what gave us Vista, 7, and 8. You could have called them XP 2.0, 3.0. and 4.0, but the result would have been the same.

  3. It’s not necessary to have two OS’s the way Apple does (though they have proven it is viable), but I strongly believe it is necessary to have two different user experiences. Or maybe more than two.

    Microsoft believed, and still seems to believe, that the user interactions and overall layout can look pretty much the same when one is:

    1. Sitting in a chair, looking at a vertical monitor, with a keyboard and mouse in front of them, and

    2. Holding a device with one hand while doing touch interactions with the other hand.

    I disagree with that assessment. This is pretty much the point Thurrott makes in his column, and I agree with him. Though he fails, I think, to make the technical distinction that a single OS could have two or more different shells for user interaction.

    If one OS is to have multiple shells, then those shells obviously need to be consistent where they can be. For example, iconography might be sized differently, but usually should be the same.

    However, everything from layout to navigation needs to be different to make optimal use of the user interaction capabilities of each platform. This sounds bad to someone who has always worked on a single platform, but Apple showed that it can work if the design is done well enough to be highly intutitive.

    I say “maybe more than two” because we are on the verge of having gesture become a serious competitor to touch for interaction. I don’t mean the camera-based gesture exemplified by the Kinect, though that will work for some scenarios. I mean wearable tech gestures, such as the Myo armband.

    So when you say you don’t think it’s necessary to have a mobile OS and a something-else OS, I agree at the system level, but I don’t agree at the user experience level. The plumbing can be the same, and probably should be the same for a lot of reasons, but the layer the user sees and interacts with needs to be highly optimized for the device.

    • Microsoft believed, and still seems to believe, that the user interactions and overall layout can look pretty much the same when one is:

      1. Sitting in a chair, looking at a vertical monitor, with a keyboard and mouse in front of them, and

      2. Holding a device with one hand while doing touch interactions with the other hand.

      Yes, but Billy, I’ve been using Win8.x in both tablet and desktop format for nearly a year now, via the Surface RT and my Asus T100. The T100 is a much more satisfying desktop experience because the 3rd-Gen Atom makes it a more powerful machine.

      But I have had nearly zero problems using the different “shells” for different use cases – Metro on the tablet, desktop when hooked up to a dock/screen or as a laptop. The desktop looks and acts just as it always did (with, as I’ve noted, a little help from a free utility – most of whose features are supposedly going to be incorporated into Win 8.1.1). The Metro GUI does not, but it works better than any other tablet GUI I’ve used, and this includes both Android and the iPad. And the Metro GUI most definitely does not look “pretty much like” the desktop layout.

      So I just don’t understand what it is about Win 8.1 you dislike so intensely. Is it a technical developer thing, or is it actually based on end-user concerns?

      • Frankly, I still don’t understand the hate for the Start Screen, except for people who just hate it because it’s different, because they complain with every new OS release. The screen is generally far superior to the old menu, from a usability POV. Seriously. Think about the size of an individual item on the Vista/7 start menu vs the size of the start screen tiles–the latter are far easier to hit, plus you can fully rearrange them.

        How many times have you tried to click something on the edge of the start menu, only to have it start scrolling out from under you?

        • The screen is generally far superior to the old menu, from a usability POV. Seriously.

          Half of Windows 8 users would disagree with you, and that’s enough to make your statement simply a matter of opinion. It might be true for you, but it’s clearly not true for the wider group of users.

          Here’s one factor in that. In DOS, everything was application-centric. First you started an app, then you loaded a document or whatever. Windows switched that around. You located the document (where that term includes word processing documents, spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, drawings, whatever), asked for it to be loaded, and the application was automatically invoked.

          This reduces a two step process to a one step process, and relieves the cognitive load of associating the app with the document. So, for most people doing work instead of consuming content, a document centric interaction pattern was a clear winner. It took me years, but I finally got to the point where I almost never started Word, Excel, or Powerpoint as an app – I just found the thing I wanted to work on, and started it up.

          The Windows 8 desktop switches back to an application centric interaction pattern. That, in and of itself, is enough for me to dislike it.

          The old Start button promoted the document centric interaction because it kept the documents I had recently worked on available in an easy-to-access list; Windows 8 did away with that too. So now in Windows 8, I’m going through more steps to get to the thing I’m trying to accomplish, and I can’t see how that is “far superior” in usability for production work.

          As long as you are consuming things (which includes both content and apps such as weather and games), then the Windows 8 desktop does work OK, arguably better than Windows 7, though I still think it could be dramatically improved. But as soon as you get past consumption into actually getting work done, I completely disagree that it’s a usability improvement, and so does a large portion (perhaps a majority) of the people who have tried it.

          • But as soon as you get past consumption into actually getting work done, I completely disagree that it’s a usability improvement, and so does a large portion (perhaps a majority) of the people who have tried it.

            I guess I can’t make this any clearer, but let me repeat:

            I don’t use the Metro interface for production. I use the Desktop.

            So when you tell me the Metro isn’t good for production, I frankly don’t have a clue why you’re making that argument.

            It’s like saying “I have a long stick with a shovel on one end, and a saw on the other. You know what? That saw is just terrible for digging holes!”

            The only response I can make to that is, eh, so what? Turn your stick around and use the shovel part. That’s what it’s designed for. And don’t gripe that the shovel is terrible for trimming your tree branches, either.

            • The Windows 8 Desktop (as opposed to the Metro desktop) is OK, but it’s just a crippled version of the Windows 7 desktop. So, yeah, it’s better for production than Metro, but what that means is that Metro just gets in the way a lot for somebody doing lots of production. I don’t like the constant mode switching of using both, and I’m not alone in that assessment – it’s a constant refrain from people who have tried and rejected Windows 8.

              So, for production, I still use my Windows 7 machine. In fact, I got a new high-end Lenovo last month after a catastrophic failure on an SSD, and I got it with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8. Windows 7 has become the default choice for many high-end machines on purchasing sites from vendors such as Lenovo, and there’s a reason for that. Many of them had Windows 8 as the default choice for a while after it was released, but they have reverted, probably because they got too many machines back from people who said “I don’t like the new Windows”.

              I only use my Surface when mobility is essential. I only use my Windows 8 high-powered Lenovo to develop Windows 8 software. On a daily, routine basis (and I tried it for weeks) Metro just gets in the way of what I want to do.

              It offers no advantages and several disadvantages. The “slide up” arrangement with all the apps on one screen is useless until I search to narrow down the list. I can’t organize apps into folders. Live tiles are distracting – the first thing I do on a new Windows 8 machine is turn all of them off.

              The colors are meaningless. Color can be a great usability enhancer, but the colors in Metro are apparently randomly assigned. If, say, News, Sport, Stocks, Weather all were a common color family, that might make some sense. It would suggest a relationship. But to have garish colors that are meaningless because they are assigned at random is bad design.

              I’ll put up with Metro when, and only when, I need its touch support because I’m on a highly mobile device. I actually think Metro works pretty well on the phone, for example, and I prefer Windows Phone to iPhone or Android. Metro is not as good for a tablet as iOS, I think, but I can use it as long as I’m just browsing around and using simple apps. However, browsing is faster and more flexible on the desktop, and Chrome is simply a better browser than IE, so again it’s only when I need to be highly mobile that I’ll put up with Metro. I often lug a six pound laptop around just to avoid using Windows 8.

              I put up with iOS for two years for the same mobile needs. I didn’t like its consumption centric interaction either. But I realized it was not designed for me, and it was a big hit, and it didn’t have obvious design flaws, so I shrugged and put up with it.

              Metro, on the other hand, is loathed by a lot of people, including many who ought to be dead center in its targeted market. Not everyone, of course; some like it. But it has been called the most polarizing product Microsoft ever introduced. You can get away with a polarizing design for a small niche product. You can’t get away with it for a product that is supposed to be the platform for the next generation OS from a tech company as large as Microsoft.

              In essence, it doesn’t matter exactly why any individual hates it, just that so many do. That’s devastating. It helps to analyze design flaws and such to figure out what might work better, but the bottom line is that it is not succeeding in its current form, and Microsoft has to experiment until they find something that will appeal to a wider audience.

  4. Also, concerning the iPad penetrating the enterprise, most of us started seeing that back in 2011, including Microsoft. It was part of the reason they more or less panicked about mobile.

    But that’s not because the iPad is a good fit for mobile enterprise usage – it was simply the dominant platform, and we had a lot of executive plopping down their iPads on IT’s desks and saying “Why can’t our stuff run on this?”

    In the field, the iPad has some big disadvantages for the enterprise. It has limited options for security, for example. That causes various problems, such as when healthcare companies have to implement HIPPA regs on it. It’s hard to develop software on it. Objective C++ is essentially 1980′s era programming. It isn’t very expandable, so that it you want to plug in sensors, you have zero or limited choices. This was an issue for one of my clients, because they needed to plug in a humidity sensor for work in their greenhouses.

    So Microsoft is well positioned to respond to the iPad in the enterprise – if they had something people thought was good enough for mobile enterprise usage and competitive with the iPad on user experience. Trying to be all things to all people makes that harder, not easier. Their lack of targeting to mobile makes them suffer by comparison to the iPad. Average users find Windows 8 much harder to figure out than iOS.

    The confusion shows up in other ways. I was talking to one company about putting Windows 8 tablets in the field for maintenance workers, and the response was “We just converted to Windows 7, and we don’t like having multiple versions of Windows in the company, so we are not taking on Windows 8 for that group.” Now, this is a a silly way to look at it, but it wouldn’t have been an issue if Microsoft’s mobile offering had not been considered their uber-OS for all things in the company.

    • I guess I’m not having the problems you are because I hunted down a couple of tiny, free utilities and installed them. So I’m not switiching back and forth all the time. I boot to the desktop. My Metro Apps open in windows on the desktop if I’m on the desktop. If I open them from the Metro Start, they open full screen there. And I have the full start menu – I’m using the Win7 skin for that, but I can choose Vista or XP if I want. I like 7 the best, though. Bottom line: the divide between Desktop and Metro is sharp and clear, at least for me.

      As for the rest, that’s been a problem (depending on your metric for problem) since XP. XP was a sprawling OS that gave you granular control over nearly everything the OS did. Ever since, though, MS has been “hiding” feature after feature, for your own good, I guess.

      The governing philosophy at Redmond has become “most people don’t want or need that level of control.”

      It annoys me far more than the failings of 8.x – as I’m reminding myself as I sit here trying to troubleshoot my home wireless network connection via the babytalk abortion called “Home Group,” which is what Networking seems to have morphed into.

      In a way, I can understand MS’s attitude: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American consumer, and that is doubly the case in a culture where the goal of the edu system is dumbing down the population.

      The entire tablet/app universe is an attempt to make life easier for dumbasses.

      I know, that makes me into Cranky Geek, and I also know that lots of smart people don’t want to become computer techs, any more than they want to become auto repairman.

      But through XP, Windows in large part at least accommodated the urge to geek out with your machines. Now, with so much that was once easily available now either hidden or done away with entirely, that is becoming so difficult it’s hardly worth it.

      You mentioned earlier that you liked IOS’s transparency. Well, yeah, it’s transparent – as long as you stay safely (and rigidly) locked in the Apple gulag. Which is why I never really went there, except for very limited exceptions and purposes. Now Redmond seems to think they have to pursue the same strategy, and I hate it. I hate it far more than I hate what is only the latest iteration of that attitude, Windows 8.x.

    • Yeah, I get that reluctance of (some) enterprises to undertake the expensive, complicated upgrade process. That’s why Zombie XP is still around.

      And the fact that XP is “good enough” for most enterprise use is telling. It means that enterprise sees little or no value in anything beyond good enough – or it may mean that everything since XP really hasn’t offered the enterprise anything more than the “good enough” they were already getting.

      Another possibility, though: Enterprises that refuse to upgrade may see their relative productivity (and capabilities) plummet versus companies that do upgrade. In which case that problem will solve itself in a rather brutal manner.

  5. So I just don’t understand what it is about Win 8.1 you dislike so intensely. Is it a technical developer thing, or is it actually based on end-user concerns?

    Well, it’s both. I find “Metro” frustrating to use. The lack of visibility for control elements, the inability to get multiple windows in any reasonable way, inadequate support for multiple monitors, the Power Ranger colors, the blocky design, the poorly designed apps – I was repelled by it from the first, and according to most accounts I’ve seen, roughly half of the users who try it have a similar reaction. The apps have gotten better, and the colors could pretty easily be fixed, but the general interaction patterns still seem clumsy to me after working with it for 2 1/2 years on four different machines, from a 7″ tablet up to a desktop.

    It’s also buggy in ways a lot of people might not notice if they just do tablet apps. I paid $10 extra to get Media Center and play DVDs on one machine at home, and Media Center is utterly stupid about sleeping and awakening on Windows 8, whereas it doesn’t have any problems on Windows 7. I also don’t like the constant updating and the mandatory restarts that go with them. In 18 months of using the original iPad, I had to update it (via iTunes) one time.

    On the programming front, Microsoft went out of their way to poke their traditional business developers in the eyes over Windows 8. They were so determined to expand into the web/consumer space that Steven Sinofsky basically told .NET developers to f*ck off. He has always hated Developer Division, and in fact at the time Windows 8 was being made, he wasn’t on speaking terms with the head of DevDiv. This was his chance to screw them over, and he took it. That was petty, unnecessary, and counter-productive to his mission of making Windows 8 successful. To make Win8 relevant in the business/enterprise space, he needed those developers, but he screwed them over with no thought or remorse. No wonder adoption is so low in enterprises – most of them listen to their software developers about such things, and Sinofsky pretty much guaranteed than none of them would be enthusiastic proponents, and some would be actively working against him. Stupid.

    However, all that aside, I actually like working on Windows 8 applications. Some of the internal guys convinced Sinofsky to include XAML as a way to write native apps. It was de-emphasized in Microsoft’s presentations, crippled compared to its desktop cousin, and had no resources to figure out how to use it. But XAML is powerful enough that if you already know it, you could get past that, and besides, it had great support for touch that was lacking in the desktop XAML platform (WPF). I get to put whatever user interaction designs I want into my software, so the general limitations of user interaction on Win8 don’t matter much to people using my mobile software.

    So I have no problem selling new mobile development on Windows 8. The general consensus is that Win8 app development takes about half the time as iOS, and is more maintainable and extendable when you get done. Plus there is all kinds of ways to get and manipulate data, and that’s hard in Objective C++.

    However, while the long term of your mobiletop might be pretty good, that’s going to take enormous investment and lots of time. For one example that might not immediately come to mind, it will change the ergonomics, making new furniture necessary. Applications will need to rewritten, mostly from scratch since many of them are still using synchronous data access and mobile architectures all require asynchronous access. And there will still be some things that just work faster and better with other user manipulations – in particular, things that require precision that touch and gesture cannot yet provide.

    I actually think the Windows 8 stack is pretty good at the bottom. The old Win32 API was overdue for replacement, and this stack looks better. So I’m optimistic that it will eventually succeed.

    But users don’t see underlying stacks. They see pixels on the screen. Until Microsoft makes that part appealing and intuitive, Windows 8 is going to continue to struggle, for both consumers and business users.

    • I don’t understand. Why do you need multiple monitors, onscreen controls, and multiple windows when you’re using the Metro GUI on a tablet for consumption?

      If you want or need all that stuff, why not switch to the Desktop GUI, which offers all of that in what is essentially the same interface used by Win 7 (with a free tweak to give you the start menu)?

      Maybe Apple has improved, but I was thrilled to dump the iTunes leash and the constant 100mb updates.

      I don’t get the ergonomics issues, either. I’m still sitting at the same desk, in the same chair, with the same screen and peripherals I’ve always used. The only difference is that instead of having a big beige box hooked to them, I have a small gray tablet connected.

      Billy, it almost sounds as if you want the Metro GUI to have the same capabilities that the desktop does, and vice versa. But that seems like it misses the point of having both GUIs.

      Now, if I were to point to what I think is M$’s most egregious underlying assumption, it is that the desktop should, will, and must disappear entirely within a short time.

      But I think they’re starting to back away from that, as it becomes more obvious that Metro just isn’t a true substitute for the desktop. Nor should it be.

      One more thought: Where I find my Asus most lacking in terms of GUIs is not in either desktop format hooked up to perpherals and big screens, or in Metro being used as a tablet mostly for consuption, but as a notebook in desktop production mode. That ten inch screen is a tad small for that.

      My next ideal machine will be a hybrid that weighs half a pound less than my current Asus, lasts a couple of hours longer, has twice as much ram, and has a twelve or thirteen inch screen. And runs Win 8.1.xx.

  6. Billy, it almost sounds as if you want the Metro GUI to have the same capabilities that the desktop does, and vice versa. But that seems like it misses the point of having both GUIs.

    Quite the contrary. I want them to be different because they address different circumstances and need different user experiences. It’s Microsoft that seems intent on some weird kind of merging – as seen by their unfathomable decision to enforce booting to the “Metro” screen even on desktops. They only backed away from that after fierce resistance among users.

    No, my problem with “Metro” is more that I simply consider it to be badly designed. iOS did what I consider a good job at making the mobile experience intuitive and transparent. I consider “Metro” as failing at the same thing. Lot’s of people simply don’t find it intuitive.

    I also consider good design to be transparent. iOS has done a good job here. You don’t think much about the design – you just use it. By contrast, Windows 8 “Metro” seems to go out of it’s way to say “Look how flashy and cool my design is! Isn’t it great?!?”

    I think part of that can be explained by the need to differentiate from iOS. The Samsung-Apple lawsuit showed just how far judges have their heads up their asses about user interface tech. Apple managed to convince a court that stuff that had been around for decades was somehow new and owned by them. Microsoft side-stepped that problem by being very different from iOS for mobile.

    But difference for the sake of difference rarely yields good design. Think the fad for fins on cars in the fifties – eventually people figure out that things need to be more subtle and transparent. Apple got this right from the beginning because they have great designers. Microsoft didn’t because they have inadequate design talent. So I think “Metro” needs a complete redesign, to be both more optimized for mobile, more intuitive, and more transparent. Plus get rid of those garish jellybean colors.

    The desktop UI needs some redesign too, to integrate some touch capability. There are all kinds of good ways to use touch in applications on large screens. But it needs to be designed for that set of circumstances, and just putting “Metro” on the desktop to get comprehensive touch support is, I believe, a bad design decision. Metro is optimized for small, mobile screens, often held by a single hand. Integrating touch (and gesture) into fixed, desktop scenarios is going to take a lot deeper thought and design than Microsoft has put into it so far.