Fear and Loathing and Windows 8

(Or: Why Windows 8 Scares Me -- and Should Scare You Too)

I was very excited when I saw the first demos of Windows 8.  After years of settling for mediocre incremental improvements in its core products, Microsoft finally was ready to make bold changes to Windows, something I thought it had to do to stay relevant in computing.  What's more, the changes looked really nice!  Once I'd seen the clean, modern-looking videos of Windows 8, the old Windows looked cramped and a little embarrassing, kind of like finding a picture of the way you dressed when you were a senior in high school (link).

So when Microsoft announced that it was releasing a "consumer preview" of Windows 8, I couldn't wait to play with it.  So far I've installed Windows 8 on two computers, a middle of the road HP laptop and a mini tablet PC from Japan.  I've browsed the web and used Office and even tested our new app, Zekira, on it.  My conclusion is that Windows 8 in its current form is very different; attractive in some ways, and disturbing in others.  It combines an interesting new interface with baffling changes to Windows compatibility, and amateur mistakes in customer messaging.  Add up all the changes, and I am very worried that Microsoft may be about to shoot itself in the foot spectacularly.  Even the plain colorful graphics in Windows 8 that looked so cool when I first saw them are starting to look ominous to me, like the hotel decor in The Shining.

Why you should care.  The rollout of Windows 8 has very important implications for not just Microsoft but everyone in the tech industry.  In normal times, most people are unwilling to reconsider the basic decisions they have made about operating system and applications.  They've spent a huge amount of time learning how to use the system, and the last thing they want to do is start learning all over again.  That's why the market share of a standard like Windows is so stable over time.  But when a platform makes a major transition, people are forced to stop and reconsider their purchase.  They're going to have to learn something new anyway, so for a brief moment they are open to possibly switching to something else.  The more relearning people have to do, the more willing they are to switch.  Rapid changes in OS and app market share usually happen during transitions like this.

Windows 8 is a revolutionary transition in Windows, easily the biggest change since the move from DOS to Windows in the early 1990s.  Consider the wreckage that was created by that transition:
    --Apple's effort to retake the lead in personal computing was stopped dead
    --The leading app companies of the time were destroyed (Lotus, WordPerfect, Ashton Tate, etc)
    --IBM was eventually forced out of the PC business
    --Microsoft, formerly an also-ran in apps, became the leading applications company, and a power in server software as well

Will the Windows 8 transition be as disruptive?  It's impossible to say at this point.  But huge changes are possible.  If the transition is successful, Microsoft could emerge as a much stronger, more dynamic company, leveraging its sales leadership in PCs to get a powerful position in tablets, mobile devices, and online services.  On the other hand, if Windows 8 fails, Microsoft could break the loyalty of its customer base and turn its genteel decline into a catastrophic collapse.  The most likely outcome, of course, is a muddled middle.  But based on what I've seen of Windows 8 so far, I am a lot closer to the rout scenario than I expected to be. 

Whatever the outcome for Microsoft, what's certain is that because so many people use Windows as the foundation of their computing, the transition to Windows 8 will produce threats and opportunities for everyone else in the tech industry.  Play your cards right and your company could grow rapidly.  Mess up and you could be the next Lotus.  You may love Windows 8 or you may hate it, but if you work in tech you'd be a fool to ignore it.

And yet, most of my friends in Silicon Valley are paying very little attention to Windows 8.  Most of them haven't tried it, and don't know a lot about what it does.  There are a lot of Mac users in the Valley; they don't think about Windows at all.  But even among the Windows users I talk to, the OS isn't a trendy topic; there is a lot more excitement about Android, Facebook, and whatever product Apple just announced.

If you're one of those Windows-fatigued people, it's time to wake up.  Here's a summary of my experiences with Windows 8, followed by some thoughts on what it means for the industry...


Listening to Windows 8

The most important message I want you to understand is this: Windows 8 is not Windows.  Although Microsoft calls it Windows, and a lot of Windows code may still be present under the hood, Windows 8 is a completely new operating system in every way that matters to users.  It looks different, it works differently, and it forces you to re-learn much of what you know today about computers.  From a user perspective, Microsoft Windows is being killed this fall and replaced by an entirely new OS that has a Windows 7 emulator tacked onto it.

The main Windows 8 interface is based on Microsoft's Metro design language, which was supposedly inspired in part by the directional signs used in public transportation (link).  Metro emphasizes typography (big words in clean fonts) and simple monochrome images, like the signs you'd see on a subway platform. 

About Metro.  Instead of application icons, Metro features large rectangles (or tiles) in primary colors which are clicked to launch apps, and which can also display live content (like the time or a message).  The Metro look is also used in several other Microsoft products, including Windows Phone 7. 


I think Metro looks incredibly nice.  The graphics are clean and bold, the animations are smooth, and overall it's one of the most visually literate things I've ever seen from Microsoft.  I'm still kind of amazed that Metro is a Microsoft product.

The simplicity of Metro is very appealing in many ways, especially when viewed against Apple's interface, which is becoming more and more encrusted with strange textures and bits of faux 3D gewgaw.  TK commented on this blog a year ago that Apple is falling into skeuomorphism, a situation in which digital designs retain bits of their physical counterparts even though they're no longer necessary (link).  That theme recently cropped up in an interview with Apple designer Jonathan Ive, in which he ducked a question about Apple's software look by saying he's only responsible for hardware (link).

Metro is one of the most anti-skeuomorphic interface designs I've seen, which makes it a worthy counterpoint to Apple.

I worry about whether Metro's clean look will last once third parties start adding apps to it.  The first few independent Metro apps I've seen use the tile as an advertisement rather than making it blend into the Metro look.  Check out the effect:


Just a little bit of this makes Metro look like a scenic highway lined with billboards.  That's not much of a step up from today's Windows.

A Microsoft services buffet.  The second striking thing about Metro in Windows 8 is that it's a serving platter of Microsoft online services.  Most of the tiles you see when you start Windows 8 are Microsoft services, ready to launch with a simple log-in through your Microsoft ID. 

Apple has a habit of featuring its own services on its devices, and we all know how Google manipulates Android to feature its tools, but I don't think I've ever seen a platform vendor push so many of its own services so aggressively.

More than a visual change.  In addition to its signature look, Metro also dramatically changes how you use the computer.  There is no menu bar in the main Metro view, and no file icons.  In fact, almost all computer controls are hidden, other than the tiles for launching apps.

To control the computer you have to hover your mouse or your finger in the corner of the screen to bring up a popup set of tools.  Lower left is the popup to take you back from an application to the Start screen; lower right brings up an icon bar called Charms for common functions like the control panel.

The Charms bar is the black strip on the right side of the screen.

The main screen is only for launching applications. File management is now separate from app control, and it's not clear to me if you're even expected to manage files in Metro.  Like the iPhone and iPad, files are more or less hidden, or managed within individual applications.  If you want to deal with them directly, you're apparently expected to use Windows 7 compatibility mode (see below).

Separating app and file management is an interesting move, and I kind of like it in theory. It was never completely intuitive that in the Mac/Windows desktop metaphor, some icons represented tools while other icons represented your documents.  The desktop metaphor implied that you were dealing with pieces of paper that you could move around and store in various places, so why could you drag around an application the same way you could drag around a document?  In terms of the metaphor, this was like storing your stapler and telephone in a file cabinet.  Early versions of Mac and especially Windows created all sorts of strange workarounds to ease management of files and apps, and prevent confusion between them.  Microsoft created the Start menu, Apple added the icon dock at the bottom of the screen.  Both were basically kludges that papered over holes in the metaphor.

But they were kludges that we've all become accustomed to.  Every Windows user is now trained that you use the Start menu to launch apps and manage the computer.  There is no Start menu in Metro, so you're going to have a lot of deeply confused people fumbling around trying to find critical computer functions.

This might be easier to manage if there were a new metaphor to Metro that would make it intuitive to guess where the functions are now located.  That was part of the strength of the desktop metaphor.  You had files, and folders that contained files, and applications that acted on the files.  Apple even called some of its early applications desk accessories.  This let people guess fairly reliably at how to use the computer, and where to find the things they were looking for.

But Metro doesn't have a central metaphor.  Or maybe I should say that its central metaphor is very limited.  Subway signs are effective for displaying small amounts of information, but nobody uses a subway sign to carry out a task.  Metro biases Windows 8 toward information consumption rather than creation, a recurring theme that I'll discuss more below.  That may be great for a media tablet, but what does it do for someone who uses Windows for business productivity?

I'm drawn to a quote from the Jonathan Ive profile that I referenced above.  He said:

"Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that's a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That's not simple."

There are times when I feel like Windows 8 is focused too much on being clutter-free, at the expense of complicating the things that most people do with PCs.


There is a second user interface in Windows 8, and it looks like traditional Windows.  You get to it by clicking a Metro tile called Windows Explorer.  Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) takes over the screen, and makes the the PC look a lot like Windows 7, with a few minor cosmetic tweaks and a couple of very important deletions.
   
It's the deletions that worry me about Windows 8.  The most successful OS transitions in history allowed users to keep using their old habits and applications while they gradually got used to the new stuff.  For example, Windows coexisted with MS-DOS for many years before it took over the PC (as Microsoft lovingly detailed in a long post here). I can tell you from personal experience that Apple found it almost impossible to convert PC users to Mac during the Windows transition, because there was no point at which the DOS installed base felt abandoned.  They could continue using the old DOS commands for as long as they wanted, until they felt ready to move to Windows.

To Microsoft's credit, it is enabling old Windows applications to continue to work in Windows 8.  But some other key features of Windows are being removed, forcing users to switch to the Metro equivalents now, whether they feel ready or not.

The paragraphs below describe some of my concerns about Windows 8.  (If you'd like to see a demo of the problems, watch the video).




The Start menu is gone.  As I mentioned earlier, there is no Start menu in Metro.  That's not such a big deal -- you expect changes like that in a new interface.  But the Start menu has also been removed from Windows Explorer.  It's no longer present anywhere.  If you're not familiar with Windows, you won't understand how central the Start menu is to a Windows user.  It's the thing you generally use to turn the computer on and off, launch applications, open file folders, search, and access the control panel.  Recent changes have also made it a preferred place for directly opening documents.

In Windows 8, the functions formerly done by Start have been spread across several locations, some in the Metro interface and some in Windows Explorer.  So Windows users moving to Windows 8 will have to learn parts of Metro before they can get anything done.  In some cases, common functions formerly available through a single click in Start have been buried several clicks deep within Metro.

If you're not a Windows user, it is hard to describe how disorienting this is.  It's roughly equivalent to giving someone a car in which the steering wheel has been replaced by a joystick.  Not only do you need to learn how to steer with a joystick, but all of the controls formerly attached to the steering column are now scattered in various spots on the dashboard.  The wiper control is a lever above the radio, the high beam lights are a switch on the rearview mirror, the turn signal is a set of buttons under the speedometer, and the cruise control is a dial hidden inside the ashtray.  Oh, and you honk the horn by bouncing up and down in your seat.

The car's designer will give you logical explanations for every change they made in the car, just as Microsoft can explain the reasons for removing Start.  For a new user they may all make sense.  But for an existing user, the removal of Start forces a huge amount of re-learning.  An existing Windows user can't just sit down with Windows 8 and start using it.  They'll need some sort of tutorial and reference system to show them how to use it, and to answer questions when they get confused.

Microsoft has not forced discontinuities like this in past transitions.  The best example is the preservation of the DOS command line interface, the equivalent of the Start menu for people who used DOS.  The command line function has been available in every version of Windows to date, and in fact it's still supported in Windows 8.

The dreaded DOS-style command line in Windows 8.

Control panels are missing.  Many of the old control panel functions from Windows are accessible through the Settings Charm in Metro.  But some of them aren't.  I don't know if that means Microsoft hasn't finished adding them to Metro, or if they have decided to eliminate some controls.  Based on what Microsoft has said online, I think it's the latter -- one recurring theme in Metro is that Microsoft is trying to hide some complexity in order to make the OS more approachable.  I understand the motivation, but for an existing user this actually makes the OS more complex.

Case in point: in Metro I can't find a power management function allowing me to control when my laptop sleeps and how much power it uses when running on batteries.  I looked through every tab in the Metro settings, and finally realized the function just wasn't there.  After searching online, I found a way to access the old Control Panels through Windows Explorer.  But it's not in an intuitive place.

For a user, there's no easy way to tell if a particular control panel feature has been relocated to a new spot in Charms, eliminated, or hidden within Windows Explorer.  You just have to fumble around and cuss for a while until you figure it out.

How do I turn this thing off?  The concept of a power button is pretty central to any electronic device.  You turn it on in order to use it, and you turn it off when you're done.  It's easy to turn on a Windows 8 computer; you just press the power button on the computer.  But pressing the button again does not turn off the computer.  Instead, it puts the computer to sleep.

Sleep is a good thing in a computer.  It lets a computer restart quickly, and keeps your apps active.  But it does consume power, which is an issue for ecologically-conscious desktop users, and a primary concern for laptop users.  Also, I find that it's helpful to turn off Windows from time to time because the OS gradually becomes confused and slow as you launch and quit large numbers of apps. So I expect to be able to easily turn off my computer, and I think most Windows users will feel the same way.


It is absurdly difficult to turn off Windows 8.  So difficult that there are entire web pages devoted to tutorials on how to do it.  CNET wrote an unintentionally hilarious article detailing four different ways to turn off Windows 8, each more baroque than the last (link).  Here's what CNET called the "most basic" way:

"In the Metro interface, hover your mouse over the Zoom icon that appears in the lower right corner of the screen. The Charms bar should then pop up displaying several icons. Moving your mouse up the screen will reveal the names of each icon, including Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. Click the Settings icon and then the Power Icon. You should see three options: Sleep, Restart, and Shut down. Clicking Shut down will close Windows 8 and turn off your PC."

So shutdown requires five actions: a hover, a sweep, and three clicks.  Plus the command is hidden in a very non-intuitive place.  People used to joke that only Microsoft could think it was intuitive to have the Shut Down command hidden under the Start button.  I think it's sooooo much more intuitive to have it hidden under Settings.

I don't know why Microsoft chose to make it so hard to turn off Windows 8.  Some of the online reviews have suggested that Microsoft believes people should only put their computers to sleep instead of turning them off.  Maybe, but that's a pretty controlling assumption, especially for laptop users.  Or perhaps Microsoft optimized Windows 8 only for tablets and views the entire PC thing as an afterthought.

Whatever the intent, I am concerned that it's so hard to perform such a common function.  But what's much more alarming is that there are several redundant, complex ways to perform that common function.  When that happens, it's usually a sign of confusion in the development team.

Windows 8 is not designed for PCs.  I know that's a very sweeping statement, but in a couple of areas Windows 8 is clearly designed to work better for media tablets than for traditional personal computers.  The first is the general architecture of the interface.  Despite Microsoft's protestations to the contrary, Metro is clearly optimized for use on a touchscreen device rather than a keyboard and mouse PC.  You can force it to work with a mouse, but many of the things you have to do feel awkward, and are more complex than their old Windows equivalents.  One good example is the finger swipe, which works very well with a touch screen but is unpleasant on a notebook computer because you can't easily click and drag on a trackpad for long distances.  Parts of Windows 8 (for example, logging in to the computer) require finger swipes.

I long to see what Metro could do on a PC equipped with a gesture recognition system like Kinect.  That might be a revolutionary change worth migrating to.  Microsoft says that is coming, but Kinect, Metro, and Windows 8 are not yet fully integrated (link).  That's unfortunate, since developers are working on Metro apps now.

Windows 8 is also designed with tablet-like tasks in mind.  Productivity and information creation tasks are compromised to make the OS more attractive for content consumption.  Microsoft was very explicit about this in some of its online commentary (link):

"People, not files, are the center of activity.  There has been a marked change in the kinds of activities people spend time doing on the PC. In balance to “traditional” PC activities such as writing and creating, people are increasingly reading and socializing, keeping up with people and their pictures and their thoughts, and communicating with them in short, frequent bursts. Life online is moving faster and faster, and people are progressively using their PCs to keep up with and participate in that. And much of this activity and excitement is happening inside the web browser, in experiences built using HTML and other web technologies."

Let me translate that for you: "We're optimizing Windows for using Facebook and YouTube at the expense of performing productivity tasks."  Which is fine; it's a design choice Microsoft is free to make.  But it's going to have an impact on the large base of people trying to get work done with a PC.

Incomplete support of existing hardware.  In the first announcements of Windows 8, Microsoft bragged about how efficient it is.  The company said explicitly that it would put less burden on hardware than Windows 7, and demonstrated Windows 8 running on old low-featured computers (link).  In several places I've seen Windows 8 described as a great way to revive an old laptop.  Unfortunately, although Windows 8 may have a light hardware footprint, it has compatibility problems with some existing hardware, including some Windows 7 computers.  Computers designed for Vista can have much more serious problems.  This became very clear to me when I installed Windows 8 on my Vista-based mini tablet PC.  Windows 8 is not compatible with the wireless network chips in my tablet PC, so it can no longer connect to the Internet.

More importantly, the touch screen isn't fully compatible with Windows 8.  I can't get the system to recognize taps in the outer half-inch of the screen, meaning that I can't activate the Metro Start function or the Charms panel.  Fortunately, my tablet PC has a keyboard, so I can use the trackpad to control it.  But who wants a tablet PC that doesn't have a working touch interface?

The severity of this problem varies from computer to computer, but it's apparently fairly common.  For example, here's video of an Acer user with some of the same troubles, although not as severe as mine (he can activate the controls some of the time; link). 

There is no workaround for this problem other than buying a new computer.  So its promise of running well on existing hardware turned out to be an exaggeration. 

Microsoft recently discussed the problem in an elaborate blog post describing touch screen compatibility under Windows 8 (link).  The tests documented by Microsoft show a lot of Windows 7 devices interpreting gestures properly only 70% to 80% of the time (the ratio is even worse for some features).  A success rate of 95% is required for Windows 8 certification, so a lot of Windows 7 touchscreen computers (Microsoft doesn't say how many) would fail to pass certification.  The article concludes:

"The vast majority of Windows 7 touchscreens can be used with Windows 8...with a reasonable degree of success."

I applaud Microsoft for coming clean about the problem, but I hate to see them use those qualifiers in their statements.  Lawyers love words like "vast majority" and "reasonable degree" because they sound good but don't quantify anything, so you can't be sued.  The reality is that if you want to be sure Windows 8 will work at its best, you should buy a new computer bundled with it.  This is especially true of touchscreen PCs, the devices that stand to benefit the most from Metro's touch oriented features. 

I don't actually have a problem with that.  Providing backward compatibility is always difficult when you upgrade an OS, and considering the complexity of the Windows hardware base, it would be surprising if everything worked right.  However, what I do have a problem with is that other parts of Microsoft are ignoring the subtle compatibility story and continuing to claim that all Windows 7 hardware is fully compatible. 

For example, Antoine Leblond, the VP of Windows Web Services, implies that Windows 8 will run on every Windows 7 device (link):

"We’ve just passed the 500 million licenses sold mark for Windows 7, which represents half a billion PCs that could be upgraded to Windows 8 on the day it ships. That represents the single biggest platform opportunity available to developers."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer continues to quote that half billion number in public (link).

This isn't just misleading to customers and developers, it may also hurt Microsoft by setting unrealistic expectations.  If twenty percent of the Windows 7 installed base upgrades to Windows 8 in the first three months, is that a raging success or a humiliating failure?  I might view it as a very promising start, but Microsoft's own hype says it would be a disaster.

Failing to warn users of potential problems.  Speaking of miscommunication, Microsoft didn't clearly tell users that the Windows 8 preview is a one-way installation.  The word "preview" implies to many people an advanced sample that you can play with for a while and then toss aside.  But unless you have the original installation disks that came with your computer, the Windows 8 preview replaces your current OS and can't be removed.  Even if you do have those disks, on many PCs (including mine) the factory install disks wipe the hard drive and do a new install from scratch, deleting all your files and applications. 

Microsoft did disclose this information on the Windows 8 preview site, but the disclosure was written in bureaucratic language that didn't make clear the risk, and what's worse, that text was below the "Install" button, meaning a user could easily miss it.  (In the latest version of Microsoft's site, the automated installer for Windows 8 has been removed [gee, I wonder why] and you can only install by burning an installation disk on a DVD.  That makes it much harder for casual users to install the preview, and the warning is now above the download links.)

If you want a measure of how many people missed the warning, do a web search for "uninstall Windows 8."  Be prepared to read some angry commentary.

I think the next round in this cycle of frustration is going to come early next year, when the Windows 8 preview expires and preview users are required to purchase Windows 8 to keep their computers working.  The fact that there's an expiration date on the preview is something else that Microsoft didn't prominently disclose.


What it means.  I could go on, but I hope you get the idea.  Windows 8 is a very interesting, provocative, even courageous product.  But I'm not sure it's going to succeed.  My concerns are in two areas.  The first is that I'm not sure what burning problem Windows 8 solves for what group of users.  If you're a productivity worker, Windows 8 does very little for you, and in fact probably makes your life harder.  If you're most interested in entertainment and accessing online content, Metro is a big improvement over Windows -- but aren't you likely to already have a smartphone or tablet?
   
My second concern is the emotional feel I get from Windows 8.  I know that's a really vague comment, so let me try to tie it down a bit.  I think I'm a fairly sophisticated user.  I've used every version of Windows since 2.0.  When I worked in the competitive team at Apple, we tested every bizarre computer operating system we could find around the world, including stuff written in Japanese with no English-language documentation.  We made all of it work.  But there are still some parts of Windows 8 that I haven't been able to figure out, and other parts that I understand but that annoy me every time I touch them. 

Because of its problems, Windows 8 isn't fun to use, at least for me.  Whatever sense of joy I get from the cool new graphics is outweighed by a feeling that my productivity is being reduced.  Think of the best new app or website you've ever discovered; the feeling you got the first time you understood the power of Twitter or you created a presentation and it came out looking great.  That feeling of empowerment and excitement is critical to getting people started with a new technology.  But Windows 8 makes makes me feel limited and cramped.  It isn't a launch pad, it's a cage.

If Windows 8 is a problem for me, what's it going to do to a typical Windows user who just wants to get work done and doesn't have time to learn something new?  And what sort of support burden is it going to put on the IT managers of the world?


What works well.  Out of fairness to Microsoft, I should tell you that there are some things about Windows 8 that I love.  It looks beautiful.  On my computers it's pretty darned fast for a lot of functions (for example, booting and switching in and out of the Start screen).  Other people have reported some performance problems, but I expect those in what's essentially beta software.  An OS almost always gets faster right before it ships, because the last thing the engineers do is strip out all the diagnostic code they were using to track bugs.

For the control panel functions that Microsoft chose to implement in Metro, I think the interface is much cleaner and more intuitive than it was in the horribly overloaded Windows Control Panel.  This is where you'd expect Metro to shine, because it's optimized for giving directions, and a control panel gives directions to your computer.  I was also delighted to see a function in Windows 8 called "Refresh your PC without affecting your files."  Every Windows user knows that the performance of Windows goes south after a year or two as various bits of software gunk build up.  Unfortunately, the refresh function does erase your third party apps (unless you got them through the Windows 8 store).  If Windows 8 had a "refresh my PC without deleting my third party applications" function, I'd upgrade just for that.

Unfortunately, that's not the only feature of Windows 8.


Impact of Windows 8

For Microsoft: A huge roll of the dice. I've spent the last several weeks asking myself why Microsoft chose to remove some Windows 7 features and exaggerate the prospects for Windows 8. 

There are many possible explanations.  It could just be arrogance -- they believe they can force customers to do what they want.  It could be an excess of designer zeal -- designers always think people will fall in love with their creations once they try them.

But it could also be insecurity. To me, it feels like Microsoft is in a quiet panic.  When Apple says the era of the PC has ended, I think Microsoft may believe it even more than Apple does.  Smartphones eat away at messaging, tablets compete for browsing and game-playing, and who knows what will come next.  In the new device markets, Microsoft is an also-ran.  I think Microsoft feels it must find a way to leverage its waning strength in PCs to make itself relevant in mobile.

Step one is to deploy the same look and feel on all classes of devices, so people have an incentive to use only Microsoft products.  Microsoft tried first to take the Windows look and feel to mobile devices, but that failed because it was too ugly and hard to use.  So instead, Microsoft is now replacing the Windows look and feel with something designed for mobile.

The second step is to undercut the iPad (and Android tablets, if they ever start to sell) by selling PCs that also work great as tablets.  Microsoft's pitch is that instead of buying a separate PC and tablet, you should buy one thing that bridges both usages.  So we should expect a big push for convertible Windows 8 touch notebooks this fall.

Step three is to drive the transition to Metro as quickly as possible.  I think Microsoft is scared that it might be permanently closed out of the new markets, so it wants to force people onto Metro before that happens.  I believe that's really why it eliminated the Start menu.  If Start is still there, Windows users could live for years without learning much about Metro.  But with Start gone, Windows users will have to use bits of Metro now, and Microsoft believes they'll naturally embrace it once they've been forced to use it. 

Here's what Microsoft itself said in a blog post about the Windows 8 interface (link):

"Fundamentally, we believe in people and their ability to adapt and move forward. Throughout the history of computing, people have again and again adapted to new paradigms and interaction methods." 

I always get scared when a designer talks about the inevitability of people accepting a change.  It's like you're counting on some mystical law of nature to cause a migration, rather than enticing people to move by giving them something that works better than what they have today.  That's how the DOS to Windows transition worked -- people could (and did) continue to live in DOS for years until they learned how much more they could get done with Windows.  But Microsoft has decided to force the issue.  Then it rationalizes the decision with bromides like "we believe in people" and "the DOS users complained a lot too and look how that turned out." 

There can come a point where a company is so committed to a plan that it stops listening to complaints from its customers.  It feels like Microsoft may have reached that point.  If you complain about your inability to uninstall Windows 8, the problem is that you failed to read the fine print.  If you complain about the Start menu being missing, the problem is that you just don't have enough faith in humanity.

But the real lesson of history is not that you've got to have faith, it's that when people are forced to adopt a new computing paradigm they look around and reconsider their purchase.   
   
There's a range of possible outcomes from the Windows 8 launch: 

1. Windows users adopt Windows 8 enthusiastically.  I turn out to be a whiner.  Most Windows users don't miss the Start menu, and they fall all over Windows 8 in glee.  Microsoft gets a nice revenue bump from all the upgrade sales, and the Windows licensees, sensing big opportunities, jump in with great new convertible tablet designs that make the iPad look tired.  App developers create astounding new Metro programs that make things like Office and Photoshop obsolete.  Microsoft's online services become dominant because of their ties to Metro.  The aura of success around Windows 8 drives increasing sales of Windows Phone, rescuing Nokia from irrelevance.  Android tablet is obliterated, and sales of Android phones stall out as customers start to choose Windows Phone instead.  The big Asian phone companies recommit to Windows Phone and move their best engineering teams onto it.  Wall Street analysts short Apple's stock, declaring the era of iEverything over.

2. Windows users cling to Windows 7 tenaciously.  In this scenario, Windows 8 becomes the new Vista.  Microsoft's anticipated revenue from Windows 8 upgrades does not materialize, hurting the company's stock price and forcing layoffs to maintain earnings.  Microsoft's hardware partners are left with big stockpiles of unsalable Windows 8 PCs which they have to write down.  This accelerates the share growth of the Asian PC makers, who can best withstand a price war.  HP kills its PC division, and Dell is in deep trouble.  Developers who bet on Metro have to live on canned tuna and string cheese.  Nokia, stuck with a minority platform that European operators don't want to carry, wrestles with huge cash flow problems.

3. Windows collapses.  Millions of Windows users, disenchanted with the changes in Windows 8, decide to switch to some other computing platform.  Microsoft's revenues drop alarmingly, and Windows 8 is labeled a failure, causing even more customers to migrate away in a self-perpetuating collapse of the Windows installed base.  Windows Phone is swept aside, turning Nokia into the "Finnish RIM".  Microsoft survives as a fragment selling Office and some server software.

The interesting thing about these scenarios is that the Windows installed base will choose the winner.  If the Windows users are enthusiastic, Microsoft prospers.  If they're passive, Microsoft suffers.  If they turn negative. Microsoft dies a gruesome death.  So you'd think that Microsoft would do everything in its power to make current Windows users feel comfortable and excited about moving to Windows 8.  Instead, they're being confronted with deliberate incompatibilities, indifference toward their needs, and a preview campaign for Windows 8 that has already disenchanted some of the most enthusiastic Windows users. 

Do you think I'm exaggerating?  Do a web search for "I hate Windows 8" vs. "I love Windows 8."  Here's what you'll find:

The rule of thumb for online comments is that for every message someone posts, another ten to 100 people feel the same way.  That means there may be several million Windows users already disenchanted by Windows 8, before it even ships.

Does that look like a blockbuster launch to you?

Note: I deleted the chart and text above because, as Dana on Seeking Alpha pointed out, the search I quoted appears to be wrong (link).  I don't know how I messed that up, and I apologize for the incorrect information.  The search I quoted showed "hate" exceeding "love" by about 3:1.  The reality is that apparently there are many more "I love Windows 8" comments than "I hate Windows 8", so I may be overstating the negative reaction.


What Microsoft should do.
  I believe Microsoft is overestimating the immediate risk of a collapse in PC sales due to tablets and other new devices, and underestimating the potential backlash against Windows 8.  A tablet -- any tablet -- just isn't a good substitute to a PC for many tasks.  Huge numbers of people still need PCs for productivity work, and won't abandon them quickly, if at all.  And no matter how much Microsoft tells itself that people are adaptable, the average Windows user is intensely practical and focused on getting work done rather than exploring magical new experiences.

Ironically, the biggest danger of a sudden collapse in PC sales comes from Microsoft's own effort to force users onto Metro.

The answer is very simple: Put the $%*!# Start menu back in Windows Explorer.  Apologize for the confusion, and explain that you've learned from your customers.  Then focus your work on making Metro apps so exciting that people want to migrate to it.

What will happen?  I doubt Microsoft will be willing to back down on eliminating the Start menu.  The company has invested too much ego in the decision at this point.  As a result, the runaway success described in Scenario 1 is very unlikely to happen.  I think scenario 2 is the most likely, if only because Windows users have already refused past migrations, and it's easy to stick with a behavior you know.  I would have called scenario 3 impossible a year ago, and it's still not likely.  But the more problems I see with Windows 8, the more I begin to believe it could happen.

But a lot depends on the actions of Microsoft's competitors.  You can't have a mass migration away from Windows unless there's a strong alternative to it.  That brings us to a discussion of Apple.


What will Apple do?

Ahhh, Steve.  If only you were around to see this.

Twenty-five years ago Microsoft copied the Mac interface and confined Macintosh to a tiny sliver of the PC market.  Despite all the progress you've made since then, Macintosh continues to command under 10% of the worldwide PC market.  But now, at long last, Windows is vulnerable to a potential knockout.  If the Windows 8 transition is as uncomfortable as I expect, you might be able to peel away large numbers of PC users and trigger a collapse of Windows sales.

You'd have to make some compromises, creating special Mac bundles with Windows emulators and file migration tools.  And you'd have to jump back into doing Mac vs. PC advertising, this time welcoming the guy with the dorky jacket into your club.  It's risky, and in some ways it's backward-looking at a time when Apple is looking forward to conquering television and maybe the auto market.  But the PC market is worth about $300 billion in revenue a year, at a time when it's becoming harder to maintain Apple's sales growth.  Where else can you so easily tap into that big a pool of revenue?  Besides, how cool would it be to finally be the leading PC platform in the world again, after all those years?  Talk about changing the world...

If Steve were here, I think he'd be sorely tempted to attack.  I don't know what Apple's new management will do.  But somebody in Redmond ought to be really scared of the possibility.


What about Google?


I'm sure I'm going to get messages saying that Chromebooks are a great substitute to Windows.  Others will say this is the big opening for Android tablets.

I don't see it.  Apple has at least a theoretical shot at Windows users because it has a complete personal computing platform plus the ability to add Windows compatibility to it.  After Windows 8, Apple can claim to have a better PC than the PC.  At this point, Google can't make that claim credibly.  Moving from Windows to either Android or Chrome would be a step down in productivity for most Windows users; more of a step down than Windows 8.

What Google should be thinking about, very hard, is the scenario in which Windows 8 is at least a partial success.  Android has a lot of momentum in smartphones, and will be very difficult to displace quickly.  But in tablets, Android is a very weak alternative to iPad.  I could picture a situation in which Windows 8 tablets become the iPad alternative, giving Microsoft a beach-head it can pour resources into.  If Windows 8 gets a toehold in any category, that could have a big effect on the phone market over time. 

I think many Android phone licensees are quietly looking for alternatives.  One of the original attractions of Android for hardware licensees was that it's royalty-free.  But the seemingly endless series of IP lawsuits against Android licensees have convinced many of them that Android isn't any cheaper in reality -- what you save in up-front licensing costs you lose in attorney fees, patent licenses, and general jerkiness by the OS vendor.  It doesn't help that Google just bought a major hardware company and is strongly rumored to be planning its own line of tablets designed to lower the entry price point for tablet computing.  Goody, think the licensees, now my own OS vendor is going to commoditize me.

At this point I think the main thing still holding licensees to Android is its sales momentum.  And that's a huge inducement.  Sales momentum matters to licensees more than anything else.  But that also means that if Windows gains some momentum, the licensees will be all over it.  They won't abandon Android, but the big companies like Samsung will look to create a balance between Google and Microsoft, so they can play them off against one another.


What it means to web companies 

If you work at someplace like Facebook or Twitter, you probably think this article isn't relevant to you.  Who cares what happens to Windows?  Let the old dinosaurs fight it out in OS, your world is online and the desktop doesn't matter to you.

If that's your thinking, I invite you to look again at that Metro start screen:


Those tiles, the first thing a user sees when starting Windows 8, almost all launch Microsoft online services.  They include:
  --An app store
  --Maps
  --Video
  --Photos
  --Messaging
  --Mail
  --Weather
  --Calendar
  --People
  --Camera
  --Music
  --SkyDrive
  --Finance
  --Four Xbox-related items
  --Reader, and
  --A browser (Internet Explorer)

In other words, Windows 8 showcases Microsoft's equivalents to many of the most popular online services from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Apple.  Many of the apps are gorgeous, by the way.  Here's a sample of Bing Finance in Metro:


Imagine 90% of the world's computer-using population seeing those tiles every day.  How long before they click on one of them out of curiosity?  And if they like that one, how many more will they try?  Picture Microsoft pushing new tiles into Windows 8 whenever it wants to compete with another web service.  And remind yourself that platform transitions usually cause people to reconsider their app choices.

If you still think you can ignore Windows 8, go right ahead.  But if I were you, I'd be preparing a Metro version of my tablet app, very quickly.


What to do if you're an app developer

This is the hardest question to answer.  Platform transitions create a wonderful opportunity for developers because customers are most willing to look at new apps when they first try a platform.  If you get in there early with a great Windows 8 Metro app, your company might take off spectacularly.  If a competitor does Metro first, you'll be vulnerable.

On the other hand, if you bet big on Windows 8 and it fails, you'll be stuck.  Even if it just sells slowly at first, you could easily run out of money before Microsoft fixes the problem.  A poor quarter is a bump in the road for Microsoft; it could be an extinction event for you.

If I were creating a new application today...oh, wait, I am creating a new application today.  So here's how the situation looks to me:

If you have a PC app today, should you be sure it works on Windows 8?  Yes, of course.  At the minimum, make sure it runs in Windows 7 compatibility mode.

Should you we revise the app to take advantage of the Metro interface?  If you have a bunch of extra money, sure.  But if you're not awash in surplus funds, I would hold off for now.  It's a risk, but I think most Windows 8 users are going to linger in traditional Windows mode for a long time, and that's the market you need to serve first.

When should you do Metro?  When Microsoft demonstrates significant sales volume of genuine Metro users.  The best way to track this is probably sales of Windows 8 tablets, as opposed to PCs preloaded with Windows 8.  You don't know how many Windows 8 PCs are having Windows 7 backloaded onto them, but a tablet with Windows 8 is probably running Metro.

The next question at that point will be who's buying those Metro tablets and what are they being used for.  Are they being bought for entertainment?  If so, you probably don't want to port your business app to it.


Conclusion

Here's what I'd like you to take away from this article:

    --Windows 8 is not Windows, it's a new operating system with Windows 7 compatibility tacked onto it.
    --Although Windows 8 looks pretty and is great for tablet-style content consumption, I question its benefits for traditional PC productivity tasks.
    --Big OS transitions like this one traditionally cause users to reconsider their OS decision and potentially switch to something else.
    --Microsoft has worsened the risk that people will migrate away from Windows 8, by disabling some key features of Windows 7, and mishandling the consumer "preview" program.
    --However, people won't necessarily abandon Windows because it's not clear if they have a good alternative to it.
    --Apple could provide the best alternative if it chooses to.  This might be Apple's best chance ever to stick a fork in Windows.
    --If Windows 8 is even moderately successful, it could weaken Google and the big web services companies.  The trend toward bundling web services into the OS is potentially very disruptive to the web community, and they should be quite worried about it.
    --If you're a PC app developer, you should probably hold off on Metro because it's not clear how quickly its user base will grow.


What do you think? 

Thanks for sticking around through a very long article.  I'd like to hear what you think; please post a comment.  Do you believe Windows 8 will take off?  Should app developers support it now?  Would you change anything in it?  If so, what?

Corrected on May 29, 2012. Updated in October 2012 to point to revised video.

253 comments:

  1. I take issue with...

    "The aura of success around Windows 8 drives increasing sales of Windows Phone, rescuing Nokia from irrelevance"

    ... which implies that Nokia was ever irrelevant and has everything to gain from the Microsoft partnership.

    Nokia is heading to irrelevance *because* of the decision to go with Microsoft. Not only were they still profitable only a year or so ago, their mobile market share was bigger than Apple and Samsung - combined !

    I suggest reading up on http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. If Windows 8 succeeds, Apple loses the most. Already, the iPhone is falling further and further behind Android. Alot of Android's momentum is attributed to versatility- many styles of phones, at a range of prices, are built on Android. The Chinese scrutiny of Google's Motorola purchase, signals that the Chinese are heavily invested in Android. If Apple hopes that the iPad may be a bigger driver of growth, a successful Windows 8 will blunt that.

    If Windows 8 doesn't live up to expectations, hundreds of millions of Windows users, disenchanted with the changes in Windows 8, instead of deciding to switch to some other computing platform, will stick to Windows 7. Just like folks stuck with XP instead of going to Vista. The hundreds of millions of Windows users still on XP, will go to Windows 7 instead of Windows 8. The masses of people are not going Apple, because Apple products are expensive and are geared towards the wealthy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How clueless can you possibly be? The statement that Apple products are "expensive and only for the wealthy" is laughably ignorant. Competitors have found it to be impossible to beat the iPad on price for comparable features, iPhones sell to consumers at the same prices as competitor phones, tans and competitors haven't been able to beat the pricing of MacBook Airs either. As to the various Android phones, that is in fact their greatest weakness - fragmentation and forking of the OS, not to mention that the overwhelming majority of their handsets being sold TODAY are An outdated version of the OS. Just in case you haven't noticed, Apple's iPhone market share actually continues to increase while Android's slows. As to MSFT, no one cares - windows and phone 8 is a big bag of snakes.

      Delete
  3. Great post, Michael.

    It is also with noting the complexity that MS is introducing with the x86 and ARM versions of Windows 8. The ARM tablets will not be able to run legacy desktop apps. It will be interesting to see how MS, HP, Dell and their resellers will educate customers in relation to this - and tell them that their W8 Metro tablet does not run windows apps...

    Also, I believe Apple's response to MS's Metro problems in your scenario 2 will be the iPad, and not the Mac. Lets face it 99% of computer purchasers will not be running Adobe Creative Suite or calculating the Human Genome. They will be surfing the net, looking at Facebook, viewing movies at YouTube and looking at their emails. An iPad is perfect for all these uses, and removes all the unnecessary complexity which PCs have.

    So, look for Apple to widen the iPad portfolio, just like they did with the iPod. Say hello to iPad Mini (5-7 inch screen), iPad HD (better known as iTV!; 13-15 inch screen in 16:9 format), etc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think you may be overestimating the importance of the Start button. Many full-time Windows users don't touch it from one week to the next. Personally I found its Win7 incarnation completely unusable and never bothered to learn it.

    I *hope* you're underestimating - not mentioning at all, in fact - the importance of Microsoft taking its flagship OS closed-platform, i.e. Metro apps are app-store-only. That scares (and depresses) the bejeezus out of me. Windows IMO succeeded on the back of open hardware and software ecosystems. Even if MS backtrack on this, as a declaration of intent it makes me very edgy about the platform's future.

    I'm finding a lot of MS' messaging deeply contradictory. On the one hand Metro "isn't the answer for everything", so e.g. no background processing for you. On the other hand, everything non-Metro is deprecated and actively sabotaged at every available opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think you're being deliberately disingenuous here.

    "Windows 8 is not Windows". How do you justify this? It's the Windows kernel. It's the Windows APIs. It runs all the Windows apps.

    Did you say "Windows NT is not Windows?"

    Did you say "Windows 95 is not Windows?"

    I don't think you can define Windows by the shell experience.

    Later on you go on to say "there is a second user interface and it looks a lot like Windows 7". Yes, that's the desktop and it works *exactly* like Windows 7. That's why it's called *Windows*.

    You say that control panels are missing. Which ones? You cite "power" but have you gone to the start screen and typed the word "power" to find them? How hard is that?

    You say it's difficult to turn off Windows 8. Hit CTRL+ALT+DEL then use the power icon. Pretty much the same as Windows 7, no? Alternatively, press the power button on your computer like most people do.

    You talk about driver compatibility for old hardware and yet you're reviewing a *preview* of the OS so I think it's way too early to make those claims.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for a great read Michael! Detailed, clear and honest as always.

    As a long-time windows user who has started migration to iOS/OS X in the last few years, my primary feeling after this article is disappointment. Without having explored Metro in detail, I've been quietly intrigued by the visual appeal of the Metro screenshots. I've also felt that Microsoft's pitch that iOS is not a 'complete' post-PC product is a strong argument, since it at this point is designed around an obvious prioritization of consumption over production. I was hoping Microsoft would offer an elegant solution to this design problem, delivered in a beautiful package. But, based on your review, it would appear this is not the case at all.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough overview. I think things could get really interesting if Apple decide to start producing some lower-cost computers.

    I suspect that there is a huge market of people who don't care whether the macbook is good value at $1000; They want a computer at $500.

    Apple _should_ be able to do a good job here with their ability to manage volume purchases, vertical integration, etc...

    Failing that, I suspect a re-run of Vista is most likely...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting perspective. What strikes me most are your comments on how productivity may suffer in order to provide that veneer of simple artistic design. I can relate having just recently bought a Mac again after last using Macs in the '80s.

    After working on the Mac it felt like I spent all my time getting stuff done, and the OS didn't get in my way. I can't explain it, but I am more productive, and finish in a better mood after working on the Mac. I say that not to say one is better than the other, but simply to say that I found a difference in my productivity.

    If Win 8 user transition difficulties make the Mac look more productive, then the average Windows user (who may not even like Apple) will certainly consider a switch, and tell all their friends to switch. If people get the impression from early adopters that Win 8 is hard to use, it doesn't really matter how good Win8 is - people will flee to something perceived as easier.

    On the other hand, I suspect Microsoft isn't primarily worried about that customer in the short run. Business users won't be able to switch to Mac so easily. And it's worth taking a short run hit in some market segments in order to win in the mobile and consumer markets, especially if they can get a leg up in cloud services and customer entrenchment. The alternative is to miss their opportunity like Kodak with the advent of digital film.

    Microsoft is still giong to be an enabler for business, because their influence goes way past user desktops, so we should all hope they don't crash and burn. Not to mention that most of us have Microsoft stock in our retirement funds.

    Finally, let me add that I'm surprised by the attacks on skeuomorphism. It may not be the sophisticated design choice, but I like it because it makes me feel comfortable and helps to orient me when doing a task. Moving to something more abstract in Metro sounds like a mistake, because the last thing transitioning users want is for it to feel more unnatural. True, it's less "Apple-like", but that's not what will win the hearts of users.

    My guess is that this negative view of skeuomorphism is like the difference between what an expert likes and what the general public wants. TV or movie insiders want critically acclaimed and complex scripts, but the average viewer wants something comfortable and fun. Opera stars want technical perfections, but the public wants Kenny G. Microsoft and design professionals consider Metro a bold achievement, but the public is likely to consider it uncomfortable and unnatural because it's hard to tell what they are looking at.

    In the end the market, along with any future tweaks by Microsoft will reveal the ultimate success or failure. I suspect they will achieve most of their key goals, and neither crash & burn, nor take the world by storm. Windows will continue to evolve, and maybe by Windows 10, we'll all be satisfied again.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for breaking this down for us - I appreciate your effort.

    For me, I have always been a Windows user and I have felt so happy and satisfied with Windows 7, especially what I can do from the "Start" button!

    I purchased an iPad in November and then an Apple TV box last month and have been extremely satisfied with the functionality and performance of both these devices.

    Perhaps the most amazing thing for me is how companies like Microsoft, RIM, HP & Dell missed the turn made by Apple and are now doubling back to try to race down the same product road. You wouldn't think that leadership and innovation would be that exclusive within the human race - but apparently it is!

    I personally will keep my Windows 7 PC and I am clear in my own mind that my next purchase will be an Apple laptop followed by an Apple Desktop.

    The problem with Apple is they are so expensive and that alone will keep PC platforms on the highway. Windows 8 will go through a painful growth period and then, eventually, Microsoft will get it right.

    Hold on to your Microsoft stock!

    Mike W.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When I started with Windows 8, I had similar concerns. But, honestly, after using the new OS for a couple months now, most of those faded to the background. Sure, it is a bit different. But, I think what makes it different also makes it very compelling. You literally have a mobile and desktop OS combined into one experience. And, for the most part, it is done really well.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Windows 8 is not the disruption. The disruption is mobile (specifically ARM and iOS) and Windows 8 is an answer to that. Microsoft is already disrupted. NT now has only 75% of low-cost PC's ($400-$800) and less than 10% of high-cost PC's ($999 up.) They had 99% of low-cost PC's in Q1 2010. Windows is shrinking while OS X doubles every year. The best-selling PC for 2-3 years now is iPad, which not only does not run Windows, it barely even has any Microsoft apps. And it has a $30 office suite that is exactly what MS-Office users were asking for over the past 20 years.

    But as bad a disruption as iPad and iOS has been for Microsoft, the core of that is ARM. iPad sells for less than many Windows systems, and it has a margin that is exponentially larger than Windows PC margins, because Intel chips/mobos cost exponentially more than ARM chips, which do not require a mobo. So when HP sells a $399 PC and they get to keep $30, they really don't feel good about watching Apple sell much larger quantities of their $399 PC and they get to keep $200 out of that. Further, the Apple PC has double the battery life, half the size and weight, and requires no training to use, and everybody wants one.

    A key thing to understand is that the whole low-cost PC industry will be on ARM within a few years. If you sell at $400-$800, you are going to have an ARM in there. PC makers can't keep losing hundreds of dollars on every sale because Microsoft welded their OS to Intel architecture.

    Microsoft has maybe 4 million users on ARM, and less than 100 C/C++ apps. They are not going to be a dominant force in PC's anymore. They are going to be an app vendor if they are lucky.

    And of course the whole PC market itself is being meta-disrupted by iPhone and iPhone clones that are causing people to view a PC as a secondary Internet/computing platform. That also drives them to ARM because people who carry an iPhone around all day are "at-risk" of trading in their HP notebook for an iPad if HP has no tablet.

    I know there are a lot of cheap Windows terminals out there running XP still in most cases, and they will be around for a while. There are still Selectrics around.

    Speaking of that, I live in Silicon Valley and nobody in Silicon Valley uses Windows or has any reason to be concerned about it. We have all the original stuff here already. The Mac was famous in Silicon Valley in 1982 — 2 years before it came out. Nobody had to wait until 1995 to discover the benefits of graphical computing or even Microsoft Word (a Mac app from 1985) or Microsoft Office (a Mac app from 1989.) I haven't used any Microsoft stuff for about 14 years. What is it that you think I'm missing? Everything that was exciting over the past 14 years happened on Unix — mostly OS X.

    ReplyDelete
  12. >>>I always get scared when a designer talks about the inevitability of people accepting a change. It's like you're counting on some mystical law of nature to cause a migration, rather than enticing people to move by giving them something that works better than what they have today.

    There are probably still people who once worked for Palm who won't admit this, but one of the fatal errors that company made was trying to force Graffiti 2 on people. I still use a LifeDrive and have hacked Classic G onto it -- yet it sill isn't as smooth as the original G. When people saw G2 turning their symbols into WTFs, that was their incentive to look elsewhere.

    Personally, I was forced to use XP several years ago, having to give up System 6 on my Mac LC III. Then OS X came along and it was soooo different from System 6 that I decided that if I had to relearn so much, I'd might as well stay with XP. And I'm still on XP. XP is long in the tooth and I have no hardware upgrade path. So OS X might be my next step. It certainly won't be Win 7, which is too different from XP to make me want to stay stuck with Windows. When people are forced to start learning again, they have the chance to cut and run, as you point out.

    ReplyDelete
  13. CIOs who manage thousands of Windows laptops must be wondering what to do. Linux? Macintosh? Stand still on Windows 7 and thereby dare Ballmer to discontinue it? From what I've read, I can't imagine any CIO is keen to convert an entire enterprise to Windows 8 -- nor are many CIOs ready (yet) to drop laptops entirely in favor of tablets. Most CIOs still see tablets as adjuncts, and from that perspective the tail is wagging the dog at Microsoft.

    I suspect that Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc are also uncertain what direction to take their laptop businesses.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think you should have put this article on hold until after the Release Preview. That is probably the better time to judge where this thing is going to go.

    I don't want to say that you don't know what you are talking about, I just think it's way too early for something like this.

    As a content creator, not having the start button is not a big deal to me. I don't miss it at all. If anything W8 will make me more productive with cloud integration, multi-monitor enhancements, and a much much cleaner looking desktop interface.

    W8 changes the way people think about computing. It's time to let go of the past and start adjusting for the future.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Long story. So long that I read it twice to make sure I could successfully complete it without smiling. I failed both times. Not that you don't make the point you set out to make, but that everyone, and I do mean everyone would approach Windows 8 with trepidation as you seemed to. I've been using it since its birth and yes the interface is new but nothing else has changed from Windowa 7. Not really. For those with a little bit of an XP mindset, as you seem to, Windows 8 will be like discovering the cd player. But for the vast majority of us already using Windows 7/8 and for those millions of fearless kids that don't quickly cower in fear at new concepts, they will love Windows 8.
    Good read and well thought out but the burden is light. Much lighter than you can imagine.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Really good analysis here. From usability to the likely affects on business strategies for multiple players - really nicely done. Thank you for it.

    I would guess that corporate buyers will look at the transition/support costs of Windows 8 and force Microsoft to keep selling Windows 7 for several more years, preserving some of Windows' market share while Apple increases consumer share by 50% or more (from current base).

    Then Microsoft will modify Windows 8 to replace key functions and fix usability, but by then it will be tarred with its launch reputation, the way Vista was. It's toast.

    Windows Phone is also toast. You mention how Windows 8 developers are turning their tiles into advertisements. That's a key option for developer building for Android and IOS, yet it is restricted in Windows Phone. The tiles are just too cumbersome, leaving recently downloaded apps out of sight, out of mind. As if low market share weren't bad enough, why would I build an app only to have it lost after installation?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Very interesting. I've been waiting for your inevitable post on Windows 8, Michael, and I'm glad to see it come at last. I wrote a similar article focusing mainly on Metro itself (http://windows.appstorm.net/general/opinion/what-metro-needs-to-make-it-a-powerhouse/) I find it very telling that Metro has yet to include so much as a basic word processor. I love the Metro aesthetic, and with some work it can work well, but as is the apps are geared completely wrong for me.

    I've been using Windows 8 since the Consumer Preview came out, and while I find it about the same as Windows 7, that's because I've been doing all of my work in the desktop half. I never used the start menu in 7 and don't use the start screen in 8 much except to read USA today and play the occasional game.

    I'm assuming that eventually Microsoft will drop support for the dekstop half (as who wants to maintain essentially two operating systems), at which time they'd better have it worked out for productivity better.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Really good read, found it very very interesting. There's a few things about Windows 8 which you've not quite understood the way I understand it - but I'm a software developer and power user (e.g. I know how to shut Windows 8 down via the keyboard) and I've been following the release very closely. But your article has opened my eyes to what average users would see.

    Great work, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for this comprehensive and insightful post. Was it long? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I use Linux, Windows, and Mac/OS X for varying tasks so I'm familiar with them all - but have yet to try out Win 8.

    I think the enterprise market will be a big driver for the success or failure of Win 8.

    Remember the "Vista skip"? Many enterprises simply kept running XP because Vista was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as not ready for prime time. We can expect that Win 7 sales will continue for a considerable time after Win 8 is released. I'm sure that Microsoft is hearing that from some of their enterprise customers.

    And what about Linux?

    The UI developers for the various Linux desktop systems (Gnome, KDE, XFCE) have produced very stable and usable desktop environments. Skeptics should try a Linux distro now - they may be very pleasantly surprised.

    Yes, I know, it's the applications that determine what can work in the enterprise but a surprising number of applications now work in a web browser and that's a OS-agnostic platform.

    All in all, I welcome Win 8 and will try the preview soon to see what it's all about. Note: I'll be running that in a VirtualBox VM on my 64-bit Linux system so I don't wipe out my Windows existing system. Thanks for that heads-up!

    ReplyDelete
  20. We need Windows 8 apps to turn off the thing!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Microsoft imho needs two distinct operating systems. One for desktops which should be based on Windows 7 and one for mobile/tablets which should have the functionality of Windows 8. Practically it is the same thing that Apple did with iOS and OSX.

    Personally as a software developer I wouldn't even come close to the interface of Win8. It sucks in any conceivable way.

    Although I'm a .NET developer I wouldn't mind if Microsoft blows it all the way. Losing market share will lead them to produce more innovative products. Because in the last decade we haven't seen anything spectacular from Redmond.

    ReplyDelete
  22. ""Windows 8 is not Windows". How do you justify this? It's the Windows kernel...I don't think you can define Windows by the shell experience."-Anonymous

    Classic geek-think. To the end user, the "shell experience" IS the experience.

    Here's a clue for you, Anonymous, end users don't give a damn if the kernel is the same. They don't even know what a kernel is. They only care if they have to re-learn the user interface.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "I think you're being deliberately disingenuous here."

    This happens every time a new Windows OS is about to be released and bloggers try to cash in by making crazy predictions that don't come true. The same negative crap was said before the Windows 7 release which turned out to be MS's best operating system of all time. Its all garbage and has made the tech media irrelevant and the people who believe them suckers.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great article. Specially like your points on Metro UI. To stimulate the conversation even more -

    Do you like Chromless Metro UI or iOS UI chrome with textures and patterns?

    Do you like pretty app icons or tiles with information bits?

    To me iOS strikes the right balance between pretty and usable. Metro UI is usable but sacrifices a little bit of the pretty.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hello Michael, great article as usual.

    My experience with Metro is:"I hate it" I tried and tried but I hate it because I feel ill using it. I could not explain why but is not enjoyable.

    Maybe is because I am a highly kinesthetic person(spacial perception dominance, it is less than 40% of the population).

    I feel trapped in 2D, like living in a poster. I when I realize I could not get out I feel really really bad.

    When Microsoft copied Next and made Windows one of the genial things they copied was shadows and highlight in the buttons. Something as simple had the powerful effect of adding space to it(depth).

    For me buttons of Metro is going backwards decades, text that goes out of the page? button options without enclosure?.

    I disagree with you, for me the buttons in apps in solid black and no boundaries are horrible looking, not pretty like you say. OLPC was the first to use them and they are much better looking(being ugly as they are too, at least it works in outdoors).

    Microsoft also wants to own everything. Want to connect to facebook, or tweeter or gmail, you give MS your password so MS, not you, connects to it, and in the process they own all your data. Thanks but not thanks, if I want walled gardens I have Apple, but also Linux keeps getting better and better.

    ReplyDelete
  26. PD: Seriously Michael, in the video in witch you open the drawing app.

    Could you seriously look at that and not feel like is UGLY?.(Dark Vader's face under the mask ugly)

    Also when I look at a map(or web design or whatever), design 101 tells you should use a color palette, like they do. Using so many colors feels crazy because no real things are this way.

    Those designers got arrogant and broke so many rules.

    But MS is a powerful beast, like IBM they are not going anyway. Games industry and productivity tools are trapped in MS ecosystems and they could no go out even if they want for years.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I left the Mac OS many years ago when Apple was on the ropes and threw my hat in the ring with Windows. After a while I got tired of all the various issues surrounding Windows and slowly as the Mac OS X matured I decided to go back to the Mac and have found it to offer a much better and consistent user experience. Coupled with my iPhone and iPad, I can't imagine ever wanting to give Windows another try.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Excellent article. You have put into words my exact feelings on Windows 8. This OS will work on a tablet. Will probably work for the home users, but for business users, it will be a disaster. I see a lot of lost productivity here. An operating system should NOT get in the way of the user trying to get something done.

    Microsoft made the mistake a few years back trying to put a desktop OS onto a tablet. Now they are making the same mistake in reverse, putting a tablet OS onto a desktop machine.

    I will hold onto Windows 7 at least until Windows 9 or until all the major applications make the move to OSX.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Excellent comments, folks. I really appreciate the diversity of perspectives.

    I can't respond to everything, but some selected thoughts...


    Echo wrote:

    >>which implies that Nokia was ever irrelevant and has everything to gain from the Microsoft partnership.


    Sorry for the confusion. I wasn't trying to imply anything in this post about why Nokia might be heading to irrelevance. I gave my thoughts on Nokia's decline more than a year ago, just prior to the Microsoft deal. You can read them here


    >>Nokia is heading to irrelevance *because* of the decision to go with Microsoft.

    Sorry, I don't agree. I'd liken Nokia to a patient who had a gradually fatal disease, and took a course of treatment that makes you sicker before it can make you healthier. Will the treatment kill the patient? I think we don't know yet.


    >>I suggest reading up on http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/

    I am very well aware of Tomi, and I've been reading his stuff for the better part of the past decade. He's a passionate guy, and articulates his perspective very ably.


    dang1 wrote:

    >>If Windows 8 doesn't live up to expectations, hundreds of millions of Windows users, disenchanted with the changes in Windows 8, instead of deciding to switch to some other computing platform, will stick to Windows 7.


    I agree that's the most likely outcome. But I do think it's an opportunity for Apple if they want to go after it.


    RobDK wrote:

    >>It is also with noting the complexity that MS is introducing with the x86 and ARM versions of Windows 8. The ARM tablets will not be able to run legacy desktop apps.


    Thanks for bringing that up. I thought about including it, but the post was already so darned long. I probably should have included it.

    I agree with you that there is opportunity for massive customer confusion when Microsoft starts pushing tablets called Windows that can't run Windows apps. And when customers are confused, what do they do? They delay purchases. So this is yet another factor that could delay the Windows 8 transition.


    >>It will be interesting to see how MS, HP, Dell and their resellers will educate customers in relation to this

    If you were a Windows licensee, how would you feel about spending your marketing bucks to explain this rather than communicating the benefits of your product?


    >>Lets face it 99% of computer purchasers will not be running Adobe Creative Suite or calculating the Human Genome.

    This is where we disagree a bit. I think most Windows users spend a lot of time in Office, and I do not know how well apps like Office will work in Metro.

    I wish I had some hard market research data on the app usage patterns of Windows users. That would help us all analyze the situation rather than just guessing.


    Mike wrote:

    >>I think you may be overestimating the importance of the Start button.


    Fair enough, and you could be right. I don't have any hard data on that one.


    >>I *hope* you're underestimating - not mentioning at all, in fact - the importance of Microsoft taking its flagship OS closed-platform, i.e. Metro apps are app-store-only. That scares (and depresses) the bejeezus out of me. Windows IMO succeeded on the back of open hardware and software ecosystems.

    Really good point. That's another issue I thought about a bit but didn't want to go into because of length. You're right to bring it up.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous wrote:

    >>I think you're being deliberately disingenuous here.


    Nah, not deliberately.


    >>You say that control panels are missing. Which ones? You cite "power" but have you gone to the start screen and typed the word "power" to find them? How hard is that?

    My wording was a bit sloppy here; I apologize for the confusion. As I said in my post, you can get to the old control panels through the Windows emulator, although I think the path to them is not intuitive if you're used to using the Start menu. What's hard for a user is figuring out which functions are duplicated in Metro and which ones they have to go to the old control panels for.


    >>You say it's difficult to turn off Windows 8. Hit CTRL+ALT+DEL then use the power icon. Pretty much the same as Windows 7, no?

    If most Windows users manage power that way in Windows 7, then you're right, that still works. But I've always thought of that key combination as the gateway to doing a hard reset.


    >>Alternatively, press the power button on your computer like most people do.

    No, that puts the computer to sleep (at least on my system).


    Rob wrote:

    >> I think things could get really interesting if Apple decide to start producing some lower-cost computers.


    Thanks. I should have mentioned the price thing as the other barrier to a PC-to-Mac transition.


    Bob Russell wrote:

    >>My guess is that this negative view of skeuomorphism is like the difference between what an expert likes and what the general public wants.


    Very interesting perspective. Thanks!


    Matt wrote:

    >>When I started with Windows 8, I had similar concerns. But, honestly, after using the new OS for a couple months now, most of those faded to the background.


    Thanks, Matt. It's good to hear a different perspective.


    Hamranhansenhansen wrote:

    >>The best-selling PC for 2-3 years now is iPad,


    iPad is not a PC by my definition.


    >> iPad sells for less than many Windows systems, and it has a margin that is exponentially larger than Windows PC margins, because Intel chips/mobos cost exponentially more than ARM chips, which do not require a mobo.

    The ARM vs. Intel perspective is very interesting.


    >>I live in Silicon Valley and nobody in Silicon Valley uses Windows or has any reason to be concerned about it.

    I don't know if I'd say "nobody," but Silicon Valley has always been far more Apple-skewed than the rest of the world. Which makes it relatively blind to the importance of the Windows 8 transition.


    mikecane wrote:

    >>one of the fatal errors that company made was trying to force Graffiti 2 on people.


    I think you're probably right.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Chuck Till wrote:

    >>CIOs who manage thousands of Windows laptops must be wondering what to do. Linux? Macintosh? Stand still on Windows 7 and thereby dare Ballmer to discontinue it?


    Ding, ding, ding. I think your last one nailed it.


    Rojo wrote:

    >>I don't want to say that you don't know what you are talking about, I just think it's way too early for something like this.


    Fair enough. Although on the other hand, if I have any feeble hope that Microsoft might act on some of these problems, the message needs to be delivered now, not after the software is finalized.


    Unknown wrote:

    >>For those with a little bit of an XP mindset, as you seem to, Windows 8 will be like discovering the cd player.


    Ouch! That's a great line.

    I'm on Windows 7, by the way.

    It would be interesting to know how much of the Windows installed base has an XP mindset. As I recall, there's still a huge backlog of XP users out there, although the various stats disagree by a lot.


    Julian Kay wrote:

    >>There's a few things about Windows 8 which you've not quite understood the way I understand it


    If you have time, please post a comment explaining what I got wrong.


    Anonymous wrote:

    >>This happens every time a new Windows OS is about to be released and bloggers try to cash in by making crazy predictions that don't come true.


    If you've found a way for me to cash in from this blog, please let me know.


    Unknown wrote:

    >>PD: Seriously Michael, in the video in witch you open the drawing app. Could you seriously look at that and not feel like is UGLY?.(Dark Vader's face under the mask ugly)


    You made me chuckle. My actual thought was "this is the most simplistic app I've seen in a decade. I sure hope more sophisticated stuff is in development." But there weren't a lot of Metro apps to choose from for the demo. The store is currently a ghost town (no biggie; it's pre-release software).

    ReplyDelete
  32. The blocker that will keep me from upgrading from Windows 7 is the lack of file management. I never use the default directories ("My Documents", etc.) And being forced to is a show stopper.

    Related to that, can you decide what tiles go where? Group them, move them, hide them? Because it will get enormously messy, very fast.

    I'm an organizer and I like control. Metro seems to prevent both.

    On the other hand, if they ever make the UI significantly more intuitive, it might be a good option for the seriously non-technical user, effectively making it into an appliance.

    ReplyDelete
  33. This is most of interesting articles i read about W8.

    Honestly as developer with over 15 years experience in Windows you brilliant describe mine thoughts about W8.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Really great article with the most thoughtful and complete analysis I of Win 8 I have seen. In my mind, there is no doubt businesses will skip Win 8 just like they did with Vista. I don't think this will create much new opportunity for Apple in the enterprise initially, however, I think it will give them a great opportunity with the consumer. Over time, if Apple can continue to grow share with the consumer, enterprises will expand their "bring your own device" policies to include Macs. Virtual desktop technology will make the endpoint device irrelevant to corporate IT.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Lets get this straight. Metro is one of the ugliest things ever to hit a computer screen. MS has punted on visuals for a new version of hot dog stand with a crappy over sized font, and solid color tiles a child could make. This looks like a romper room tablet OS.

    Seriously, even Google as visually challenged as that company is can make Chrome OS look tolerable.

    And the icons themselves all white against these tiles?

    Sorry Im tired of people saying metro looks good. It doesnt compared to ANYTHING except windows 7 which is arguably prior to Metro the ugliest desktop MS has ever made.

    All your functionality points are well taken, and thanks for going in depth. As for your analysis you need not bother. This OS is going to be the end of windows dominance forever and will strengthen more progressive flavors of Desktop Linux and certainly OSX.

    We knew the seattlites were uncreative, but this think smells of layoffs and a 20 dollar drop in MS stock price.

    Good riddance.

    ReplyDelete
  36. If Apple's OSX ran on a PC I would changes today, after running the Windows 8 Preview. But Apple wants yuo to buy Mac hardware to run OSX. Big mistake.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Microsoft has forgotten what the word "customer" means. It certainly does not imply being a peon, only worthy to collect .SQM files for the master's metrics.

    Remember when they added a Jerry Pournelle screen mode to Word because he complained so much in Byte? He was a customer.

    Some commenter wrote above that switching to and then working in OSX got him in better mood. I think that's important. I still prefer to work in XP before Windows 7. That increased vertical size of the task bar I feel is choking on me (not to mention the Office ribbon). It conveys something like "we're in charge here, not you".

    When I turn on my computer I want to work together with it, not against it. But consider for example those update alerts that occasionally pops up, usually at a less convenient time for you. And then, when doing the update, that message: "Don't turn off your computer." Giving you a feeling of sitting in the sewers, waiting for someone to flush.

    Of course OSX also wants to update itself. But it usually presents the alert only in the morning, when turning on your computer and having your coffee. A sort of mutual respect that Microsoft did drop in Vista and Windows 7.

    Windows 8 actually gives me a better feeling. Here Microsoft does its classic shtick, silently copying features from OSX, like Hotmail-flavored login and the ability do natively mount an .iso file. And who knows, maybe they'll introduce upside down Lion-styled scrolling as well :-)

    ReplyDelete
  38. With the DOS-Windows transition, Microsoft already had a monopoly, so it could slowly drag its customers along.

    With Windows 8, it is trying to get it customers into tablets, but lacks any market share there, so it has to try to force them, hence the removal of important ways to stay with the old desktop.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My work requires me to use several different environments: Windows 2008, Windows 7, and now the Metro previews.

    At home, I've deliberately kept my regular computer at XP, my personal development machine is OSX, and we have an Apple TV, and an iPad.

    I agree with your analysis, and have much the same length of experience as you (my first home computer was a 512k Mac, and I've been using Microsoft products since MS-DOS 3.3 and Windows 2.0)

    I'll state it plainly: There was little need for the majority of casual desktop computer users to ever leave XP for Windows 7. Nothing I've seen in Metro changes my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "The second step is to undercut the iPad (and Android tablets, if they ever start to sell) by selling PCs that also work great as tablets. Microsoft's pitch is that instead of buying a separate PC and tablet, you should buy one thing that bridges both usages."

    Ok, that's the only reason it would make sense to put both a desktop os and a tablet os in one computer.

    But the problem is the form factor. For desktops people want a large display and a mouse, for a tablet a much smaller display and touch.

    You need to buy two sets of most of the hardware, so there is no real advantage, and some inconvenience, in having a single box to run both of them. I think most people will continue to be happy with a windows 7 desktop and an ipad or other tablet.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I use a Linux box at work everyday, but that hardly changed my purchasing decision when it came to buying a desktop for our home. I suspect it will feel similarly for most consumers. Their work box may do Excel better and may have a keyboard, but that will not bother them when they go to a store to buy a tablet that has neither.

    In any case, what do you really produce on a PC? Based on the comments here, photoshop and office are the main candidates for being a productivity workhorse. Well, guess what? Photo editing and drawing tools are actually better suited for touch interface. Adobe is already selling many apps for these purposes. Same goes for presentation tools, if not for the short term need to be backwards compatible with PC versions. Apple already has an iPad video editor for consumers. Ditto for web design. Most of your consumers will be on a tablet soon, so your designs should better work well with touch interface.

    Most ERP software requires many menu selections and button presses, but few keystrokes. They would be fairly easy to port to a touch interface. If SAP or Oracle does not do it soon, somebody else will. There is already a cottage industry in ERP customizations, as these tend to be unwieldy and user hostile pieces of software.

    Hooking a keyboard to tablet for the rare times a person needs to type a lot is an acceptable compromise for most. Many people write long reports only occasionally anyways.

    None of these apps may be as powerful as their PC counterparts right now, but that is not because of the inherent weakness of touch interface. It is partly because of the lower power CPUs, (MS can beat that by introducing Intel based tablets) and partly because of the newness of the medium. If your software product is not being designed to look and feel like it is the perfect with for touch interface, you are headed for disaster. That is what software developers need to worry about, not the lack of a start button in Windows 8. Soon, lack of good touch interaction will make it sound like the idea of designing a Windows app that can be controlled by the keyboard, but not with a mouse.

    In other words, consumers (and soon businesses) are moving to the touch interface and MS is trying to get there before it is too late and by leveraging its Windows ecosystem. Apple is keeping OSX and iOS separate (for now), but MS is probably smart in not using with the exact same playbook five years later.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Regarding putting both a desktop os and a tablet os on one computer: Apple, which knows so much about about os's that it invented both of them, thinks it is best to put them on separate machines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nonsense, please check your facts.

      Delete
  43. "Related to that, can you decide what tiles go where? Group them, move them, hide them?"

    yes, all of the above.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Fabulous post. There's this soup of bad omens for Microsoft:

    - They've been also-rans in mobile for long enough now that they're likely to encounter a great deal of skepticism there. I'd liken this to evolution: if one animal has adaptations for swimming but is never near water, they are probably less capable than a purely land animal on land, and will die out. This is effectively the problem that Windows has.

    - People know that Windows has a long history now of missing and hitting. Everyone remembers Vista. It was a fairly sweeping change from XP and it was awful. I think Jeff Atwood said: "Windows 7, the best Vista SP ever." One whiff of Windows 8 being the-new-Vista, and Windows 8 will likely follow in its footsteps.

    - Microsoft as an empire with a lot of cracks. They are fighting a war on basically every front. Their browser has fallen from its #1 spot; it hasn't been a majority for ages, but is now no longer can even claim a plurality.

    - Microsoft is being absolutely obliterated by a new generation of server apps that don't need or even benefit from windows. And in the world of cloud-based servers, Microsoft licenses are a really, really expensive tax. Looking at paying 50% more for an instance at EC2 has this difference writ large. Meanwhile, the biggest wave of no-microsoft apps is on the way as client-side web application frameworks and HTML5 take hold.

    It certainly would be amazing to watch Apple make a real run at the computing market, and the free cash flow to spend Microsoft's entire market cap on such an initiative can't really be underestimated.

    Here's a crazy, crazy thought, thought: imagine if Apple decided they would make APPLE Macintoshes, and every other manufacturer could make Dell Macintoshes, and Samsung Macintoshes, etc. Apple can continue enjoying their margins, can focus on their game changers, and let the entire computing ecosystem, thrilled by even the whiff of margins like Apple, go bonkers on Macs and watch Microsoft devoured like a filet on a string in a pool full of piranha. Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "If you have time, please post a comment explaining what I got wrong."

    OK, I'll nitpick - there are a bunch of factual inaccuracies here (though that may be the point, I guess):

    "To control the computer you have to hover your mouse or your finger in the corner of the screen to bring up a popup set of tools. "

    Actually you don't use your fingers in the corner of the screen - the touch and mouse controls for this are completely different from each other. With mouse, you move to the corner because those are the "magic pixels" that are easiest to target:

    http://sixrevisions.com/usabilityaccessibility/improving-usability-with-fitts-law/

    With touch, you instead swipe in from the sides because that's where your thumbs are positioned if you're holding a tablet in the most common posture.

    This ties into another remark you made:

    "One good example is the finger swipe, which works very well with a touch screen but is unpleasant on a notebook computer because you can't easily click and drag on a trackpad for long distances. Parts of Windows 8 (for example, logging in to the computer) require finger swipes."

    But for the most part (there are a couple unfortunate exceptions) the mouse controls for Windows 8 don't try to imitate touch gestures, particularly swipes, but try to find something more appropriate for the mouse.

    e.g.
    swipe finger from left/right for back/charms -> move mouse to corners

    swipe finger from top/bottom for app commands -> right-click on canvas

    swipe tile to select -> right-click on tile

    swipe and pull out to drag tile -> just left-click and drag

    swipe to scroll -> use scrollbar, mousewheel, or push against sides of screen

    Logging in is one of the unfortunate exceptions (the other one is drag from top to move/close), but you can also just hit any key on the keyboard.

    ReplyDelete
  46. "I thought about including it, but the post was already so darned long. I probably should have included it."

    This compelled me to chime in: I love your articles because they are long, not in spite of it. The web is full of staccato blurbs but in-depth analysis like this is much harder to find.

    ReplyDelete
  47. "There is a second user interface in Windows 8, and it looks like traditional Windows. You get to it by clicking a Metro tile called Windows Explorer. "

    This isn't quite right - the Windows Explorer tile is just one example of a desktop app (the file manager). It would be more accurate to say that desktop apps open in the desktop, so opening or switching to any desktop app (Windows Explorer, desktop IE, Notepad, ...) through whatever mechanism (tiles in Start, Apps search results, opening a file of a type for which the default program is a desktop app, ...) will switch to the desktop as well.

    ReplyDelete
  48. "But the Start menu has also been removed from Windows Explorer. It's no longer present anywhere."

    - again it's not really accurate to call the desktop "Windows Explorer". It's just called the desktop, and Windows Explorer is the file manager. If you want to get really technical, not only the desktop, Windows Explorer (the file manager), but the new Metro style shell elements like the Start screen and charms all run as part of the explorer.exe process (that is sometimes also referred to as "Windows Explorer", so if you take this view the Start screen etc. are ALSO "Windows Explorer".)

    ReplyDelete
  49. "Apple, which knows so much about about os's that it invented both of them"

    Oops, I meant invented the first commercially successful version of them.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I also see a bit of an interesting contradiction. At one point you comment that having two "control panels" is confusing, but later on you suggest that they should have added a Windows 7-like start menu which would presumably exist alongside the new Windows 8 start screen. If they actually did that, I wonder if they wouldn't just be trading one set of complaints (about not having a 'classic' start menu) for another set (about it being confusing having two start menus).

    To mangle a common programmers' aphorism, "You have a problem (some people don't like a new UI). You think, 'I know, I'll add a 'classic mode'!' Now you have two problems."

    ReplyDelete
  51. i wonder if perhaps Microsoft has plans to sell windows 8 and windows 7 side by side for a while perhaps even years.

    microsoft could always release service packs and ongoing support for 7 while selling 8 at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Yes, Microsoft has seem to get rid of most designers and developers that actually knew what they were doing and moving on with trendy types. Gotta love it when a new option they enable by default, fast startup, causes data corruption (especially for anyone multi-booting), the ARM requirement of having only MS OS enabled and locking out others using TCG (What i like to call Total Control Group), and extended that on to PC's as well, with no predefined method for others to add their signatures, etc.. etc.., DOJ should be all over this in the not too distant future.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Great article.
    Though I must point out that I'm still trying not to laugh at this comment:
    "It's the thing you generally use to turn the computer on and off"

    Off certainly, on? Crickey! You must be more adept at pc use than me.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Metro is done wrong, starting with the focus on fingers while Idea Pads and Wacom tablets proof people are still fond of pens. This does not mean that it is bad, just not that great as it could be.

    Metro confuses people if they want to be confused, otherwise the learning curve is nearly nonexistent. The fact that people are allowed to be confused and the media, this article included, is allowed to bash Windows 8 the way it does is what troubles me the most. A couple of well crafted and properly placed paragraphs would be enough to prevent all that.

    Instead, MS starts charging money for the free per-release upgrade from the previous version of Windows! Frightening insanity!

    "I believe Microsoft is overestimating the immediate risk of a collapse in PC sales due to tablets and other new devices" Agreed. However, I believe Microsoft is not overestimating the immediate risk of a collapse in Windows PC sales due to tablets and other new devices. People have discovered that lots of things can be done without Microsoft and that is irreversible.

    I guess it is already possible to sell desktop PCs with Android 4. Some PCs are sold with Linux even though there are no users that are already familiar with the system. There are no Windows 8 tablets yet, so time is working against Microsoft, maybe this is why nobody does that now. New wave of Linux smart phones and tablets are due before the end of the year. I doubt that there will be more apps for Windows 8 than for that devices.

    The more Microsoft miscommunicates, the more likely it is that some competitor will strike.

    Windows 8 cannot be an immediate success. Its success on a desktop is nothing more than a helper to its success on tablet, and the latter cannot happen overnight. Thus, something will happen first: either Microsoft suffers a blow on the desktop supported by an alternative platform success on tablet or Microsoft slowly eliminates this threat with Windows 8 tablets.

    What to do if you're an app developer is the simplest question. App developers know if they want their apps to be Windows only. If yes, just use WPF or Silverlight. If a need of a Metro version of the app arises, you will promptly create one.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Great article. I largely agree with your analysis, except the impact on the tablet market.

    Windows 8 won't have a shot in the tablet market because of pricing. ARM tablets will be priced out of the market because MS is charging OEMs $100 for WinRT licenses and x86 hardware is just too expensive for the tablet market.

    Google's OEMs may look for alternatives, but I don't think they'll find them. When the rice points start hitting $200 for a 7 inch media tablet, the only way to compete is with another low priced Android tablet.

    http://www.tech-thoughts.net/

    ReplyDelete
  56. Windows 8 has most of the functionality and features similar to windows 7.
    The striking and new features which are really good in windows 8 are its metro look and touch and use like I-pads.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Microsoft thrived when it payed catch-up, and it has faltered when trying to forge new directions.

    You are right on the money when you suggest that this is mostly a reaction to the perceived threat of the tablet market.

    They are trying to reinterpret the current situation to allow themselves to play catch-up again - but are squandering their lead in PC OS as a result.

    ReplyDelete
  58. BATTERIES AND SLEEP

    Press the windows key, type either:
    batteries, sleep, or power.
    Click settings.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Microsoft is unwilling to recognize that the UI for a touch-enabled device is fundamentally different from the UI for a traditional desktop (or even a laptop computer) with a keyboard and a mouse. They're still stuck in the one-size-fits-all mindset when it comes to UI design.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Some of us work for a living. We don't do "Social Networking" or want to. Many of us want to go in, get our work done and shut down.

    Many of us do frequent tasks that are application specific and the rest is wasted desk space.

    A tablet can be a great tool for many but for what I do and what many of us do it's useless.

    I want the ability to have only what I want where I want it and have it work without a lot of extra crap interrupting me and my day.

    Windows 8 (and yes I tried the preview) simply isn't a good tool for business.

    ReplyDelete
  61. More whining disengenuous crap which assumes any change is a disaster and that all users are too stupid to read any documentation at all.

    None of the issues raised here will stop people for more than a few minutes of learning curve.

    This is just fear of change or fear for fear's sake - I'm getting tired of this nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
  62. I want Windows "Country", cause I do not live in the Metro. I live in the Country.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I have another possible outcome that I believe is more likely to your three where users adopt enthusiastically crushing Apple, users cling to Windows 7 tenaciously, and Windows collapses.

    First a disclaimer, I haven’t used Windows 8 yet, but I have used the Windows 7.5 phone, Android phones and iPhones extensively where I work; and I was very surprised how much I prefer the Windows phone over the other two smart phone operating systems. I admit when I first used the Metro interface it took a bit longer to feel comfortable with then the other systems, but I feel in love with the simplicity of the interface, the speed, how it handles multi-tasking, and the way that it integrates with data I need to make everything easily digestible (sometimes I don’t even need to open an app to see what I need). Yes, there were some things I don’t like, but nothing that I haven’t been able to overcome with free apps from the marketplace. In other words, I agree with your warning that app developers would be unwise to completely ignore Windows 8.

    So my prediction is that the initial splash from Windows 8 will come from tablets. Not enough to topple the iPad, but Windows 8 tablets will outsell Android tablets. The tablets will be supported by the workplace because enterprise will like that they feature seamless integration with Active Directory and Group Policies for Windows domain networks, that they support multiple accounts on a singe device, that they offer USB support, that they are HTML5 based, and that many of their existing legacy Windows applications can be ported to Windows 8 a great deal more easily than rewriting those applications for another platform. People will like their tablets and Windows 8 phones will gain traction; not enough to topple the iPhone, but enough again to overtake Android phones. And finally, both enterprise and home users will both naturally cling to the existing version of their operating systems, whether that is Windows XP or Windows 7 because of the costs associated with upgrading; however, because they have grown accustomed to their tablets and phones they won’t be opposed to using Windows 8 when they need to purchase a new computer (as they were with Windows Vista). Add to these users the power users who adapted to Windows 8 right away, and Windows not only maintains it’s dominate base of home and enterprise users, but also has managed to become a serious player in the phone and tablet market by taking bites from Apple and Android and even if Apple retains it’s majority of user shares in those areas.

    So Windows 8 is not a game changer in the way that you described the transition from DOS to Windows, but Microsoft retains its relevance which is actually a big win for the company as more consumers are beginning to become more dependent on mobile computing in the form of phones and tablets.

    ReplyDelete
  64. You think I'm going to read all that text - Fool! Get to the point or get out.

    ReplyDelete
  65. If you can not find the 'power down' , your apps remain busy , your cloud sessions stay opened and .. you may be charged for it !
    Is not it GOOD news ?

    ReplyDelete
  66. Software companies often have the supreme arrogance to try to dictate to their user base. This is what Windows 8 is doing.

    MS takes two or more releases to get something right, every time they make a major change. So Windows 7 saved the company after Vista bombed.

    Windows 8 will be the same deal. If MS can't come up with a Windows 9 that fixes Windows 8, they can kiss themselves goodbye.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Right on target and well thought out.

    I know social is the rage, but there is so much less there than meets the eye. You can't forget business. At this point there wouldn't be pc's if it wasn't for the fact that people need to run intensive tasks - UI intensive, compute intenive, display intensive. Do you really think that engineers are going to design jetliners or skyscrapers on a tablet?

    If it wasn't for these apps (whether for business or personal use) a tablet or a phone would be all the computer the average person would buy.

    If you disagree that the pc, in it's current form is an important business tool - if you think that socialmis so important that everything else should be compromised to enable social, then I have the product for you - a contractors power saw with wireless and a facebook interface so you can let your buds know how many 2x4s you cut in the last 10 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  68. At factory/service/commerce level, people are focused just on Productivity, and they don't care too much about the device guts except when they imply time or money savings. That's why so many of us have been reluctant to switch even from Xp...
    If you are a graphic designer, a composer etc, you need to get your stuff done and if the nuts and bolts of the OS become a hurdle, you stick to your old system or go backwards to it...How many people went back to Xp after trying Vista? and how many are still there? And if you have to buy a new printer,scanner or camera in order to do the same work, where is your gain ?

    ReplyDelete
  69. Great read Michael, and I do hope that the people at MS take note of it.

    I am a Windows user and a power user at that, I edit video, photos, make animation and after effects. By building my own bleeding edge systems and installing Win 7 64 bit, my company saves an average of 7,000 USD per system by not using Apple.

    I also have a tablet, I have been a tablet PC user since 2005 with XP Tablet edition. As an artist, tablets make storyboarding and note-taking a joy. Especially the Windows ability to read my (rather bad) handwriting.

    I think your post gets a lot of things right and a ignores a few things.

    1. You are right that Windows 8 is not good for a desktop. I installed it on my ASUS EP121 and it is gorgeous. The touch motions, the charms, closing an app from the top of the screen, feel natural and are fast. The METRO environment is great and I love waking up, having my breakfast and checking live tiles to get quick information. The apps need a little bit of work, and that will be a key component of the success or failure of Win8 (will developers develop anything compelling)…
    I also installed it on my netbook, and a mouse and keyboard are clunky. There are small performance gains in battery life and boot time, but overall there is no good reason to install Win 8 on an old machine other than technical "hobbying".

    2. You ignored the search function on the charms completely. Want to find control panel? Bring up search and type control panel. Not too challenging. Same with Power. Search power and you have all the options you wanted, faster than the previous way of going to control panel and managing options.

    3. Pen and touch. I am sure you know about the MS video "manual deskterity". I know at least 3 disappointed iPad users who wanted to take notes at meetings, but can't stand using a glorified stick or writing with their hand. When you use OneNote on a touch enabled, pressure sensitive tablet you will see something very exciting. which brings me to my last point..

    HARDWARE, HARDWARE, HARDWARE. All of the hardware companies have played their Windows 8 hardware pretty close to the vest. I think Windows 8 will succeed or fail based on the hardware. We'll have to see what they come up with, and pricepoint will be a major factor, but Windows 8 may have the right hardware to create something close to the "Courier" (via a developer such as "TAPOSE") by mid 2013. This could create the compelling product MS needs.

    To summarize a long reply on a long post, I think that the vast majority of users will not upgrade their old PCs to Windows 8. That will probably (or at least "should" if MS wants a success) reflect only a small number of their licenses. I will not upgrade my fleet of desktop PCs, which are stable and fast enough, in order to let my editors take advantage of a metro app. It doesn't make any sense.

    But, new hardware will come out, and it will all be increasingly touch friendly. Windows 8 seems like a longer term bet than you are making it out to be. The sweet spot of a tablet with a good, fanless processor, a long battery life, a great screen, large SSD drive, and WACOM digitizer pen is right around the corner. That might be the compelling feature that Windows 8 lacks.

    I see most Windows 8 adoption happening with new hardware purchases, not with old upgrades.

    thanks again, great article. I'll be interested to see your app!

    ReplyDelete
  70. Great Article. Thanks.
    I agree with some of your points but I have to say that I hated the Windows 7 start menu, preferring the old Windows Classic style as being more intuitive. I positively hate Metro and find the interface visually confusing and cluttered. Your comments on the hidden controls are so true. I spent hours trying to figure out how to close an application. Maybe the philosophy is to leave the apps open all the time so they load faster when needed. I am an engineer and this sort of thing freaks me out.

    I agree that users may move to other platforms like Linux which is starting to look a bit more respectable these days.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I'll start by saying that I'm not a typical computer type person. I am an engineer and like most engineers I have had to use computers and programming to build small programs to solve engineering problems. As such, I do have some interest in what directions the OS suppliers are going.
    In my experience with dealing with mostly computer oriented people I get the impression that they think that the most computers are used for is writing reports, sales figure spreadsheets and databases.
    The majority of the products that are around you, that you use day to day, that you drive or ride to work in, that you fly to business meetings in, how the roads you drive on are layed out, how the new buildings you live in are designed, are all done on desktop pc's with (normally) very expensive software. A switch to a new operating system can cost such a business thousands per seat in upgrading software just to run on it. A lot of such companies are still on XP because of such costs. They will probably move to Windows 7. But I know a lot of engineers and businesses that are taking a serious look at Linux and companies that are porting their existing in house design software to java so they can run it on whatever machines they still have in the company. Myself included.
    I work in the automotive sector. Could I use Windows 8's pretty Metro UI to carry out an analysis of fuel spray pattern on a new GDI engine? Emmmmm.....
    Can I couple a bunch of Metro running tablets to form a cluster to run a CFD analysis on a rear spoiler in a sensible amount of time (time is money!)? Emmmmm.....
    With Windows 8 has Microsoft really thought about the needs of hundreds of thousands of businesses, engineers, scientists, etc. that provide the things around us? Emmmm.....
    We don't need an operating system that looks sexy (and will probably look outdated quickly) and is good on the internet with social apps and can do mundane office tasks. We need an OS that can crunch the numbers, quickly, that can increase productivity, is easy to develop programs for, is easy for people to use and doesn't change much over the working life of a typical employee, something that helps us make better products for the customer and the bottom line; helps us make the profits that keep us all employed.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Chapman said:
    "To summarize a long reply on a long post, I think that the vast majority of users will not upgrade their old PCs to Windows 8. That will probably (or at least "should" if MS wants a success) reflect only a small number of their licenses"

    Have upgrade license sales ever been a major chunk of MS's windows sales? AFAIK the volume licensing most medium/large businesses use allow them to upgrade whenever they want without having to pay extra when they do. Most consumers don't see any point in upgrading because it's too large a fraction of the cost of a new low end PC in the first place.

    That leaves power users; and even if we upgrade all our windows boxes (I only did so for 7, not vista, nor XP) we're no longer a significant fraction of the market.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Interesting analysis, Michael

    ReplyDelete
  74. "I spent hours trying to figure out how to close an application. Maybe the philosophy is to leave the apps open all the time so they load faster when needed."

    Sort of - Metro style apps get suspended by the system when you switch away from them, and automatically closed when memory starts to run low, so you shouldn't need to manually close them. This is basically the same way it works on iPhone/iPad.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Really good, even handed post.

    I've been using the Win8 Customer Preview and pretty much have come to the same conclusions.

    The only points I didn't see expanded on were -

    1) ARM in Enterprise - an absolute non-starter. The fact that it will require different policy management than existing GPOs is a total non-seller to management. When IT budgets are getting smaller, there's no way to justify rolling out ARM tablets to end users.

    2) Disabling the Metro interface - supposedly, there will be a GPO to do this although one doesn't currently exist in the CP. If I can't disable the Metro interface, how do I justify the interface on end user desktops in the enterprise? Answer - I can't. If Win8 wants desktop adoption, there needs to be a way to disable the Metro interface otherwise our end users are sticking with Win7.

    3) Normal User Needs vs Developer Budgets - Normal users will come to Win8 tablets especially at an attractive price point ... if their apps are all there. However, developers won't develop apps if there aren't users. So, who blinks first? I know MSFT is helping developers crank out apps and even providing up to $600k in financial support in some cases, but Metro app availability at launch is going to be a key issue.

    Good work.

    ReplyDelete
  76. hmm. let's see: windows is called windows because it has windows. if it's a full-screen metro app, it's no longer a windowed app, so it's not quite windows anymore... despite the win32 api. maybe it should be called "doors" since they flip and move, or "walls", since you can't see through them and feel as hard as a rock, and as hard to figure out how to close? or "panes"?

    ReplyDelete
  77. I have been a long time diehard Windows user. With the current Windows 7 interface I would be happy to stay here forever. If what you have just displayed in that video is Microsoft's next move then I am moving to Apple now. I am afraid you may have just predicted a spectacular failure and I expect that every power user such as myself will find Apple products closer to the Windows experience than windows itself so I am done. I will not be on another Commodore, Atari St or any other failing platform for that matter. Microsoft what the hell are you thinking this suggests an internal problem at Microsoft and a lack of vision I predict failure for your business and creative markets.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Interesting... you are head on..on the same weirdness I felt about Windows 8

    I think, the necessity or the need of the hour may sometimes get you blind. I think that's how MS did Metro. As you say Metro is a thing so unbelievable to think which came from Redmond even, but it did.

    It's awesome, novel a fresh UI approach even Apple seemed missed. The problem was MS was applying their best ever UI efforts to date but to something which isn't broken. That's weird.

    If Vista was broken, Win 7 made it up and most still adopting it, runs so well there aren't that many issues. When did it came out? last month? Windows 7 is still fresh.

    That was the issue. Was there a need for another Windows all too soon ? I presume not. I think this is where MS got it all wrong. Just because Apple and Google did spoil their party with industry marvel iPad, which MS had not foreseen. It didn't actually figured out what to do with it and threw stones everywhere, thinking one might hit..

    Clueless, it went to drawing boards and ill-timely came up with what could be a sound answer to iPad, and ill-fatedly named it as Windows 8. I think it’s wired. It should have been something else.

    Say, Zune OS, or better Metro OS, or The New Tablet PC or something...

    I still scratch my head why the hell MS named it Windows 8 ???????

    In contrast Apple did it so discreetly that no one ever suspected or expected iOS to be Mac OS X, though technically it is somewhat, there was no confession iPad owners wanting Mac OS X apps to run on iPad, and now every app on Mac is almost available on iPad.

    Can MS ever claim that, will legacy Win apps even run on Win 8 when they don’t even run on Win 7…? this is where MS could get all it’s followers upset and disrupt by just trying to cater the iPad/ iPhone competitor..

    Why the hell it got mixed up with Windows Desktop where MS anyway leads for years to come disrupting that.. As Make says there’s a huge vacuums MS just created that anyone to come and exploit..So even HP can revive Web OS and give another try on corporate

    May be Win 7 is good enough corporate will hold up to it up until MS clears up this mess they got in to trying to combine Legacy, Windows and Metro soup of mixed up

    Meanwhile I think Google and Apple will keep their wild-run ahead for another 2-3 years..

    ReplyDelete
  79. So, MS is turning gay on us and joins the Apple club.

    ReplyDelete
  80. I think you are missing a scenario, which is the most likely: the Really Boring One. Windows 8 is a moderate success, nothing like Windows 7, but not nearly a Vista-level disaster. Metro apps fail to take off on the desktop, but users don't really complain and life moves on--Metro just becomes a glorified start menu for most people. There are no major changes in any PC manufacturers.

    ReplyDelete
  81. I definitely enjoyed the article, and actually agree with much of it. However, I completely disagree with this:

    "I think Metro looks incredibly nice. The graphics are clean and bold, the animations are smooth, and overall it's one of the most visually literate things I've ever seen from Microsoft. I'm still kind of amazed that Metro is a Microsoft product."

    Technically, Windows 8 may be great. Eventually we should be able to figure out the new interface, learn all the stupid hidden gestures, etc. But ugly is forever, and Metro has it in spades. Aesthetically speaking, Metro is dreadful. At least much of it is. The Start page especially is an embarrassing eyesore. I'm stunned Microsoft would present that monstrosity to users as their central workspace. Another example of Metro that sucks is the effort to eliminate "chrome". Microsoft has stripped down the interface so much that much of it looks unfinished. The mail app especially looks like the developers quit working on it half way through. All those bland icons are hard to distinguish. Apple recently through away its own Interface Guideline handbook, but Microsoft really should go rooting through the trash, find it and dust it off.

    My 2 cents.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Excellent read and I agree with most of your points based on my albeit limited interactions with Win 8.

    To me the biggest disaster is the lack of a Start menu, something that literally tens of millions of novice computer users rely on to complete practically all of their tasks. How on earth do you take that away without having a major backlash? I wouldn't be too surprised if Windows 8 Service Pack 1 re-included a Start menu, I think it will be that big of a deal.

    I actually like the Metro interface though and am anxious to see and use it on a real tablet, away from the clutter and baggage of the Windows desktop. iPad works well because iOS left behind the complexity of the desktop, and ultimately that's where Metro could shine too.

    ReplyDelete
  83. You make a great assertion ...

    "But the PC market is worth about $300 billion in revenue a year, at a time when it's becoming harder to maintain Apple's sales growth. "

    ... great in the sense that it is amusing! I look forward to evidence of this trend over the next two quarters, as we wait for Windows 8 to get aboard new hardware and taxi out to the runway, and take off. It certainly hasn't been true over the last two quarters, as one PC manufacturer after another has complained about iPad cannibalization of their computers. I traveled a lot last weekend, riding on five different airplanes, and I saw more pads than PC's. And more phones than either.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I do not think Apple will make any big changes for greater penetration into Windows world. It is growing x5 or faster than Windows and so not clear it's actions could tip that result faster. Also, there is a skate to where the puck was, not even is, and certainly not where it will be dimension to your proposed.

    I think MS sees the Enterprise skipping Windows 8 and so markets Windows 7 to Enterprise and Windows 8 to consumers. Thereby taking back home, mobile, and tablet. In Windows 9 it resynchs Enterprise and Consumer through consumerization of the Enterprise.

    Big bets but like VISTA can be recovered, developers have hard choices and I like your approach.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Windows is is required for gaming and business needs A move to tablets is required, but who is going to cough up for windows licences when you have a free OS like Android kicking around? Do gamers buy windows or use a pirated copy? the latter I bet. Sales of Windows will be on a downward spiral. People who don't play games or require hard computing power will be happier sitting in their living room with a tablet, and likely will be a non-windows tablet at that.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I've been using Win 8 for a bit... I hate the tiles. They were cute at first, seemed pretty, now it's clear exactly how limited they are in their functionality. It's a link dammit. Call it a tile or a widget or whatever you like. It's an ugly pastel shortcut to some MS program. I don't have XBox. Why'd I get four tiles for it? It feels like Windows for Dummies. Once in the Win 7 environment, it's really never necessary to leave. The tiles are like a splash screen.

    ReplyDelete
  87. I wonder what businesses still using XP will do, because Windows 7 is now a dead end. Will they ever invest in migrating to it?

    ReplyDelete
  88. The desktop metaphor implied that you were dealing with pieces of paper that you could move around and store in various places, so why could you drag around an application the same way you could drag around a document? In terms of the metaphor, this was like storing your stapler and telephone in a file cabinet. Early versions of Mac and especially Windows created all sorts of strange workarounds to ease management of files and apps, and prevent confusion between them. Microsoft created the Start menu, Apple added the icon dock at the bottom of the screen. Both were basically kludges that papered over holes in the metaphor.

    The above takes for granted that if you use a metaphor you have to go "all the way" with it.

    Not so.

    A desktop metaphor is just a metaphor, i.e a convenient way to convey the basic properties of the system to the user. You are supposed to use it to get a general idea of what's happening, and then learn the specifics.

    It's not supposed to hold for each and every feature of the computer desktop.

    We're not surprised for example that we can write arbitrary long text in our computer documents, whereas we can't on actual papers on our desktop.

    Nor are we surprised that we can correct errors on them by clicking delete, without Wite-Out.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Windows 8 will bomb, Microsoft will continue on its slide into oblivion but nothing extraordinary will happen to it.

    People will stick with Windows 7 until Win 8 gets a start menu. What else should they do? They're not going to "fall in love" with Metro because Metro on PCs is a half-assed solution - it's nothing to fall in love with, even if you're welcoming of change.

    Win 8 will fail on tablets; similarly to Windows Phone, not because it's bad but because there is no reason to get it as it's not better than Android or iOS.

    Manufacturers will offer people their laptops with Win7 pre-installed. It's the only thing they can do.

    There'll be a hack that re-enables the start menu, and everybody will use it.

    Microsoft will continue to make money with Windows licenses, a little less every year but still in the Billions.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Great article Mike; very well thought out.

    Problem with Windows 8, is that Microsoft is trying to attack Apple's success with the iPad with a strictly software solution.

    From a hardware perspective, apple will likely be priced lower, and with their profit margins can get into a price war that can hurt most windows 8 manufacturers.

    iOS 6 is coming out, and that looks to add new features in addition to expand preexisting functionality.

    The one thing I detest about windows 8 is the tiles interface.

    Yes it's minimalistic, etc. but I think you miss the point with iOS UI. It has some holdovers from the os x UI, and has the skuemorphic UI in various places.

    This make iOS UI very easy to use and fun.

    Windows 8 UI looks bland and boring.

    ReplyDelete
  91. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Brilliant article, thanks for writing it. Now I can just link to your post instead of taking the trouble of writing my own. :)

    ReplyDelete
  93. I agree that Metrojust doesn't cut it for me.

    I suspect that the majority of commentators on Win 8 fall into 2 main groups:

    1 Techies who eventually find a work around to a problem and then accept that as a solution

    2 Social network type users who are used to a keyboardless solution

    And then there are the corporate type users who use their machines as a tool.

    I'm in the latter camp, and a simple problem does not work well in Metro viz. I often access account data via IE and then copy and paste into excel; something I gave up on in Metro ...

    ReplyDelete
  94. "at a time when it's becoming harder to maintain Apple's sales growth". Apple's computer sales have outsold the market for at least 4 years (not including the iPad). What about this trend is not clear to you?

    ReplyDelete
  95. So many comments—including in the article—about a step backwards in traditional productivity apps. In my use, too, if Facebook is harder to use and taking/editing/uploading photos is so much clunkier that I do less of them, my overall productivity goes up.

    I'm under the impression that the vast majority of US PC sales are for business use, in which Office/Outlook, plus perhaps some job-specific apps, dominate. And this review didn't give a single reason why companies should change to Win8 for their mostly desk-bound employees.

    You make the case that Win8 is necessary for highly mobile functions within companies and a credible OS for personal users. The former will allow companies to provision tablets instead of laptops for a few important verticals (medical professionals, field techs, …), but that strikes me as almost a niche. And while Win8 might be credible for personal use, that's a good step or three shy of driving individuals to buy WinSlates instead of iPads.

    I guess that's the problem with “one size fits all” thinking: it obviously doesn't.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Having to learn new ways of doing things isn't inherently bad.

    That said, the old control panel(and a number of other useful functions) is easily available from all screens at all times by right clicking the lower left hand side of the screen. This is faster and easier to access than it used to be, you just need to be aware that it's there.

    And again, having to take 20 seconds to learn something new doesn't make it worse.

    ReplyDelete
  97. You're being negative here.

    I think Windows 8 is awesome and it's easy to use.This is not the first time I'm seeing negative review about windows 8.My instincts say they are just being idiots.

    Windows 8 will begin a new era of UI. Less text and more visual is always nice to the eyes.

    Most people are resistant and afraid to new changes.But I love changes.

    ReplyDelete
  98. "Apple, which knows so much about about os's that it invented both of them"

    Oh dear... Spell checker problems...I think you meant to type IBM, Xerox, NEXT and Berkley UNIX.

    What I've heard is a lot of arguments for no change. But change is good.

    Also, for those iOS fans (I am one) just try to put a spreadsheet together using numbers on the iPad. Most of my time was spent swapping keyboards to get chars I needed and trying to figure out what icon meant what... So much for good ergonimic design. What a pain. Give me a desktop every time.

    If Microsoft covers both bases with win 8 then good luck. I'll give it a try.

    I've been computing since 1977 and one thing that doesn't change is still people argue Apple vs Microsoft...

    ReplyDelete
  99. "Oh dear... Spell checker problems...I think you meant to type IBM, Xerox, NEXT and Berkley UNIX."

    Stupid spell checker removed AT&T

    ReplyDelete
  100. The ugly truth is that both Apple and Microsoft have realized that the population is getting too stupid to deal with with high end apps like Final Cut Studio and Operating Systems and have opted to make things simple enough for average people to use and scaled down for use on mobile devices in order to compete.

    Since most people just use these things to waste their time with facebook, twittter, angry birds, stupid youtube videos, porno, political bloviating and buying stuff that they do not need, where is the market and demand for products requiring a three digit IQ?

    Once you give up the high end, it is an inexorable slide down into the morass of stupidity, mediocracy and celebrity .

    In other words, expect more reality TV and hold onto your old computing hardware and software.


    First we could read and type.

    Then we could mouse and use menus.

    Then they replaced the menus with icons so we wouldn't have to read anymore.

    Now icons are too hard to figure so we have billboards.

    When we are too stupud to figure out the billboards, we will let Siri do all our deciding, planning and thinking for us.

    After all, Siri is our best friend and partner ever,

    Just ask John Malkovich.

    ReplyDelete
  101. BTW - Can anyone imagine how fun it will be to use MS Access to generate reports using BILLBOARDS instead of those old fashioned icons, tiles and drop down menus?

    Can't wait for MS Office 2013!

    ReplyDelete
  102. I agree with most of what you said. The biggest problem of windows 8 is its unfamiliarity. The metro thingy is just too differnet, since people normally run away from drastic changes, chances are we are looking at another Vista.

    ReplyDelete
  103. First thing: It's not a DOS command line. It's CMD.EXE, which is a 32-bit command line processor that supports DOS commands. And has been thus since Windows NT.

    Second thing: It's only dreaded by non-power users,

    ReplyDelete
  104. The most important comment about that marvelous article is the following: Microsoft offers free Visual Studio for Metro only! That means too many things and they are all bad! Remember the days, when the open source world led a crusade against Microsoft? Something along these lines will happen again in the intermediate future!

    Additionally, i am a productivity user, who makes games! Does that means that i like Metro? On the contrary - i, and all around me, can care less if M$ have brought another UI to the table! How Autodesk with their anti-user policy did manage to make their UIs easier to use, but M$ could not do that?! I want productivity, not entertainment, because i am one of the many that creates it!

    There remain Apple, Google and the flavours of Linux.

    As Victor wrote above me: "So, MS is turning gay on us and joins the Apple club". Why? Because, if Apple thinks that the majority of people will buy their overpriced hardware to use their OS, are very, very mistaken!!! Additionally: an OS, on which does NOT run ALL of my productivity software (ZBrush, 3ds max, Creo and others smaller applications) is more than useless for me! Apple grew arrogant and will pay for that!

    Then Google: my hope is here! But they are becoming more and more a greedy corporation like Microsoft, Intel and Adobe! Thus, i will not put my bets on them!

    I can not use my programs on Linux, which rules it out of the competition. If all fails, i will torture me with Wine though!

    So what is the conclusion for me, as an average OS user? I will stay on the XP, and wait, who makes the best move, because i can not care less for the corporations any more! If they offer me something better than XP, then more power to them. If not - i will happily see them go bankrupt! Because i grew to behave like one of them, and care only for me and my money, which i do not want to spend on the next corporate bullsh*t!

    PS: to all M$ and Apple paid writers (who wrote comments here too)! Go f*ck yourselfs with someone for money. In such a way you can make more bucks. Because you are so distinguishable that it is pathetic!

    ReplyDelete
  105. Why do Microsoft not just create shell 'modes' for different deployment targets: Desktop, Tablet, MCE, Phone, Console etc? The appropriate user interaction paradigms per environment is surely the only approach that users will find intuitive. No way am I going to move to a hobbled shell that seems tailored for tablets and touch interfacing on my desktop or laptop production machines. Nor am I going to switch to Apple at 3 or 4 times the cost and even more dumbed down. Scenario 2 is looking highly likely, even given the insanity of people clinging to that PoS called XP.

    ReplyDelete
  106. "Fundamentally, we believe in people and their ability to adapt and move forward."

    This is 100% arrogance. The cancer MS has so many times earlier shown to have and they haven't been able to cure. To me it looks like they aren't even trying.

    ReplyDelete
  107. "Lets face it 99% of computer purchasers will not be running Adobe Creative Suite or calculating the Human Genome."

    If you add "home users", then I can believe that. But 99% of company users will be using power point & other office tool kit and those are heavy programs.

    Company users are the ones dictating the fate of Windows 8 and I don't believe any of them is happy to these changes.

    ReplyDelete
  108. "The same negative crap was said before the Windows 7 release which turned out to be MS's best operating system of all time. "

    On what grounds?

    I immediately could see built-in mandatory DRM as "this is crap"-misfeature: Useless in any music or video work.

    But if you swipe all the stupidities and mis-meatures beneath the carpet, then it's almost as good as XP. Or NT.Only hogging 2GB of memory instead of 200M.

    ReplyDelete
  109. "Will the Windows 8 transition be as disruptive? It's impossible to say at this point."

    So you feel something but have no rational reason you can elucidate?

    "digital designs retain bits of their physical counterparts even though they're no longer necessary "

    It's called continuity. The english language is not redesigned every year from scratch. For extremely good reasons. The user interface for PC's should not be either. Mobile screens are smaller so need a different design but the fundamentals should remain the same. Just as Microsoft is doing you're failing to make the distinction between big screens and small ones.

    This is very poorly thought out. You should invest in an editor.

    ReplyDelete
  110. "More whining disengenuous crap which assumes any change is a disaster and that all users are too stupid to read any documentation at all."

    And someone is too arrogant to realize that yes, 8 does thing Wrong(TM) for many, many users. Surfing social network services full time is _not_ the purpose of a PC in most cases.

    You are just too stupid too see it.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Wow. Between the original post and the comments, this thing is now about 25,000 words long, or roughly a third of a novel.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I especially appreciate the diversity of opinions. I was hoping to spark a bit more discussion of the impact of Windows 8, and it feels like that's happening, both here and on other sites.

    I can't respond to everything, but a couple of thoughts...


    rendion wrote:

    >>Metro is one of the ugliest things ever to hit a computer screen.

    Ahhh, interesting. Even the Metro look, which I thought was almost universally liked, has its detractors. I should have expected that in a user base as diverse as Microsoft's.

    Also, there's an old adage that any design distinctive enough to really please some people will really displease others. That's why midrange cars are so boring -- they're resigned not to displease anyone. Microsoft has usually fallen into that same design category because it wants to be everyone's standard. I think it says something important about Microsoft's mindset that it's now willing to upset some people with its designs. I think they wouldn't do that unless they felt threatened.


    Tatil wrote:

    >>If your software product is not being designed to look and feel like it is the perfect with for touch interface, you are headed for disaster. That is what software developers need to worry about, not the lack of a start button in Windows 8.

    Fair enough. I'm a big believer in the power of new usage paradigms to drive software innovation. What bugs me about touch on PCs, though, is that it doesn't feel to me like it's enabling a lot of new functionality in productivity apps. With the mouse interface, you could immediately see how it enabled a quantium leap in productivity. Touch so far feels like it's great for content, but a step back for productivity.

    Now, if Apple built a stylus into iPad, or if Microsoft fully integrated Kinect with Windows 8, I think that might be more interesting...


    Unknown wrote:


    >>"If you have time, please post a comment explaining what I got wrong." OK, I'll nitpick - there are a bunch of factual inaccuracies here...

    Thanks very much for taking the time to point out that stuff. It was very helpful to me, and I hope to other readers as well.


    Unknown wrote:


    >>I also see a bit of an interesting contradiction. At one point you comment that having two "control panels" is confusing, but later on you suggest that they should have added a Windows 7-like start menu which would presumably exist alongside the new Windows 8 start screen. If they actually did that, I wonder if they wouldn't just be trading one set of complaints (about not having a 'classic' start menu) for another set (about it being confusing having two start menus).

    Good point. To me, the difference is that I see having a Windows 7-style Start menu as a backward compatibility thing. Should not be required for any tasks, but there as an option if the user wants it.

    The issue I have with control panels is that apparently to perform some functions on your computer, you are *required* to use the old Windows 7 control panels. In other words, Metro is not actually a complete interface.

    I've read Microsoft's explanation for why it did that (it wants to deprecate certain types of controls because it thinks they are too esoteric). But I think it should have buried them lower in Metro in that case, rather than completely omitting them.

    ReplyDelete

  112. Anonymous wrote:


    >>So my prediction is that the initial splash from Windows 8 will come from tablets. Not enough to topple the iPad, but Windows 8 tablets will outsell Android tablets. ...People will like their tablets and Windows 8 phones will gain traction; not enough to topple the iPhone, but enough again to overtake Android phones. ...So Windows 8 is not a game changer in the way that you described the transition from DOS to Windows, but Microsoft retains its relevance which is actually a big win for the company as more consumers are beginning to become more dependent on mobile computing in the form of phones and tablets.

    Good scenario, Anonymous. You should have signed your name to it.

    This one would be Google's nightmare, and I'm sure Microsoft would be very happy with it. Unfortunately, Microsoft has so relentlessly hyped the sales prospects for Windows 8 that the sales you describe might be viewed as a failure. After all, Steve's going around talking about upgrading every Windows 7 user to 8.


    chapman wrote:


    >> I know at least 3 disappointed iPad users who wanted to take notes at meetings, but can't stand using a glorified stick or writing with their hand. When you use OneNote on a touch enabled, pressure sensitive tablet you will see something very exciting.

    I totally, enthusiastically, agree.


    >>Windows 8 may have the right hardware to create something close to the "Courier" (via a developer such as "TAPOSE") by mid 2013. This could create the compelling product MS needs.

    From your lips to Microsoft's ears.


    Dan Neely wrote:


    >>Most consumers don't see any point in upgrading because it's too large a fraction of the cost of a new low end PC in the first place.

    I think you're right, but Microsoft has sure made a point of bragging about how many upgrade sales it expects to make with Windows 8. Which takes me back to my statement that I fear they are about to shoot themselves in the foot. They've publicly committed themselves to goals for Windows 8 that are very hard to achieve under any circumstances.


    Chan wrote:


    >> I think, the necessity or the need of the hour may sometimes get you blind.

    Bingo


    >>I still scratch my head why the hell MS named it Windows 8 ???????

    I agree, but I think we both know why they did it -- marketing. If they call it Windows they think they can compel everyone to move to it, and that generates the critical mass of apps that makes the new platform successful.

    As you point out, Apple had the self-confidence to call its mobile OS something new.


    FuzzyPuffin wrote:


    >>I think you are missing a scenario, which is the most likely: the Really Boring One. Windows 8 is a moderate success, nothing like Windows 7, but not nearly a Vista-level disaster. Metro apps fail to take off on the desktop, but users don't really complain and life moves on--Metro just becomes a glorified start menu for most people. There are no major changes in any PC manufacturers.

    Fair enough. But I think Microsoft has raised expectations a lot higher than that. I wonder how that'll play out with the press and analysts.

    ReplyDelete

  113. George wrote:


    >>You make a great assertion ... "But the PC market is worth about $300 billion in revenue a year, at a time when it's becoming harder to maintain Apple's sales growth. " ... great in the sense that it is amusing!

    Sorry for the confusion. I was not saying that Apple's sales were sowing; I was referring to the basic law of large numbers -- the bigger your company gets, the harder it is to keep growing at a fast rate. Apple has reached the point where it needs to add about $20 billion in new revenue per year just to grow 20%. That forces you, inevitably, to start looking around for big pools of revenue that you can easily tap into. Gain ten share points in the PC market and you've added $30 billion in revenue. Where else can Apple add that much more revenue with a small investment?


    Alan B wrote:


    >>It's not a DOS command line. It's CMD.EXE, which is a 32-bit command line processor that supports DOS commands. And has been thus since Windows NT.

    Thank you, sir. You are entirely correct.


    >> It's only dreaded by non-power users

    Fair enough. I was trying to be tongue in cheek.


    Will wrote:


    >>Why do Microsoft not just create shell 'modes' for different deployment targets: Desktop, Tablet, MCE, Phone, Console etc?

    Interesting idea.


    Anonymous wrote:


    >>"Will the Windows 8 transition be as disruptive? It's impossible to say at this point." So you feel something but have no rational reason you can elucidate?

    No, not at all. One of my basic principles is that you can't predict the future, because:

    1. There are too many semi-random factors in play that could change things, and

    2. People can change the future by changing their actions.

    At best, all you can do is put odds on what you think might happen if people did certain things. So Apple might be able to take a big chunk out of Windows if it pushes hard. And Google might lose the second place spot in tablets if Microsoft's OEMs make very good tablet hardware. And so on.

    It's literally impossible to say at this point how disruptive the Windows 8 transition will be because there are so many moving parts. At this point, it's all about potential.


    >>You should invest in an editor.

    But that's why you're here...


    Anonymous wrote:

    >>You are just too stupid too see it.

    Now, now. It's OK to say stuff like that to me, but please be respectful to each other.

    ReplyDelete
  114. Hi Michael,

    Great piece and video demo.

    Do shortcuts not work in windows 8? Can't you quit simly by ctrl + Q? Or perhaps set up some hotkeys?

    Cheers,
    Alicia

    ReplyDelete
  115. I did not find this article to be whining. You were stating your opinions in a way that did not show particular biases.

    There are two major areas where MSFT can sell this new OS -- major enterprises and consumers / small businesses. After reading this article, I see little motivation on the part of wither groups to upgrade given the cost of retraining.

    How long did it take you to write this novella? Good work!

    ReplyDelete
  116. There are a valid points in your post and the majority of the comments provide pretty good context. The Metro UI works great on a touch only device. but it feels awkward with the mouse.

    On a tablet, Windows 98 looks and feels great. If the better iPad developers port their apps to Windows 8, you have a viable alternative to the iPad. I don't see it passing or even coming close to the iPad market share, but it would be number 2. It's never going to compete with a $200 tablet, but it doesn't have to. Apple already proved that people will buy iPads at higher prices.

    While I don't agree with the decision to remove the Start button from the desktop, I'm not too worried about it. All Microsoft has done is to to create a new market for app launchers and desktop dock clones.

    One of the keys to Apple's success is that they control their ecosystem. If you have a Macbook, iPhone, iPhone, and an Apple TV; they will all tie in together at some level. The Android hardware vendors are too busy inventing new ways of adding proprietary features to see this.

    Since Microsoft doesn't make their own PCs/Phone/Tablets, they have lesser control over their ecosystem. But they have the xBox, a market that Apple never cracked (Raise your hand if you have an Apple Pippin.). Microsoft has plenty of opportunity to find ways of leveraging a tablet/phone connection with an xBox.

    My original thought was that Microsoft should have kept Windows 8 to the tablet and phone platforms and called it something else. The UI on those devices really isn't a windowing environment, xTablet and xPhone might of made more sense. But since you can run Windows 8 on a PC, you do something with it that you can't do on an iPad or Android tablet. You can write and debug code on the same OS that you are targeting. That's a big plus if you are trying to get developers to Metro Apps.

    ReplyDelete
  117. i peg it at somewhere between outcome 2 and outcome 3, with a bit more errata: chromebooks will steal some of the PC market, linux will steal some of the PC market, and apple will steal some of the PC market. PCs were everything to everybody for years, and now that "granular" options exist, it will cease to be a statistical cluster. people will scatter towards the individual options that work best for them.

    ReplyDelete
  118. If you're hungry to read even more discussion of Windows 8, I'd like to point out the glorious 200+ comment thread over at Metafilter. I haven't even been able to read the whole thing yet, but the discussion is civil and there's a lot of interesting info in it.

    ReplyDelete
  119. The problem with Windows 8 is not the new OS release but the reality that Windows itself is being marginalised by the web and mobile.

    In 2012 your average user can get by with just a browser for their desktop needs. That could be anything from Safari in Mac to IE/Chrome etc.. on Windows. The fact is that the browser is what most people use and the OS is fading faster and faster into the background for most users needs.

    This trend has allowed Apple to get a foothold in the PC business, allowed Google/Facebook to succeed as massive companies and has just been a game changer for the whole industry over the last 10yrs.

    The biggest thing you can take from the whole situation is this: in 2012 no one actually NEEDS Microsoft apart from a handful of OEM's and business users with legacy software/skills.

    The important part for MS is that these OEM's need MS because they have nothing to sell if MS don't give them their OS. Just this fact alone will mean Windows 8 will be just as successful sales wise as win 7 or any other Windows release.

    The problem for MS is whether sales success of the OS really means Windows is a successful product. Does winning the battle mean you are any close to winning the war? In other words will the huge sales of Windows 8 stop the operating system itself from being marginalised?

    In 2014 will the default scenario for most pc software devs still be cross platform html/js in a browser? Will the default money making mobile devices still be made by Apple and Google cohorts?

    Will developers bother making apps for Metro anyway when they will only be targeting a very small subset of Windows users?

    Why not develop in wpf/c++/winforms/html/Silverlight and have access to EVERY Windows owner?

    Why make a game than can ONLY be played in Metro?

    Why will windows devs who are used to choice want to go in the MS App store anyway where discovery will eventually be limited and they have to pay 30%?

    There are just so many "holes' in the story going foreword in terms of what Win 8 means for the new dev industry. The indies and Valley companies that along with google, Facebook and apple have been driving the tech economy forward over the last 10yrs WITHOUT Microsofts help, or needing MS.

    MS have been trying for years to embrace and extend the web (look at ie9/10 gnu optimisation as their last attempt at locking devs into windows). Yet the Valley guys are not buying it. Now they are going to hold Window hostage in an attempt to force the situation with Metro in a desperate attempt to force native Windows development on the world and create lock in.

    Given the position MS is in, you can see why the opted to merge Metro and Win 7 to make Win 8. In reality they have no choice because they have no way of making Windows "Needed" in the modern world of consumer computing.

    Think about this: Windows 7 is the most successful Windows product ever launched. Yet Apple's market share in the PC world has grown faster in the Win 7 period than at any other time. Shouldn't that scare you if your are MS?

    in 2012, you can move your computer platforms from windows to mac to android to chrome pretty easily. You couldn't do that 2002 or 1992. MS has some serious issues to deal with and Windows 8 sales won't mean they are anywhere near solving.

    ReplyDelete
  120. The problem with metro-sexual interface is that all the apps appear to force full-screen. When you run a WQXGA monitor, the last thing you want is everything to be full screen.

    And the metro-sexual interface is horrendously appalling to me. We're not cave men, lets put some art in our creations. Metro-sexual interface are cave-paintings.

    ReplyDelete
  121. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  122. I enjoyed your article. I think Windows 8 is Vista at best, likely ME but perhaps, just perhaps Windows 1.0. I think they are trying to define a new UI but failing by not being intuitive and remarkably reducing the information available at your fingerprints rather than making it accessible.

    However, you made one biased comment I take issues with. You said M$ copied Apple's UI. They both copied what they saw at PARC. Maybe M$ copied Apple too. Machts nichts.

    ReplyDelete
  123. When Vista came out, there were some articles describing how DRM was being built in to the OS. The concern was that this would preclude the average user from running or playing unapproved content. I am concerned that this is even stronger in Win8. I have a good amount of control in Win7. With the addition of the cloud and your Hotmail ID, it looks like everything you have or do will be visible to the mothership. Is it just me being paranoid? I would love to read an in depth article about privacy concerns with Win8. I would bet that there are a lot of them.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Thanks for this well thought out intelligent article.

    ReplyDelete
  125. Many thanks for your thoughtful article. I have found quick solutions to some of the problems you claim Windows 8 has (e.g. "hard to find programs/recent documents", "hard to get to Control Panel", "power users will be less productive than under Windows 7"). I would be interested in your comments. Please see http://www.actuary21c.com/?p=2594
    Regards
    Patrick

    ReplyDelete
  126. Thanks for the post. One of the first things I ask myself when I test a new program or device is, "can my dad use this?" That may sound strange but my dad is 100% blind. And yes, he still uses computers. He is quite good at it too. Since I don't have an extra laptop lying around, I was wondering if you thought a blind or visually impaired person would be able to use this with ease? I know he can't use my wifes iPad or my touchpad without a keyboard attached, and that is a huge headache that really wasn't worth the hour we spent on both. So since MS is trying to combine the desktop and tablet in one OS, I am kinda leary about this. Would it be worth my and my dads time to try to learn the hotkeys? Are they mostly the same or completely different? Did you even think about the blind and visually impaired when you were working with it? That last one was a joke. Just wondering what your thoughts were.

    ReplyDelete
  127. Yeah, Mace, true..


    It seems the best possible reason..


    >>I still scratch my head why the hell MS named it Windows 8 ???????

    I agree, but I think we both know why they did it -- marketing. If they call it Windows they think they can compel everyone to move to it, and that generates the critical mass of apps that makes the new platform successful.


    Though MS is not known for that level of commitment. MS do actually may have the bigger dream of ultimate converged platform in the long run, may be.

    As someone raised it, MS may take the idea of shell 'modes' for different deployment targets seriously and conquer the devices, kiosks and desktops in one shot.

    ReplyDelete
  128. I haven't read an article of that length in a very long time. I just wanted to say thank you it was very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  129. I was wondering while reading this why so much energy seemed to be put in to tearing this apart, when the reality seems to be that this just isn't that big of a deal. Then I saw it...."When I worked at Apple". From there your entire article article made sense. Your are REALLY biased, and just saying "I really am a windows user" doesn't make it so.

    ReplyDelete
  130. I've been using Vista since I got a laptop 3+ years ago. Now, I plan on using it until they pry it from my cold, dead hands ...

    I am a copyeditor. It sounds like everything I do will become more difficult with Windows 8. It's really frustrating that everything is always geared toward the media users now instead of us drudge workers.

    ReplyDelete
  131. Great blog article. It really sums up the Windows 8 situation well.

    Firstly it's called Desktop not Windows Explorer. I don't get why you're calling it Windows Explorer.

    Personally I like Windows 8, the improved Task Manager and submenu to access admin tools (right click, bottom left corner) to be very useful additions to Desktop mode.

    But I do find the mouse gesture to activate the charms menu to be totally cumbersome, to the point I've started using Windows key + C (Charms) and Windows key + I (Settings menu, including Shutdown).

    Shutdown should be added as an option to the right click admin tools submenu.

    The gesture to activate the Metro App launcher is a bit easier to activate but for desktop/laptop users it's pointless anyway, Alt-Tab is simply a better way to switch through apps (it separates out desktop apps!).

    I don't get why so many articles are saying the Desktop is mimic's Windows 7 or is an emulator. It IS the desktop from prior versions of Windows.

    No one is forcing desktop/laptop uses from using Metro for the most part at all.

    ReplyDelete
  132. Great article! I agree fully with one commenter that if windows 8 fails, the most likely scenario is that the existing user base would continue to use windows 7. And if that's the case, a failed windows 8 would likely result in outcome 2.

    I think the key issue for me is I use my tablet (Asus Transformer Prime) and computer in very different ways. My tablet has completely replaced my laptop for media consumption - Facebook, YouTube, etc. - while my laptop is now exclusively used for creation (I'm a musician) and productivity. I fear the windows 8 platform will be less usable for managing data. While there is a file browser on Android devices, its a feature set not often used. If I have to switch to windows 7 emulation to manage my files, I may as well stick with windows 7. The lack of intuitive file management is the biggest productivity killer, and why I'm tempted to stay put on windows 7.

    ReplyDelete
  133. I do like that you talk about people running real programs, and not just web applications. All to often, the very very large market of business users and/or semi-casual users is forgotten in favour of the twitterrati. I know that I cannot use a machine that will not run LaTeX well, and will not run some basic programming tools like Notepad++ or an equivalent well. I also am now so used to the Windows + right, Alt+Tab, Windows+Left combination that makes two windows take the whole screen, that I would never switch away from that feature...

    ReplyDelete
  134. Rather than Windows 8 being geared towards mobile devices, I think the idea is that it is “device independent”. That way, you can go from your cell phone to your tablet to your PC and continue the same experience, seamlessly accessing the same documents and functions, which is certainly an advance over the current need to manually transfer and convert between devices.

    Up to now, every version of Windows has been more complicated than the previous, with the computer landscape further complicated by viruses, spam, etc. There NEEDS to be a step in the direction of making things simpler, and that step needs to be a BIG one.

    Do we really need control panels and file management? Should we even be aware of “power management”? Can’t the computer be smart enough to do this without bothering me? Of course there will always be a subculture that is preoccupied with personalizing, tweaking and fussing with control panels, which can be endless, but what is the point of all this, really? The idea, I think, is to make computers more accessible to older people and the very young, for whom computers are, and rightly so, very scary. Computers are so useful, everyone should be able to use them.

    Imagine being able to sit down at any PC in your office, not just yours, the one you’ve meticulously “personalized”, to access your files, or any PC in your town, or the entire world? Now imagine if anybody, not just the computer savvy like yourself, but ANYBODY could do this! Imagine if computers became so easy to use that anybody could use them? Imagine one day that they aren’t even called “computers”. The word alone gives many people chills, yes, even now. Think of the markets you’d open if literally EVERYONE had a PC or tablet or laptop, and one didn’t have to have special knowledge or training to use them. Just open the box and start using it!

    It reminds me of the Microsoft Zune mp3 player (I have 2) which basically never turns off and doesn’t have any sound controls other than volume. And that’s why I love it so much, I just press a button (to take it out of sleep mode) and it immediately resumes whatever was last playing! There’s nothing to tweak, like eq settings, so no time wasted tweaking, most of which is pointless anyway, a distraction – most external speakers have their own tone controls anyway, but I digress. I think that’s the same philosophy behind Windows 8.

    Aren’t computers supposed to be smart anyway? Leave it to the computer to know what to do! No more control panels! Yeah!

    OK, so maybe their strategy is a little intrusive - to existing power users, but I think that’s a minority. Microsoft’s philosophy is definitely the next rational step in the evolution of so-called personal computing.

    Or just keep Windows 7. A future service pack will most likely address the concerns you’ve listed.

    ReplyDelete
  135. I intend to stick with Windows 7 as long as possible, then (finally) learn Linux. I'd rather have an operating system that believes the computer owner actually does know what they want the computer to be doing.

    ReplyDelete
  136. I was never a big fan of Microsoft and now I absolutely hate them. I learned how to use a computer at work. We had an IT team who ran the system and we learned the programs as they were acquired by the employer. So when I bought a desktop PC for home I had to learn many things I never had to deal with. Many trials and tribulations over the years. I have Windows 7 now and it is not my comfort zone. I had XP which I loved. When the Windows 8 preview came out I thought that I could get away from an OS I didn't feel comfortable with so I downloaded the preview. Big mistake. It removed all of my software and my files. I couldn't figure out how to use the new OS. Nothing worked. I wrote to Microsoft begging to remove it. They said no. I was very upset. I frantically looked for info on what to do to get my old system back. I found out that I had to strip everything and reload all my programs. It took me a number of days but I finally got everything back the way it was. So that's it. No more Microsoft for me.

    ReplyDelete
  137. Great blog post - very thorough - thanks.


    I was a huge MS fan for many years – since the Windows 3.0 launch and was an earlier adopter of the Pocket PC and early Windows Mobile as well. Throughout that time I always found myself “tinkering” to get the OS running effectively, efficiently. A couple of years ago I got an iPhone and was amazed how simple it was to use. At roughly the same time the situation with my home PC was ugly – constant tuning and rebooting were needed to keep it running and keep it clean so I switched to a Mac desktop and haven’t looked back since. Sure there was a bit of a learning curve but the biggest learning for me was that I didn’t have to do all the things I had to in order to get window running optimally. Frankly I was amazed at how fast my wife picked up the Mac OS and that says a lot – she hates computers.

    I run Window 7 on my laptop (not by choice) and am a heavy office user. I need to do things quickly, find things quickly, work with multiple windows open and easily be able to navigate between them. Covering all this up with a Metro UI in hopes of de-cluttering my view is going to cause huge problems. I hated it when MS switched to the ribbon in the office suite – I still find myself wondering where certain functions are that I became so used to using with the other office versions. At times I wonder – did switching to the ribbon really make my life easier or harder because I basically had to rediscover were things are?

    The Metro UI is already out in the phone marketplace – are people flocking to it like they did to the iPhone? Nope. What makes MS think that people will flock to the Metro UI on the PC? Concepts of the Metro UI are neat, but I question how productive it will be in the business arena and that is MS’ bread & butter. If you can’t win over the CIO’s…

    Personally I believe that MS is being too arrogant and this will result in a fail from the business users. Watch MS come out with a “Windows 8 Business Edition” about a year after this releases that strips out the Metro UI and replaces it with an upgraded, yet familiar UI in for the business users. This won’t be the decline for MS but it will give them a bigger bruise than Vista did. It will be interesting to see how they handling this come 2013 and what Apple does…

    ReplyDelete
  138. Hi Michael, congrats on all the cool things you're doing! And thank you for the very useful, though long, article.

    My take on what will happen is summed up by my own personal response. My personal Windows laptop is dead (accumulated crud) and I'll now replace it with a Mac. When my job switches to Windows 8 for its Windows machines, I'll either demand a Mac from my job, or use my new-ish personal Mac for work.

    I think there are three problems with Windows 8: the interface itself; the fact that Microsoft is forcing it on people; and what it says about Microsoft that they are forcing it on people. To wit: Microsoft doesn't care about customers and isn't cool enough to make stuff that we want despite that fact. So Windows 8 will only be the beginning of a series of execrable decisions by Microsoft.

    I expect to be in the diminishing tribe of personal computer (vs. tablet and smartphone-led) users for a long time, so why not cast my lot with the camp that "gets", and innovates effectively in, both the old and the new world?

    ReplyDelete
  139. Prediction: People will call it W8, and that is exactly what they will do until they get backward compatibility right.

    ReplyDelete
  140. I will continue to stick with Windows XP. Yes it is more than 10 years old now, but I have never seen a convincing reason to change.

    ReplyDelete
  141. I'm glad bradavon chimed in above with a discussion of hotkeys for basic functions in Windows 8, because otherwise, I would consider it a non-starter. The sort of non-subtle fullscreen gestures and swipes that make total sense with a finger on a 4 inch screen are repetitive-strain-injury bait on a fullsize laptop with a mouse or trackpad. Thanks, Michael, for such a complete introduction to the OS.

    ReplyDelete
  142. When I installed consumer preview, I actually thought it was kind of exciting to discover all the new ways of doing things. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to shut down, close programs, etc., but half an hour later it felt very familiar. I approached it expecting it to be new and as a result I was very pleased. I think if people come to it with a similar mindset, they'll love as I do.

    ReplyDelete
  143. The Metro interface reminds me of the array of glowing primary-color icons biologists use to communicate with primates. I guess that's not surprising.

    ReplyDelete
  144. I do tech support. I've worked with all versions of Windows, starting back in the DOS days. I've used all Mac versions and am familiar with several Unix/Linux OSes as well. I talked my stepson into getting a Win 7 phone (I have an iphone and my boyfriend has an Android--I think we have everything covered!)

    What I can tell you from many years of working with end users is that Win8 is going to be an extremely difficult transition. They are not going to like it and they won't understand it. They will hang onto the existing software as long as they possibly can. I think you will see Linux use continue to expand as it will be possible to configure the desktop to look like the Windows they know. I don't think Apple will pick up a lot of users over this as they seem to have problems convincing their customers to upgrade to Lion. The hardware is more expensive as well.

    I like using Win7 on the phone. It seems to work well and has a very modern look to it. I can see using it on a tablet. If Microsoft finds a way to break applications that businesses use, then companies will start to look elsewhere. Linux boxes with Win emulation might be a better fit for them. They'd have the licenses to use for the emulator and most businesses have a server or two running Linux. They'd be comfortable enough with it to roll it out.

    I guess we'll see what happens when it gets out in to general use. I am surely not looking forward to trying to walk people through standard tasks. Just walking a customer through updating a wifi password can be a major pain in the newer versions of windows

    ReplyDelete
  145. A lot of the simplifications that you are mentioning in Windows 8 are exactly the the things that drive me nuts when I have to use Mac OS X. OS X doesn't let you sort by file type... a feature that is very helpful when you are trying to say separate all of your JPEG files from all of your RAW files when you have downloaded them from a memory card.

    For all the comments of people who say why do we need file management probably haven't worked in shared networked environments. The cloud idea is okay for somethings, but for other applications a highly structured, well thought-out hierarchical directory structure is invaluable.

    Also, I don't want to have to work on a machine the way Apple or Microsoft tells me is the best way to use the interface. That may be best for 90% of the user population, but there are some people that rely on being able to customize their user interface to be efficient.

    I am also not sure about not being able to save shortcuts to files of the Start page. I can do this in Android, I would expect to be able to do it in Windows 8 as well.

    From a best practices standpoint, I can maybe understand that the hope might be for users to begin to make better use of Metadata tags to allow more robust searches than directory and file name. That is all well and good, but what about the hundreds of thousands of files than many of us already have that are not tagged properly?

    One last point, and the question may have already been asked and answered, but it seems that you have neglected Search in the Windows Charms. I haven't worked with Windows 8 yet, but if they made it work correctly, all of those functions you are looking for should be available there. For instance, if you type in Power Management, it should link you to the Power Management Window in Control Panel with out having to burrow throw several layers of the operating system to get to it. It looks, from a design perspective, like Microsoft's intention is to have users make greater use of search. They have placed it on top of the list of Charms after all.

    This may be a habit worth getting into, as often times would would have to click through several different control panel pages to get to the functionality we wanted, and would never even think to use the search box in the start menu, because, well, that wasn't how we were used to doing things. This may end up being a boon to user productivity instead of a hindrance.

    ReplyDelete
  146. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  147. You touch on business needs for document creation, but you completely ignore one of the driving forces of both the software and hardware markets: Gamers.

    They represent a good portion of early adopters in both software and hardware, and they tend to be the ones who give early opinions that influence others' perceptions of a product. They also have very high standards.

    Gamers will not get on board with touchscreen technology, at least not in the needed numbers as it currently exists. You have to be able to manipulate the content on the screen without obscuring it. Your point about gesture technology is promising, but would still have to be integrated with some kind of physical interface.

    My prediction is that we'll see Win7 retention ("every other MS OS is crap" feeling), and that version of Linux with well defined GUIs (like Ubuntu) will start becoming more common.

    ReplyDelete
  148. I am concerned with the potential impact to productivity in Win8. While Apple has been attracting content consumers for obvious reasons many of us who use our computers for business productivity have stuck with PCs running Windows. Windows 7 is a pretty solid platform and I don't think most users want to regress into limited functionality in Win8. What I can't figure out is why Windows hasn't gone to a more flexible interface structure. That is what a lot of users are really looking for more than anything. The ability to choose dramatically different interfaces depending on how you use your computer. One for tablet computing, one for online content consumption and one for business productivity etc. In the past by relegating theme development to third party developers(who notoriously damage the system) they shut down dynamic interfaces. A fresh look and way to control the power of Windows is all that most users are looking for anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  149. Windows 8 looks like shit.

    There, someone had to say it.

    ReplyDelete
  150. @Allesandro Rosa: To sort by type, from the Gear Menu -> Arrange By -> Kind.

    ReplyDelete
  151. I'm calling BS here. The author worked at Apple as a director of Mac Platform Marketing. I guess no one said that blogs had to be fact. I would rather like to see an impartial or at least an honest well informed article.

    Keep in mind that iPad is not a desktop. Also most iPads were adopted into the workplace via the consumers that brought them in as in an executive who then wanted support. That spiraled into "how do we work on this thing other than email and web?" Answer for the masses: VDI. VDI has no ROI. An EXTREMELY expensive proposition. Companies are adopting it because there isnt a good alternative for iPAD for all work apps. For enterprise, Windows to Go is a massive game changer as is the flexibility to create Metro apps that will work on a variety of devices without needing to rework them. And, yes, you can side load apps.

    IMO, if you are going to write a blog that is not factual and just mostly opinion based on previous jobs or preference please say so. It will make it easier to sort out the BS later.

    ReplyDelete
  152. "Millions of Windows users [..] decide to switch to some other computing platform."

    What other platform?

    Linux is great in the lab, for developers, for network engineers. It's utterly worthless as a desktop OS to the average Windows user. They aren't going to leave all their existing software behind and start scouring forums to find a driver for that new camera they bought. Not happening.

    OSX requires Apple's expensive boutique hardware. The average user is not going to pay twice as much for a computer so they can avoid a small learning curve, especially when it means facing an even larger one.

    Microsoft can afford to be lazy and sloppy because they know nobody's going anywhere. They are still the de facto standard platform of the personal computer age, and will for the foreseeable future.

    ReplyDelete
  153. I tested Win 8 and noted it was slower than Win 7 on my machine. It did work well with the hardware.

    Also,I aggree with "What other platform?". Unless you purchase an Apple, you need to use MS. Linux works, but lacks the 3rd party apps. of MS or Apple.

    ReplyDelete
  154. My bona fides: I built my first computer in 1954. I have worked on the LGP30 (my first hexidecimal machine) and Univac I, wired IBM office machines, programmed almost all the machines before S/360 in actual, worked in development on S/360 and OS/360 (most models), did emulators, simulators, and sort/merge. I've switched from language to language, machine to machine, and OS to OS over the years. Every "innovation" made me obsolete and I have had to start over in order to work and be productive. I am now 73 and tired of changing over and over again. When will this nonsense stop?
    Well, never! I hate the idea of Windows 8 being so different. I made the switch to 7 and it wasn't too bad, just annoying from time to time. My poor wife is still on XP because she uses Outlook Express. (I still don't like Live Mail.) I made the blunder of installing IE8 for her. It's one of those irreversable installs (I believe using core elements of the OS and replacing others), so there are incompatibilities between the OS and Outlook Express. This has forced her to Chrome. It still isn't perfect. I am thinking of putting her on W7, but then we have to go to the Live Mail and all that it entails.
    So, you can imagine I am not looking forward to Windows 8 at this point. But, being the "nerd" I am I will probably upgrade to it, or just build/buy a new machine and go for it.
    Why must each step forward make so much of what we knew obsolete? Where is all the beloved "backward" compatibility? I am so tired of going back to square one to learn how to open my recently used Word document. Am I just an old whiner.
    At least I won't be going to user departments and helping the secretaries figure out how to get to their spreadsheets and presentations.
    Thanks, Michael, for the details. I quiver at the thought of what awaits me. (Of course, Y2K was pretty scary until we lived through it --- turned out to be a dud.)

    ReplyDelete
  155. The poster who wrote "commands then menus, then icons then Siri" had it right. The Metro interface is short attention span theater. Bright big squares to push for the illiterate. Goodbye File - edit - view, hello ribbon.

    I support approximately 600 users at 14 different companies. I predict nervous breakdowns amongst the assistants whose only job is to type and print documents when 8 hits. These users know how to do two to ten things and that is all they wnat to learn. Click the Big W for Word, the bog X for Excel. Some of them are virtuosos within these programs but ask them their logon name? Computername? Domain name? Forget it.

    There are companies who invested $6000 in their only server 9 years ago, they're not moving to the cloud or VDI's or web enabled terminals. They are hanging onto their Optiplex P4's like they might want to recover the gold off the PCB's one day.
    The reality is that the small biz world needs file and print and access to their MS Access. They do not need nor want a sea change.

    The change from Office 03 to 07-10 was devastating to short term productivity. File-Save is what users had been doing for 15 years, now you have to teach them to click the cryptic Office blob. Why?

    From an appearance point of view, I enjoy the current Win7 desktop. It shows my favorite picture of the month and is utterly uncluttered. I have 4 folders on the desktop: Apps, Notes, Games, Utils. Everything else I need is on a Start menu with instantly recognizeable names written in English or typed in the search box. I do not have to sort through a hundred pictograms to find what I'm looking for.
    Visual junk is just that.

    From an admin perspective GPO and cmd line will become the norm to get your job done in 8, the same way Powershells have become the way to go on server products. The days of the helpful coworker who can help someone change printers will be gone, the IT Dept will be called for the most trivial of assistance requests.

    I am going with the authors second prediction and suspect the EOL for Win7 will be pushed back more years than it was for XP.

    ReplyDelete
  156. Yesterday I found a bug in Visual C++ 2010 compiler and reported it to Mirosoft. They replied that they did not accept bugs for 2010 suite anymore. I should try Visual 2012 instead. Except that Visual 2012 does not even install on Windows 7. This is simply crazy. It looks like Microsoft decided to commit a suicide.

    ReplyDelete
  157. I've had a 22" touch screen for my Win7 desktop for 8 months... and I never use it. It's a complete waste, because ultimately everything we do on a desktop is done with... a keyboard. Half the stuff done on an iPhone is done on a... keypad. As a professional developer for Windows applications, I could not possibly even think of using this horrible interface. The reality is, Win7 was successful because it was actually possible for a business to use it, in the trenches. Think of the investment that would be required to literally re-train every single employee who now uses XP/W7 - because they will NOT be able to use this product for LOB applications, guaranteed. It's ludicrous. Even Linux and Apple have a menu system, file access, icons, etc. - My guess is that the start menu will be glaringly back in W8 SP1 - or kiss MS goodbye. Why don't they get it?

    ReplyDelete
  158. Every 3 to 5 years, Microsoft decides that we aren't "doing it right" and changes everything about their product line. Vista and then Office 2010 are two of the more recent examples of this. It looks like Windows 8 will be the next "paradigm shift" where Microsoft tells us we need to do everything differently.

    The productivity cost of these "paradigm shifts" are immense. Everyone has to re-learn even the most basic ways to accomplish a whole set of given tasks.

    I never thought of myself as an anti-Microsoft bigot but I am getting tired of them moving, breaking or hiding essential features in their products because they think I should be doing it differently.

    Linux and Open Source are becoming more attractive with every release from Microsoft.

    ReplyDelete
  159. re: no boot to desktop.

    It may be it's an OEM demand, not (just) a Microsoft requirement. They all want to be able to spend another $10 per system to ship with touch enabled screens. They don't want (can't afford to, will go out of business if they have) to compete with an OEM whose customers won't be asking for one (because the urge to touch metro is so natural, once it's in view). Similar to the "how do we move the industry forward?" issue in terms of peripherals have happened over-and-over again in the past. i.e. none will take the risk unless all have to take the risk.

    It could well be that if they (the PC industry) does not force the change to (high quality) touch-enabled screens in all settings (all screens, not just laptops and tablets), they (the entire PC industry) will fail (ref: "the PC is dead" articles). And yet, as is being argued here, if they do force the move to touch, maybe they will fail as well at of user confusion, revulsion, reluctance to change.

    It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is the OEMs are desperate to see hardware turn over again (since that's the only way they make money - unlike their AAPL competitor), and touch screens are certainly one mechanism to separate the "new and sexy" from the "old and busted."

    ReplyDelete
  160. Microsoft has been making Windows MORE difficult to use with every single version it releases. Many functions that were simple to do in Windows XP are buried in Windowss 7. Explorer is a perfect example, ever try to customize the look of Explorer in Windows 7? In XP it was simple, click File->Properties. The default view of Win7 Explorer doesn't even have a Menu bar!!!! Now try to figure out how to get the Menu bar in Windows Explorer. Now that you have a Menu bar, how do you get rid of it? (I still haven't figured that one out yet!)

    The Office 10 suite is very similar. It only has the most used features on the Menus. What if you want to use one of those seldom used features? Good luck trying to figure out how to even find the menu item!!! For the most common tasks, the new Office 10 interface is easier, but the pain in trying to do anything "uncommon" is extremely PAINFUL. So painful in fact that I prefer the old interface simply because the amount of time I waste trying to figure how to do what I need to do does not make up for time I gain doing the simple things. Almost every week, I have to google in order to figure out how to something that used to be extrememly simple in XP or Office 2007 but oh so complicated in Windows 7 or Office 10.

    The most astute observation in the blog post is that Microsoft is eliminating the "clutter" but not making Windows "simpler" (I think "easier" is more appropriate though.) That is a very complicated task that Microsoft just doesn't have the chops to pull off. I'm all for getting rid of the clutter, but why do they have to make doing not so often used simple tasks so extremely diffiult and unintuative? Why can't we have the best of both worlds instead of having a UI designed for only the lowest common denominator?

    When Vista came out, I bought a new computer while XP was still available in order to avoid Vista. My next computer was Windows 7. Sounds like I'll have to do it again and wait for Windows 9 or finally move to open-source.

    ReplyDelete
  161. I am using the preview on my work PC daily. I seriously thought I'd miss the Start menu. But in Win 7 all I did in Start was type in the Search box as it works very well to find most anything.

    Turns out on Win 8 just hit the Start button on the keyboard,type something and it's just the same but Metro style!

    ReplyDelete
  162. OMG written by an Apple Fanboy... so that tells me Apple is worried BIGTIME!

    ReplyDelete
  163. Mate I think you need to read 'who moved my cheese'. To find your power setting, right click the start menu bottom left hand corner the select 'power options' It is not that hard to learn...

    ReplyDelete
  164. Mate you have the desktop shortcut which you can do everything. When you are on the road you don't want to all the things you have mentioned as problems. If you do you have a CHOICE - Ashley

    ReplyDelete
  165. As a tech this is not good news. Vista and 7 are bad enough in the productivity stakes, especially when supporting them and Metro seems even worse.

    It's worth noting that banks (at least in Australia) are reluctant to go to 7 and will be even less reluctant taking up 8. Most of the reluctance involves applications and connectivity to other systems.

    As pointed out 8 is for touch screens, specifically on tablets or slate PC's and most people don't use those at work, yet.

    ReplyDelete
  166. I started working at Apple in 1988 until 1997. I have worked in Windows shops ever since.

    I have always called Windows "3 click hell" compared to the Mac. I am glad they are at least keeping up that tradition!

    ReplyDelete
  167. A great day to be a penguin. #linuxRules

    ReplyDelete
  168. The metro tile look like something out of the 1970's.

    ReplyDelete
  169. Windows 8 is just as dopey as the Unity interface Ubuntu now delivers as default (at least you can install a "traditional" alternative).

    This is the worst scenario of "faddism" where all the bored developers and marketing droids somehow think that we all will be using touch screens at work.

    It is rubbish for people who do real work.

    ReplyDelete
  170. I have used both of the Win8 preview versions and what strikes me about Win 8 it is all about consumption just as IOS and Android rather than creation (traditional Windows)
    Sure you can add Programmes I mean apps to the Metro tiles but if you want to say have multiple windows open and drag and drop between them you will need the Desktop Metro.
    It seems that MS are convinced consumers will flock to Win 8 and buy new touch devices, but incase you want to there is a desktop interface if you must use, but wait you will still need to access the desktop from Metro. Apparantly MS will make it impossible to boot straight into the Win 8 desktop and bypass Metro.
    The whole scroll left to right thing just doesn't feel natural with a non touch device I hear MS are working on new touchpad drivers and mice for notebooks & PC's but I am not sure that is going to be enough to convince tradtional Windows users of Desktops & Notebook to make the move.
    I think MS will have a real battle on its hands to get people to upgrade from Win7 to Win8 as there just isn't enough in Win 8 than isn't already in Win7 .
    It it so much harder to do simple things like shutdown your PC rather than it used to be.
    What MS should have done is keep Metro for touch devices and the Win 8 Desktop for PC's.
    They need to decide what market they want to be in either Touch device computing (Metro) or traditional WIndows (Desktop I don't believe you can effectively do both). I hope I am wrong and Win8 will be a success because we need the competition.

    ReplyDelete
  171. The time of Linux (Mint, Ubuntu) nears...

    ReplyDelete
  172. Interesting.

    I think one has to check the different markets. Windows 8 may work very well for the "all consumption no creation" market. Maybe this is the largest market now, I don't know.

    People who create stuff will switch to Linux, which is designed for creating stuff. (Though there's horrible faddism happening in Linux too, it's easy enough to TURN IT OFF.)

    ReplyDelete
  173. Anonymous said...
    Interesting.

    I think one has to check the different markets. Windows 8 may work very well for the "all consumption no creation" market. Maybe this is the largest market now, I don't know.

    People who create stuff will switch to Linux, which is designed for creating stuff. (Though there's horrible faddism happening in Linux too, it's easy enough to TURN IT OFF.)

    Sunday, June 10, 2012 11:15:00 AM


    Agree completely linux Distros are catering to the computer simples certain Linux Distros are taking too much light and people are getting the wrong IDEA.

    ReplyDelete
  174. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  175. I must be getting old. There's a Windows 8 already? I've had my Windows 7 laptop less than a year, but I was no early adopter. Of course, XP hung on a long time by Windows standards, so that skews expectations.

    I'm already annoyed that my Windows 7 laptop seems to want to be a television a little more than it wants to be a computer. Sometimes Windows Explorer can't move a file because it's "open" in some program--when all I did was select it, in Windows Explorer. I can't find a way to set commands to open multiple files in Photoshop, say. I feel like Microsoft adds functionality and then takes away or hides other functionality out of some madness.

    Is it sick that I miss my old Windows ME computer that I had to disk-check constantly? At least when it wasn't totally malfunctioning, it did what I told it to do; and it could manage things on the hard drive in a timely fashion. Or is that the haze of memory making it seem better than it was?

    ReplyDelete
  176. terrific article..can totally identify the viewpoint you are coming from..as an avid windows user myself.

    i an SO in agreement with your statements :
    I believe Microsoft is overestimating the immediate risk of a collapse in PC sales due to tablets and other new devices, and underestimating the potential backlash against Windows 8. A tablet -- any tablet -- just isn't a good substitute to a PC for many tasks. Huge numbers of people still need PCs for productivity work, and won't abandon them quickly, if at all. And no matter how much Microsoft tells itself that people are adaptable, the average Windows user is intensely practical and focused on getting work done rather than exploring magical new experiences.

    I dont understand why many big companies kill the very product..the very niche features that actually keep them afloat and give them the edge in that particular area..

    ReplyDelete
  177. Alessandro Rosa said...

    " A lot of the simplifications that you are mentioning in Windows 8 are exactly the the things that drive me nuts when I have to use Mac OS X. OS X doesn't let you sort by file type... a feature that is very helpful when you are trying to say separate all of your JPEG files from all of your RAW files when you have downloaded them from a memory card."

    View by list
    Click on the 'Type" column to sort by type

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  178. Thanks for this thoughtful article.

    I'd like to post as a productivity user, not a developer, or even a sophisticated windows user.

    I'm a professional scientist and a large part of our work involves hardware-software interface: controlling complex electronic hardware systems using a PC interface. Many of my colleagues are avid Mac users for daily productivity work - however even we are required to use Windows machines for hardware-software interface. Mac just can't handle hardware drivers appropriately (and before Linux users chime in, hardware control is just as difficult in linux).

    Unfortunately, Windows has been going in the same direction for years. We are forced to continue to purchase Windows XP machines as neither Windows Vista nor Windows 7 provide hardware compatibility. And we're not alone - many corporate and government clients rely on the (relative) stability of the XP platform for enterprise applications.

    This is an amazing observation - we rely on an OS that's 11 years old, and we have no real hope for an upgrade. Fortunately Microsoft has continued to support this platform, and they must know the challenges that hardware users and engineers face.

    What this means is that Microsoft is already bifurcating their business model between true productivity users (this even includes many government/corporate clients who rely on XP), and general users. So perhaps this model will simply continue.

    Can MS effectively abandon Windows 7, leaving the relatively small population of productivity users to Windows XP, while migrating new "consumption" users, mobile platforms, etc. to Windows 8?

    So long as Microsoft continues to support both platforms, the world won't end...

    ReplyDelete
  179. Thanks for all the comments, everybody. This is a great discussion. I'm reading all of the comments, although I don't have time to respond to every one.

    I did want to clarify one thing, though...

    Anonymous wrote:

    >>The author worked at Apple as a director of Mac Platform Marketing. I guess no one said that blogs had to be fact.

    By definition, almost all blogs are opinion. And anyone's opinion is going to be shaped in part by the places they've worked. That why I am up front about my background, Anonymous.

    So yeah, my time at Apple definitely influences me. But so does my time at Silicon Graphics, where I was head of marketing for the Windows products business unit. And my time at Palm, where most of our customers were Windows users.

    So I've been a Windows competitor, a Windows licensee, and a Windows developer. I'd like to think I draw on all of those experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  180. Henry Skoglund says: "Of course OSX also wants to update itself. But it usually presents the alert only in the morning, when turning on your computer and having your coffee. A sort of mutual respect that Microsoft did drop in Vista and Windows 7."

    This is classic Apple-lover douchery. As if the computer knows that you wake up, open your computer and read the news while it installs updates. Does your Mac also cook you eggs and bacon?

    ReplyDelete
  181. I thought I'd examine how I currently use my work operating system. Home machine is Vista and I do play about a bit there but only because I can, not because I need to.

    I use Windows XP in an IT enterprise company of around 15,000-20,000 employees.

    Realistically, most of my activity is using icons in my desktop area that I have added, like applications in the quick launch or desktop items. I have to admit that the only time I ever hit start is to shut down on those few times I actually do it or to launch applications that are in my most recently oppened applications not added to the quick launch. It's a productive machine and frankly I could actually get by in Windows XP without ever touching the start button since I'm able to shut down the machine without going the start button route.

    A week ago I broke out in to a cold sweat when I read the reviews of the release preview of Windows 8 and the lack of a start bar. I thought where on earth would I find....it felt like someone was trying to make people walk without legs. When I actually study what I do and how I use operating systems and I don't think I am that unusual as a normal user, I soon realise that the start bar is in fact a fairly pointless thing in the end that too many have become unncessarily anchored too. An operating system should be a fairly invisible tool that we just use without getting hung up on. Most people just want the productive tools that help them get their job done. If these are in front of them in a metro like interface, then frankly the operating system will have done its job for many. The attachment to the start bar reminds me of hoarders that think their life will end if they clear the rubbish from their cupboards that they never use but might need one day. I suspect many users are familiar with what is there without much need to use most of it.

    I also suspect the so called re-learning that people will have to do is actually not nearly as much that would send them running to other systems. Most people probably don't do that much with an operating system in reality over and above launching and using applications. Whether they need to hit start or push a button on the screen in front of them is probably in the end irrelevant.

    That said, it's a brave move by Microsoft. Great thread by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  182. Gawd damn, there are just too many Microsoft astroturfing shills in the comment section.

    This is a consistent trend in any other tech sites featuring articles that are not gushing with praise for Windows 8, Metro, Windows phones etc. Microsoft employees were caught red-handed astroturfing.

    I won't list names: you should instinctively know who they are.

    ----

    Back to the topic: Windows 8 is a BIG bet-the-farm gamble for Microsoft. As with all gambles, you may lose everything.

    Time will tell, but the way things are now, it does not bode well for Microsoft. Microsoft may be able to resist a drop in share price, but its OEM partners (especially Nokia) may not survive.

    I see most users sticking with Windows 7 and Windows XP. Corporations won't upgrade to Windows 8. OEMs will demand downgrade rights to Windows 7.

    And on the tablet front, Windows 8 tablets will make nary a dent on the market shares of iPads and Kindles.

    Good luck, Steven Sinofsky, Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop. You'll need lots of it.

    ReplyDelete
  183. I am a simple Windows user and always have been. The transition for me to use an apple mac and navigate it is a slight challenge but with time I am able to master it. I feel this is probably the same with Win 8 new Metro interface. I for one am tired of I.T. companies telling us what we are ready for instead of asking us. What was their testing market base? 20 somethings? What about the rest of us who are not so drenched in 'social hub' tablet and mobile pc interface?

    ReplyDelete
  184. Anonymous said... I soon realise that the start bar is in fact a fairly pointless thing in the end that too many have become unncessarily anchored too

    I'm continually dumbfounded by people's contention that the Start menu is pointless. In collapsed form, it is a 35x35 pixel button that expands to an approximate 400x400 pixel menu that gives a user organized access to:

    -Every single program installed on their computer.
    -An automatically populated list of programs a user frequently uses.
    -A system-wide global search function.
    -Access to all the major system device and configuration panels.
    -Access to common file/media libraries.
    -A single button that handles all system shutdown/restart/suspend/sleep tasks.

    I can't fathom the glee with with people seem to cheer the removal of a 35x35 pixel button that provides so much functionality. Don't use it? Fine, no problem. But don't take it away from those who do, just to reclaim an entirely insignificant amount of space.

    And that these same people seem to favor the Metro start screen is unfathomable. There is no analogy in real life for how the Metro start screen works. When you need to find a document in a filing cabinet, do you take out every single piece of paper in the entire filing cabinet, lay them on the floor in a grid and then pick the one you're looking for?

    No, of course not. We each, naturally, organize our information into a logical hierarchical structure so we can successively narrow down the information we need to search to find what we want. Metro does just the opposite. It says "Here's everything on your computer, all at once" and finding a single program is like finding a needle in a haystack.

    Add to that the full screen nature of anything Metro and it amounts to a colossal and unrepresented reduction in capabilities and productivity. As the author aptly stated, Windows 8 has been optimized for using Facebook at the expense of capabilities necessary for actual, productive work. I won't argue that a majority of home Windows users probably do little more than use Facebook, but to toss out any concessions for those of us who still use their computers to ACTUALLY CREATE SOMETHING seems insane.

    As for the person who said that they don't use the start menu and, therefore, never invested the time to "learn" the Windows 7 start menu: it's impossible to take your statements and/or opinions seriously since the Windows 7 start menu hasn't changed in any appreciable way since XP. There is nothing to "learn", it operates exactly how anyone would logically expect, and how the Windows Start menu has operated for more than a decade.

    Windows 8, on the other hand, not only operated completely differently, but many of the methods it employs are 100% hidden from the user with absolutely no visual clue to not only how they should work, but that they even exist at all. At least with the Start menu, anyone with even a minimum capability for logic can figure it out. With Windows 8, the only way a person can learn it is being specifically told where the magic Easter eggs are hidden, or by stumbling on them by total dumb luck.

    That is not good UI design by any possible stretch of the imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  185. It's interesting how emotionally driven the O/S discussion has become. Especially thanks to the rise of BYOD with mobile, we as consumers feel empowered that our choices will shape the industry.

    One of the things that will be fascinating to watch with Windows 8however is going to be enterprise takeup. We're now not talking about any single device, we're talking about the fundamental - the workstation.

    MS wants to create a platform, ideally cross device. Ride the workstation into a meaningful expansion of marketshare into other devices.

    The key is ensuring productivity remains to the workstation user, so that the metro interface feels natural on all devices. That way, the decision becomes one of economics in the enterprise, where MS has a gargantuan advantage.

    ReplyDelete
  186. I am consistently surprised by the difficulty so many seem to have with Windows 8. 99% of the time it is exactly the same as Windows 7, if that is what you want. I installed it over Win7 on my main PC when the Consumer Preview arrived, having done some testing of the Developer Preview on a netbook, and I really can't see what the fuss is all about. I think it is far less of a transition than it was from XP to Vista/Win7. It took me ages to learn my way around the changed headers in Control Panel, for example, but all that stuff is exactly how it is now. Yes, the Start Button is gone but if you put your cursor over the spot where it used to be, you get the functionality behind it. Even on the Metro Start Screen, if you click on the Photoshop tile it starts Photoshop on the Desktop. The difference is about the same as changing the font in the menu. Its only if you choose to use a Metro app that you have to put up with Metro style limitations. There is nowhere that you are forced to deal with it if you don't want to.

    Where you swipe on a touchscreen device to scroll down or across, Win8 gives you familiar scroll bars to get around with your mouse or trackpad. It feels exactly like it always has (but it definitely look a lot cleaner). Control Panel is the same, Windows Explorer is largely the same (with new, mostly awesome features) and if you install as an upgrade you get all your desktop shortcuts and pinned applications carried over from Vista/Win7.

    Seriously, Win8 is a much easier upgrade to get your head around than the change between XP and Vista/Win7 and beyond that, it is a much, much better version of Windows that is well worth the half-hour or so you may take to get started with it.

    ReplyDelete
  187. I'd suggest that Windows 8 is not going to be Vista but instead will likely end up like Windows ME (if anyone recalls what a horrible failure that was; it did produce some nice tech that was used moving forward however ). Fortunately unlike Apple, Microsoft still supports "legacy' operating systems for a fairly reasonable amount of time... unless they change that policy to force the shift more quickly if they don't see the adoption rate in the consumer space they're looking for.

    ReplyDelete
  188. My fiance has a Mac and I have a Dell. Both are 6+ years old and are really showing their age. Soon one or both will fail and we'll need a new computer. We can only afford one. She passionately believes that we should pay the premium to get a new Mac. I thought we should get another Dell.

    I had always considered it a simple mac vs. pc choice. I never thought about the operating system. Your review has made me consider that too.

    If I'm going have to relearn the operating system, why not relearn on a mac? Or maybe explore something like ubuntu? A local non-profit raves about it and it's free.

    This is a choice I didn't want. I had gotten used to the vanilla comfortableness of Windows. My laptop at 6 years old still does everything I want, but the components are starting to fail. I'd gladly buy it again with XP as the operating system. Replacing it in terms of today's hardware would only cost about $600.

    Getting a decent mac for my fiance would cost about $1,000. If the price was also about $600, I'd think we'd just get a mac and be done with it.

    ReplyDelete
  189. I recently rebuilt my machine. I "upgraded" to windows 8 and immediately regretted it. It is slow.... Painful and agonizingly slow. I'm running back to windows 7 as soon as I have the time to.

    While windows 8 has its merits, for a desktop, stay with windows 7 until microsoft gets its s*** together.

    ReplyDelete
  190. Well, if Steve were around he would tell you that he lost the battle with Microsoft and so he changed the course of Apple because he was forced to adapt in order to survive.

    Look at Apple today:

    1) They have some legacy products which try to compete against real PCs, but they lost that battle long ago. In this area, Apple are trying to keep a toe-hold by claiming that they are 'better' due to pretty icons, animated transitions and transparent overlays. That's what you call 'better'? Really?

    2) They have some newer products which are primarily aimed at customers who want to consume entertainment.

    As to the latter, those products represent an abandonment of what Steve preached for years.

    What ever happened to Steve's storied commitment to education? Gone - now school kids are being targetted as customers for an iPods for goodness sake, as if listening to 50cent is more uplifting than learning calculus!

    What ever happened to the idea of the computer being a 'bicycle for the mind'? Gone too - now they are peddling devices which are, for all practical purposes, are sedatives which stifle thought, creativity and individuality.

    Oh look at my new iPad - WOW, look at all the cool things I can do with it - I can store the photos of my dog, watch Hollywood trailers and play Tetris! What innovation! This is insanely great!

    When the word 'Computer' was dropped from the title of the Apple company, that was just a long overdue acknowledgement that they will never be able to compete in the personal computer market again.

    ReplyDelete
  191. Those with full suites of legacy software
    are well ahead of the game.Why trade function for form?

    ReplyDelete
  192. Windows 8 will be successful because, one day you will be able to walk into Costco/Best Buy and buy a Windows 7 machine. Then the next day, all the Win7 machines will be gone and all you will be left with is Win8. Lacking alternatives, people will buy Win8.

    They will cuss. They will complain. Some will write posts complaining about how bad it is. But, once the initial purchase is made, they are stuck. Most consumer purchasers can't afford to buy one computer to run one OS and then buy another one for a different OS – no matter how bad the first OS is. Neither can an enterprise who just spent $20k on a hardware/OS upgrade.

    Nearly 20 years of work in IT has taught me one thing - the majority of people will ALWAYS buy on price point. If it's cheap, they will buy it. Back end costs don't even enter into it. The back end cost for Windows has always been steep - I made more money managing one Windows network than I made managing 5 Mac networks. It doesn't matter, price point drives the initial purchase. As long as they can stand around and brag to their friends about how cheaply the got 'in' with a system, they will keep buying whatever is cheapest - in this case, it will be Win8.

    The funny thing is, Apple has made, at least, three major OS versions - original, System 7 et cetera and OS X. Across three different processors - M68000; PowerPC and Intel. And they've managed to maintain a consistent interface.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft is all over the place.

    BTW, I hate how Apple is attempting to integrate iOS into the MacOS. And I have an iPhone, an iPod Touch and an iPad. In other words, I live in iOS.

    ReplyDelete
  193. The 1st mistake MS has made is incorrectly interpreting mutual masturbation (Facebook and Social Media) as "computing".

    Yes, people have bought into the "I'm taking a dump now, the Moo Goo Gai Pan is really leaving its mark on the stench in here" as important social interaction.

    There are hundreds of millions of us who have to produce real-world documentation, programs, and other "genuine computing tasks" that have been relegated to the back of the bus as MS tries to destroy its user base in search of the new "social" meme.

    Windows 8 is a horrible idea from the start. Marry a desktop and a tablet and expect o make both happy? But wait, they have a solution for that, mangle the desktop in FAVOR of the tablet, and hope for the best.

    Most people understand the issue: If you want to capture market share outside your mainstream business (genuine computing), you create a team that works specifically to create a world-class tablet OS, throw it out there, and hope for the best.

    Instead, Sinofski and crew decided to try and make a one-size-fits-all, that perplexingly hamstrings the core business model (WINDOWS) again, in favor of the non-multitasking "Metro" TABLET interface.

    I predict a HUGE flop...

    ReplyDelete
  194. I've been using Windows 8 Consumer Preview for a few months and now Windows 8 Release Preview. I am a web developer and I also develop training materials using this computer.

    I only tried Windows 8 CP because my old Vista install had a problem and I neglected to buy a reinstall option when I purchased the 3-year-old laptop (never again!). I had to either take my chances with the free upgrade, or fork out for a copy of 7 or a new computer (at the worst time to buy).

    Having spent countless hours working with the new OS, I have to say that I disagree with most of the points that you made. I won't go through them all, but here are a few remarks:

    From the start screen, just click the Desktop icon, and you're pretty much in legacy Windows mode. In fact, I would say that once you get used to non-intuitively clicking in the lower-left corner of the screen with the mouse instead of clicking on the start button, using Win 8 is not much different than using legacy versions. (Another pain: sometimes it's necessary to remember to right-click on the start screen to get the All Applications button, to access apps that you haven't pinned to the quick launch bar or start screen)

    My biggest frustration has been Microsoft's insistence on using Windows Live to access functions like Mail. Fortunately, I found instructions online for enabling good ol' Windows Mail. (What can I say, I prefer keeping my POP3 on my own PC instead of in the cloud)!

    The other big annoyance, like you mentioned, is all of the steps required to shut the damn thing down. That, and the fact that Firefox doesn't seem very stable (it has terrible problems filling web pages with content if they include HTML5 APIs). I wonder, sometimes, if MS is doing something shady to cause this, but it doesn't happen to Chrome, Safari or Opera.

    So it sounds like I'm bitching, but except for minor "something is a little different" complaints, overall I've found Windows 8 to be pretty easy to adapt to.

    I still hate Microsoft as much as I ever have, but I'm not losing any sleep or productivity over the slight differences in Windows 8!

    ReplyDelete