I’ve been playing with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview since it was released, and have gotten very familiar with it. While I find Metro to be a pleasure to interact with, I’m convinced that Microsoft is about to make a mistake with Windows 8. In short, I have a feeling that Windows 8 is about to become the new Vista.
Metro is actually a great operating system / UI layer, and Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for innovating in a space that has become somewhat homogenized. It’s fast, slick, and fun to use. But if there’s one thing I’d like readers to take away from this post, it’s this: Metro should not be a a replacement for the desktop, and does not belong on laptop or desktop computers.
To really understand Metro, I think it’s important to understand the problems that Microsoft is trying to address. I don’t work for Microsoft, so I don’t have any inside knowledge, but I suspect the following was largely the inspiration for the direction of Windows 8:
- The rise of Apple. When you look at the raw statistics, it’s clear that Windows is still dominant, but when you look down the road, it’s also clear that the trends are very much in Apple’s favor. I work in the software industry, and it’s incredible to see the complete lack of interest in Windows among technical and developer communities. When I look around the office, visit partners, and attend conferences, it’s actually rare to see PCs now. You can easily spend several days at a conference with thousands of participants and not attend a single session where the speaker uses a PC, and in fact, not see more than a handful of laptops that aren’t MacBooks.
- Consumer disinterest in Microsoft devices. I actually really love the Windows phone, but it’s clear that Microsoft has yet to reach critical mass in the device market. I believe there’s room for a third player (in addition to iOS and Android), and if anyone is going to be that player, it’s probably going to be Microsoft, but they have a lot of catching up to do.
- Backwards compatibility. I think many Mac users wonder why Windows hasn’t made bigger strides over the years when compared to OS X, but it’s important to remember that Apple had the advantage of completely starting over again with their operating system. Back in 2002, the world didn’t rely on Macintosh computers which meant that Apple had the luxury of essentially starting over while causing minimal disruption. Microsoft is in a very difficult position with Windows; I’m sure they want to innovate, but at the same time, so much of the world still runs on Windows that Microsoft can’t just start over. In this respect, Microsoft has become a victim of its own success.
Windows 8 is clearly designed to address these three problems. It’s meant to appeal more to consumers, to be tablet-friendly, and it’s meant to be the foundation of an entirely new and modern platform that doesn’t have to be backwards compatible with almost twenty years of code. I can appreciate what Microsoft is trying to, however I don’t think they’re going about it in the right way.
The biggest problem I have with Metro as a desktop replacement is that I consider it to be a massive over-correction. I think Microsoft is well aware of how much Macs have resonated with consumers, and have therefore tried to out-Apple Apple. In my opinion, that’s a mistake for two primary reasons:
- One of the biggest strengths and advantages of Windows is that it’s universally known. There are very few computer users out there who aren’t familiar enough with Windows to be able to successfully use a Windows machine. In fact, although Macs have a reputation for being intuitive, I see a great deal of people who have switched to Macs only to be far more confused than they ever were with their PCs (I know this for a fact because I frequently get asked by friends and family to provide support for them). Metro, as nice as it is, entirely discounts this huge advantage that Microsoft should be leveraging as much as possible.
- Windows is still considered the workhorse of the business and enterprise worlds. It absolutely needs to become more consumer friendly, and could be improved in dozens of ways (a topic for a future post, perhaps), but I don’t think the answer is to throw away the portions of Windows that do work really well.
Although I really like Metro, I think that its emphasis over the desktop — and the treatment of the desktop as essentially “legacy” — are going to prove detrimental to the Microsoft platform. Here’s why:
- All the Metro apps I’ve seen (and indeed all the apps I can imagine being developed in the Metro style) are consumer-oriented to the point of seeming almost frivolous. The apps most frequently highlighted and demonstrated focus on things like casual games and social networking. There’s been no mention or demonstration of applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, Photoshop, Eclipse, etc. What about complex business dashboards? What about IDEs? How would one even build a Metro-style application using nothing but Metro?
- Metro’s windowing model (referred to as “snap”) is great for tablets, and in fact, probably represents the best multi-tasking tablet model I’ve seen. However, it’s hugely underpowered for desktop use. In a environment where multiple monitors are common (I use a 27″ and a 24″ at the same time), and where machines have enough processing power and memory to run all the applications you care about simultaneously, the idea of moving to such an overly simplified windowing model feels like a big step backwards. Just to compose this blog post, I have more windows open and more tasks going than I feel I can accomplish effectively with Metro.
- Switching between applications in Metro is aesthetically satisfying, but impractical. Cycling through applications in a linear fashion is probably the worst and least efficient way to find the application you’re looking for, and having to use a gesture to see a list of applications on the left side of the screen (many of which frequently look the same as thumbnails) is also not practical. Thankfully, Alt+Tab still works, but the primary way most users switch between applications (the taskbar) is gone.
- Switching back and forth between Metro and the desktop is the opposite of “fast and fluid” (Microsoft’s words for how the Windows 8 experience should feel). I’m sure that Microsoft recognizes that this is less than ideal, and I believe they think it’s only temporary. Desktop mode appears to be there primarily for legacy applications since the world needs time to rewrite their Windows apps as Metro-style apps. However, if you accept that the Metro application model is insufficient for many types of applications (namely the types of applications Windows is best suited and known for), then it follows that those apps won’t be ported for some time, or possibly can’t be ported at all. I think the idea is that those applications shouldn’t be ported so much as reimagined in the Metro style, and I admit that reimagining application experiences is a good exercise, but that said, I’m having a very difficult time envisioning myself editing video, writing code, using a complex business dashboard, or doing professional design work in the world of Metro.
- Tiles are great on Windows phone, and I think would work well on a Windows tablet, however they’re not that useful on the desktop. It makes sense for icons to be dynamic and to convey more information than just the application they represent, however it doesn’t make sense to sit and watch email subjects scroll by one-at-at-time in a tile, or watch your friends’ status updates come and go, or see one or two upcoming events in the calendar tile. Remember, this is a powerful desktop or laptop computer we’re talking about here. In the time it would take me to watch a few emails scroll by in a tile, I can switch between my email, calendar, and twitter clients. On tablets and phones, moving between applications isn’t quite as fluid, so I think tiles have more value, but on a desktop, I don’t feel they improve my productivity or my general experience. (Tiles are essentially widgets, and to my knowledge, there has never been a widely accepted or successful widget model. Consider Dashboard, Windows Gadgets, Yahoo! Widgets, etc. Probably the most successful are Android Widgets — again, on mobile, not on a desktop.)
I completely appreciate the “fast and fluid” experience that Microsoft is going for with Windows 8, however in its current form, it feels more confusing and overly reductive. It’s difficult to switch between applications and to arrange and interact with multiple applications/windows simultaneously; and switching between desktop and Metro-style applications (which, even in the best case scenario, we will all probably need to do for the next five to ten years) is clumsy and inconsistent.
I’ve seen a lot of people predict that Apple is going to replace OS X with iOS, and they point to several new features of OS X as evidence (the App Store, Launch Pad, etc.). I don’t believe that’s true. I think Apple is taking a very balanced and practical approach which dictates that they incorporate features of iOS into OS X only where it makes sense (and vice versa), but I don’t think Apple will combine both operating systems into one. Apple seems to have a clear understanding that a desktop needs much more powerful and flexible features and interaction models than tablets, phones, TVs, etc. In my opinion, the best computing model is one in which all the devices you use have operating systems, UIs, and interaction models that are appropriate for that device’s form factor and for its intended purpose with data being seamlessly shared between them. My interpretation of Windows 8 is that Microsoft tried to anticipate Apple combining their operating systems into one, and tried to beat them to it. However, I think they’ve beaten Apple to something Apple isn’t interested in doing, and that actually represents a big step backwards in computer interaction and productivity.
The good news is as much as I believe that Windows 8 is the wrong direction, I also believe it’s relatively easy for Microsoft to fix. As I mentioned previously, Metro is a great tablet operating system which Microsoft did a fantastic job on, however in order for it to reach its potential, it needs to be branded and distributed slightly differently. Here is what I believe represents the correct model for Windows 8:
- Metro should only be for tablets, and for computers that convert between tablets and laptops. Only if a device doesn’t have a keyboard and mouse should it be in Metro mode.
- The default mode for laptops and desktop computers should be desktop mode. The start button should be restored, and users should never be forced into the Metro experience. If they choose to use their computer in Metro mode, I think that’s fine, but the desktop shouldn’t be treated as a legacy mode which the operating system is constantly trying to get you out of.
- Devices that are both tablets and laptops (convertible devices) should switch back and forth between Metro and Desktop modes as appropriate. I think this would become an extremely popular computing model / form factor that Microsoft could dominate. I would love to have a powerful laptop (running Windows in Desktop mode) that I could undock and use in Metro mode when I’m away from my desk. This is what could give Microsoft the advantage on devices that they’re looking for, and that they desperately need.
- Data and configuration should be shared between Metro and Desktop modes so that it’s possible to switch seamlessly between the two easily. In other words, if I configure my email client in Desktop mode on my laptop, then undock the screen and convert it into a tablet running in Metro mode, the email application should already be configured, and all my email should be ready and waiting.
- Windows Desktop needs to become a more modern operating system. This is a topic for another post, but Windows needs a lot of work to make it feel as modern and polished as OS X. That’s not to say that OS X is fundamentally a better operating system (I used both OS X and Windows 7, and I like them both), but if you really know and understand both environments, it’s hard to argue that OS X doesn’t feel one to two generations ahead of Windows in many ways.
From a technical perspective, what I just described isn’t that much different from what Windows 8 is today, however I believe it would make all the difference between Windows 8 being a huge success and something that Microsoft can build on for the next ten to twenty years, and being an albatross which Microsoft will spend the next ten years trying to undo.
One thing the model I’m proposing doesn’t address is Microsoft’s desire to sunset a large portion of the Windows code base (which is just an assumption, but probably a pretty safe one). As I mentioned earlier, I think Windows 8 and Metro is a result of Microsoft’s desire to break away from the confines and limitations of backwards compatibility. Rather than just breaking old applications or telling developers that they have to build new Windows apps, I think Microsoft’s strategy is to make developers excited about reimaginging their applications as Metro experiences (and, of course, giving them an easy way to distribute and monetize their apps through the Windows 8 app store). As someone who has had to deal with the frustrations of a very old code base, I completely understand Microsoft’s position, however I don’t believe that Microsoft’s objectives are in alignment with their end users’ needs. Windows 8 is meant to be a kind of compromise — a stopgap measure — however in many ways, I believe it is the worst of both worlds.
In order to deal with the issue of backwards compatibility, I would recommend that Microsoft simply start making some tough decisions about Windows Desktop and the APIs they support. They need to deprecate APIs, add new APIs, and eventually even break old non-compliant applications. I understand that Microsoft needs a new platform on top of which they can build and innovate for the next twenty years, and I would love to see a dramatically re-factored and even partially reimagined Windows Desktop — even if meant not being able to use all the same apps I’m using today. Throwing away applications in the name of progress is acceptable; throwing away so much of what we’ve learned about computing, and so much of the flexibility and power that we’ve come to rely on, is not.
Wow. Spot on…I hope this gets read at Microsoft, though I bet they make the misstep you caution against. In addition to those you mention, if users have to learn a totally new operating system, it might as well be iOS or OSX. Don’t make me think…especially don’t make me think switching to your competition will be easier than learning your new OS.
I hope they don’t blow it. I really don’t want Apple to dominate (even though I own the stock).
Very interesting and thoughtful piece. I think the biggest single problem with Windows 8 is that Microsoft forgot that data is more important than applications.
“Devices that are both tablets and laptops (convertible devices) should switch back and forth between Metro and Desktop modes as appropriate. I think this would become an extremely popular computing model / form factor that Microsoft could dominate. I would love to have a powerful laptop (running Windows in Desktop mode) that I could undock and use in Metro mode when I’m away from my desk. This is what could give Microsoft the advantage on devices that they’re looking for, and that they desperately need.”
I disagree. The cloud is going to keep your data between your tablet and desktop in sync – documents in the cloud, tab sync, etc.
Similar to OSes, devices like smartphones, desktops, laptops and tablets all have different interaction patterns that leads to different design requirements. You should be free to use the device that meets your needs without being forced to use a less suitable one because of the local data it has.
Transformer devices only have a market because data is trapped to a local device. Once data is on the cloud, you can split the use cases and optimise each one.
Some great points, except you are wrong that the world did not rely on Macs in 2002. Most of your music collection from before then was made on Macs, as well as most of the TV, movies, magazines, books, and other media you’ve enjoyed. QuickTime is the backbone of digital audio video like UNIX is the backbone of the Internet. The fact that there was no alternative for creative users when Mac OS was retiring is what made the Mac OS X project so very important.
Also, they did not start from scratch with Mac OS X. After buying NeXT, Apple released Rhapsody (starting from scratch) about 2 years later but nobody could use it. Apple had to do 3 more years work to make it more Mac-like. They had to make it run Photoshop because 75% of the Photoshop users at the time were on Macs, and relied on their Macs. Photoshop did not run on Windows until version 4. In 2002, Photoshop had been running on Windows for only about 6 years. It did not even have feature parity. Same for music tools. Even if they ran on Windows at all, they ran with broadcast quality instead of studio quality, and again, did not have feature parity.
Generally speaking, about 90% of Windows systems are dumb terminals where the OS type and native software with the possible exception of MS Office does not matter. These systems are irrelevant when comparing Mac to PC. The Mac has always competed with only about 10-20% of the generic PC market. The part that does Mac-like work and requires more than a dumb terminal. iPad now competes with the other 80-90%, because iPad replaces a dumb terminal easily, because it is really a next-generation dumb terminal.
So in short, yes, the world relied on Macs in 2002 and no, Apple did not start from scratch with Mac OS X. When Mac OS X first shipped, most of its components dated back to the 1980’s. It is version 10.
Exactly how I feel after using Win 8… Very, very clumsy combination of 2 entirely different OS’es. However, I cheer this decision seeing as I now own considerable Apple stock hah
I’m not sure you’re quite right about Microsoft’s motives here. I don’t think Metro is intended for serious applications. Metro is essentially Media Center for tablets. The classic Windows environment is still intended to be “serious” Windows.
You have to look at two things: (1) Microsoft has been selling Windows for tablet PCs for a long time and there’s no evidence that they’ve ever thought using Windows on a touchscreen device was ever a bad idea; and (2) Microsoft has always viewed the iPad as a “media consumption device” and not a direct threat.
Windows 8 isn’t Microsoft’s response to the iPad-as-credible-threat-to-Windows. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s way of evolving their current tablet PC initiative to include the limited “media consumption” functionality they perceive the iPad as supplying. That is, Metro is an add-on, not a new platform they’re committing to.
I think people are giving Microsoft way too much credit in thinking they’re actually responding to the real threat the iPad poses to their business. They’ve identified a limited set of functionality and created a layer to supply that on top of their “real” offering, which is traditional Windows.
Very well thought and presented. In complete agreement.
@poke: If they intend for the desktop to be for “serious” work, then the constant interruption of Metro in your workflow doesn’t exactly give weight to that premise.
The MS store is Metro-only. MS wants not only to deprecate API’s, but to control the experience – what company wouldn’t? If MS was serious about keeping the desktop the place for serious workflow, then it would also have apps available on the app store – just like OSX.
This is the most spot on write up on Windows 8 I have read yet, far more honest than any of the mainstream publications.
To bad Sinofsky and Co. aren’t listening – to anyone.
This article is completely shortsighted.
No one in tech circles wants to admit this, but a traditional “Desktop” interface will soon be only necessary for *niche* markets. The vast majority of computer users (present and future) will only need or want user friendly Metro apps. Heresy, you say?! You are too close to the subject to be objective. Microsoft will release a new Metro style version of Office this year. One shouldn’t assume what Metro is capable of until the developers have had a chance at it.
Microsoft is treating the Desktop as another app or tool in your collection. As the Metro app store matures, less and less people will frequent the Desktop. Sorry, but Photoshop and AutoCAD power users will not be dictating UI design. These are just niche markets. But, Microsoft has not turned its back on these users. You can only use Desktop programs if you choose.
Personally, I have been using Windows 8, and I enjoy switching between Photoshop CS and “Cut the Rope”. My head has not exploded and the sky has not fallen.
> Windows Desktop needs to become a more modern operating system
You could also call it “Windows Ultrabook.” There is not enough demand for it.
When you try to make a Mac competitor out of Windows, you are refighting 2005-2010, the first 5 years of the Intel Mac, when it murdered the entire high end of the Windows PC market. Brutally, brutally, brutally murdered the high-end PC market.
That is why you see Macs at conferences and so on. People who go to conferences where you bring a PC are engaged enough in computing to require a high-end PC. The low-end PC is more expensive for them because it won’t keep up with them. And 90% of high-end PC sales are Macs. That market is all Macs for many years now.
Yes, Vista sucked in many ways, but a big reason it failed was it was designed to run on high end PC’s and compete with Macs, but by the time it shipped, there were hardly any high-end PC’s to ship on. It had to ship on low-end systems and by a couple of years later, a big feature of Windows 7 is “runs better on netbooks.” They showed off how it used less hardware resources than Vista. Windows goes further downmarket in 8, into ARM mobiles. Again, they showed off how it used less hardware than the previous Windows.
So the Windows you buy in the $500 PC market is *the* Windows, now. It runs on $500 devices and down, not $1000 and up. The $500 PC market is dominated by iPad, so everybody wants to go ARM/Atom and touch and lots of software features and focus, almost no focus on hardware features. And Windows 8 also competes with Android in the low-end smartphone market. That is like 98% of the seats for Windows 8. A high-end PC user who runs Windows on there is going to be even more of an oddball going forward, and so software support, desktop-oriented features and so on will suffer even more.
What’s hard to understand is that Microsoft has no Mac or iPhone competitor. Microsoft doesn’t have anything that high-end. It is Windows versus iPad in PC’s and Windows versus Android on phones. If you want to use a Microsoft-brand Mac, you are SOL. If you want to use a Microsoft-brand iPhone, again, SOL. They don’t have that. They don’t have the software features for it, even if they had the hardware, which they do not. (Anything with BIOS is not a high-end PC in 2012.) Same as Apple doesn’t have a low-end phone, and Google doesn’t have any PC’s.
In short, if you need more than just a low-end, thin client, ARM/Atom device, you get a Mac. That was decided between 2005-2010. Vista is not going to rise from the grave at this point.
So the “misstep” you point to is not a misstep. But yes, they are leaving the part of their market that is analogous to the Mac behind. It’s too small for them. Again, “Windows Ultrabook.”
Another thing to keep in mind is for the past few years:
– the Mac grows 25% per year
– Windows XP/Vista/7 shrinks 10% per year
– iOS grows 100% per year
… so Microsoft has to start growing again or Apple operating systems will start outselling Microsoft operating systems in like 2015 or something. The biggest growth is in low-end PC’s and low-end smartphones, and that is all they have the software for anyway. Low-end PC’s are going touch and ARM. Low-end smartphones are already there.
So Metro is your new Windows. Love it or leave it, folks.
Spot on! I totally agree.
P.S. Hope people from MS read this…
I look at the Windows 8 Start Screen very similiar to Mac Lion’s Launchpad. Metro apps seem very much like the new Gadgets and the Sidebar that was first introduced in Windows Vista. (Or Widgets that you have on Mac OSX)
I don’t see traditional Desktop apps going away anytime soon. There just won’t be an emphasis on ARM based tablets, that is what the Metro based apps are for.
I refuse to be believe that the desktop has been finalized and can’t be improved any longer. From Windows 8 I can clearly tell that Microsoft has not spent any time on the Windows Desktop apart from the Explorer and Task Manager. In fact they have made the desktop unbearable.
Turning the machine off, or finding the dozens of system utilities like cmd has become a challenge even for an advanced user like me. The “solution” with two control panels is a mess. Why learn the new control panel (and what it is missing) when I know my way around the classic one?
Aren’t there hundreds of Windows devs at Microsoft? What have they been doing? Why are all the Metro Apps so crude and unfinished? (esp. no support for other accounts like Google, Yahoo, Exchange, in the built in calender and mail metro apps)
I am already done with Windows 8. Can’t wait for the Infoworld.com review:)
This really is totally spot on.
Original, thoughtful and lucid. Wish Microsoft has incisive analysts or product designers like Christian Cantrell. Great article. I loved the article on gestures for ebook readers too. The tech journalism industry needs more original thinkers like Christian.
Nice writing but I actually disagree on one major thing: The merge of iOS and OS X.
I’m not in Gods secret, so I have no clue or info about Apple future, but from a user point of view, it looks to me very natural for Apple to merge iOS and OS X and a lot of features, including the new ones in Mountain Lion (Notification, GateKeeper, Reminder, Notes, etc…) are all lead to one point: They want a unified user experience between different devices.
It doesn’t mean iOS X that could come in 2014 will be as we know iOS or OS X today. I think we gonna see some opening in iOS 6 (bringing some OS X features to iOS now, maybe about File Management, Airdrop, etc…) to finally come to a version that could be the fusion of OS X and iOS.
The whole difference will be around the “Full Screen Experience”, the same way Microsoft is dealing with by having the new Metro UI. Microsoft does an interesting work by having “Dual Screen view”, that could be a great transition to the “Full Screen Tablet/Phone view” and the “Desktop multi-windows view”.
So, with a simple button to switch between “One App Focus” to “Multi App Focus” it would allow to have only one OS for multiple form format devices.
From what I see, Apple & Microsoft agendas are pretty similar and they both will have only one OS by 2014. The only difference is that Microsoft is starting from their flagship Desktop OS to build a more elegant Tablet OS… and Apple is starting from their flagship Tablet OS to build a more elegant Desktop OS. But they will eventually meet right in the middle by 2014.
From a user point of view, or even a developer point of view, that’s a perfect scenario. As soon you know how to use one device, you already know any device, even with different form factor…. You could even buy an App from the App Store (or Windows Store) and have it working on any device you own.
The iPad HD Retina Display (that’s apparently coming soon) might also be the way to go… As soon you have 1080p-Ready Applications for the iPad, you can also transpose it to the TV (with an 1080p-ready Apple TV) that will compete with Xbox 360… but also bring the thousands of Apps to the Desktop and Laptop (also one of the reason to bring Game Center in Mountain Lion).
We will definitely know if it’s the case for Apple when they will introduce iOS 6. If they open it and start to bring more OS X features to it, that will definitely confirm what I’m saying. By removing the need for any computer with iOS 5, I’m quite convinced that’s the direction they’re taking…
So, it might have more thoughts that we think in motivation for Microsoft in Win 8, because they probably know or guest that, just like me. And having a solution for the current 85% of Desktop/Laptop market share to easily migrate on Tablet and Phone with a similar OS, it could not only help Microsoft to continue their way for Desktop/Laptop, but also help to stop the bleeding in Phone and Tablet market against Apple, but also and mainly against Android.
I think Microsoft has a bigger problem then Metro. They are become more like IBM or Novell. as the years go on Linux is replace alot of enterprise servers like windows did to Novell. Company are sick of vendor lock in and the high price for Microsoft products. Take MS Office $250.00 vrs libraoffice free. Yes office maybe better, but why do I care, all Sally does is type word documents. There code is old and as we all know not very secure. Even Steve Gibson (grc.com) calls it a “Toy OS”.
I think the biggest problem they have is they can never do what Apple did when they kill OS 9. if Microsoft did that why would a enterprise spend million or billion dollars rebuy all the software. I think they would do one of two things.
One: Stay on what ever vrs they are on till it dies (AS400 or OS2 anyone!)
Two: Move to Linux and maybe Apple desktops
More likely they move to linux it free they can spin there own OS. And they did not have to worry if there price will go up.
Microsoft big answer to all this hurt is WOA a strip down kernel that runs wait for it… HTML apps :). Wow they should have just buy WebOS. Would have saved them a lot of time in dev.
I think one possible solution to the clumsiness of switching between Metro and Desktop mode on PCs is to be able to choose default “mode” when installing the OS. With “Desktop” users should boot to desktop just like in Win7 (and should have Start Menu!), while Metro is accessible through shortcut on the desktop (first idea that comes to mind, I’m sure there is a better implementation). And “Metro” mode in my mind should be just like the Consumer Preview – boot into Metro, desktop is just another app (no start menu). This way there’s flexibility for enterprise users, and people that often use apps that are not suitable for Metro. It should be the user’s choice what their default environment should be – Desktop or Metro.
Really great article despite one aspect I wouldn´t agree with you. The transition from OS9 to OSX wasn´t that easy and took more than 10 years and it is still not over. Apple removed old code only in little steps with each new OSX version and there is still something left. Apple will kill some more 32 bit Carbon libraries with Mountain Lion. This could affect especially older versions of important software titels like Adobes CS which is still not fully transferred to Cocoa.
The transition was slow and painful because all big software houses like Adobe or Microsoft with million lines of code had refused every change until they are forced by Apple some time ago but they played well with their power as long as they could.
OSX without a working version of Creative Suite or Office would have killed Apple 10 years ago and they knew this very well, so they had absolutely no rush to change anything. Nowadays with the success in the mobil world the situation is different and Apple set the new rules very strictly – move or die.
Now Microsoft is a different situation and will have a long way to go until they can motivate their developers to move to the new WinRT platform. Windows 8 seems much to radical and this will lead to total ignorance by developers as well as by consumers.
The majority is always right and so Microsoft has to support Windows XP as long as it takes and the same thing will happen to Windows 7, which will be still there in 10 years if Microsoft don’t learn their lesson well.
One little point. When Apple did its last re-write to its OS, it also devised its classic OS that ran with its new OS X and did so until classic apps could be re-written. Only then did it drop Classic. Couldn’t MS have done the same and be further ahead in its game?
But Apple has done this OS shuffle a number of times from the 2e to Classic Mac OS to different chip sets (Old Mac, Power PC, Intel) and finally its version of Linux.
But you are correct in that when you’re not the leader it is easier to take chances and Apple has chance-taking ingrained in its DNA.
Really great write up. I agree with most points. However, I think Microsoft is in a big dilemma here. Tablets are rapidly gaining traction while Windows PC sales are falling. Keeping Windows largely unchanged or making a few improvements on the Desktop (as they have done so far with every new version) is not going to reverse that trend. Microsoft has to rise to the occasion and do something different. If they bring Metro just to Tablets, like you are suggesting, and leave the Desktop intact on PCs, Windows Tablets may succeed but Windows PCs will continue to decline. Both Microsoft and Apple realize that the only way to safeguard traditional PCs from the Tablet-juggernaut is to blur the lines between the two. That’s why both of them are making their desktop clients more & more tablet-like.
Agreed in many parts, though you do guess a lot about Microsoft’s intentions. I also have a different take on the two options.
I agree that Metro is fab for tablets and the overall design ethos is a welcome whiff of fresh air. I hope users without a mouse or keyboard never have to see a desktop or traditional application interface. It will fail if tablet users are shown a traditional Excel window.
On a desktop or laptop, I think there is scope for the Metro tiles. I now see that as an alternative to the task bar: a (messy), full-screen location for all my frequently used items, including control panel, admin tools etc. It is far from perfect and hope they improve it. Ironically, there is too much chrome – too much wasted space.
My other gripe is having too many blind alleys that I cannot easily back out of. It is early days, but I cannot find an intuitive way to quit many apps and that is distracting.
“I believe there’s room for a third player”
There already is: RIM/Blackberry, which has several times the share of Windows phones.
Thanks for such a great write-up. I agree completely about new UI on desktop. I have tried some new Linux UIs (Unity, Gnome Shell) and hate them. I don’t see why I have to give back my task bar after 17 years.
I don’t want to start the OS wars here on this blog…. but I don’t understand what universe some of the Mac fanboys in the comments above are living on. Windows is still the power user OS and will continue to be so. This is for engineering etc but also in the consumer market for games.
My 10 year old kid requires a $150 graphics card to play Battlefield 3 and a fast CPU and 6GB of RAM to play his favourite games while talking with his buddies on Skype and administering his java based minecraft server running in ~1GB of RAM at the same time. And I don’t think he is unusual.
Totally agree with what you say.
Agreed. I’m scared to death that I might loose my “desktop app” version of Windows Live Mail to the new “metro app” version. The metro app can’t exist as a window along side all the rest of my windows that I need access to all at once.
My kids like the cute little Apple icons on their desktops and iphones. Unfortunately, we require fast stable machines for software development.
This rules out OS X. Windows 7 with 24GB of Ram, sata III ssd’s, quad cores. Half the price of Macs, 4X the performance and stability. 30 employees, not 1 mac.
So much software doesn’t run on a Mac, and Mac users typical solution is to run another computer (windows) in parallels. You might better just use windows 7 in the first place.
It’s too bad Apple users don’t realize their design programs work better on Windows. We know, because we use them. Don’t forget about Dell 27 inch monitors with 2440 X resolution. Absolutely gorgeous display for high end animation and video we do.
I appreciate your opinion on Windows 8, but it’s funny how two people supposedly in the same business can have such different opinions regarding Mac OSX.
2012 is the year of Microsoft. Everybody in my software development world is using windows, and many mac users I know are dumping the mac laptops for windows laptops. My laptop has 12 GB of RAM, SSD, thin as mac air, and cool as ice on the lap.
@Sanjay: I’m interested in the work that you do. The specs that you mention lead me to believe that your business is centered around post-production video or CG/motion capture. 24GB of RAM, by any measure, is an impressive amount for a single, non-server, machine.
Seems to me that anyone who legitimately needed that level of hardware to do their job would be working on very specialized systems — ones that are customized well beyond anything you can buy off the shelf, be it a Windows 7 or OSX box. Therefore it’s probably not the most straight-forward of comparisons to say that “all” developers are moving from one to the other. Your industry may be best suited to stay on PCs, but from what I’m seeing a bit closer to the middle (web application design/development), there are equal numbers of PCs as Macs, with OSX adoption rates increasing faster than I would have expected a few years ago (most of our developers have access to both, but of those, a good deal work on their Macs and test against their PCs).
I’ve sat through a number of MS briefings on Windows 8, and the thing that has struck me as odd (as it did with the same vendor sessions we did with MS while they were road-showing Windows Phone 7), was that all of the messaging was geared towards how Windows 8 addressed the consumer market needs. That in itself was not the strange part, it’s that the evangelists presenting knew they were talking to a group of people who’s business is enterprise software. We want to know how all of these Metro-UI changes will affect our current customers and our development workflow.
I’m still waiting for a compelling story about how the ability to BUILD software will be better because of the new OS. So far, it’s all about consumption, rather than creation.
They must drop Metro completely on desktop computers. It is pure BS in my opinion. I have used Windows since NT4. Windows 8 is a big huge joke. I can see some good things in it to, but not if Metro is forced on to us who need to work fast and effectively on a computer. Being thrown between Metro and desktop over and over is not what i can say is making my work faster…. No, Windows 8 is pure BS !
My list – what I would change:
– Allow Metro apps to run in windowed mode (similar to Mac Lion’s fullscreen on/off)
– Allow installation of Metro apps from other sources than the Windows 8 Store – I would like to be able to get Metro apps from AppWhirr as well. Without this the whole ecosystem will lost a lot of it’s flexibility.
This reminds me of HP. They wanted to ditch the PC’s. Microsoft seems to want to do the same.
PC is not fashion.
Congratulations on one of the most accurate reviews of Windows 8 to date. You have many valid criticisms, most other Windows 8 reviews dont comment on
1)Everyday computer use including for example, using Word and Excel and a photo editing program and a media player, and how smooth multitasking actually is on a desktop
2)How Windows 8 has no real productivity advantages from Windows 7
I lament when I read passive reviews which are no more than marketing pieces for Microsoft. My prediction that Windows 8 is a dog
I can see some of the points, however I disagree with the general thought that Microsoft is making a mistake with their current strategy.
Yes, the legacy desktop somewhat has moved slightly to the background, however as a Desktop user I have no issues using 90% Desktop, 5% Metro Start and 5% Metro Apps at this time.
Clearly desktop is still my primary usage, the Metro start allows for easy starting apps like the old win7 start menu, simply by starting to type the application you are looking for, or otherwise have your tiles grouped, and browse them.
Next to that we have the Super TaskBar where we can Pin applications on, and access JumpLists.
Most of the main entries available in Win7’s start menu is available from Windows Explorer.
The quick access menu available when right clicking with mouse in the far left down corner is also rather useful.
So, personally, I do not see the problem of having Metro start on the desktop, I can still do everything I did before at the same or even greater speed.
If metro brings great apps, I can choose to use them, if not, then I can keep using desktop apps like always.
Next to Metro, there are a great many other things improved in Win8 (some significantly), from boot/shutdown times, to general performance and so forth.
I am very excited about Win8, regardless of Metro on the desktop!
I really don’t understand the fuss that people have with Windows 8. I think majority of the people who have issues with it has either:
1) Haven’t even tried it out yet themselves and are just looking at pictures/videos and reading other peoples comments
2) Haven’t tried it for least a couple of days to actually try to learn it and personalize it. What do you expect, it’s a step in a complete new OS direction so it will take a couple times of use to get used to it and I am sure Microsoft will be updating things here and there to make it better later on before the official product release…I dare you to try to hop on an OS X and see how more frustrated you will get with it even though it’s a more “intuitive” OS. (I’m not an Apple hater by any means, I use Apple computers too but from my experience I believe the “learning curve” periods for MS Windows OS are much shorter than Apple OS X.
3) Use a laptop but don’t use a wireless mouse for it. Call me crazy but the first thing I got after buying my laptop more than four years was a wireless Logitech mouse and have a setting set for when its plugged in the touchpad is disabled! (The reason why I hate the touchpad for laptops is because when I try to type something in Word, I will be typing and all of a sudden I will be typing back in the middle of the paragraph because my hand apparently tapped it. CTRL-Z!!!)
Now, I will admit that when I first installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview a couple weeks ago, I was upset with the new experience (this is where I believe majority of people call it quits)…it was weird not having a Start button on the desktop and annoying having to move your mouse here and there and to that corner to get to options and other features. But, after several times of use I actually got familiarized with it! I adopted to without having a start button by pinning the apps that I use the most to my taskbar (Control Panel, Microsoft Office Apps, Windows Live Messenger, Steam, IE/Firefox/Chrome) and only have two shortcuts on the desktop (one of which is the recycling bin). For people, including myself, who don’t like the transition between the Metro start screen to the desktop to run a non-Metro app; here is a novel idea (hopefully not): remove/unpin all “legacy” (non-Metro) apps from it and just have Metro style apps on the Metro start screen! Ta-da! No more weird transitions!
Like I mentioned earlier, I am running the Win8 CP on my four year 32-bit old laptop which is a Dell XPS M1530. It’s amazing how light Win8 must be code wise because the start up time even on my old laptop is less than 15 seconds (no joke) and Metro runs smooth as well. Minor things I have noticed with Metro that should be fixed before the official release is that the circles with back arrows in them or the big text isn’t as clear as it should be…maybe it’s just my old laptop with my 1280 x 800 resolution. Also I hope that they change where the shut down button is to where you can lock and sign out underneath your account picture on the Metro start screen. When Microsoft and other 3rd party developers release more Metro style apps like MS Office Suite, Windows Live Messenger, STEAM (if you are a gamer and know what STEAM is, it already looks like a Metro app if you look at it closely), etc; there will be no need for the desktop…
Call me crazy again but I think Windows 8 is a step towards the Windows Productivity Future Vision user interface on the phones, tablets, and desktops as shown in the videos! Here is a link if you haven’t seen those videos yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6cNdhOKwi0&feature=BFa&list=PL2B8C6AB94E8259C6&lf=plcp
Although I am a senior in the top 4% of my ocean engineering class, I believe I have a well developed right side brain too and use it just as much as my left side. To me, there is something aesthetically pleasing to the UI in those videos and the Metro style start screen and Metro style applications and what it is…is its simplicity and cleanliness.
Overall, give Win8 more than a first try chance and give it the time to get used to it, learn how to use it, and to personalize it (which is only a couple of days max if you use your computer frequently). From this you will be more productive with it if not more than with Windows XP or 7 and see it as a one step in the right direction to a new OS!
Having used windows based operating systems for over 15 years now, with Windows 7 being the complete product I was looking for (15 years ago). I am assuming, I should give Microsoft around 15 more years to get it right again, but by then I will have probably switched over to something else.
I’ve tried to give this new version of Windows, Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview a try, and I believe it fails on the most vital aspect, for the mere fact, that it doesn’t deliver.
Now please don’t go around telling people it’s a Beta, we don’t care. If Microsoft cannot deliver something worthy enough, that respects its loyal customers for over 15 years to preview and get excited about and say “Hey, this is almost perfect, this is what I always wanted” (and I’m not the only one that knows they failed there, clearly), they shouldn’t have released it. Wait it out and send us your Beta when it’s ready.
Having said that here’s where the OS fails…
1. One size DOES NOT fit all. You cannot expect everyone to drive a red car. Nor can you expect any type of customization on the personal user level when you separate two Parent units on a single entity. Meaning the Metro UI cannot, should not, and frankly DARE NOT be separate of the desktop. The two most work side by side together, (what some have suggested would be a Windows 9 release, well then I’ll wait, or move on to another product) it’s like separating your legs from your body, but then you can’t walk.
2. Hot Air – yay the OS is faster, better for tablets, moving forward, yada yada, this does nothing for me. I’d rather wait a couple of more seconds and get a product that works, rather than a product that is incomplete and lacks union.
3. All in one – NO! I don’t thinks so. You cannot combine the needs of a PC user with a mobile/tablet device user, at least not the way Microsoft has attempted. There must be some kind of separation which allows users to choose how they want their environment to function, be it by separate versions or simple switch (option).
4. Simplify and Stupefy – While simplification might seem the right approach, again this is not for everyone, too simple is babyish and counterproductive, and outright humiliating (in that it says, you windows users, your stupid, so here’s your version, stupid).
Here are some examples:
I like the metro UI, BUT, why can’t I customize it to my needs? I should be able to choose the sizes of each tile, not the system. I should be able to name each group. I should be able to EASILY pin/remove/rename a tile/item. Live tiles should actually work, and be productive with emphasis on what it’s doing (playing a track/receiving an email/notification/news updates etc…).
Snap? Why even bother creating the system, Why can’t I snap to the size of my liking? Why can’t I stack snapped Apps? Why are they taking up my desktop space when snapped? Why Can’t I snap to the top or bottom? Why are the snapped Apps less functional (Meaning, why aren’t there smaller icons/buttons for key functions) Why in the world can’t I snap to my second screen?
Come to think of it, why isn’t the whole Start menu extended to my second (or even third or however many) screen, Also you would think Microsoft could come up with a way that the taskbar and desktop background are properly extended (not duplicated even though you’ve selected extended) to my second screen.
I understand some have mentioned the fact that “Battery Power” is of the main concern that the new UI isn’t integrated with the desktop…are you kidding me? Either make a separate version, or have a switch/control that changes this function (allows them to be extended) or don’t sell it as a desktop version altogether. If Microsoft really went ahead planning a Desktop OS with battery power in mind, then they are real fools, and I should truly reconsider using their OS at all just based on that notion. Why not create a mobile version now (if it’s so urgent for the company), and for the desktop version wait it out, I mean Windows 7 is fine, we can wait.
Not being able to snap the Metro Apps to my second screen, Not being able to choose where on the screen to snap, how big/wide to snap them (custom not forced), Side by Side, Split/Up down (two or three), not being able to use the App to its fullest potential (most key functions are removed) when snapped, kind of takes away from the whole idea, and in my opinion turns it into a failure. Since you have to be running the FULL SCREEN App to do anything with it, requires too much ALT+TAB or program switching, in order for it to be useful in any way (I’d rather have my windows placed where I want them as I do now). All that takes away from the value of the idea, causes clutter, frustration and less functionality. For example, currently I have my instant messaging and email open on one screen, while I do my main work/browsing/editing/authoring on my other screen, this allows me to quickly reply to an IM or email without losing my focus, or having to ALT+TAB like a fool.
Why in the world isn’t there a CLOSE button or icon for the Metro Apps? You have to pick your hands up and find CTRL+F4? (That’s asinine), this causes many apps to be open and stay open, you might as well start the system with all the Apps open, and without the ability to close them.
Settings? I think this is the most overlooked area in this “New” “Better” version, there are no settings, the only settings you get is some babyish like yes/no for minimal things, I cannot seem to get any of the custom settings I have gotten accustomed too.
Email address with a HOTMAIL account a must for Apps to function properly? Is that a joke, or some sick way of Microsoft saying, “Please sue us”?
I could go on and on, and I haven’t even yet started to give the OS enough time, since frankly I have better things to do in my life than get frustrated and have my blood pressure go up, every time I want something to “work”.
I had enough of this “it’s a Beta” talk as well, the direction they have taken by separating the NEW experience with the OLD experience (Metro vs. Desktop) is a big mistake, and it makes it utterly hateful, useless and frustrating. The thing is if they chose only one (being Metro) they know NO ONE would buy it.
Ideally, I could live with the start menu not being there, and the New “Apps” as well as some level of simplification; and come to love them, but not at the expense of functionality and customization. The whole Start Menu would have to be easily customizable as I’ve mentioned, in every aspect. The Apps would have to harmoniously live side by side with the desktop in such a way where they were fully customizable and with their key functions easily and readily available, otherwise they are a waste of time (full screen, you kidding me?). Microsoft would have to drop this “must have your Hotmail account linked” in order for Apps to work. Dual (or more) Screen functionality would be a must for me to even consider the Apps/Desktop experience combination viable (meaning, I could open a Metro App on a second screen, snap it there, use the other screen for more Apps/Desktop and vice versa etc…)
Bottom line, for Windows 8 to work, the Metro Apps would have to be integrated into the desktop, meaning it would be “Windows” not some Full Screen nightmare. Otherwise don’t call it Windows, and frankly don’t even bother, skip it, forget windows 8, integrate the two and just go straight to windows 9 (calling it windows 8 or whatever).
So as far as your question goes, I concept love it (the idea of live tiles, full menu start, simple and neat built in programs/apps), but in actuality I hate it, since I can’t use it in the way an OS is meant to be used. So if these issues (and probably more) are not addressed by the time a final version is release you will see me, and many many others skipping this “Upgrade”.
Windows 8 is not a complete new OS to learn, its really no different than switching from XP to 7. minor pains of relocating moved icons. The metro is a breathe of fresh air coming from the same old same old we have had since windows 95. This metro is like switching from 3.1 to 95. I played with it briefly and just found myself saying over and over, this is how it should have been.
I agree with bob in that the pc experience will soon be full of “apps” rather than software. Apple too. In doing this, windows will draw attention to app developers that will enhance their mobile and tablet divisions as well. its brilliant and I look forward to it. I expect one day that osx becomes IOS and when it does, will revolutionize the industry.
I hope it happens sooner than later and I think windows knows this. I see them dominating the world in mobile phones as well as PC’s and I still dont see Apple catching up.
just noticing that I could play my xbox games on my pc with only a login is amazing. Now add that capability over to the phone and I’m buying windows, xbox, and windows phone. Right now i’ve decided to switch to ps3 and am an android fan boy. Thats about $500 to microsoft if its done right. Tying these things in together are the future.