Thursday, March 7, 2013

Five Reasons Why Windows 8 Haters Miss the Point

Disclaimer: I use an Apple MacBook running OSX 10.8 (Mt. Lion) so in some ways I have no skin in this game.

In an old comedy spot an aging vicar sits by a blazing fire with his great dane at his feet. A perfect picture of genteel repose until the unmistakable sound of methane escaping abruptly shatters the tranquility.  Immediately the dog's ears perk up and, with a worried side-long glance, it bounds out of the room
Moral of the story: When something unpleasant happens, blame the dog.

In 2013 Windows 8 is man's best scapegoat for tech writers hunting for headlines such as:

Five reasons why Windows 8 has failed

 for Between the Lines

Those who love to hate the latest OS from Redmond, WA smile contentedly to themselves and pass by.  Microsoft fanboys and girls go apoplectic and fill the comment section questioning the author's IQ and parentage.

Mr. Vaughn-Nichols starts with graphs showing the slow up take on Windows 8 (slower even than the dread Vista) and declares:
I predicted that Windows 8 would be dead on arrival last year, but it's flopping even more  than I thought it would be. So, why has Windows 8 been such a failure?
After this smug assertion he gives five reasons why this is so.

1. Metro, aka Modern: An ugly, useless interface.

I said it before, I'll say it again: Metro, or whatever you want to call it, may make an OK tablet interface, but it's ugly and useless on the desktop. It requires users to forget everything they ever learned about Windows and learn an entirely new way of doing things for no real reason. To quote a popularly held opinion, Metro is "awful." 
Steve needs to get out more.  His curmudgeonly drinking buddies, like Statler and Waldorf on the Muppets, may buy this commentary but he needs to talk to the next generations of computer users, the ones who will push his wheelchair.   They love the colorful Metro metaphor with its live tiles and use the desktop only when an app launches there.  "Start button? We don't need no stinking Start button."
2. Windows 8 brought nothing innovative to the desktop.
Can you tell me one new thing that Windows 8 brought to the desktop that was truly innovative? Exciting? Engaging?
"Innovation" for 10 points, Steve. While Android and iOS (even OSX depend primarily on a blizzard of icons at launch, Win 8 introduced the notion that less is more.  Granted that any new laptop with Win 8 has its share of crapware all over this lovely new interface but the plumbing is relatively easy to unstop and it the OEM's who are front-loading the drek in the first place.

3. Developers hate it.

I said all along programmers wouldn't like throwing out their hard-won .NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) expertise to work natively on Windows 8. I was right. Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of video game company Valve, said it best: "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." He then started moving his Steam game empire to Linux.
Got me there, Steve.  Microsoft's singular inability to launch this product in such a way that developers would merrily jump on board, like journalists at an open bar,  is appalling.  Windows Blue, however, and some other significant changes behind the scenes are soon going to make it possible for developers to develop once and install across all the Windows devices from tablets to phones.

4. Legacy Windows 7 users aren't moving.

We saw this happen before with Vista and XP. Then, as now, the new operating system -- Vista -- was not  better than the old operating system -- XP -- so very few people moved to it. We're seeing it again now.

Once again Steve, masterful grasp of the obvious.  It's new; people resist change and this is a whole paradigm shift.  This is not, for better or worse, just a new OS. It's an attempt to unify the platform across different kinds of devices.  Seeing the rip tide pull of mobile means that unless you want to develop a parallel universes, it is going to require an Herculean effort to create "one OS to rule them all". Ironically the same challenge is being pushed on Apple and Android: "Why doesn't your system work on all of your devices."

5. Tablet, smartphone, and desktop competition.

If you are going to buy a new computing device in 2013, chances are it's going to be an Apple iPad, an inexpensive Android tablet, or a Chromebook. The PC desktop isn't dead, but it's not very profitable either -- and Windows 8 isn't helping PC sales.
Chromebook?!  You mean the Pixel that costs $1,500 +/- for a fully rigged 64 GB laptop that needs to be connected to the Internet to take advantage of the OS?  The whole issue is that there is an enormous upheaval in computer usage going on and simply buying a tablet is just one option.  Windows 8 at least acknowledges that there is a need for a new approach to computing and in particular to the GUI.

Neither climbing the tired old Windows Explorer tree nor wading through the blizzard of icons that crowd BOTH iOS and Android phones and tablets are an effective way of presenting a UI to the majority of users.  Of course hi level tech writers like you are married to the old Windows paradigm and have raised the most stink.  Check out the newest generation of computer users who have grown up with icons, iPads and Android phones. Informally, I admit, I have found that they favor the live tile based "Metro" GUI.  Not saying it's the best thing since sliced bread...certainly in its current form...but wake up and smell the coffee that a new generation of users are drinking.  Not the techies KoolAid.
And Windows 8? Like Vista before it, Microsoft will re-release an older version of Windows, Windows 7 this time instead of XP, and start talking about wonderful Windows Blue, the next version of Windows,will be.
Why would Microsoft step backwards except to muffle the whines of tech pundits who want their Start Button back?! And according to your colleagues Mary Beth Foley,  Windows Blue is much more than just a tweak to Win 8.  It actually represents a tsunami of changes across a variety of devices from the Surfaces, to PC', Azure and Windows Phone 8.  In other words this isn't just more of the same.  True the old PC empire is morphing but right nowI believe that Windows 8 best represents the current, muddled effort to get there.

Windows 8 isn't "the answer" to anything.  It is an attempt to move beyond the boundaries too long imposed by PC infrastructures.  Of course most seasoned users like yourself will shun it as will most enterprise users.  But this is much bigger because Windows 8 attempts to fill the booming need for OS that will work with both a myriad of mobile devices.