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Mark Fuqua

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).

Terry Maraccini

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.

Karl

"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.

Hamranhansenhansen

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.


Alex

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

poke

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.

Dave G

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.

Jonathan

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.

Bob

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.

Hamranhansenhansen

> 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.

petmal

Hello.

Spot on! I totally agree.

Petr

P.S. Hope people from MS read this...

Bobby

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.

Franz

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:)

Adam D

This really is totally spot on.

Venu

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.

Phil

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.

Jeff Cook

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.

bgd88

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.

peter.s.

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.

mhikl

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.

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