My Open Letter to Julie Larson-Green: 4 simple changes you need to make to "fix" Windows 8

Mrs. Larson-Green,

As we all know, Steven Sinofsky is gone.

The torch has officially been passed from Mr. Sinofsky to you, Steve Ballmer and Tami Reller.

As a Microsoft Corporate Vice President, responsible for Program Management of the Windows Client, it’s probably fair to say that you are firmly in charge at this point.

That’s why I am writing this letter.

Naturally, as someone who has followed the development of this Operating System since the very beginning, I have a few ideas about what the problems are with Windows 8.

They aren’t as dire as analysts, bloggers and the press make them out to be. In fact, in my opinion, they are pretty small and simple to fix.

My mother always told me to never bring up problems without bringing up corresponding solutions.

I agree with that so without further ado: here are the 4 things that you can fix immediately to positively change public perception about Windows 8.

Treat Windows 8 as a transitional Operating System

Much to their credit, Microsoft understood that in order to respond to the ascendancy of mobile devices, they needed to make BIG changes to Windows and fast.

The fact that they acted so fast should be applauded but I respectfully submit that you all were a little too hasty.

As you obviously know, Windows is a big deal.

Too much change

It’s used by over a billion (with a B) people on this earth. Changes to this Operating System needed to be very carefully planned out and carefully phased in.

In my view, you guys moved a little too fast, slamming in a new paradigm, Operating System and ecosystem all at once and expecting the public to understand and accept it.

You all made the Modern UI the new Windows and said that the desktop was now just another application.

Now while a statement like that must have sounded nice in a project conference room in Redmond, when announced to billions of people, it had a tangible and negative impact.

There was too much change too soon.

Don’t take my word for it – go to the local Best Buy and watch consumers around the Windows 8 devices. Their nervous demeanor makes you want to shout “you can touch it – it doesn’t bite!“.

Too much change too soon.

In my humble opinion, Windows 9 should have been the full transition point from traditional Windows to a full mobile ecosystem.

This would have given users time to adapt to changes that would have been foreshadowed in Windows 8.

I understand (from my reporting) that senior leadership thought there wasn’t time for more transition points, that they wanted to be more aggressive.

It should be clear now that it was a mistake. It was well intentioned, but a mistake none the less.

The good news is, it’s a mistake that can still be fixed today and I think the next 3 practical changes will help.

Bring back the Start Menu

Pokki Start Menu

No need to go into excessive detail here. Just bring it back.

Actually, the Microsoft development team has now had a chance to learn from Pokki, RetroUI, Stardock and a plethora of companies who are trying to make money off this mess.

Check out what they have done that works, “borrow” those features, make the Start Menu better than ever, and then just bring it back.

I don’t care what Microsoft reporting stats say about the usage (or lack thereof) of the Start Menu, just bring it back.

Trust me.

It’s a big bang for your buck thing – a Tim Cook “I hear you, our maps suck” moment.

A small change that can take the pressure off and make the company seem responsive to the concerns of consumers and businesses.

Next,

Give consumers and businesses the option to log right in to the desktop

choices

I never understood this “enhancement”.

Back when it was announced, I called it what it was – an act of insecurity and I was right.

If you’re afraid that people won’t use Metro or Modern UI, then maybe you need to take a second look at Metro or the Modern UI.

I personally think that the Modern UI has tremendous value but you cannot ram it down people’s throats. I said it best back in May of this year:

Seventh – Metro will have to earn it’s place as part of Windows

I’m an American and we say here “Nothing for free in America“.

This is really important. You can’t force Metro down our throats.

Ultimately Metro will have to earn its place in the hearts of the Windows community.

It will rise or fall based on the apps that are developed for it and the enthusiasm of the Microsoft community about the app store. Metro can not be forced on anyone – it has to win by influence. Non-Metro users have to see the value and gladly switch over to it.

I believe that this should be a governing principle to the roll out – Metro should be so good, it grabs users by the lapel and says ” I’m going to make you love me“.

Ultimately it is the value that Metro will offer to Windows 8 users that will probably drive this adoption – or not.

Well said.

Fix this and give developers time to experiment with Modern UI, to kick the tires a little and get familiar with coding for this new system.

Once they fall in love with it and the Windows Store starts to fill up, people will make the change and want to log into Modern UI as their default.

Sometimes these things need a little time. Ask the X-box team. 🙂

It should be obvious by now that taking away choices from consumers and businesses never ends well. It’s not rocket science.

And finally,

Fix the jolting interactions between the Modern UI and the desktop

Where did the desktop just go?

This is minor but becoming very irritating very fast.

It’s really simple.

  • Run QA testing throughout Windows 8 and anywhere a user is sent unexpectedly to the desktop from the Modern UI, fix it.
  • Run QA testing throughout Windows 8 and anywhere a user is sent unexpectedly to the Modern UI from the desktop, fix it.

In both cases, they present a very sloppy, poor software user experience. That should never have been allowed to happen.

It may be a small to medium term fix and it may be tedious, but people notice and it is a royal pain in the ass.

That’s it.

4 simple but very effective changes.

I’m not writing this to be snarky or petty. I am actually writing this because I do care about this Operating System.

I think it is the right direction for Microsoft to head in and more importantly, it does work well.

This is clearly not a Windows Vista.

Based on the thousands of comments and emails I have received since I started this site, I’m pretty sure that those 4 points will alleviate a majority of the perception problems that are staring to plague Windows 8.

I actually don’t expect Windows 8 to be a roaring success right away – I expect people to be skeptical and reluctant initially.

I do think that with proper change management though, the transition from Windows 7, Vista and XP could be made a lot easier.

Thanks for your time.

Yours respectfully,

Onuora Amobi

Editor – Windows8update.com

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