I just got back from a fantastic conference in Seattle and I had an opportunity to finally collect my thoughts about Windows 8.
I’m a pretty heavy Twitter user so I’ve had a chance to read a lot of bloggers weighing in about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I didn’t feel I was ready to weigh in on this topic until now.
Some subject background before I get started.
Now that’s out of the way, let me begin.
Windows 8 is clearly the boldest move that Microsoft have made as a company in over a decade – they are in the process of radically redefining what an Operating System is and can do.
Since Microsoft has (by far) the broadest reach of any OS vendor, the results of this transformation will have a huge effect on IT hardware and software for the forseeable future. This is true whether the OS is successful or not.
I’ll start with –
This is a brave move from a very large company. the truth is, honestly that’s really refreshing. Having worked for several large companies in the past, I can tell you that large scale change is the the exception not the norm. Microsoft need to be commended for recognizing the need for change and having the balls to go for it.
In addition to proposing and going for a very large change, the company has obviously put a lot of thought into the course they are embarking on. The move to Metro, HTML 5, CSS and WinRT is a dynamic move.
They are also tighly integrating their platforms and moving towards a unified stack at the Server, Phone, Desktop, Laptop, Xbox, Bing and Tablet level. It really makes sense and can be justified on many levels.
It’s consistent with the present (their competitors are moving to that model) and consistent with the future (it provides flexibility going forward).
A lot of credit should go to Microsoft simply because, say what you want about Windows 8, it isn’t an Apple knockoff. It must have been tempting to go the Android route and just copy the leader where it made sense.
hard impossible to make the case that Microsoft chose the easier, less ethical path.
This is a Microsoft vision through and through and even though it will take some getting used to, it’s original.
Microsoft have (finally) chosen to make the move to Tablets.
The lack of a Windows Tablet was clearly an achilles heel at a time when the Tablet market was exploding. They identified that and have been responsive to that segment of the market.
While you can (and I will) argue that this is coming very late, It’s coming and that’s great.
Led by Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft have led us down a very public, open and arguably responsive software development cycle.
There was a Windows 8 Developer Preview, now there’s a Windows 8 Consumer Preview and there probably will be some form of pre-release preview before this comes to the market.
At each point, anyone in the world has been able to connect to the internet, download the software and form an opinion.
That’s great. It’s led to larger discussions (like this one) about features and strategy and has been great to be a part of.
The Windows 8 Development blog has (without question) set the standard for software development feedback.
I continue to believe that this model should be replicated by any company seeking to involve their customers in feedback and buy-in before the product is released.
Initial reviews and feedback about Windows Server 8 have been great. Admins are excited about some of the new features and I haven’t seen any major criticism of this new Server based OS.
Now, let’s move on to:
Windows 8 is not the most intuitive OS that I’ve ever used. Even more alarming is the fact that this is not early in the development cycle anymore.
I just published a post that describes 30 different shortcuts for the OS.
30!… and I’m sure there are many more.
It’s really hard to see how this will get the regular consumer excited.
Adding to the point above, there seems to be a less than ideal level of user abstraction.
Several functions require 2 or 3 actions to get to.
And on and on it goes.
I have a Windows 8 tablet and I have to say that some of the Metro Icons do not look finished and refined. Granted, I have no idea where Microsoft is in the development cycle but it is pretty jarring to look at:
They seem incredibly simple and and are cognitively dissonant compared to the beauty of the tiles they are on. In (obvious) contrast, turn on an Ipad and look at the icons on the home screen.
Take a close look. Nuff said.
Once again, this may change – I acknowledge that.
This is a big one.
I just came back from a conference where I was on a guest panel with another participant. He had a Samsung Series 7 with 4 gigs of ram and higher end specs and I have an ExoPC slate (from the Microsoft Store) with 2 gigs of RAM and lower end specs.
Surprise surprise, his experience was SUBSTANTIALLY different from mine. He was excited about the speed and responsiveness of his tablet and mine well, it could be better.
Going forward this will remain an issue because I believe the minimum requirements for Windows 8 are 1 gig of ram.
I believe that Microsoft need to put the hammer down on software vendors and OEM’s and require at least 4 gigs of ram and a certain level of performance from a processor in order to receive certification.
If that doesn’t happen, there will be a bunch of cheap OEM’s on day one that will be loaded with bloatware and 1 gig of RAM and the average consumer will say – Windows 8 is crap. Consumers won’t rationalize the fact that they paid $199 for the hardware, they just blame the OS.
Apple, the leader in the tablet space completely control both the software and hardware so an Ipad 2 experience is consistent between users. While Microsoft doesn’t control hardware, they do control minimum requirements and certification. Microsoft need to ensure that by the time this goes live either:
The more I use Metro, the more I get pissed off when I am sent to the desktop for ANYTHING. While I can see why it was tempting to add both experiences into one OS, I believe that the cons are starting to outweigh the pros.
An optimized, efficient and simplified Metro Windows 8 can take on the Ipad for sure. The addition of the traditional desktop to a tablet just muddies the waters.
Building on the point above, I love Windows 7. It is beautiful and doesn’t crash and is very intuitive. Guess what? – 500 + million people agree with me.
Now, while it may sound interesting – I dont want the touch experience on my Windows 7 screen right now. When I want touch, I go to my Ipad or my Android tablet.
I think the Windows 8 desktop experience with a touchscreen doesn’t really make much sense. I would like my desktop OS to stay similar to what it is right now in Windows 7 with refinements added to exisiting functionality.
I can see tons of people sticking with Windows 7 (just like XP) simply because they dont see the value of the addition of Metro on the desktop. If anything, it just confuses the message for desktop users.
Now here comes:
This is HUGE.
This is the maddening problem that drives me crazy.
In 3 years of covering this, I have not read a concise explanation of why this upgrade is necessary.
To be clear I am not saying there is no need for this OS, I am just saying that Microsoft and multiple analysts have not provided one. Use the comments form below and explain in one simple sentence why I need Windows 8. Go ahead, I dare you.
If anything, acting with Mitt-Romney-like caution, Microsoft have gone out of their way to stress that you can have Windows 7 today and Windows 8 tomorrow. That’s great but why?
Here’s what I believe – I believe this is because Microsoft entered this space because they couldn’t afford not to. They also entered this space because it was strategically necessary. This puts the company in the unenviable position of having to double back to provide a REAL reason people should want this.
Here’s the problem – Consumers can tell.
They will always ask what does this do that my Ipad doesn’t? I don’t have the simple, concise answer -it’s not my job. Microsoft need to come up with this answer and fast.
The messaging around Windows on ARM is turning into a daytime Soap Opera.
This is like watching roadkill – it’s awkward.
It’s awful to watch the drip, drip of misinformation about WOA and more importantly, business owners are absolutely appalled with this
This leads to my next point –
Steven Sinofsky seems to be doing a stellar job of leading development and development related communication with the larger Windows community. Whether or not you like what you see so far, you have to acknowledge that the effort is still pretty impressive.
The rest of it just seems like it’s being made up as we go along. Lack of a clear marketing strategy, the logo, the message to business, the narrative. It just doesn’t seem very focused and tight.
It’s like a political campaign where the candidate is great at giving speeches and public appearances but the campaign staff can’t organize voters, agree on a message or get TV or Radio airtime.
It never ends well.
I think that Steve Ballmer needs to get this narrative under control and start to lead some of these runaway discussions (WOA etc) in a forceful and definitive manner.
If there is no stronger leadership in this areas, we have to assume it’s because there is (relative) chaos and some of these decisions haven’t been made. If some of those decisions haven’t been made at this late stage in the game, this will not end well.
Apple may announce the release of the third generation Ipad. I won’t belabor the point. Microsoft are way behind. You know the story.
Having said all this, I still continue to remain fairly optimistic about Windows 8 as an Operating System.
There are lots of challenges ahead and this is one of the most challenging technology integration projects I have ever seen (Oracle Fusion is the other one that comes to mind).
Having said that, I remain hopeful. The strategy makes sense, now it’s down to execution.
This needs to be bulletproof when it ships and it has to ship soon. This cannot wait until 2013. It has to be deployed this year otherwise it’s over.
There are strategic, political and technological obstacles that currently stand between the genral public and the release of Windows 8.
Let’s hope and pray Microsoft is up to the challenge.
I’d love to get your feedback – do you agree or do you have a dissenting view?
Leave your comments below..