In the past Onuora has expressed frustration with 3rd party tools like Start8 and Samsung’s OSX-like dock launcher. The problem is that these tools help change the core Windows 8 experience and could negatively affect what Microsoft is setting out to accomplish with its Modern UI.

This got me thinking, should MS allow such changes or not? Part of the reason I like Windows over OSX and Apple offerings is the freedom of choice. Sure, there is even more flexibility with Linux, but it also has a sharper learning curve and a slim selection when it comes to applications from major developers.

As far back as I remember, Microsoft has been open to the idea of allowing different vendors the abilities to tweak and enhance the overall look/feel of Windows as they see fit.

In fact, my very first experience with a computer was when my parents purchased a 75MHz Intel Pentium Compaq computer that ran Windows 3.x. This system came right when Windows 95 had arrived, but didn’t force you to upgrade, instead the Windows 95 upgrade disc was included for free in the software package bundle.

Pre-installed was 3.x running with a custom software solution called “TabWorks”. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that this wasn’t the default Windows look.

Customization is great, but it is also a double-edged sword. Apple locks down its iOS and OSX experience, which makes it more stable and keeps it from running into issues like possible consumer confusion from the variety of custom launchers out there.

Tech-oriented individuals might not have this problem, but if a PC launches with custom launchers and UI tweaks, how is a casual PC user supposed to know that this isn’t the default Windows experience?

Personally, I embrace the more open nature of Windows. I like being able to install and tweak as I see fit. Windows 8 has plenty of things to love about it, but if you really HATE the new UI, shouldn’t you be able to do something about it? I say, yes.

Despite initial impressions I am truly learning to like the new UI, but everyone is different and some of us take longer to move on beyond on comfort zone.

I 100% understand and can relate to Onuora’s position, too. Microsoft allowing third party tools could make them look flaky and give out the message that they aren’t all that confident in the new UI. This is a risk, but based on the past, I don’t think it will be a long-term issue.

Tabworks: customized Windows interfaces are nothing new.

Custom Tweaks and Shells are Nothing New for Windows

Custom UI and shells existed during the Windows 95 transition as well. I knew several people with 3rd party tools like TabWorks for Windows 95 or even those that ran the old Windows 3.x-style manager as the default in Windows 95.

These temporary alterations clearly didn’t stick. Can you even imagine someone running the old Windows 3.1 manager interface as a custom shell over Windows 7? The very idea makes me shudder.

The purpose of these tweaks were to help consumers get used to the changes heading their way. Once everyone was used to the new Windows 95 interface, the alternatives were dropped and everyone moved on.

Microsoft is allowing these changes not because they feel that the Modern UI is inadequate. I believe that allowing companies like Samsung to use their own custom launchers is just a part of the transition phase. In time, consumers will fully understand the new UI and won’t want these customized launchers.

What do you think? Is allowing the freedom to use 3rd party tools and customizations a double-edged sword?

Should Microsoft stop these types of customizations from working, or would doing so be against the very things that Windows stands for?

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  • NazmusLabs

    They are already going against the openness of Windows by locking down WinRT apps. You can’t sideload WinRT apps easily. Yes, desktop apps are still “open”, but that’s because MS wants to retain compatibility with Windows 7 apps. The desktop is old, and can be phased out. The new stuff are locked down, and that’s what worries me: MS will, starting now, make Windows a closed platform.

  • Jason Deveau

    I think locking it down a bit more is a good thing. Maybe there would be less viruses if they did.