JonBrodkin-NetworkWorld

Microsoft and Windows 8: An Interview with Network World’s Jon Brodkin

As most of you know, this blog is on a quest to find respected members of the tech community to get their opinions on the next version of Windows – Microsoft’s Windows 8.

If you know anything about technology and Tech websites, you’ll know the site NetworkWorld.com.

I’ve been a longtime reader of the site and I reached out to Jon Brodkin (a senior editor and writer at Network world) to pick his brain a little about Microsoft and Windows 8.

The following is the transcript:

Onuora: Jon, thanks for taking the time. How did you get started with blogging and writing about Microsoft products?

Jon: I’ve been a journalist since I was 15 years old. I spent most of my career writing for newspapers and then moved to the tech media when I took my job at Network World in 2006. Every tech reporter writes about Microsoft at some point, regardless of what your beat is, but I took over the lead role on Microsoft for Network World about a year ago.

Onuora: Out of all the features you have come across that might make it into windows 8, which ones do you think are the most exciting?

Jon: Login via facial recognition sounds pretty cool, and so does the ability to have your settings and preferences follow you across devices. There’s also talk about making a backup feature that would be similar to the Mac time machine, which is very useful and easy to set up.

Onuora: I personally love windows 7, what do you think were the deficiencies if any that windows 7 had? What do you think needed to be addressed in windows 8?

Jon: From my experience as a user, Windows 7 seems like an improvement over Windows XP. Microsoft said the security model in Windows 7 is stronger, and at least in my experience I have gotten numerous viruses using Windows XP and none with Windows 7. That’s been nice. My biggest pet peeve is the long amount of time it takes to start up the computer and shut it down, and the frequent software updates that require long restarts.

Onuora: What do you think about the potential for Cloud Computing integration in Windows 8? Where do you think that could go?

Jon: As I mentioned before, Microsoft has talked about storing your settings and preferences in the cloud, allowing you to have the same experience on any computer. This would be similar to a virtual desktop scenario where your “desktop” isn’t a physical thing but the applications, data and settings that follow you around from computer to computer. I don’t know exactly how it will work in Windows 8 or how extensive it will be.

Making your desktop persona something that is completely portable and virtual is the goal of many people in the IT industry, but it seems like a difficult technology problem to solve. Whatever form it takes, Microsoft has made it clear that it intends to create deep integrations between the next version of Windows and Microsoft’s online services. Late last year, we saw some Microsoft job postings that indicate there will be a cloud-based backup service for Windows 8.

One other cloud- or Internet-related item is that Microsoft is arguing that the Web browser and operating system should be inextricably linked, going so far as to say that a browser shouldn’t even work on more than one operating system because that requires browser makers to pander to the lowest common denominator. That’s why IE9 can’t be installed on Windows XP. This is markedly different from Google’s approach, which is that the browser works the same on any device and that an operating system is little more than the platform on which the browser happens to run. So, clearly the next versions of Internet Explorer will be a major focus for Windows 8 and a key in Microsoft’s competition with Google.

Onuora: Do you think that the Kinect will play a major role in Windows 8?

Jon: I’m not sure, but the facial recognition features that have been leaked as part of early Windows 8 builds sound familiar to the facial recognition technology in Kinect. But overall, Kinect is really based around motion control, whereas it is clear that Microsoft wants to build touch-screen capabilities into Windows 8 to take advantage of the tablet craze and build a viable competitor to the iPad.

Onuora: What’s your take on the amount of time between OS refreshes from Microsoft? Do you think 2012/2013 is about right or early?

Jon: I don’t know when the right time is, but I do know Microsoft has said to expect about a 24-36 month gap between operating system releases. Windows 7 was released to retail in October 2009 so I would be surprised if Windows 8 is not released by the end of 2012.

Onuora: From an enterprise perspective, what do you think Microsoft need to do with windows 8 to compel weary IT managers and execs to (once again) open up their wallets for an OS refresh?

Jon: This will be interesting to watch because so many enterprises skipped Windows Vista and stuck with XP until Windows 7 came along. Not every company wants to upgrade to the latest operating system every time one is released because of the expense and difficulty of migrating, so the strong sales of Windows 7 means that Microsoft really needs to offer compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 8. For IT managers, I think it all comes down to providing strong security and a strong centralized management model while providing enough productivity enhancements to make the switch worthwhile for end users.

Onuora: What are the top 3 things you would like to see in Windows 8?

Jon: For end-user software, I think the key is simplicity. Apple has attracted users to the iPad because it is so easy to use. There is no waiting: you press a button and you are almost immediately getting stuff done.
It’s not entirely fair to compare a tablet to Windows, which has to do more, but products like the iPad show users how pleasant computing can be when it is simple.

For the most part, people understand how to use Windows because it’s installed on almost every computer and has been in use for so many years. But tablets are giving people more non-Microsoft options, and Apple is probably converting some iPad buyers into new Mac users. Microsoft has already made it clear that Windows 8 will be optimized for tablets, so I think that means Redmond is moving in that direction.

When you’re using a computer, you’re either getting stuff done, or trying to figure out how to get stuff done. The time you spend trying to figure out how to do stuff and not actually doing it is frustrating, and so it’s up to the operating system vendors to simplify things. Microsoft has made a big deal of getting you “in and out” of your applications on Windows Phone 7, and it makes sense to take the same approach with Windows on the desktop as long as it can be done without sacrificing functionality or security.

Onuora: What’s your take on Steven Sinofsky’s project management style?

Jon: I have no knowledge of his project management style. Windows is incredibly successful financially so I would imagine he’s doing something right.

Onuora: What are some of the most common misconceptions/ignorant comments about Microsoft that piss you off?

Jon: Nothing specific, but when you write about companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google, people always accuse you of being pro- or anti-whichever company is the topic of the story, and discussions quickly devolve into personal attacks. Many tech enthusiasts are like sports fans in that way. If I wrote an article praising the Celtics, Celtics fans would love it and Lakers fans would hate it. (For the record, I’m a Celtics fan and I hate everything about the Lakers.)

That being said, it’s always refreshing when I’m able to have a serious conversation about technology with people who know what they’re talking about. All the companies I write about make good technology, and they also make mistakes. The important thing is reasoned analysis, not knee-jerk reactions based on one’s computing preferences. From a tech perspective, I like variety. I use Windows, Mac, Android and Apple’s iOS on a daily basis, and occasionally use Linux.

Onuora: What’s the best thing about your job as a tech writer/editor?
Jon: I get to travel a lot, interview smart people and write about interesting things.

Once again, my thanks to Jon Brodkin for his time.

You can see his recent articles here
http://www.networkworld.com/Home/jbrodkin.html

You can read his blog here
http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/4855

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