Hey, Windows 8 doesn't suck

For months now, various pundits have been deriding the upcoming Windows 8 as the next Vista. People have made mocking videos showing older people thoroughly confused by Windows 8's Metro tile interface. Indeed, the Windows 8 Metro interface is radically different drom the traditional Windows desktop. It's a touch interface.

One of many internet fan reactions to Microsoft's Surface announcement.
(Credit: Imgur)

Yet, the same pundits that slammed Windows 8 on the desktop, are now lauding Microsoft Surface, the Windows 8-powered touch tablet that Microsoft announced on Monday. Since the Windows 8 Metro software hasn't changed, what exactly is so different? After all, Microsoft is demonstrating the exact same interface on touch-enabled hardware. And all of a sudden, Windows 8 is making sense.

It's not at all crazy to assume that soon all notebook and desktop screens will be touch enabled. Haven't you sometimes just wanted to reach out and touch your MacBook Air or desktop screen, just like you do on your smartphone or tablet?

Microsoft, it turns out, is slightly ahead of the curve here. To avoid consumer confusion, the company should seriously consider making Windows 8 Metro work slightly differently when it is not being used with a touch-enabled device, or let people automatically bypass it on the Windows desktop. Why force a touch interface on non-touch computers? Microsoft has been adjusting Windows 8, based on feedback during the beta period; it recently reversed its decision to not support Flash in the Metro IE10 browser.

Discovering the secret to well-designed products

Apple certainly led the way in bringing well designed, easy-to-use products to the market, and now others are beginning to get a clue. It's actually not that complicated: hire reputable industrial designers. Listen to them. And, then, test the resulting products extensively and fix whatever annoys people. This same process has been applied to cars, kitchen appliances and other consumer categories at companies run by MBAs, not Steve Jobs.

In the ultrabook category, Microsoft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Samsung and Acer, are delivering beautiful MacBook Air like computers. With Microsoft's Surface stake in the ground, it will not be surprising if those Microsoft frenemies start delivering beautiful tablets, as well. It is hard to compete with Apple's soup-to-nuts approach, and Microsoft has had to lead the way, much like Google leading the way with the Google Nexus phone, which was soon outshined by Samsung's popular Galaxy S II.

One mode for consumption, another for creation

One of the biggest pundit dings on Windows 8 is that it has two modes: the Metro tiled interface and the traditional Windows desktop mode. However, we need to recognise that personal computers are undergoing a fundamental shift in how we use them.

When personal computers first came out, they were essentially creation tools. There was no communication, no multimedia, nothing to load from disks. Back then, users edited a document or edited a database. There were steps along the way to the internet, of course, but now the personal computer has become a device for communicating and reading, watching or playing stuff, whether movies or music or articles, such as this one.

It is quite reasonable that, at this point, users need two separate interfaces: one for consumption and another for creation. For multifunctional machines, it is actually not odd to overlay one model on top of the other. When you want to consume content on the Microsoft Surface, you use it as a tablet. When you want to create content, switch it to the Windows desktop mode and use its innovative keyboard. Microsoft ran two user interfaces in one, with Windows on top of DOS, and pundits trashed this strategy as well. But after a few years, Microsoft was very successful with Windows 95, and brought all of its users along for the ride.

Apple currently provides two interfaces as well, with the mobile/touch version iOS and the desktop version. Former Apple president Jean-Louis Gassee points out that the two Apple user interfaces are converging, in terms of design.

Microsoft has innovated in a touch-based creation interface, with its experimental Microsoft Surface tabletop, which has an interface reminiscent of the interface Tom Cruise uses in the 2002 sci-fi movie Minority Report. It would not be surprising if, in a couple of years, Microsoft ships a Windows 9 that adds touch to the creation mode, and professional workers will be touching their screens, just as much as they do at home, while reading the news on a tablet.


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JohnP3 posted a comment   

It's not dumbed down - it's moving on.

Man used to once use wooden implements to write on clay tablets (apple patent 12345)

A decade ago man would use a vertical device that had a resovoir of viscous indelible ink to scribe on horizontal pieces of wood pulp. (riveting stuff). Along the same time people on pcs were getting used to a 'file system' and having fun organising files and folder and sub folders. They felt in control 'organised' untils someone else had to access the information.

In ten years files and folders won't be part of operating system technology.

And manilla will return to it's rightfull place as the capital of the Philiipines.


Anonymuos posted a comment   

Uhm..yes it does. Windows 8 completely sucks and it makes no sense to use those stupid Metro apps with hampered productivity on an always-powered PC with large non-touch screen. Unless of course you are working for or writing for Microsoft. Adapting to a less functional dumbed down amateur interface just to satisfy Microsoft's usual revenue cycle makes no sense to me.


Will1505 posted a reply   

You do know you can change it to the standard layout right? Metro is for touch screens and works better and faster than the standard layout on a touch screen.

Microsoft has done a really smart thing by having a layout that is functional, will appeal to a younger audience but still able to have the older style layout.

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