How to make a Windows 8 Article… Insanely Irritating

This article from Forbes is meant to be about ‘How to make Windows 8 Insanely great”.  Unfortunately it fails to be insightful either as punditry, and yet offers no informational content.  In order to explain why it is so bad, I’m just going to have to address each element of the article point by point

The author talks about what hes hearing from Microsoft.  He doesn’t seem to be hearing much, and everything he’s heard rings of the nineties.  Things like touch screens (which really only made a significant impact with the intro of the ipad near the end of the first decade of the 21st century.  Or a Metro interface.  Which – alongside being an interface designed for touch – and an interface with a new design paradigm, also seems to be MS’s first encounter with real, high quality, design – not a characteristic the UIs of the 90s were known for.  Even the Mac was looking tired in those days.  And of course, he has left out lots of other interesting features – Windows on ARM (fair enough, I was using a Risc PC in the 90s, and could run Windows under an emulator… but most people didn’t), an interest in power consumption, virtualization technologies, a better runtime library for new code.  All ignored.  All missing.

What does he care about – apparently people replacing their old XP machines.  People who upgrade once a decade.  Frankly, if this was MS’s target market, they would have gone bankrupt years ago.  MS doesn’t care what the bottom feeders of the industry will do, they care about the people who upgrade quickly and pay for support.  The people the author cares about are not the people who lead change – rather they are the people who will pick up on change when its ready… right now, they might move into ipad space… who knows where they’ll move in 5 years… it all depends on the quality of Windows 8 – or maybe Windows 9 (MS have a habit of playing the long game – their first OS release is the one which makes the changes, the next release then capitalizes on the changes and turns it into a good product)

The author is right that Apple and Google have challenges – but he’s missing them again.  Google create lots of products, not to make money out of the products themselves, but to build up their patent portfolio (to protect themselves going forwards), to keep good people on board (because good people = good ideas) and to lead the market – jumping ahead in technology so the main players int he market have to keep up – keep up in the direction google want them to go.

Apple have to remain cool, but MS can’t rely on Apple losing that cool token any time yet – the main reason for this is that someone has to be cool to take up the crown.  And Apple’s products are good – it’ll be a few years before they start to drift – and thats only if we assume Mr Jobs was the only person at the company with a clue.

Meanwhile MS has its own market.  Pretty much every desktop machine you see is a Windows box.  So are a hell of a lot of laptops and servers (Google and Apple don’t really have any foot int he commercial server market – that is all MS and Linux).  Its the consumer space where MS are loosing the ground – which is why they seem to be building an OS experience aimed at mobile devices.  Its a gamble, but its a gamble to hit exactly  the market the author thinks they should be hitting.  However, meanwhile, they have to keep thinking about the big business side of their company – that has to keep on working too.

So the name:  Windows 8.  Drop the 8 he says.  Well, that’s one way of stopping people from ever upgrading again.  Not a smart move for MS at all.

Stop different options – or to put it another way, stop having multiple price points.  Again, that’s about as bad business decision as you can possibly make if you want to get big bucks from the enterprise space and keep being friendly with the home user.

provide all updates via Windows Update.  Well, there is a case for that – and I fully expect most OS updates to be done online in future.  But they won’t be free.

Make your OS fast – well, from what I see, Windows 8 is fast.  Really fast.  but then so is Windows 7.  The author seems to equate fast with ‘startup time’ – two very different things.

MS has been doing good work with startup time, and, if the author had read any of the tech details for Windows 8 you would see changes to hibernate making starting and stopping your PC much faster.  You would also see UEFI boot – which is much speedier than bios booting.  Windows 8 will turn on and off much more like a TV – certainly as much as a Mac Book does… and we’ve known it will for six months at least.

Leave the apps behind.  Really?  Along with killing backwards compatibility, you’re taking about significantly reducing functionality, and confusing the majority of users.  No, by hiding the old apps, and starting afresh with new apps in Metro, MS is doing the right thing here.

Operating systems should be lightweight.  Actually, that’s a fair argument.  But since we expect Windows 8 to be the base of the next generation of Windows phones, we can tell already:  it is pretty damn lightweight.  I don’t however, expect my desktop experience to be lightweight – I expect it to have the functionality which allows me to be productive.  Sure you could produce ‘Windows Metro Netbook edition’ Or some such to cater for the device market – but that’s a different market – not the home market, not the server market.  Apple have apparently figured it out.  Apparently.  My MacBook (same market space) seems to have quite a few things shipped with it.

Pricing:  Go with an annual fee.  I hate to tell the author, but that’s what the big boys do already.  We license windows.  We pay for our support contract.  It happens on a rolling basis.  The single fee is for individual machines, and people who don’t buy into (or in the authors case doesn’t seem to have heard of) this pricing model.  But maybe they should make it available to the home user… so that every year after I spend my hard earned cash on a windows device I have to keep paying for it to continue to work!

No… none of this would make Windows 8 insanely great.  But let me list a few things that might make a future version of Windows better:

Lets have a system where you can sync your laptop to your desktop, and control your laptop’s apps from your desktop.  Why not sync & control your phone in the same way?  Once a phone is connected to a PC, why not give the PC access to the telephony features – so you can text from the comfort of your desktop.

Presumably users will all have their own SkyDrive account – so let applications use this (don’t rely on apps using their own accounts – that’s taking my data away from me – which is bad).  I want to save a file on my PC, then access it from the same app on my phone.  I don’t even want to think about how I’m doing it or what I’m doing.

Ideally, I want a backdoor way into my desktop PC from my phone.  And to my laptop.  Even if its powered off.  How?  By syncing the disk image frequently – so a power off isn’t just ‘save to disk’ it becomes ‘save to network’.

I want to see the desktop ‘metro-ize’  Why not run each app in their own virtual desktop, and then display them to me separately like metro apps?

Something like Siri would be useful too – but don’t make me have to talk.  I have a keyboard in lots of situations, so let me use that – and make MSiri smart enough to know what I’m asking for – even if that relies on knowledge of my other devices.

Be social.  Frankly, if MS do one thing for consumers, get some really good UI folk working on a social network integrator.  Something that is compatible with every social network you can think of.  There is room for someone to be the best at this, and it would be a killer feature for windows tablets if they had it.
Would these make Windows insanely good? no.  But they would give it a leg up against the competition.  And they would give companies a reason to want to buy Windows tablets rather than Ipads for their workforce.  Which would ensure MS stays insanely profitable


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