A lot of people have lots of comments telling Microsoft what is wrong with Windows 8 and with what should be changed or fixed. Many of these people have even loaded and ran the operating system. Now it is my turn!
I’ve said in the past that from a sales perspective, Windows 8 is very unlikely to fail simply because Microsoft has the ability to push the operating system into the market on new systems. This pushing along with other methods has gotten over 100 million copies into the market. That's no small amount. Even so, one thing is clear. Something has to change to get developers attention.
The number of applications being built for Windows 8 is just not at the level it needs to be in order to push the opinion of Windows 8 into a more positive light. More important than just getting new applications, is getting good applications. Of course, the number of applications has been talked about to death.
Also talked to death is the whining about a start button and the modern interface. One thing I’ve seen is a resistance to change. This is also a topic I’ve talked about in our forums and elsewhere. Back in the 80s and 90s, the mainframe developers were laughing at PCs and how they didn’t take into consideration what users really needed to do. PCs would never amount to anything. Where are the mainframe developers now? Change happens.
What is interesting is that Microsoft has seen change happening. They are not the new guys to releasing operating systems. In fact, they aren’t even new to complaints about operating systems. If you recall, the naysayers had chanted that Microsoft Vista was the end of Windows. In fact, if I recall correctly, the start button was blasted as well. When the word "Start" was removed from the start button people also screamed. It was all so dreadful and all indicated the end of Windows. It is amazing that Windows 7 exists and that people generally like it. For Windows being over with Vista – and wasn't it over when Me was released too? – it is amazing that Microsoft is still in business!
Microsoft knows that Windows 8 is an even release. Even releases tend to be more consumer focused. Even releases tend to be ignored by enterprise. Even releases tend to have more consumer features. For those yelling that Enterprises are not likely to adopt Windows 8, do you really think this is a surprise to Microsoft? If it is a surprise to them, then I am actually the one that is surprised. I expect Windows 9 will be a little more aimed at pushing Windows 8 towards the enterprise. Windows 8.1 (Blue) might get Windows 8 closer, but it is more likely that Windows 9 will be more of an enterprise-level system.
Microsoft also knows when they make big changes that people are going to complain. People like to complain. The naysayers like to look for things to get people focused on. As such, shouldn't a part of Microsoft’s strategy be to help control what people complain about?
Ignore the dual interfaces for a moment. If you ignore it, then loudest complaints are that the start button going away and not being able to boot to the desktop. Microsoft could have likely fixed both of these quickly. There are third party solutions to both issues. Like lightning rods, these two issues have drawn most people’s focus, including the Apple and Linux proponents. Microsoft has let these complaints ferment and grow. For many that use Windows 8, myself included, these two issues are actually pretty minor. It takes one click to get to the desktop. The start menu and the other navigation methods in Windows 8 work. At the end of the day, these are not huge company-ending issues again both are easily fixed.
Why hasn't Microsoft simply offered to patch these two items already? Could it be that they are letting people yell about them because it has drawn attention away from other things that they have been fixing? There are a lot of other issues that were more impactful than these two.
But people did complain. They made a lot of noise. So what will happen if Microsoft puts back the Start button and allows you to boot to the desktop? At that point, if you don't like the modern interface, you never have to look at it. Is the world aligned again?
And that is what I think is key about Windows Blue. If Microsoft fixes these two things, then the naysayers are going to have to come up with something else to complain about. But because they've had so long already, Microsoft is going to be in a much better position. If the naysayers start whining about something else, Microsoft can ask why they hadn't made a big deal about it before now. Microsoft’s position with Windows 8/8.1 gets a lot stronger.
The Modern Interface (Metro)
I left the modern interface out of the previous discussion because I think it offers a different story. Plus, if Microsoft provides a start button and the ability to launch to the desktop, then a desktop user can ignore the modern interface, should they want to ignore it.
It was Jason Hiner's article, The one big fix that could save Windows 8 that really pushed me to write this long-winded blog post.
I disagree with Jason’s suggestion. I believe that Microsoft is looking at the long term with what they are doing. That is not to say that everything they are doing is right. It isn't. But the modern interface makes perfect sense for a touch enabled, keyboardless device. It also makes sense from the perspective of building modern applications that people are engaging with. The days of the rectangular word-filled buttons is over. The modern interface that Microsoft is pushing is much more in line with what people have indicated they want. It works on mobile devices and it works with touch.
Additionally, the current desktop works for what we do today. Today I can't picture Visual Studio as a modern interface application. It works cleanly in the desktop. On the flip side, Minesweeper is a beautiful modern interface application as is my weather program and some of the news readers I use. Both are valuable, and I personally use both. I have a slate running Windows 8 because I wanted both the ability to play the games and to develop on the road. I use both. I think most people will use both as well. I like my modern interface applications, and I like my desktop with its apps.
Separating the two interfaces into their own versions would destroy the way I use my Windows 8 machines. I think the same is true for others too. For that reason, I think Jason's suggestion is crazy.
The Biggest Change I'd make to Windows 8
I disagreed with Jason’s suggestion, but I have my own suggestion for the one big fix that I think could put Windows 8 on a better path. Simply put:
Run modern Interface applications in a window on the desktop.
Said in a more fun way:
Bring windows back to Windows.
This one little change would be huge in my opinion. There is actually a third party product that does this as well. ModernMix by Stardock will let you run a modern app on the desktop in a window.
Why do I think this would help? Because it changes the mind set. You now are running all the goodness of a well-designed modern application and getting to use it like a normal desktop app. It no longer feels like you are in a different world, but that rather the elements of a different world are now a part of what you are already doing.
I think this change would have a huge impact on the mind set of developers as well. It would make building Windows Store Apps feel less like building for a completely different world, and more like an extension of what is already being done. By integrating modern applications into the desktop, the transition becomes a little easier for developers to digest.
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