Windows 8 as a Repeat of the Vista Disaster

There is mounting evidence since the release of  the Final Release Preview that  Windows 8 is shaping up to be a repeat of  the Vista Disaster.  The basic ingredient is that Redmond feels it can do a Steve Jobs – and force its users to accept wholescale changes that they might not normally agree with. But Redmond does not have Steve Jobs Reality Distortion talents. For example,  Steve Jobs was able to do this when he scuttled unjustifiably Flash on iOS [and killing a lot of business for Mac Designers] and denied touchscreen operations for the Mac community.

In a similar fashion, Vista tried to impose massive active security tasks on day to day PC operations and was woefully under-provisioned in memory and CPU power on the machines it was sold on[the Windows 8 analog is inadequate trackpads and/or touchscreen on current PCs]. Consumer and business users both rebelled. Vista also had a surplus of bugs and performance issues as well. Now Windows 8 is following in the same presumptive mode, imposing on business and operational users the Metro UI which works well for smartphones and tablets but leaves lots to be desired for operational + creative computing. In addition, the Metro UI imposes on all current Windows users a significant learning curve on operating something they thought they already knew – how t0 run the Windows UI.

The following crossection of reviews underlines the real concerns in the business community. PC Pundit John Dvorak writing  at Marketwatch has a review of Windows 8 that is less than complimentary –
The real problem is that it is both unusable and annoying. It makes your teeth itch as you keep asking, ‘Why are they doing this!?’First of all, the system-software product is mostly divorced from all the thought and trends developed by Windows over the years, as if to say that they were wrong the whole time, so let’s try something altogether new.

No business will tolerate this software, let me assure you. As a productivity tool, it is unusable.

Most applications cannot even be scaled down and so take up the whole screen … Do you work on a huge 27-inch or bigger monitor? You know, so you have room to organize your programs and files? Well, imagine everything running full screen on that. It’s a joke.”

But I found John’s review did not look widely enough at the Metro UI opportunity in tablet and smartphone space. John has some telling  points but his argument  lacks breadth. In contrast eWeek’s Don Reisinger has a 10 point argument about the hurdles facing Windows 8 that is more grounded. I repeat his points with 1 line from the original. I elaborate or beg to differ on some of Don’s points – Read his article for all the frank but well reasoned thinking.

Here are  Don’s 10 points:
1. The analysts aren’t usually that far off …  and as Don notes many are not sanguine about Windows 8 intro prospects.
2. Consumer know the iPad … and AndroidAnd despite 3 beta previews open to all users with tens of millions of download, there is a problem in getting to know Windows 8 and its very different Metro interface because a)tens of millions of beta testers is barely 1-2% of  all Windows users and b)of those few Windows 8 beta testers most do not have multi-touch screens essential for trying out Windows 8 and getting a feel for  its Metro UI vs Desktop UI. So most Windows users in the upcoming Fall sales blitz will have no real feel for what Windows 8 has to offer.
3. The enterprise’s deployment schedule against Microsoft.
4. They’re competing against Apple.
5. Performance matters. 
I beg to differ with Don here. Windows ARM tablets equipped with  Qualcomm SnapDragon4  and Nvidia Tegra 3 chips are getting good performance reviews.
6. Where’s the innovation? Here is where I agree and disagree with Don. I agree and don’t think  the Metro style UI with active tiles,  Charms and Hubs is innovation enough. So far in all the betas there has not been even a hint of a Metro Killer App which should have percolated out by this time nearly a year into Windows 8 betas.

But I disagree that there is a huge innovation opportunity for Microsoft in convertibles like the Asus Transformer that is a tablet but can hook up to become a PC – amd Windows 8 has the 2 UIs to do that – Metro Style for most tablet/consumer  usage and Desktop UI for when converted to a PC – keyboard, trackpad, USB ports and extra battery in the convertible  docking station.

Since I think smartphones will enlarge to become near tablets, most users will not want to have 3 [or 4 with camera phones proliferating] devices to lug around. The tablet that can easily convert to a PC is a  very attractive alternative – especially if it is multi-touch smart in the Desktop UI while running those millions of Windows programs.

But that is  when/where the Microsoft Wicket becomes sticky – so far Redmond has not given equal power to the Desktop UI utilizing multi-touch gestures. Nor are there keyboard+mouse equivalents for most touch gestures. Nor is there any real attempt to integrate Desktop UI with MetroStyle UI features . Yet Metro apps would be a natural for modal Windows situations  which crop everywhere in Photoshop and Autocad, etc.  And Paul Thurrott’s idea for Metro Apps as windows and tile hubs as part of the Desktop is just super.

Mockup of Metro UI and Desktop UI integration by Paul Thurrott
But being surprisingly doctrinaire, Redmond is passing up an opportunity to leap ahead of both Apple [no touchscreen for Mac Users and Diese Ist Verboten Propietar  Polizei] and Google still lost in the ChromeBox Cloud. What a wasted  and lost UI innovation opportunity.
7. Does Microsoft “get” tablets? does Microsoft get the huge convertibles opportunity?
8. It all comes back to Android ...One of Microsoft’s first battles in the tablet space will be proving to tablet vendors that Android really isn’t the right/only platform for them. Yes, indeed.
9. Product design looks to be sub-par. I beg to differ. This AnandTech article spells out some of the good design that is appearing for Windows 8.
10. A redesign of epic proportions

When it’s all said and done, the big question surrounding Windows 8 is whether the platform will be appealing to customers. Windows 8 is a major departure in design and functionality from its predecessors and there’s no guarantee that consumers and enterprise users will be happy with this latest version. If Windows 8 falls short, don’t expect tablets running the software to impress anyone. Amen.

11)This reviewer had hopes that Microsoft unlike Apple notably, would finally bring touchscreen operations to the PC Desktop in an intelligent way. Every PC beomes a Wacom Cintiq-like touch savvy device with productivity gains in the 40-70% range as mousing around and double operations are just cut out of lots of browsing and operational work. But the jury is still out on how well the full range of touchscreen gestures are incorporated into Windows 8 Desktop UI. Yet the Desktop UI and its he Golden 1 million or more Windows programs await the complete goods on   “magic touch”  for all touchscreen operations. This point is just a corollary of Don’s point 10.

Finally, see Forbes Tim Worstall for the real feeling  from the business community. In effect, Tim and his bevy of experts are saying that Microsoft faces a second Vista revolt by the business community. It appears Redmond in its obsession with cracking the tablet success code and getting back into the smartphone/tablet game is willing to sacrifice its Desktop UI users. The Metro UI would certainly be a contender – 2 years ago. But with no killer apps, Metro needs the “convertible advantage” of being a lite tablet instantly convertible to a savvy PC with  Desktop+Touch UI productivity features. Intel and the Asian PC vendors like Asus, Acer, and Lenovo see this opening building a crop of convertibles/transformer PCs while Intel guarantees the supply of touch screens. But Microsoft’s support of Touch and integration of the Desktop with Metro UI has been minimalist. In effect Redmond is now robbing Peter [the billion Desktop Windows users] to pay Paul [the unknown number of Phone and tablet onverts to the Windows 8 UI].

And these remarks do not anticipate any bugs and teething problems in the Windows 8 release. But this reviewer eyeing the ARM processor code and the 2 development APIs [Metro and Desktop APIs look similar but are  very different], and the new touch and other hardware integrations,  expects lots of firefighting for the first 90-120 days of Windows 8 availability. Not as bad as Vista, but the UI changes are more draconian than Vista’s UI and security changes. I agree with Tim, there will probably be a Windows 8 Enterprise Edition that corrects big chunks of the missing Desktop UI touch features, a year from now or later. But really, can Microsoft afford another Vista-like botched Windows release?

2 thoughts on “Windows 8 as a Repeat of the Vista Disaster”

    1. I think all the OS vendors – Microsoft, Apple, IBM with MVS, etc have too much power over their software and hardware vendors. In the Microsoft Antitrust case the Justice Department should have ruled that Microsoft must make Windows Open Source upon release to first paying customer. Microsoft could make money by training, support services, and its troops having a lead in developing code when the source is cloaked. Hardware vendors would not be totally dependent on MS[or other OS vendor] to develop drivers or extensions. Google Android has shown this works for Samsung, HTC and others. The other DOJ restriction would be against an OS vendor having exclusive right for distribution [think Apple Store]. This is blatant [and quietly very profitable] restraint of trade.

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