Skip to comments.Charge of the Metro brigade: Did Microsoft execs plan to take a hit?
Posted on 03/15/2012 10:22:26 AM PDT by ShadowAce
It's fair to say that the typical reaction of pundits and analysts to Windows 8 is quite different to yours or mine. Our misgivings are shared, I have discovered, by many Microsoft employees.
In a nutshell, Microsoft is changing Windows 8. In addition to many welcome and uncontroversial improvements, it is adding a widget layer for touch users. This is fine, in itself. The problem is the way it's done. The widget layer drastically interferes with the daily workflow of a user and his or her Windows applications. Familiar parts of Windows have been stripped out or hidden, replaced with non-functional equivalents, or not replaced at all. The replacement for the Start Menu (for example) ejects you into this immature and non-functional fullscreen widget layer. And then, because it can't do very much, in the next moment, you're back again. This goes on all day until you turn the computer off.
It's a rather an elaborate kind of torture.
So why isn't this a major story? Well, you must remember that almost all the analysts and journalists you have read enthusing over Windows 8 have been shown the Consumer Preview running on tablets, or on an overhead projector, in a carefully-choreographed demonstration environment. My experience differs slightly. I installed it one evening on my regular Windows machine, and the next day set about attempting to do a full day's El Reg work, just as if I were on a Mac or PC. (My main machine is a Mac, but I use a Thinkpad for writing longer pieces, and I have it set up so everything works seamlessly regardless of which machine I'm on. This is a "production environment", not a "demonstration environment".)
The Windows 8 problem is really quite simple. The "benefits" will be seen by nobody, but the disadvantages will be felt by almost everybody. Every user who must access the machine primarily (or exclusively) with a keyboard and mouse will register a net inconvenience. And that isn't going to change in a hurry.
In 10 years' time, perhaps, a much larger proportion of the market will be touchscreen tablets, and perhaps sooner than that the Metro desktop may have matured a bit. Metro might even have a full set of Common Dialog Boxes by then who knows? But even then it won't be as productive for many of us as Windows 7 is today. We want computers to get out of the way. Those other 50 per cent will still be using the traditional rich GUI desktop to get anything done.
Here's how one reader expressed it:
The Metro interface without touch is painful and annoying. Like you, I'd love to see the clan in Redmond figure out that if a touch screen is detected at time of install, the Metro interface is default, whereas if no touch interface is present, it would give you the choice of interface/desktop to use. It's not rocket science, really. I also agreed that the gains made in Win 8 speed and responsiveness were great. Like you said, we just need to put a bag on the Metro team and get them to realise that the majority of Windows users will still be deploying to desktop/laptop devices that are not touch-enabled.
But Microsoft sources tell me that it's non-negotiable. They also shed light on the strange, twisty logic that is impelling Microsoft to its fate.
The strategic thinking goes like this: Microsoft needs brute force to coerce a touch-based "ecosystem" into existence, and it's using Windows as the battering ram. Microsoft fears that if it loses "touch" to the iPad and iPhone and Android, then it loses its place in the consumer space altogether. These tablets are increasingly capable of content creation, it notes. And because of this, Microsoft is going to force-feed Windows 8 to millions of PC users on non-touch devices, for whom Metro is nothing but a hindrance, in the hope that the market provides content and applications "designed for Metro".
All this has consequences, though.
One analyst tweeted that Windows 8 will give a big benefit to Windows Phone which must be music to Microsoft's ears, for WP is currently in the doldrums and needs a lift. But this reflects the theory rather than the reality. I see it working both ways. Users who have a bad time on Windows 8 aren't going to take a closer look at Windows Phone. The desktop experience may then act as a weird kind of aversion therapy.
If Metro 8 is not decoupled from the central non-touch Windows UX, then enterprises will simply shun the upgrade. They don't have the budgets to retrain their staff. In the days when you were moving thousands of people from DOS to Windows, you could argue for a bigger training budget. But the cost/benefit advantage just isn't there in Windows 8. Microsoft doesn't have the power to move its market in the way Apple can the market would prefer to shun the upgrade, as it did with Vista.
Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite goes further:
"Inside Microsoft, there is a related fixation on whether Windows 8 will succeed and, yes, there is a contingent of people stuck in a paradoxical position: They understand that the success of Microsoft is inexorably linked to Windows, and thus that Windows 8 must succeed. But they desperately want Steven Sinofsky, and thus Windows 8, to fail. That both can't happen is of course the unresolvable issue," he writes.
I haven't found that sentiment. Nobody I've spoken to wants Windows 8 to fail. But everyone expects it to fail in the enterprise, and fail so badly that it will make Vista look like a gentle hiccup. (Not tho' the soldier knew/Someone had blunder'd):
This is all quite puzzling. We must assume the Metro-centric core of Microsoft executives is thinking rationally. We must assume they have done some maths. Which means Microsoft is at least prepared to forgo the revenue that comes from one enterprise Windows upgrade cycle, just to jam Metro into the public consciousness in the long term.
Perhaps Microsoft has justified this with the thought that the mere $4.74bn in quarterly revenues that the Windows division brings in is fairly inelastic it won't vary much whether Windows is a hit or a flop - and that OEMs have to keep building and buying PCs. So it must have also reckoned that it can afford to take a hit in the short term to preserve Microsoft's relevance in the long term. Perhaps this isn't so crazy. Microsoft's Entertainment division (led by Xbox) now makes almost as much money as Windows.
This, then, appears to be Microsoft's gamble. I just wonder if it has revealed all this to the shareholders? Perhaps it should.
Meanwhile the Metro boat sails steadily on to its fate. Better get the popcorn in. ®
The Windows 8 Experience: “Wait...what? Why did you do that? Why would someone even think to do that? What the hell is going on?”
Microsoft - Where Quality is Job 8.4-revA
I’m thinking that, if there are those that want Sinofsky to fail, they are probably from the old guard.
What one must consider is that Windows tried a windows experience already, on the Windows Ce phones and failed miserably.
Windows 8 = Chevy Volt.
If this doesn't sound like what's going on with "oil" and "healthcare", I don't know what does. I'm getting awfully tired of being told to forego the present in favor the future.
Win 7 until this mess is straightened out.
Take it from a grizzled old computer warrior....never switch systems until Service Pack 2 is out.
I think they should keep the start button, in some form.
I don’t think it would be hard to have it invisible, but appears if you touch the lower left hand corner or something.
Let me point out that Andrew Orlowski also predicted that Android would not pose a threat to RIM or Apple in October of 2010.
Let me point out that Andrew Orlowski has never written a positive article about Android or Windows, but multiple positive articles about Apple.
Put all that aside, I know many people who have tried the Windows 8 CP. They all hated it at first, until they learned how to access the familiar things they were looking for in Windows.
Therefore, there is a learning curve with an entirely new OS.
Lastly, MS has said that they non-touch users will have a way to have a Windows 7-like experience.
Microsoft has turned into a large bureaucracy (much like the US federal govt.) who can’t see the forest for the trees.
Oh, one other thing.....I suppose in Win8 they’ve changed the names on all the apps in Control Panel again, giving the illusion of something new, when it’s actually the same old, same old.
Win XP until this mess is straightened out.
I don’t think it will be a bad experience. I’m going to buy a Lumia 710 to learn about it, so when Apollo comes out, I can then go get a really nice Windows phone.
it seems every good report about any windows product is met with hysterical hyperbole from a mac worshiper. (not to be confused with consumers who just like the pretty apple)
Heck, I’m still using XP at home. I have 7 at work and it drives me nuts with the dumbed down interface. The Office ribbons really drive me nuts. I don’t think that making a tasks take 5 to 7 clicks is a functional improvement over 1 or 2 clicks.
One thing I can hardly wait for is cleaning fingerprints off my 21” monitor as often as I have to clean them off my 3” iPod.
I’m running Office 97 on Win 7.
I really like the stability of Win 7 but hate the interface changes in Office.
so reading between the lines, all computers will not move to touch screens.
I know MS was to be enabling kinect on desktop systems.
will NOW move to touch screens.
I like Win8 already - even if it has a ton of features not implemented in my image.
Note: You can switch back to the "old" desktop in Win8 if you can't handle Metro. Personally, I like it but it's not too useful without a touchscreen. I'm going to test it out on a touchscreen laptop/tablet.
If Microsoft is successful in this, expect Apple's OS X+1 to do the same ... basically move toward their tablet and phone IOS.
I remember when Gates was last at the helm when a major upgrade was taking place to Microsoft Office. He said he gave two directives: 1) do not change the file extensions, 2) do not change the menus.
I’ve gotten used to the ribbon but the file extension stuff is really annoying. xls, ppt, and doc are firmly ingrained into the heart of business. Virtually everything I create and receive are in still in xls, ppt, or doc even though we are using 2007 and 2010 version of Office. I for one miss Gates at the helm. Not a fan of Balmer in the least. Windows 8-no thanks...but I love 7.
We have a Kinect at home. It is a fun toy and could be very useful for consumer applications but waving your hand in the air is not a high precission way to interact with a computer, even less precise than a fat finger on a touch screen.
I use a keyboard with my tablet most of the time because touch is good for a rough fast interaction but not good for precise data input.
“You can switch back to the “old” desktop in Win8 if you can’t handle Metro”
No, you can’t. MS removed the Start button. There was a reg hack to put it back in the Developer Preview but MS removed even THAT in the Consumer Preview.
You’re trapped flipping between the two UIs.
You should try the win8 preview and see how fast ie10 is (the touch version). The full screen apps look great. This is a game changer and most won’t understand it until they get to touch it. I was the same way with the iPad until I got to try it.
Just like Star Trek, every other release sucks.
We’ve been running it. What you don’t understand is that professionals who operate Active Directory domains don’t really care about little speed gains with applications that aren’t mission critical. That kind of poking around is for the home.
What we care about - for the general user - is ease of use and compatibility in the workplace. And for that, the current release is Pure Fail.
Admins around the world are looking at this like their standing in the shallows, with everything under control, but there’s a 30-foot swell about a half-mile out, coming in fast and it’s gonna suck when it hits.
Jelly donuts are not your friend in that sort of environment.
I understand that from the admin perspective, but this is the CONSUMER PREVIEW...NOT the ADMIN PREVIEW.
Have you tried the preview for the windows server 8? Also most admins are moving to powershell anyway, so really it will be run a powershell script.
Admins may like having a tablet/pad with touch to manage the enterprise though. I bet they will be complaining if they don’t get touch interfaces/apps to manage their network.
Upgrade path is from WinXP to OS X.
I tried OSX, didn’t care for it much.
So, when was the last time you saw a MS OS release where the UI for the home version and the UI for the pro version was different?
It is completely fair to assume 8 is going to be the same. Especially considering the way MS has completely toasted the Start Orb.
Which brings up, if I’m actually going to get a different UI with the pro version, then why am I being forced to use Metro at home? Why don’t I get a choice?
This is almost the same as if MS forced you to use Window Media Center as the OS shell. I actually think Media Center’s pretty cool....in a media center. Not on a desktop.
Likewise, 8’s got all sorts of potential for being cool on a tablet or phone...but annoying on the desktop.
And let’s face it - I don’t really like Apple, but do think for one second they didn’t wonder if Lion should be interfaced the same as iOS? If it were a good idea, they would have already done it.
I'm hoping my Dev version will let me install DiabloIII when it's released on 3/15 - might have to move up to the Consumer Preview for that though.
I will seriously consider buying a tablet (thanks to the Win8 Dev Team) if I can get one with enough CPU/GPU power to run some good games and render my house designs created in Chief Architect.
wow. A little nyquil and I suddenly can’t proof read.
You do that Server doesn’t use the aero interface, right?
I can easily see an app that launches into admin mode where you can do all your admistrative functions from there.
Apple does not think of everything, you know.
All these posters and tech 'journalists' do not know how without the START button, so they are lost and think it is gone.
Nice research....or is it disinformation?
I installed win8 CP in a VirtualBox image, once I got rid of Metro UI, it really is a minor evolution from Win7, I see very few theoretical needs for Corporate environment licensees to upgrade any time soon.
My more satirical side says that any new employee who requires win8 Metro UI and touchscreen to properly perform their job function should be immediately fired and replaced by a competent human being.
I used to sell touchscreen kiosks for retail/medical/kiosk industry niche, I don’t see any benefit to Metro UI for those applications. Many of the existing (Windows universe) touchscreen suites will be ported, but they almost all use custom UI overlays or are integrated into a WinNT compatible interfaces already.
My first reaction to Metro UI was a memory of how Office Suite 2000 introduced simpler slide transitions for PowerPoint and Microsoft used that as a selling point for the entire suite. For the 80%+ of Office users who never or rarely used PP, it had added no benefit.
I’m an industrial-level PC user. Have been for decades. Among other things, I write Windows optimization tools for my PC support business. And I use dozens of free 3rd party tools, and I need 1-2 click access to them constantly. So I installed W8 Consumer Preview on VirtualBox in order to get a jump on porting my applications to W8. Metro UI is a total nightmare for anything but a tablet device. Impossible to get anything done. And you can’t bypass it. Best you can do is take the extra step to go to the normal desktop. But even here, no Start button. Thus it is totally impossible to do anything at all on Windows 8 for an enterprise user! And the real irony? W8 Metro UI is a mediocre tablet interface that will run only on tablets that have 2-3 gigbytes of RAM and at least 20 gig hard drive! Anybody know about any tablets like that?
My advice? Be prepared to buy some 1 year LEAP PUTS on Microsoft if they actually release this piece of crap into the marketplace like it is now. Enterprise will shun it and mom and pop buyers at Best Buy will be so befuddled by what they see when they open up their shiny new W8 PC when they get home, they’ll probably turn right back around and ask for a refund. While you’re at it, you could short Dell, Intel, HP, and a whole bunch of others dependent upon W8. I’m serious. What you have shaping up here is the next New Coke or Edsel. Actually, I predict much worse. W8 is gonna make Vista look like one of the all-time brilliant marketing strategies! (BTW, Volt doesn’t count as a comparison because it’s not a free-market product from a free-market company.)
(BTW, I was finally able to get some work done on W8 when I installed ViStart, a free third party “Start” menu emulator. It’s not as good as “Classic Start Menu”, which I routinely use on Vista and W7, but CSM isn’t ready yet for W8, and ViStart is better than no Start at all.)
(Also, if you ever manage to find out how to get into Safe Mode (since F8 no longer works in W8) you’ll find you enter right into the traditional desktop, bypassing Metro UI. I guess MS figures if you have to go to Safe Mode, you can be screwing around with a Fisher-Price interface for 3-year olds. Still no Start menu though.)
(Another dirty little secret is MS won’t allow any apps to be installed on Metro unless you obtain a certificate from them! And supposedly Metro apps can only be written in C++!)
Note on my above post, I am using the win8 CP on a non-touchscreen desktop.
Rainmeter is already building a custom UI to replace Metro.
winServer2008r2 can use Aero.
Just copy the Aero files over from a Win7Pro or higher add a few lines in registry and regserver the files.
I’ve never used this but I did install it twice.
I hear ya, but the new generation of computer users want a touch interface. CxOs are bring their iPad into work and demanding the IT guys figure out how to support it on their network.
Touch is here to stay for a long time, so get used to it or at least act like you understand it if you work in the IT field.
Further proof of why IT should have ZERO input on the rest of the operation.
These are the bozos who created fiefdoms in many corporations, strangling any freedom and limiting everything you can possibly do because they trust NOBODY with technology except themselves.
But at least your post was satire.
Microsoft has a built in market share that is rotting their brains.
“These are the bozos who created fiefdoms in many corporations, strangling any freedom and limiting everything you can possibly do because they trust NOBODY with technology except themselves.”
Cool...you work at a building where the maintenance department will let any employee go down to the basement and dink around with the HVAC system? If your business has a pool are you allowed to mess with the chlorine levels? Can you want into accounting and sort the paperwork anyway you feel like a day before an audit? Do you have any idea how ignorant you sound?
I only use windows two....one on the left wall, and the other in front of my desk.
Lol....what? Who admins on the server?