BitDepth#859 - November 06

Final impressions on the reception that Windows 8 has received and the demands that its new users will face in working with the new operating system.
Expect turbulence
Chris Capossela, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer, briefs the Latin American press corps, overwhelmingly armed with iPads and Android phones, at Microsoft’s Technology Center in Mexico City. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

Despite Microsoft’s enthusiasm for Windows 8, the reception for the new operating system has proven to be lukewarm.
The first feedback popping up in my Facebook stream and in online comments on this series about the new operating system has been downright dour.

With no established workflow on Windows, my trip through the new OS has been a bit of a hop, skip and jump. But it was clear even to me that serious Windows users would have issues with the changes in the new release.
Nothing I’ve got to say here will ease that pain, but some of my observations may help new Windows 8 users come to grips with the changes the new version brings.

The biggest hiccup is the new Start screen. Most Windows users are used to powering up, entering a password and getting right to work on a desktop interface that’s worked the same way for decades.
To such users, the Start screen is a needless impediment to their workflow and a solution to a problem they didn’t have.

Many have gone directly to
StarDock’s Start 8 to restore a facsimile of the more familiar start button.
Because the Windows development team has gone to such pains to make the Start screen touch friendly, it’s possible to miss what the company has done in that environment. I know I did for weeks.

I’d been using the Start screen as a task switcher and launcher, dismissing all those pretty tiles as links and useful widgets (which some of them actually are) and organising them on that basis.
But it wasn’t until I heard, and had a chance to cross-examine, the effort Microsoft has invested in stimulating developer interest in that environment that it finally dawned on me that the Start screen isn’t just a navigation tool, it’s a whole separate OS layered on top of traditional Windows.

Stop and consider that for a moment.

On Windows RT devices, there is no traditional Windows desktop at all. On those systems, the Modern UI is the only UI there is and this, I finally understood, is where Microsoft must be thinking of taking Windows.
A Modern UI version of Internet Explorer is a convenience. Skype and the Office suite on the new OS (Office exclusively on WinRT for now) is the beginning of a platform.

So it makes sense that there's little or no talk about Windows 8 in enterprise, where code is often tied tightly to metal. For the Modern UI to succeed, it has to find an audience and the crowd it’s been designed for is going to be found first in the consumer space.
Without actually saying so, Microsoft seems to be steering the mighty ship of Windows state from a model of monolithic releases, backward compatibility and boxes of software on plastic discs to a completely new codebase, with its own online store and accessibility built in for the lighter, touch based devices that people are choosing with considerable enthusiasm.

This is an insanely complicated undertaking and I’m not sure that Microsoft is doing itself any favours by not simply explaining what it hopes to do with its OS and introducing Windows 8 as its first step in getting there.
Apple went through this wrenching exercise in 2001 with a much smaller customer base when it moved from OS9 to OSX and even after explaining everything clearly and repeatedly, it was a difficult experience for Mac users.

Now, apparently, it’s the turn of Windows users and the changes aren’t likely to go down any more smoothly.
In Microsoft’s favour is attractive hardware that runs the new OS smoothly, but there’s no doubt that its power users are in for some challenges as they come to terms with this fundamental change in the way software is installed, used and streamlined into day to day work.

Is Windows a trial balloon for a new Windows or a rocket to a strange, oddly compelling new world for its developers and users?
The reception that the new operating system has over the next few months and the way its users choose to navigate it will likely decide that for Microsoft.

Everything you might ever want to know about the launch of Windows 8 is linked here…
Business Guardian report on the Latin American Launch of Windows 8
BitDepth#858, Microsoft: All In

Working with Windows 8 on a tablet device...
BitDepth#857, Is it the tablet PC's time?
BitDepth#856, Software for the Modern UI
BitDepth#855, Tailoring a Tablet-ready Windows
BitDepth#854, Windows 8 on a Slate
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