Thinking about MS Windows

I hate the word ‘paradigm’ but I’m going to use it anyway. The ideal paradigm shift takes you from something that worked to something that’s even better with a fairly universal confirmation that it is indeed better. The question is how does it take to get people to that end state where they buy into the concept. For example:

MS Windows

Apple’s leap from iPhone to iPad garnered a very quick adoption of the new paradigm (i.e. larger format) working well. Android’s leap from phone to tablet has been tenuous but they’ve tweeked the formula to gain traction (perhaps smaller and low-cost). Microsoft tried to leap from plain Windows XP to polish in Vista but the reaction was not good (style and performance). They took what they learned and converted Vista into Windows 7. I bet a lot of people thought that Windows 7 was a new product but really it was just a fixed up version of Vista. That’s all that was needed to get most people to forget about XP and move on to 7.

People who are clamouring for classic Windows desktop are not prepared to accept the new metro paradigm. But that implies that they are also rejecting touch as a computing method they want to consider. They may be right, perhaps touch doesn’t have a place in the PC future, but Microsoft hedged on convergence being the overarching theme and that people would be using a mix of tablets, convertables and traditional PCs for Windows. I can’t blame them for wanted to create an single OS that serves all those niches. They could have created Windows 8 Touch and also continued to offer Windows 7 Non-Touch but that doubles your maintenance requirement.

There’s also the question of ARM. Microsoft had to see multiple paths into the future and wanted to chose one that promoted a fresh new idea while still keeping one foot in the past (desktop support for x86). Now Intel is fighting tooth and nail to prove that they can do low power, low cost consuming while maintaining legacy x86 support – it sounds like the best for Windows users who want the best of both worlds. It also prevents Microsoft from fully embracing ARM and the failure of Microsoft Surface RT almost seems to be the nail in the coffin. If I had to guess, people don’t want to be stuck in Metro. They may like Metro but they don’t want to be stuck there.

I’ve used Windows Phone since last year, so I’m familiar with the concept of tiles, but I only recently upgraded one of my PCs to Windows 8. I have to say that like many other people, my feelings are mixed. The concept of an app that serves a single purpose makes sense on a phone because it’s phones are inherently single purpose (in the linear sense). On a PC though, have a dedicated tile that just loads up content that is really just for the most part a web page seems frivilous. I found myself shrinking the size of many tiles and turning off the live tile updates because it makes things look too busy on the home screen. Things in general just look too big, almost as if the Metro concept could work but just needs to be tightened up. Maybe it wouldn’t be dynamic, but what if all your tiles were the same colour and could be laid out on your screen in groups (kind of like the failed Fusion Garage’s Grid 10). People were already familiar with shortcuts being in a specific place on their desktop. I think you should also be able to hover on a tile and have it pop up multiple subtiles. For example, instead of having a million news tiles moving to the right on your screen, have a single News tile that you can hover on and it pops up a grid of news tiles that you placed in there.

So anyway, my point is that the paradigm is not necessarily broken. Perhaps, we’re back in a Vista age and what’s coming next is the new better version of the same thing. Personally I think that convertibles are going to replace the modern PC and therefore touch and voice will both have a very prominant role in our computing experience. Going back to a Windows Desktop by default would frustrate the crap out of anyone use touch instead of a mouse (imagine trying to click on start menu every time with your index finger). But if Intel can prove that they are still worthy of being Microsoft’s premier partner, then perhaps Windows can have it’s cake and eat it to. Metro will be touch based for relaxed consumption and then you’ll jump to desktop and grab your mouse and keyboard to get productive.

Don’t count out the fact that all those mobile users (phones, tablets) may still be in the honeymoon and will eventually wake up to the reality that using these devices is counterproductive to some task. Then there will be a renaissance for the PC.

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