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12/7/2013
09:06 AM
George Baroudi
George Baroudi
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What Windows 8 Needs Now

A game made Windows 3.1 users fall in love with the mouse. Now Windows 8 needs a game as satisfying as solitaire.

You've got to admit that Bill Gates or whoever came up with the concept of solitaire for Windows was a genius. Users at the time were conditioned without knowing it by the hand-eye coordination demands placed on eyes, hands, and a mouse. Solitaire was the magic for that teaching. We played it until the Pavlovian bell rang, happy to watch a complete deck of cards flow across the screen informing us we had won the game. How do you erase such deep training from the minds of users? The mouse is not dying.

Businesses are comfortable buying PCs and desktops because there is no reason to switch to a new platform. Change management is a topic that everyone talks about, particularly in the geek world -- but no one embraces it when it comes to his or her own shop. People claim the reason they are maintaining PCs is security. They say the tablet is a fad and that applications won't work. They say that when Service Pack 1 arrives, they will adopt it. They claim massive disruption to their day-to-day information systems. But now Windows 8.1 is out and no one is screaming, "Let's deploy!"

Are these assumptions accurate or are they simply a deliberate method of procrastination of wait and see? Let's close our eyes and the world will be fine tomorrow and the tablet will be just a fad. Not too long ago, it took the IT world (the allegedly progressive world) almost 10 years to get rid of Windows 98. Will it take another 10 years to get rid of Windows 7?

[ Let us count the ways users are staying away: 8 Reasons To Hate Windows 8.1. ]

The question for Microsoft is this: How come Windows 8 didn't come with a game that allowed us to stop using the mouse and start using the finger? That sort of conditioning is a prerequisite for change management. Could Microsoft's need to maintain a revenue stream have prevented it from recognizing that?

In the meantime, Delta ordered 11,000 Surface tablets. I was kind of surprised, so I kept reading the press release and realized that in combination with the 11,000 tablets the company also purchased 19,000 Nokia phones with Windows 8 on them. It occurred to me that Microsoft is trying to offer another Pavlovian experience by normalizing the way we use every Windows device. So, if I have a nice experience with a Windows phone with little squares of windows with different colors, I can go to my desktop and identify the same interface with the same little squares.

But how can Microsoft extend this approach beyond its Delta deal? Will its incoming CEO turn up the heat on marketing by figuring out how to get everyone to see the beauty of the seamless interface between devices? Apple cannot presently offer the elegance of having the same experience on your MacBook and on your iPhone; the only common interface that spans iOS and Mavericks is the iBooks app and perhaps iTunes.

My advice to Microsoft's incoming CEO is to come up with a game and follow the original leader, Bill Gates, in creating a wonderful rewards-based method of interaction to build an affinity for the new Windows -- even if that means killing the mouse.

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jemison288
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jemison288,
User Rank: Moderator
12/7/2013 | 12:56:08 PM
New Paradigm
One might argue that Angry Birds could have done the trick for Microsoft if they had been able to act sooner, but, at this point, I think it's unlikely that a game can make it happen.  Microsoft's best way to increase market share on Windows 8 is through business channels, not through consumer ones (too expensive; they've lost to Android and iOS already), and not through educational ones (too expensive; lost to Google at the moment).

I think Microsoft's best shot here is through Lync and Skype and building out the collaboration tools in Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook).  Google Docs is simply not as good as Microsoft Office, except from a collaboration standpoint (but Office 365 is pretty darn close).  These all have good network effects, and if business adoption is solid, I would expect that they'll make the jump from business to consumer, and also to education.

"Solitaire for Windows 8" implies that there hasn't been a paradigm shift, and that's wrong.  When Windows 3.1 came out, most households didn't have a computer--or if they did, it was far inferior to what's at work.  But today, most households have smartphones and tablets that they view as superior to the locked-down systems they use at work.  New paradigm.
WilfT927
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WilfT927,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 6:27:13 AM
The right solution to the wrong problem.
Even if it was possible to come up with a Solitaire, Minesweeper or Angry Birds for Windows 8.1, it wouldn't help, because the problem isn't that users must be accustomed to touch interface, the problem is that a touch interface is slow, awkward and unintuitive if you're using mouse + keyboard.

Microsoft could instead very easily solve the problem by adding a setting to let the user select if he wanted Metro or Aero, just like one could select which interface one wanted in previous versions of Windows. This would make both touchpad and PC users happy, and be trivial for Microsoft to implement.

The reason Microsoft wont do that, is because common wisdom is that PC is dying, so Microsoft intends to force PC users (and more importantly developers) to Metro. Microsoft, almost certainly correctly, feels that all business users, most private users, and nearly all developers, would stay with Aero if given a choice, and this would stymie acceptance of portable Windows devices.

So, effectively Microsoft is throwing PC users under the bus in order to boost development and uptake of portable Windows devices. No game could ever fix that.
ekholbrook
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ekholbrook,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 7:13:36 AM
iOS and Android look more like Windows than Windwos does
Ultimately I think one of the biggest problems windows 8 has with it's interface is that it looks and works less like Windows we all knew and loved than Android or even iOS.

Neither Google nor Apple strayed so far from the icon/folder interface that we went, "What the heck am I looking at" when we saw it.

Turn on your iPad, iPhone or Android device. Looks like your standard "icon" type interface. You use your fingers, sure, but it's ultimately the same interface we all know.

Android really is just a windows 7 (or mac) looking interface with little icons and folders but with touch capability and then each app then then decices what and where to touch.

You can in fact plug in a USB to an Android tablet and you it works equally as well.

Microsoft decided to go in a totally different direction. Almost like making a car with two steering wheels, one to go left, one to go right.

There's zero reason Microsoft couldn't have put in BETTER development time and simply made Window 7, fully touch capable upgrade some basic GUI stuff to better handle touch. Widgets on the desktop, etc. I mean everything is there and really WAS all there.

They took a chance and went to tile AND weird desktop back and forth model. And neither works well.

Apple and Google opted to the safer route of not scaring people off. Icons work well. They realized this was not a place people wanted to see things change. Not in windows, not in their phone, not on Android, ioS or anywhere else.
Horrido
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Horrido,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 10:56:44 AM
Windows 8 Needs Nothing
Because nothing can improve Windows 8's prospects, except Windows' market momentum of the past 20+ years. People buy into Windows 8 largely because they don't have much choice; they may be wedded to Microsoft's ecosystem and infrastructure.

Windows 8.x is Microsoft's attempt to usurp the mobile space, at the cost of their desktop PC market. Touch-enabled PCs will never catch on; without touch, Windows 8 is clumsy and inefficient. And the Metro UI flies in the face of the original desktop paradigm that made Windows and Mac so popular; good multitasking requires being able to see several application windows across the screen. This is why this paradigm was first chosen and it has withstood the test of time. Is Metro a suitable alternative or substitute? Not on your life.

Windows 8 is highly polarizing for that reason. Nearly as many people hate Windows 8 as love it. Yes, there's a way to configure Windows 8 to avoid Metro, but it's more complicated than it needs to be; without a positive "out-of-the-box" experience, these people have rebelled. This is where Microsoft screwed up badly.

If and when the desktop market becomes insignificant to Microsoft's bottom line, then Windows 8's successors will finally have their day. Until then, expect more polarization.

 
Horrido
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Horrido,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 4:41:48 PM
Unification
Microsoft's attempt at unification between the mobile world and the desktop world is deeply flawed. In the mobile world, you're dealing with a handheld device and a small screen. Here, the touch-enabled Metro UI in Windows 8 flourishes; it is the most efficient way to deal with the small display.

In the desktop world, you're dealing with a large fixed display with plenty of room for multiple windows. Here, the mouse and keyboard rule. A touch-based UI is impractical and inefficient; raising your arm repeatedly to poke at the screen is unnecessary and undesirable. So is producing fingerprint smudges on the display. Combined with the limited number of simultaneous viewable apps and Metro proves to be a poor substitute for the conventional desktop we all know and love.

Microsoft's desire for unification is laudable, but Windows 8.x is NOT the way to do it. The bridging of these two worlds is very difficult, and even Apple is facing the same challenge. Microsoft needs to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. However, we all know they will not do that.

The only sensible solution is for Microsoft to offer users a choice of UI when they install Windows: the Metro UI, or a pure desktop UI such as Aero (to give users the best out-of-the-box experience). We also know they will not do that, for it would no longer be "unification."

Thus, Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
12/8/2013 | 5:23:33 PM
Seeing the tablet through the trees
It's funny to see the mixed reactions to Microsoft's Win8 strategy.  The reality is that unless you actually use the devices in their proper context, there is no way to understand the true benefits of this platform.  I know, I was one of those people who thought "Win 8 OS?  Really? " and brushed it's Metro interface aside.  A few months later I found myself with a Win 8 phone and a Dell Win 8 tablet.  I also had the ability to see how the 2 devices interact, and that's when it clicked.  The real advantage of Windows 8 platforms is that most organizations are already powered by Microsoft.  Exchange, SharePoint, Office, Windows....we work in a Microsoft world.  iOS is just a means to access these applications, but it's not a native experience.  The real sexiness of this platform is to see how once you throw in Office 365, you can truly work from any Windows 8 device...tablet, smartphone, laptop...seamlessly.  For the first time, you can create content and remain at full productivity, not just consume content.  This is the fundamental benefit of Windows 8, and why organizations should be looking at it as a key part of their next wave of IT migration.  Not to mention that having tons of xbox games at your disposal makes solitaire look quite old school.
Hagrinas
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Hagrinas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 8:24:55 PM
Re: Unification
Not only that, Windows 7 was only one release earlier and one of the features was a push toward multimedia. Is a user with a home theater PC expected to leave the couch, walk up to the TV and slide his finger across it to move icons? A mouse works, and a remote control works even better for some features, but it's a moot point if my TV doesn't support it and my arms aren't 10 feet long. 

They needed to come up with a new operating system called Metro that was able to run Windows programs, and to leave Windows alone or improve it. You can't call it Windows if the operating paradigm doesn't use windows. Instead they called it Windows when it isn't Windows, tried to integrate environments that are separate for a reason, and in the long term may have given me incentive to look for viable desktop/home theater PC solutions if they won't offer one. 

If I wanted my PC to work like my tablet or phone, I'd use my tablet or phone. I have a tablet. I have a phone. And I have a PC for a reason. My daughter has a tablet PC (i.e. touch screen that rotates and covers the keyboard area to be used with a finger/stylus) and Windows 8 works great. Even with the screen rotated in a traditional position, touch still adds to the experience. But for many tasks, even she isn't used to it after using tablet PCs for years. It's the right OS for her, mostly, but not for me. Perhaps I'll end up with a Mac, not by choice, but because there was no other choice. In the mean time, if I need to use somebody's Windows 8 PC, I get frustrated beyond anything trying to use it as a PC.
Hagrinas
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Hagrinas,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 8:29:55 PM
Re: Seeing the tablet through the trees
It's not a question of seeing it in its proper context. It's a matter of recognizing that it's not the right tool for other contexts. I'm happy to use it in some environments. But I'm not going to replace my PC with a phone or tablet, nor am I going to replace my tablet or phone with PCs. I'm perfectly fine with a different interface on my tablet, phone and PC. It would be a disaster if my phone ran Windows 7, and would be even worse if my media center ran Windows 8 on my HDTV across the room from my couch. If they think the next generation of HDTVs will have touch screens and I will grow 12 foot arms, they are mistaken.
Henrick
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Henrick,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 9:00:57 PM
What Windows 8 needs
I agree with the article. Windows 8 needs a game that could be the new solitaire. That game should be fun, educational, addictive and only require a finder.

Guess what! There is such a game in the Windows 8 Store. It is Word Rain and can be found at:

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/app/word-rain/6a1cbb34-4741-45a4-823f-a8c018d6e099

It is free!

You can play it by yourself, yet you get to see, via the leaderboard, what all other players are scoring. You can decide to try and get the best score or you can just enjoy playing the game for the sake of learning new words. If you enjoy Scrabble or Word With Friends or word puzzles, you will be quite pleasantly surprised by the premise of this game.

I wrote this game to show my students (Computer Science majors in the majority) that when I kept telling them that  they can write apps that can bring them some financial rewards, I was not kidding. I went ahead and wrote the algorithm for this app. Now, if I can get enough people to download it and try it, it might help convince those students that, yes, they can do the same.

The interesting thing is that I couldn't afford a Surface 2 to do the development work. But Joe Healy (Principal Microsoft Developer Evangelist: c:727.776.1723 :: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/devfish
) was kind enough to provide me one so that I could prepare a C# course targeted at Windows 8 for my students. I took the opportunity offered me to also write the game.

Please, go ahead, try it, rate it and let me know (via the contact link in the game) if you think such a game could be the new Solitaire for Windows 8.
Horrido
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Horrido,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2013 | 9:11:28 PM
Re: Seeing the tablet through the trees
Your comment is applicable mainly to the enterprise. Most consumers do not rely on Exchange, SharePoint, or even Office. Moreover, few organizations are going to standardize on smartphones, tablets, and PCs; BYOD makes for happier employees. It is Microsoft's wet dream for the business world to standardize on Windows devices, but in reality, this is not going to happen. Not by a long shot.
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