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3/27/2013
11:52 AM
Kevin Casey
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Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?

Windows Blue might signal a bold new future for touch computing, but it doesn't exactly inspire a quick upgrade to Windows 8 for traditional users like me.

6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
It's like the old saying goes: Nothing generates excitement quite like leaked screenshots of a vaguely named future Windows release published to a Polish tech website.

What's that? That's not a saying? Oh. Nonetheless, there was a minor Internet riot last weekend over leaked information about Microsoft's Windows Blue, the upcoming release of -- well, no one outside of Redmond really knows. It's not really a service pack and it's not really Windows 9, seems to be the general opinion. It's ... it's... I'm not quite sure what it is, so I asked Forrester senior analyst David Johnson for his take.

"Microsoft is on a journey here toward a newer OS and interaction model, and this leak shows us a little bit more about how that's going to go," Johnson said in an email. "Microsoft clearly wants touch to be a rich, primary way for people to interact with the Windows environment in the future."

No doubt, Microsoft appears to be doubling down on the touch-centric nature of the Windows 8 family, and Windows Blue -- also known as "Build 9364" -- is the next leg of a bigger-picture journey. Microsoft said as much on Wednesday in a blog post acknowledging Blue's existence. "This continuous development cycle is the new normal across Microsoft -- we’ll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios," wrote corporate communications VP Frank X. Shaw.

[ Ride along on one user's test drive of a Windows 8 portable. Read Windows 8 Convertible: My 3-Month Test Drive. ]

The nagging question: Why should I join the ride any time soon when Windows 7 already gets me where I need to go? (In the spirit of the travel metaphor, I should probably note that I drive a much-loved 2002 Honda Civic and have no plans to trade it in. That somehow seems relevant here.)

There are some exciting possibilities in the apparent future of Windows. There's also the distinct possibility that "PC people" -- those of us who still get our work done on laptops and desktops, me included, are definitely on the outs. That was among my key reasons for not making plans to upgrade to Windows 8. Windows Blue, while perhaps signifying a brave new world for Microsoft, underscores this issue rather than alleviates it.

"The most interesting thing for me is that Microsoft appears to be taking more steps to position the traditional Windows desktop as just an app in a new interface framework," Forrester's Johnson said. (It should be noted that Johnson shared his insights prior to Microsoft's blog post acknowledging Blue.) He sees upside for IT departments in that shift, because it could help companies ease some of the security and management headaches they deal with in their Windows desktop environments. Those issues arise in part from the Windows kernel, APIs, app layers and other under-the-hood parts of the traditional desktop environment, according to Johnson. He noted that those headaches aren't Microsoft's fault; "rather, it's a natural state of a maturing platform like Windows," he said.

"If Microsoft can create a continuum of new Windows releases and accompanying capabilities ([such as] development environments and productivity apps) that gradually lead everyone off the legacy Windows desktop toward a new model, they may be able to fully compartmentalize the traditional Windows desktop and all of the challenges that go with it over time," Johnson said. "We're a long way from that possibility right now, but I think it's one outcome worth watching for."

What's missing from the early looks at Blue, according to Johnson, are clear indications of how it will help organizations relieve the burdens of managing their PC environments. "The operational costs for organizations are way too high, and the complexity is increasing," Johnson said. "The solution needs to be not better management tools, but getting rid of the need for them to begin with. This is what I'm looking for most in Microsoft's future releases."

But, hey: Back to me. What do I get out of this deal? I'm sort of kidding with that question -- but sort of not. I suspect countless end users will ask some version of the same question because the future of Windows might not best suit their day-to-day jobs. Call it "old school," "legacy," "short-sighted" -- the adjectives don't really matter. What does matter: If you were treading cautiously with Windows 8 for reasons similar to mine -- in short, it doesn't seem to suit your everyday needs as well as previous versions do -- the Windows Blue leak is probably not going to make you pick up the pace. Yes, there's still a desktop mode, but why should desktop users rush to adopt an OS that prioritizes a touch interface that doesn't best serve their business needs or hardware choices?

Windows Blue might be Microsoft's next significant step toward revamping the traditional Windows desktop experience. But there's a lot of a work to be done before touch wins over the PC workforce.

"To do that, they know that people need to find value and convenience in the Windows 8 interface to make it a more natural home for their working lives," Johnson said. "Everything in the leak showcases how they plan to do that in the short term but it's all interface and usability stuff. They're great steps but it's not yet enough to hit the tipping point and create overwhelming demand."

That could be a roadblock for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), in particular.

“Most SMBs will not replace their IT hardware or software unless what they have is no longer fit-for-purpose," said Analysys Mason analyst Patrick Rusby in an email to InformationWeek. "Windows 7 has proven to be a very popular operating system with SMBs and larger enterprises alike, and I suspect it will remain so until it becomes clear what Windows 8 or Windows Blue actually has to offer.”

In the meantime, I'll follow Microsoft's journey from a safe distance.

InformationWeek is conducting a survey on IT spending priorities. Take the InformationWeek 2013 IT Spending Priorities Survey today. Survey ends March 29.

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hrlngrv
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hrlngrv,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/1/2013 | 4:44:00 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
There are a lot of people who'd like 2 UIs NOW.

FWIW, Windows 95 and NT 4 both came with Program Manager and File Manager, which allowed users to stick with the Windows 3.x UI if they really wanted to. Windows XP through 7 come with Classic themes so that users could stick with the Windows 95-2K appearance if they really wanted to.

Windows 8 took a different path: force users to change. Some users don't like that. At least Windows 8 allows for utilities like Start8.
hrlngrv
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hrlngrv,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/1/2013 | 4:36:02 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
You're a bit too serious/literal about the ad campaign.

That so, it's a stupid ad campaign. A 50-year-old's conception of what'd seem kewl to 20-somethings. Not quite as stupid as the original Windows Phone 7 ad campaign which implicitly asked the question why do you want a smart phone? [Silly consumers, you should have bought the Kin.]

There's some value in Windows 8. It is faster, and it does have more/better behind-the-scenes features. But the new UI is valuable only to MSFT as a means of forcing PC users to get used to MSFT's phone/tablet UI in hopes that familiarity with that UI would stimulate demand for Windows phones and tablets.

Is there any benefit to the WinRT API for desktops and laptops (generally, systems without touch screens)? I can't see any. Most of the desktop programs I use have full screen modes, so the immersiveness of new UI apps isn't a unique feature. And I don't use full screen mode, so to me it's a feature without value. Immersiveness is about all there is because the new UI is way less flexible than multiple, resizable, possibly overlapping desktop windows.
SKDEV
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SKDEV,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2013 | 8:47:09 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
What I find annoying is the ads showing kids dancing w/their Surface tablets showing the new tile based home screen. No one I know of (and this includes students) dances around like that just playing with that screen. Show me kids accomplishing something using the Surface and/or Windows 8 and show me how it can improve my productivity or creativity, until then I'm sticking with Windows 7. As it stands right now, I see very little value add in moving to Windows 8.
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2013 | 12:01:55 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
you will find it easier ( and cheaper ) to switch to Linux/Ubuntu than to w8

provided of course that you don't need an app that is windows only -- and you can't find a good working alternate. start with Firefox or Chrome. add Thunderbird e/mail and continue with Vers. 4 of LibreOffice . Ubuntu has good image and audio options
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2013 | 8:19:23 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
MS business plan is simple.
Pro software as subscription service (provided by MS), and casual user software through a single point of distribution (provided, rated and accepted by MS) of adware (advertisers approved by MS, platform run by MS) supported apps.
All of this running on MS branded devices.
This means death of third party hardware and software distribution, end of big software houses, single developers tightly hostages of MS store and MS tools for developers, any new startup being hostage of MS centric distribution / approval / rating power.
Is it likely that a market like PC ones, that made its success in being an open business for everyone, will transformed in that way?
The success or failure of W8 and MS is only in this question.
proberts551
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proberts551,
User Rank: Strategist
3/29/2013 | 2:15:15 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
OK, Microsoft, I hope you are listening, to a no-body who is going to give it to you.
I am just another I.T. professional and home user. I have been in I.T. 25+ years, and tired of the same old Microsoft. Another Microsoft Band-Aid to an OS DisasterGă¬.Windows Blue.
Microsoft needs to learn not to shove new technology down the throats of consumers who just want a solid performing operating system, with a small efficient kernel that rocks with speed and performance. We want an O.S. that does not keep slowing down with each update. We as technicians are sick and tired of programming sloppiness. It seems to be a race with Microsoft to generate revenue, instead of real quality.
We are sick of Registry messes that cause a multitude of problems. The contestant barrage of updates that are not necessarily compatible with software that worked fine before the stupid update. It is High time for another company to step up to the plate give Microsoft a real head ache and be a vicious competitor. Linux comes to mind, but is still a baby getting ready to grow up soon. Give the Business world an interface that makes sense, not a default screen on a desktop, that is made for a tablet.....come on, these geniuses are out of touch with reality. The reality is that business relies on a productive interface, and having to click and clack around to get something that looks familiar back on the desktop is just a huge annoyance. Performance and boot time are important. Having to cut power because you never reach the login screen is unacceptableGă¬.sloppy! Then having to chkdsk so it does not run like a tired dog is againGă¬sloppy. What else can I say? I bet other technicians can add on to this as well.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2013 | 12:51:29 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
I can tell you what would impress me. In order to use touch on desktops we need office furniture designs that allow for properly mounting touch screens in the desk top, we need screens with tactile feedback to replace traditional keyboards without losing their benefits while adding the flexibility of soft keyboards, and we need independent (as in not paid by Microsoft!) studies showing that touch improves ease of use and productivity in traditional desktop computer usage. All that needs to be followed by a cost/benefit analysis that answers the question if spending noticeably more on a fully touch operated system and all new applications that are designed for touch is worth the assumed productivity gain.
I haven't seen any of such studies, but I am asked (forced) to use touch enabled systems on a daily basis. While they look spiffy and have a lot of tech bling they are a major productivity drain, especially for anything that has to do with typing. I am not a trained typist by any means, but I can keep a good clip on a standard keyboard but fail miserably on a soft keyboard. As it stands right now, a Win 8 desktop with touch still needs a mouse and a keyboard. If I have to hook up mouse and keyboard I don't need touch, because touch would just be an extra that is costly and brings little benefit to the table and actually no benefits when it is a traditional table with monitors that are standing upright.
Win 8 is an excellent example where advances in software and technology flop miserably because nobody bother to address the non-tech aspects (office furniture) and did not think the entire new paradigm all the way through (still need mouse and keyboard). At the moment and likely in the near future touch will be useful for compact mobile devices and kiosk applications, but stay utterly useless for anything else. It is just a fad that gets pushed on people as the best invention since sliced bread because Microsoft and others are to inept to bring something truly useful to the masses. What will wow me are things like the transition from single task command line system to multi-task GUI system or the incredible performance boost when upgrading from 256 MB RAM to 640 MB RAM on my old 386 or more recently the incredible computing performance boost I've seen when upgrading from a dual core to a six core and CUDA enabled nVidia GPU or on small scale packing a multipurpose HD video enabled computing platform in a credit card size envelope for 35$ (Raspberry Pi). That is stuff that shakes stuff up, not craptastic design junk like Metro.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2013 | 12:24:10 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Too bad that clicking the Like link doesn't count for more likes. Couldn't have said it any better!
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
3/28/2013 | 9:53:32 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Surely you aren't with a straight face suggesting that the best interface for a touch only device with a tiny screen with a pointing device (we like to call it a "finger") that is on the order of 5-10% of the narrow side of he screen is also best for a workstation with physical keyboard and precision pointing device? There just isn't a single interface that works very well in both environments.

And I'll bet you currently use a smartphone; are you able to navigate the two interfaces without major psychic dissonance? There just doesn't have to be a single UI for every device.

M$ clearly wants to unify the interfaces, but don't think its for the benefit of their users. It is my somewhat educated opinion they're doing it to give a boost to the miserably failing WinPhone, believing that tablet/phone is where the future money is. I don't think there's a single solution, and for once appear to be on the side of (gasp!) Apple, which ,at least so far, is not trying to come up with a genetically defective hybrid of MacOS and iOS.
jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/28/2013 | 7:58:14 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
To me, there is nothing Microsoft can leak regards touch that would impress me, unless it puts the Start button back on the desktop, or some magical way to make a touch keyboard work faster.

It seems no one at M$FT or in the shill trade rags seems to get that most SMB's (my client base) are actually doing WORK, not looking up cat videos on the internet. By work I mean a lot of typing into word documents, and entering data into spreadsheets. You know, like work stuff that helps them or higher-ups make decisions.

You ever see a doc try to enter patient charts on a touch screen? Too painful to watch. How about an accountant entering data via touch into Quickbooks? Too slow. Nope, unless we all are getting jobs that all we have to do is lookup, read and occasionally enter the URL of a cat video site, touch is not going to cut it in SMB land.
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>
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