Mobile
Commentary
3/27/2013
11:52 AM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

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.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2013 | 6:02:08 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
"But there's a lot of a work to be done before touch wins over the PC workforce."

Kevin, do you have any thoughts on what touch capabilities would win over "PC people"?

Put another way: What could Microsoft leak regarding touch that would impress you?

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
GBARRINGTON196
50%
50%
GBARRINGTON196,
User Rank: Strategist
3/27/2013 | 9:09:14 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
It isn't the touch capabilities that will "win people over", it is an improvement in productivity that wins people over. How does touch make Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop better? (For that matter, how can they even be USABLE with touch?) Shoot! How does touch make Microsoft Word better? Look at all the applications that we use EVERYDAY that simply have no inherent touch . . .um. . .touchpoints. Aren't you Brave New Worlders kinda sorta ignoring all of them?

I've been around the block once too often with technology to just accept that Microsoft, or Google, or Information Week, for that matter, has my best interest at heart.
SMB Kevin
50%
50%
SMB Kevin,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2013 | 10:08:22 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
I'm planning to spend a couple of weeks with a new touch model soon, so will perhaps have a better answer(s) for you soon. But in meantime it seems like apps are one of the key areas here. I don't think calculators and alarm clocks are going to get it done. As GBarrington196 notes, what about Adobe or Word? How does touch make those better on a laptop or desktop (versus a tablet or smartphone, where touch is a given)?

And what about all of those "legacy" and/or home-grown applications that businesses run? When you talk to folks at companies with a lot riding on these kinds of applications, there's usually plenty of complexity or outright pain involved, sometimes just in getting from XP to Windows 7. And now we're already talking about Windows Blue and the "death of the desktop." (I'm in the camp that thinks reports of the desktop's demise are exaggerated.)

-Kevin C.
InformationWeek.com
Anonomouser
50%
50%
Anonomouser,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/28/2013 | 8:49:05 AM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
Using Win7 is like going into another room and wondering "now what was it I was going to do here?". There's always some usability issue that pops up and interferes with what I want to do, and by the time I figure it out I forgot why I sat down at the computer in the first place. Win8 and it's automatic updates changing the interface all the time is going to make this feeling the new Microsoft Windows "user experience".
UberGoober
50%
50%
UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
3/28/2013 | 6:12:24 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
The article got me to thinking about UI changes over the years. I go back to Win 2 and Solaris 4 windowing UIs, and 80x24 greenscreens before that, and in general, I think the single biggest GUI breakthrough that comes to mind is the *combination* of the Start Button and Taskbar (or equivalents in other OSes). That combination allows multitaskers to easily get to their running and non-running programs very quickly in a way that's easy to understand. It adds minimal value to folks who struggle to run one app at a time and whose highest use of a computer is watching videos on YouTube, but frankly, I don't want a UI that woks best for the lowest common denominator.

It seems to me that the key is to have a UI that is easy enough for non-morons to work with minimal training but powerful enough to keep high-end users happy. The Win95-Win7 UI meets those goals. There is also a vast pool of folks who already know how to work it and don't need any retraining. I fail to see how a UI that requires me to buy new hardware to use it and then learn a bunch of non-intuitive and ill-documented gestures meets that set of requirements.

As anyone who's even slightly familiar with Unix/Linux knows, there's no necessary hard link between the UI and the OS; if you don't like KDE, you can switch to Gnome. Unless a device is so crippled that it can't support a normal UI (no keyboard or mouse, for instance), there's no reason no to have a familiar and generally acknowledged superior interface available.

The M$ decisions to do away with the Start button and focus on touch was clearly not based on what users wanted. While it might be seen by some as a push to move folks to a newer, better interface, I'm not buying it. The new UI is all about change, and making folks feel a need to upgrade. It is exactly analogous to the widely hated Tool Ribbon. My prediction is that the new UI will just encourage a large segment of the user base to cling bitterly to their Win7, just as we've clung to Office 2003 (and switched to Openoffice.org). My computers are not consumer devices whose primary goal is to be cool and entertain; they are business tools and I'm not going to switch and go through all the lost productivity of retraining for the sake of being compliant with the Micro$oft's marketing plans.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/28/2013 | 7:31:58 PM
re: Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8?
The flip side of its touch-focused effort isn't very appealing, though -- that Microsoft sits back and takes care of its content mouse-and-keyboard users and, if touch storms the desktop, we all say "they failed to anticipate the touch movement." If only some embrace touch, and if people do cling to Win7 -- might Microsoft have a nicely segmented market for two operating systems, or at least two interfaces?
jqb
50%
50%
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.
UberGoober
50%
50%
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.
moarsauce123
50%
50%
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!
moarsauce123
50%
50%
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.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.