Posted on August 19th, 2012 at 14:40 9 comments
I’ve been completely overwhelmed by all the comments on my Windows 8 review for InfoWorld, Windows 8 Review: Yes, it’s that bad.
Many of the comments were perfectly valid – I just see things differently. So I posted a follow-up blog in InfoWorld Tech Watch with some pithy commenters’ excerpts and my responses Windows 8: Yes, it’s that bad, part 2.
I’ve received a lot of mail about the column, as well. One message that really stood out cames from Robert Wade. I asked him if it’d be OK to post it here in its entirety, and he gave his OK.
Understand that I don’t agree with him. Obviously. But he has a very valid point of view, and has come to many conclusions that differ from mine. It’s worth looking at what he says, because his POV may well strike a chord with you.
With that caveat, here’s what Robert had to say:
I, too, have been “dissecting” beta versions of Windows 8 since the Developer Preview came out. And I’ll start by freely admitting that along the way, with each preview release things have improved, capabilities have been added or enhanced, but that even with the Release Preview there were a number of stark problems, not the least of which was the nearly non-existent support for POP3 email accounts, particularly if that is what you are using for your Microsoft Account. I completely agree that it is a dramatic achievement, looking and moving forward in this fashion–though this actually started with Windows Phone, at least from the consumer perspective.
While true the engineering accomplishments are usually only recognized and lauded by other engineers, the results of the engineering can, and often are, recognized by the end user, as was the case with iPhone and iPad. But I take immediate offense at the blatant, generalized statement that Windows 8 is a failure from the user’s standpoint. Upon what do you base that statement? For every nay-sayer you can produce I can produce as many, if not more, who are anxiously awaiting this new OS. I would be considered a power-user, and even with the flaws going from DP to CP to RP, I’m very jealous of all those who get the RTM now, while I have to wait until October. “Awkward mishmash”? I defy you to demonstrate exactly how they could have designed Win8 to incorporate the beauty and strengths of the Metro (I refuse to call it anything else than that, Metro AG can bite me….and many others feel the same way) UI while still providing the old (and archaic, in my opinion) Desktop. What Microsoft has actually accomplished is an amazing hybrid OS that can be used on a touch interface device and a keyboard/mouse interface device well. Given the uniqueness of the uses—according to CURRENT device designs—the Metro UI is PERFECT for touch interfaces while the Desktop is not optimal but is still QUITE functional. The reciprocal is true on keyboard/mouse devices, the Desktop shining and the Metro UI being less than optimal but still QUITE functional. I don’t find navigating either interface to be challenging because I’m not stuck in time, I’m not blinded by a “I’m gonna hate this” mentality going in. As a network administrator (and as a Lean/Six Sigma facilitator) I’ve run into this attitude far too many times not to recognize the resistance to picking something up often creates. Those who “rely” on the Desktop can still “rely” on the Desktop…until all the software they want to use finally migrates to a Metro equivalent. What you fail to recognize is that your stunted dependence on “the way I’ve always done it” has obviously blinded you to what this new OS actually presents. As a result, you clearly cannot lean forward and take advantage of what I’d argue is the best of both worlds–or, to be fair, the best that can be made given where this is ultimately going.
The access to settings, etc. carries across to the Desktop, which is itself really a sort of app, so that there is a continuity drawn between Metro UI and Desktop. I see this as a smart way to continually draw the user into the Metro concept of operating. I find it almost humorous that there are still so many whiners about the stupid Start button. It’s like watching people getting an automobile for the first time and insisting they also get a buggy whip. Where have we always clicked to do major functions? The lower left corner. We go there almost without looking…..why do we still need training wheels? What Microsoft has done is recognized a certain “default mode” that we’ve grown use to and expanded that to make all the corners functional. In fact, they have given the EDGES more function, which I was particularly excited to see. This plays very well in a touch interface, but is still very functional with the keyboard and mouse. When I got the Developer Preview, one of the first suggestions I made to Microsoft was to make the mouse act MORE like my finger on a touch interface. The Metro UI BEGS to be touched, and since my screens aren’t touch, I found myself instinctively trying to use my mouse as an extension FOR a touch interface. Even if it would only be a single touch, it just made sense to operate that way. Microsoft listened. As for the Desktop, I find myself just a bit angry that I have to use it at all because I truly HATE the Desktop concept of operating now that I’ve been using Windows Phone for two years. However, I find that what Microsoft has done with the Desktop has gone a long way to making even it more touch-friendly.
You complain that the Start screen is “relentlessly two-dimensional” with “flipping tiles”. Have you used Windows Phone? Do you NOT grasp what live tiles are and what Metro apps can be capable of? Let me try to lay this out for you. The dumb icons you seem to love on the tired Desktop are just that: DUMB. They sit there, nothing more than fancy, pseudo-3D cartoons representing an application, or folder, or file. Welcome to iOS. Hurray! <yawn>. Enter the live tile. No longer just a dumb icon, these give you quite active views into the activity of the app or link or whatever you’ve pinned. The idea behind them is if the developers know their stuff they will feed the most pertinent info to the tile. This means you shouldn’t HAVE to actually open the app to see what’s going on. If something pops up that begs further investigation you can open the app and get the full meal deal. Also, Metro apps are designed to be AWARE of each other and can be pulled together into Hubs. This means the days of copying & pasting or going between two different apps to view or otherwise cross information are numbered. This is because the apps know about each other and natively share the appropriate info without any real intervention on your part. The Me tile on the Windows Phone is a great example of this. This concept sets Windows up to pass information very similarly to the way we actually THINK and function in the physical world. When you talk to a friend or colleague you nearly simulaneously associate the person’s name, contact info, previous conversations, interests, etc. WITH them. It’s our native way of interfacing with people. Windows 8 extends this, emulates it.
Let me further expand the tile concept from an IT professional point of view. I get to look at all sorts of klunky status screens, watching over our network. And in order to observe all of this we have to have a number of large displays, because to throw all those different windows or tabs up takes screen real estate. But I would find it much more useful and efficient to have fewer screens or smaller screens with live tiles flipping “like LEDs on the Vegas Strip” to show me the most significant status indicators. Then, if something drew my attention–say, a tile changing from green to red and highlighting a possible intruder–I can easily open the tile and get a full screen view of the activity. This makes much more sense to me.
I mentioned CURRENT device designs earlier. Already you can see touch screen all-in-one desktop computers showing up in Walmart stores and elsewhere. I thoroughly expect this trend to dramatically increase, especially now that laptops are also in the works by most of the OEMs to include touch screens. I believe it will soon be very difficult to find a device of ANY type that doesn’t have a touch screen. People will come to expect that the device sitting on their desktop will be fully capable of them interfacing with it in ANY fashion they choose, INCLUDING voice. I’ve already been extensively working with the voice recognition capabilities of Windows 8. I’ve been very surprised at what it now supports—and also surprised by what it doesn’t support. Microsoft was interested to hear my thoughts on this and I’ve been exchanging emails with them about it. I think Siri has made this a must for any device. Movies Iron Man have made it “cool”.
I also challenge your definitive statement that “anyone who defines real work as typing and mousing won’t like Windows 8 one little bit”. That’s utter garbage. I AM a touch-typist, and I grew up with MS-DOS 2.0 all the way through Windows 7. There is absolutely NOTHING about Windows 8 that slows or otherwise impedes my ability to use those skills in getting “real work” done. I can move effortlessly between the interfaces and whatever application I choose to use affords me the ability to use my keyboard and mouse in the manners THAT MAKE SENSE. The iPad restricts you to one way of operating–no different than with the smartphone. Unless you buy their overpriced keyboard, of course. But you don’t HAVE a desktop equivalent on the iPad. With Windows 8 I can operate in either mode or both modes with a single device. Obviously, if I’m using a tablet without any other interface I can do so in either the Metro or Desktops with as much success as any other tablet….more so, because I DO have access to the Desktop even in tablet mode (except for the WinRT version of Surface, MS Office notwithstanding). I find similar success on the desktop, and even that will improve simply because my next desktop computer will likely have a touch screen.
Now, I’ll grant you that the background choices that seem to be part of the RTM are insane. I much prefer what is available with the RP. But that was such an ignorant statement about the visual subtlety of the Start screen. You apparently have not worked in a network environment and seen some of the utterly ridiculous garbage many people put on their screens. So, your complaint is 100% personally subjective.
Now, personally, after having relied upon Outlook for a LONG time, I have completely left it behind, as far as a client application is concerned. When Windows Phone first came out I installed the Hotmail Connector and kept Outlook hooking into my Live account. I loved it. But, as the web app began to improve I eventually stopped using the desktop app altogether. It just is useless to me. As much as I’m enjoying the Office 2013 Preview, I opened the new Outlook just to see what it was about and…..meh. I’m sticking with the web. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been very disappointed that the Metro Mail app didn’t support POP3 accounts correctly and I’m more than a little angry that, according to your article, it’s STILL no properly supported. This IS a major fail in my opinion. But, I don’t use Metro Mail to consolidate boxes, etc.., I use Outlook.com to do that for me. Similarly, I don’t aggregate on my Windows Phone—I let the cloud do that and it all just comes to my device. That’s what makes sense to me. The fact that you apparently completely ignored Outlook.com and SkyDrive as your aggregator, in favor of “standalone” options, tells me that you don’t get it. The days of people relying on a single device to “home” all their data is slipping away. My utopia is a time when I can sit at a desktop device and be working on something, then get up and grab my tablet and pick up where I left off…..then to be able to continue on my smartphone. I don’t want to have to wait for my data to sync, be duplicated. I want it to just BE where I am, period.
By the way, just for the record, I (Woody) shifted to using Gmail exclusively for my email about two months ago. I get a huge amount of email, and always worried that Gmail couldn’t hold up – at least couldn’t do as well as Outlook 2010. It’s done exceptionally well. I’ve tried Outlook.com, and (finally!) Microsoft has created a worthy Gmail competitor. I’m sticking with Gmail, though, because I prefer the interface, and I like the “Important/Not Important” sorting. But online email is tremendous, even for high volume email users, for a wide variety of reasons. More about which later…