I’ve spent a bit of time with Windows 8 and there’s definitely things to like about it. I delivered my initial verdict just about a year ago: it’s got some nice eye candy, but the Metro + Windows 7 sandwich is disorienting. I’m focused on the ways Windows 8 is different than its predecessors, so I’m not the audience that’s going to be using it.
There’s been a steady stream of Windows pundits weighing in on Windows 8 “layering issue”, but in terms of overall impressions, Michael Mace has a long, but thoughtful piece over on his Mobile Opportunity blog that paints a pretty meh picture for Microsoft’s prospects. In what may be the most succinct boil-down in TMA history, this is what I believe will be the biggest problem for Microsoft – in Mace’s words:
An existing Windows user can’t just sit down with Windows 8 and start using it.
When Apple affected its transition to OS X, a lot of things about the desktop experience changed, but the central metaphor remained intact. With Windows 8, the metaphor is intact, but it lies buried beneath a layer of Metro gloss that will certainly be disorienting to existing Windows users. And let’s be clear here: Microsoft isn’t winning hearts and minds with new interfaces – “winning” for Microsoft is making things the “same enough” for people locked into their ways of doing things not to mutiny and move to a competing OS. By doing things like removing the Start menu and relegating the traditional Windows desktop to an underpinning, Microsoft is introducing a tectonic shift in the way things get done on a PC. This isn’t going to bode well for adoption.
Apple has always been a company where the designers told the engineers what to do and that expectation has – within the last 5 years – served the company very well. Microsoft has always been a company that iterated its offerings by doing things just different enough not to break legacy users’ experience. I understand the need for Microsoft to be competitive in the tablet space, but letting the designers of that aesthetic run amok and pave over the Windows Desktop is not the way to go about it. It may look nice, but people who appreciate that are already using Macs.