Windows 8 == Vista 2?

Tags: Windows 8, Metro, Vista

The official Windows 8 release date is set for October 26, 2012, but I am already asking myself a couple of questions about the upcoming release:

First, will Windows 8 will turn into Vista 2?  And second, what song are they going to use for their launch that can replace Mick Jagger singing "Start me up" (although I doubt as many of you care as much about the second question as much as I do).  

As a software developer I can marvel at some of the new features and new user experiences in Windows 8 and wonder how I can take advantage of them to build better software.  As a technologist I can appreciate the vision, and as a consumer I enjoy learning and using the new features.  And yet despite all of that I can't help but wonder if I am reluctant to roll Windows 8 out at my office simply because I don’t look forward to training our employees on how to use Windows 8 and having to answer questions like “How do I get back to the Start button?” by explaining that the live tiles on the desktop replace the Start button. 

I’m generally one of the first in line to embrace new technologies, so if I am hesitant I have to think that many more companies will be very reluctant to roll Windows 8 out as well – especially those companies still running XP (at least until 2014 when Microsoft will officially end of life that version of Windows), but also many companies who did upgrade to Windows 7.

It can take a little getting used to hovering over a corner of the monitor for a toolbar to appear just to go the Start tiles or search for an application.  Or having an Internet Explorer take over the whole screen with no visible address bar (let alone not running plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight) or when you hover over the top tabs being as big as small phone screens I've used in the past.  But it is even more unnerving for me when I do go to the desktop and the familiar Start button still doesn’t appear on the task bar like it did in Windows 7.

If they kept the Start button on the desktop, so a user could still operate in “Windows Classic” mode, then it would have made me think that it would be a lot easier to transition users to the new OS since I could easily explain how to get to the Start button.  That fact that I would have to install a third party app, though, to restore the Start button makes me wonder why a company that has always paid such careful attention to backward compatibility for business applications would suddenly throw such caution to the wind regarding matters of usability and end user training (or should I say retraining?).

My best guess is that they’re looking over their shoulder at Apple and Google, and are trying to compete with them in the emerging markets and with new computers and devices taking on different form factors.  Using Windows 8 at home I have to admit that viewing my photographs has never looked cooler than on Windows 8, and I like reading about sports or current events online in the new format.  The only thing it lacks is a better way to determine who to pick up off the waivers in my fantasy football league (but hey, I guess that's something I can work on building for next season!).

But at work I want my new users to feel that the OS is still backwardly compatible, and to still operate in the way that everyone is already used to without being retrained.  And I certainly don’t want to be the person who everyone asks why I took their start button away, or have to be responsible for retraining everyone on how to use Windows so we can upgrade the OS. 

So I’m still left pondering, did Microsoft forget all of the lessons of Vista?  Or is there a really good reason that I’m just not grasping yet why the Desktop couldn’t have retained the Start button for more of a Windows 7-like feel to make the transition easier?  In 3 years it will be a moot point as everyone will be using the new user interface, but I’m afraid that in the short term there will be a lot of reluctance to migrate and Microsoft. 

Am I the only person who feels conflicted this way?  Or do you also think that many companies will avoid upgrading to Windows 8 as long as they can?

2 Comments

  • Silne Dorlus said

    It's been a few months since you have written this post but I can still say that your concerns were completely valid. I have asked several professional developers and they are looking to forgo the Windows 8 experience altogether and hold out for 9 to see if it's any better. I have a laptop (my wife's) who is running Windows 8. I am reluctant to do so myself so I will dual boot at most. I don't like the idea of an upgrade because those normally turn out horrible and starting windows from scratch is out of the question at this point in time. Here are some things I felt Microsoft did well with Windows 8:

    They made it easy for someone with no Windows experience to do certain things right out of the gate. One thing that some typical users found intimidating with XP was the vast area of "play" you were in. You basically had the power to do what you want and there wasn't too much guidance. Windows 8 takes a lot of the guess work out of getting your machine up and running. If you have no previous Windows experience, you won't be bothering with the start menu issue and you will be able to move on with life.

    Now onto what I think was poorly executed:

    Being that most users of Windows come from a previous version, Microsoft did an extremely poor job of setting their repeat users up for success. Many people feel the whole rug was pulled from under their feet. Since it is obvious that Windows 8 was geared to touch screens (i.e. Clicking the top of the window and dragging it downwards to close instead of just hitting minimize) I am a bit baffled that Microsoft did not at least give the option to run in Classic and Metro Mode. That way, the user could make the change at their own pace. While the live tiles are a good feature (again, more geared to touch screen users), I find myself skipping directly to the desktop when I am using my wife's laptop. I have no need for the weather and all of these random tiles. The start menu was much better and faster. I find myself using the non-Windows 8 versions of applications i.e Internet Explorer metro vs. Internet Explorer. While the metro windows 8 version has nice eye candy (the little loading animation is nice), a lot of the simple freedoms I had (having all pertinent information on the screen when I want like the address bar), have been stripped. This, to me, is even harder to accept than the changes to Visual Studio 2012. Don't get me started on that one. I feel that the new Windows is geared to the less technical user but Microsoft forgot a couple things "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." and "People don't like change.". As someone who came from the sales industry, I became extremely aware of the notion of brand familiarity and product loyalty. People like Toyota because they are reasonable, affordable, and dependable. If Toyota forgoes those concepts to try to become the next super-car manufacturer, they should not be surprised if people don't jump on immediately. They will now have to prove themselves. Windows XP proved Windows. Vista proved otherwise. Windows 7 redeemed Windows. Windows 8 seems to be on the trend to prove otherwise. Not to mention, from a development standpoint, if you want to learn to program Metro Apps, you have to learn a new subset of technologies and how they work with Windows 8. Plus, you have to be running Windows 8 to see the way the app will really look. That is a huge investment for an OS that has an uncertain future. Will Windows 8 be Windows Vista 2? I am not a gambling man, but it's looking that way. We will see if Microsoft makes some tweaks to make this pill easier to swallow. Otherwise, they may be looking at millions of dollars wasted....again.

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