On the future direction of Windows

Microsoft faced a lot of criticism since the introduction of Windows 8, but obviously they won't stop.

Some criticism since the launch of Windows 8 has been pretty unfair, some has been quite valid. Nevertheless that didn't stop Microsoft to make some decisions that should have been completely different. One of my favorites is removing the start button.

Actually I personally have nothing against removing that little icon - users still have access to the start menu (or now the start screen) with the same techniques as before. Going to the left corner, pressing the windows key, ... you name it! What's been bad is that Microsoft did not build in an option to still show the old start menu button. That would have been an easily solution, which would have avoided all the criticism on that topic.

Another example is the boot to desktop. It is just a really simple setting, that only requires one value to be checked. There is really no performance hit or whatsoever behind doing it. On the possible benefit side: Avoiding a lot of criticism, which then totally covers all the advantages that the new operating system offers.

Still, in my opinion that does not make Windows 8 a very good solution, since my criticism lies still in the forced merge of Desktop and Metro (yes, I will continue to call it that way). With Windows 8 I thought Microsoft will now be able to fight Apple, which has not have the guts (or a good plan) to merge iOS and OSX. But Microsoft failed and OSX is now doing it right. There are several really painful properties of the Windows 8 strategy:

  • As the ARM version goes it consumes too much energy
  • Also the full version needs to get a lot better at energy consumption
  • Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 might have the same kernel, but there is still no unified developer experience
  • Even worse, the two app stores are still separated
  • Some old problem: I got a tablet with Windows RT, why cannot I use non-store apps? (my problem is not a binary issue, but a permission issue)
  • Programs should be in the focus of classic desktop PCs, apps in the focus of tablets and phones

The last point is pretty crucial. What's the purpose of a classic desktop PC or an Ultrabook, a normal laptop or whatever working machine? Right - it's getting work done. That could mean progamming with e.g. Visual Studio, using a text editor, using a word processor, using a spreadsheet program, creating some art or graphics or video / sound editing. Even if there would be great apps that would allow us to do that - who would want to use them now in exchange for the real deal? No one!

There are a few minor tweaks when working with percentages. And since business people tend to forgot calculus 101 I will just focus on one point. If a company is selling 10 devices in one year and 20 in the next, then there was an increase of 100%. On the other side if a company sells 1000000 (that's a million) devices in on year and 1000010 (well, that's a million and ten) devices in the next, then the increase was only 0.1% (thats a per mil). Now which company did a better job? Just going after the percentages business guys will always say the first one.

Of course its a big deal to get your sales up by 100%, but on the other side adding another 0.1% to a probably saturated market is also quite fine. And best of all, even though sales seem to be stagnant (which is a bad word), I prefer to see them at a "constant" high level (constant is much better). This is in my opinion the case with tablet vs PC. There is no such thing is PC marked dying. It is probably dying some time in the future, but just to reappear in other devices and formats. The issue is quite obvious: To create professional content for all devices, one needs a device with that flexibility. This flexibility can only be given by the PC.

Don't get me wrong: I think the majority of people actually only needs a smartphone and maybe their tablet. This is all. But those are just trendy technologies. What if the smartphone will be completely replaced by a smartwatch and / or some glass technology? This is very likely to happen. Also the previous point is even more true here. Technology will emerge in very different form factors. Who needs a tablet when the TV represents everything to browse on the internet, with its information optionally coming or being controlled by a phone or whatever device?

The result of the whole process is quite clear: Going all in on metro is definitely wrong. Instead the existing platforms should be better integrated, and metro should be an OPTION in the full Windows stack. Metro applications on a full desktop PC should be able to run in Windows (good pun, heh?) so that one could really utilize that platform with the benefits of extra small programs ("apps") that are available for other formfactors.

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