The tale of the missed opportunity

Microsoft is still in a good shape, however, the latest developments could have been much better.

Many people say Windows 8 is a complete disaster. They say that the metro interface is a design nightmare and hard to handle for standard users. Another argument is that the UI for a phone should never have been ported to the desktop.

In my opinion the direction was certainly right. While Apple is doing something similar, but more gradually, Microsoft tried to combine the desktop and mobile world in one step. This was certainly a risk. Unfortunately for Microsoft some decisions have been very ignorant and wrong.

Apple has two operating systems: iOS and MacOS. The first one has its roots in the iPhone. Therefore it is optimized for phones. But due to some tricks and a good architecture it also works well on a tablet. The MacOS, however, is optimized for the desktop and cannot be downscaled to a phone without loosing usability. It is also not very touch optimized, which is already a reason for not putting it on a tablet.

Nevertheless these two systems are approaching each other. The iOS has received more and more updates and a complete redesign. So has the MacOS - and at this point the MacOS has many stylistic effects that first appeared in iOS. Also another app store plus the future possibility of running iOS applications on MacOS are available.

Let's look at Microsoft: They tried to combine everything in one single step. Unfortunately they made a lot of mistakes:

  • There are two separate stores - one for Windows Phone and one for Windows 8
  • There is no store for Windows desktop apps
  • Instead of giving the desktop OS mobile elements, Windows 8 features the other way - which is not very elegant
  • The development tools are different for Windows Phone and Windows 8 (two different SDKs, two different emulators, different frameworks, ...)
  • Windows 8 supports HTML applications, Windows Phone does not (of course it offers a browser control - but that is not what I mean)

Instead of making it easy for developers to access APIs and such (which is something that Windows has a good reputation for) the new programming model is actually a step back.

To make it short at this point: Microsoft has missed a gigantic opportunity of truly bringing different operating systems together. The key would have been to share the same OS core (also with the same API), but to have different UI layers (even though they share some similarities). If Microsoft would take their own design principles seriously, they would have realized that a while ago. The question is: You don't want developers to design the same way for a phone as for the desktop? So why does the operating system violate this.

I hope that Microsoft learns from these mistakes and that Windows 9 will throw away some things from Windows 8. Not all things are bad - I do actually like Windows 8 due to some positive things: It is very fast, the explorer is much better and it gives me some very nice new tools and utilities out of the box. Let's hope for a real unification that brings one experience that is device specific.

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