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Microsoft's Big Gamble

posted 25 Oct 2012, 05:21 by Alistair Hamilton   [ updated 2 Dec 2012, 09:50 ]
Windows 8
With the release of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, along with its radically different, touch screen centric interface, the Seattle behemoth may be taking a huge risk.

After the mistake that was Vista, Windows 7 was by far and away the best operating system that Microsoft had produced. Will Windows 8 continue that trend or will it bring back memories of Windows Vista? I guess the real question is, will it be a success?

I have no doubt it will be successful, particularly in the domestic user market. If there is one thing that Microsoft does well, it is making their products look good. They have 'bling' and the average Joe Bloggs likes 'bling'. I cannot get the image out of my head of hordes of people sitting in front of large touch screen monitors pretending they are stars in an episode of CSI.

It is the new interface that concerns me the most, particularly when businesses start to use it.

I remember when the Office 'ribbon' was first introduced and the confusion if caused my clients.Things that they were used to doing in a few seconds were taking significantly longer as they desperately tried to find their way around the new navigation medium. Given the amount of time that I saw wasted, I hate to think how much productivity was lost World wide because of that change.

Yes of course, users got used to that, and advocates of the ribbon (i.e. Microsoft) claim it makes people more efficient (though I can't say I've seen evidence of that from my clients). The same will happen with the new interface in Windows 8. But again, how much productivity will be lost World wide as business introduce Windows 8 and train their staff?

I certainly cannot advise my business clients to upgrade to Windows 8. Not yet. Better they stick to Windows 7 if they insist on using Windows at all. Actually, most of my clients are still using Windows XP - which will become an issue for them before long as Microsoft cease supporting it.

As I understand it, one of the drives behind this new interface is the idea to provide a unified interface across all devices, from mobile phones to desktops, from tablets to laptops.

Microsoft is not alone in doing this. Canonical introduced the Unity interface in its flagship Linux based desktop operating system some years ago - causing a fair bit of furore within the Linux community in the process.

I confess, I'm not convinced of the need for it. Nor am I convinced that making such radical changes is necessary or justified. Whilst I am all for change when appropriate and beneficial, is it really necessary to ask everyone on the planet to throw away a paradigm that has been in place 25 years or so? Again, we come back to wasted time and productivity, i.e. cost. It frightens me how much will be wasted World wide.

With the new emphasis on touch screen devices, Microsoft are telling us that the traditional desktop is dead. The future is portability and cloud based services where no-one will need to be tied to a desk. Call me an old f*rt if you will, but I cannot see how a trained typist will get on typing on a comparatively unresponsive on-screen keyboard instead of a dedicated device sitting on her desk.

There will of course be many situations were portable devices will be the better choice for some, but do we really need to have a unified interface? Not in my view.

If we accept the premise that uniformity is the best way to go, then the natural conclusion to that argument would be that every single website on the planet should be redesigned to look the same.

So, back to the original question. Will MS Windows 8 be successful? I think the answer is a resounding YES, or put another way, it had better be for Microsoft's sake.

As for me, being in the IT support industry, I'll support it just like I support all the previous versions of Windows. Personally though, I'll be sticking to Xubuntu.