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Asrokhel

Windows 8: The Seven Roads Not Taken

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In 1995, consumers in Sydney, Australia go gaga for Windows 95, Microsoft's most rapturously-received upgrade of all time

On Friday, I responded to Paul Thurrott's report that the first few weeks of Windows 8 sales have been disappointing by saying that Windows 8 is a long bet ? and it therefore doesn't matter much what the early sales numbers look like. Bloggers John Gruber and MG Siegler referenced my post, and both said that Microsoft's strategy of combining Windows' traditional-PC interface with new touch-centric features is a mistake. Their thoughts are worth reading, and the market may well prove them correct.

Me, I've been studiously avoiding making any predictions about Windows 8's chances of success?except to say that I think it's going to take a while until we know whether Microsoft's big bet is going to pay off.

But here's a question that's worth pondering: If Windows 8 is a misbegotten idea, what should Microsoft have done instead? What should Windows 7's successor have looked like? What sort of products should the company offer for the era of touch interfaces and tablets? How should it position itself to do well in the post-PC years and decades to come?

I can think of seven alternate roads the company might have followed. (They're not all mutually exclusive.)

1. The plain ol' plain ol' road.

Microsoft could have released a Windows 8 that was to Windows 7 as Windows 7 was to Windows Vista: An improvement, but not a fundamental reimagining. Such a Windows 8 might have introduced some modest tweaks to make touch interfaces work better. But it wouldn't have demoted the old Windows interface in favor of an unrelated new look and feel; it wouldn't have eliminated the Start menu; it wouldn't have bifurcated into separate versions for x86 and ARM chips.

Advantages of this road: It wouldn't have confused or alarmed anybody.

Disadvantages of this road: This approach wouldn't have done much to reposition Windows for a world in which PCs are looking less and less like PCs.

2. The ?Windows 7 Lion? road.

Apple upgrades OS X more frequently than Microsoft upgrades Windows, but it hasn't done anything too radical: The operating system is still a conventional desktop operating system for conventional personal computers, and doesn't support touchscreens. But both Lion and Mountain Lion have borrowed lots of features from iOS, including the Launchpad, full-screen mode, Notifications, App Store, AirPlay wireless video feature and more. They're all optional; if you liked OS X the way it was, you can use it the way you always did. Windows 8 could have done something similar, riffing on Windows Phone features in a relatively subtle manner.

Advantages: It sounds appealing to me!

Disadvantages: Apple has vast numbers of customers who know iOS and are ready to understand iOS-like features which show up in OS X. But Microsoft hasn't had much luck getting Windows users to buy Windows Phone handsets.

3. The Windows 1.0 road.

When Microsoft introduced the first version of Windows in 1985, it bore as little resemblance to DOS as Windows 8's new interface bears to old-school Windows. And anyone who ran both DOS and Windows lived in two different worlds with two radically different types of applications, much as Windows 8 users do. But for its first decade, Windows was an optional add-on to DOS ? nobody used it unwillingly. Maybe Microsoft could have done something similar again, upgrading Windows in a more conventional manner, but simultaneously introducing an add-on which would give the operating system a simplified, touch-friendly front end.

Advantages: Nobody would feel like they were having something unfamiliar forced on them.

Disadvantages: A new Windows new interface as an extra-cost option might never become popular, let alone pervasive. (Then again, Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1 were extra-cost options, and were blockbusters.)

4. The Windows Phone road.

During the 15 months in between the launch of Windows Phone 7 and the first public demo of Windows 8, lots of people thought that Microsoft should release a version of Windows Phone for tablets. Then the company revealed that it planned to give Windows itself a Windows Phone-like interface, and it became clear why it hadn't released a Windows Phone Tablet Edition. But maybe there's an alternate universe in which the company's tablet strategy was the same as Apple's: one operating system for phones and tablets, and one for computers. In this scenario, Windows tablets might look much like the Windows 8 and Windows RT models we're seeing, except they wouldn't offer the desktop and wouldn't be compatible with any legacy Windows apps.

Advantages: Windows Phone is an excellent operating system which might be pretty nifty on a tablet.

Disadvantages: Microsoft's having trouble convincing teeming masses of people to buy Windows Phone smartphones, so there's little evidence that they'd clamor for Windows Phone tablets.

5. The just-Surface road.

Right now, Microsoft isn't just introducing a wildly new version of Windows ? it's also going into the PC business for the first time, with the tablets it calls Surface. The first version of Surface runs Windows RT, which is basically the same product as Windows 8, except it can't run traditional Windows apps except for the ones it comes bundled with: Office and Internet Explorer. Surface competes with other Windows RT tablets and with Windows 8 tablets, and the whole situation is kind of ugly and confusing. It's conceivable that it would have been cleaner if Windows just went on being Windows, and Surface was a new and unique Microsoft device, running an operating system that wasn't available on anything else.

Advantages: It would be easy to understand ? and maybe Surface would get more attention if it were an idea unto itself rather than a Windows 8 offshoot.

Disadvantages: If Microsoft released an ambitious new software platform and didn't let its hardware-making partners use it, they might be even more ticked off than they are.

6. The something entirely new road.

Or, if you prefer, the Courier road. Instead of tackling the tablet conundrum by reworking Windows, in any form, Microsoft could have created something from scratch. Something that wasn't designed to replace Windows as we knew it. At least not yet.

Advantages: When a product starts off without any preconveived notions or existing customers, you can do whatever you want without fretting about ticking anyone off.

Disadvantages: Unless the idea was BIG, it probably wouldn't go anywhere. And it wouldn't answer an all-important question for Microsoft: What should Windows look like in 2012, 2013 and beyond?

7. The almost the same as what they did, with one big difference road.

If you upgrade to Windows 8, or buy a new Windows 8 PC, there's no way to cautiously dip your toe into the new-interface pool. The operating system boots into the Start screen, and it doesn't have the Start button and Start menu; it's willfully unfamiliar in a way that gives cautious consumers and businesses a reason to avoid it. Microsoft could have avoided this by (A) letting users configure Windows 8 to boot directly to the desktop; and (B) retaining the Start menu, at least as an option.

Advantages: Windows 8 users could acclimate themselves to the changes at their own pace.

Disadvantages: You know, I can't think of any. By shoving people directly into the new interface and withholding Windows' most familiar features, Microsoft took a pointlessly heavy-handed approach which denies its customers the ability to customize Windows to their own tastes. It's a move that's bad for Windows users. And if large numbers of those users respond by steering clear of Windows 8, it's bad for Microsoft.

Even if you find things in Windows 8 to admire, as I do, you may still come to the conclusion that a sizable percentage of Windows users should ignore it for the time being. (Last week, my father asked me if he should upgrade; I considered the matter for 1.37 seconds and then advised against it.) But Microsoft, and recently departed Windows honcho Steven Sinofsky, deserve credit for doing something. Something rather daring, actually. Rather than dithering, the company chose a road ? and now it needs to figure out how the world's responding to its decision, and journey forth accordingly. What matters now is what happens next.

http://techland.time...oads-not-taken/

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I think they made too big a change too fast. People don't like change to begin with. Take it slow and easy. Use Metro in tablets and give desktop users a choice of what to run. The way it stands I don't see many businesses rushing out to try Windows 8. The retraining costs would be a nightmare. Apparently not many consumers want it either.

I can't tell you the number of people I see looking at Windows 8 in places like Best Buy, shaking their heads, and walking away.

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It is a really dumb move by MS not to give users the choice to turn off the metro garbage and retain the start menu. I don't buy the BS that the start menu was 'legacy code full of security risks'... They'll still have to patch anything that comes up in 7 until what is it? 2020?.

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It is a really dumb move by MS not to give users the choice to turn off the metro garbage and retain the start menu. I don't buy the BS that the start menu was 'legacy code full of security risks'... They'll still have to patch anything that comes up in 7 until what is it? 2020?.

Just out of curiosity are you willfully mixing things up, or just getting it wrong by accident? I'm asking this as an honest question, not as an attempt to be a pain.

To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

Gadgets were removed for security reasons...and you've sort of mismashed the 2 together...which is why I ask the initial question.

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Wasn't a really early leak posted here in neowin regarding leaked screenshots about what the windows 8 builds were?

I remember that in one of those early builds you could have a classic shell and the ability to enable/disable metro, it was a while ago, granted, but surely I'm not the only one that remembered that.

At the risk of saying something guaranteed to annoy some people, why the hell didn't they leave that option in?

(Also they could have left Missile Command in... like from Windows 3.11)

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To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

can you please stop posting that answer

if third party software can come up with something like the start menu I find it hard to belive that microsoft who has the source code and is a multibillion dollar company can't come up with a solution.

the simple truth is that not many people were buying their windows phone, because on the phone side people have more choices and they chose not to buy a windows phone and go with android as market-share shows and after windows phone 7 being on the market for 2 years.

so they are trying to force the interface in the desktop because they know people won't have the same viable choices on the desktop side and be stuck with it and I say stuck because most people won't know that they can downgrade when they buy a new PC.

So they are hoping that would familiarize "force" people into the interface so they start investing in apps and people would be "well i have all this apps i guess i'm going to purchase windows phone next" effectively using its monopoly to it's advantage

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..

To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

..

Even stoned, I can say thats a ridiculous argument.

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To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

In what way did it not work properly? Not only are there third party apps like Start8 and Classic Shell where a classic style start menu does work, someone made a patch that let's Windows 8 use the explorer shell from Windows 7 and the genuine classic start menu works just fine. Whatever Microsoft's reasons were for removing the start menu, it not working properly was most certainly not one of them.

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Good lord, not another Windows 8 thread to argue about the same damn things.

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Look for the post from BrandonLive. He works on that team and already gave a very clear answer.

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I don't disagree with Microsoft tried/is trying to do. But to not give users the choice is what really stinks. How hard is it to provide an option to "go classic"? We've had it for years in one form or another, why take it away?

For the people praising Windows 8 - I didn't say make it the default. Just give us the option, and i'm not talking Windows 7 or 3rd party programs...

To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

Gadgets were removed for security reasons...and you've sort of mismashed the 2 together...which is why I ask the initial question.

I can't say I agree with either decision, or reason behind them.

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Look for the post from BrandonLive. He works on that team and already gave a very clear answer.

It's clearly an excuse to hide the real reason for removing it.

As others have said; other companies have recreated the start menu easily.

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Finally the press is doing well what it should do, express the non conformity of millions of users let aside with this version of windows.

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It's clearly an excuse to hide the real reason for removing it.

As others have said; other companies have recreated the start menu easily.

Indeed. Since you're apparently connected and a SME on that matter you won't mind posting proof then.

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Yeah, I too think this is tied into tablet and phone sales. They forgot one little item, no one wants their phones.

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Indeed. Since you're apparently connected and a SME on that matter you won't mind posting proof then.

With all due respect Shane, give it a rest. It might have been cool at some point or another to constantly remind people of where you worked, but it's since become repetitive and at times unpleasant.

There are two sides to all of this. Microsoft made changes that they feel were necessary due to what they can see internally (Something you repeatedly remind us you're privy to, at least to some degree) and the view customers have where things were changed "just cause" for all intents and purposes. Maybe sometimes you need to step back and discuss some of these things as a consumer, which is what everyone else around here is. Your position doesn't need to change (everyone is entitled to their own opinion), but you might want to rethink the way you bring it across. The "I worked for Microsoft and know what I'm talking about, you're all wrong" attitude that you exude is really starting to get old. You'd probably find that there are few who really actually care who you may or may not have worked for in the past or present. Has anyone asked you to prove you know better than anyone else around here (aka. Prove you worked where you say you worked)? Anyone can say all sorts of things on the Internet.

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None of the options above achieve the direction Microsoft is heading, so saying these were alternatives is not a solution.

* A unified user experience across a range of devices

* A common UI across those devices

* An operating system capable of interacting effective with new types of user input; motion, touch, kinect, voice etc

* Common design language to leverage applications/games across the ecosystem.

This is part of a long term strategy and you will hear more of this over the next couple of years from MS 'convergence', their aim is to create a unified experience across desktop, tablet, phone, xbox.

This was hardly revolutionary, when MS scrapped Longhorn their design philosophy became evolution over revolution. Windows 7 did not and does not have a UI conducive to those new user inputs (even the old ones like touch that have been around for years!) nor the new UI direction, therefore Windows 8 is virtually Win7 with those new elements starting to appear. If they gave you a choice to disable those elements then when Windows 9 comes around and goes further down the path it would be even more of a shock.

Like any long-term plan sometimes theres short-term pain, and this pain is for desktop users as there are obvious tablet elements that serve a reduced purpose without a touch or other based interface. However over the next version etc that convergence will come together and it won't be so much of an issue.

Again just to recap the headlines; MS thinks ahead more than one OS at a time, convergence, unified experience, start menu aint coming back.

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To clarify, the start menu was removed due to a lot of the changes in the OS that led to it not working properly.

And Comcast put a cap on their internet service because people are sucking all the bandwidth... Given enough words you can cleverly word anything as a mandatory choice. PR people make a living of making everything in our world sound mutually exclusive and as if there were no other choice. The reality is with software you can do anything when the code is already written. It cost Microsoft more engineering effort to remove the Start Menu then it did to leave it in place. Especially since the code for the Start Menu was almost 20 years of solid code...

The reality is Microsoft removed the Start Menu for business reasons. I'm getting sick of the ... words for covering it up. It was a business decision not a technical one. Just like the decision to not give existing WP devices an upgrade to 8. It was a business decision not a technical one.

You are always quick to quip up on the forum that you're quite a bit more intelligent than most. If this is the case stop regurgitating illogical drivel and start acting how you claim. Give me the solid, technical, reasons why the Start Menu had to be removed because it no longer could possibly work...

I'm serious, I want solid reasons. It took more work to remove the Start Menu code and refactor the code that depends on it and to ensure compatibility with existing software than it did to leave it alone. I don't want anymore drivel.

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I think one of the main issues with windows 8 is is not much the removal of the start menu but the start button. The fact that most major components of the OS are hidden from the user until you touch it with your mouse is just stupid. I say at the very least bring the button back so it stays in the bottom left and doesn't disappear when your mouse isn't on it.

You would be surprised...(or probably not) ..but every conversation I have with customers about windows 8 they all ask me if it's any good if you don't have a touch screen, or they think you need a touch screen to use it. That is the consensus of the general public / average user.... can you blame them?

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Yeah, I too think this is tied into tablet and phone sales. They forgot one little item, no one wants their phones.

Phone sales are actually picking up...even percentage wise...not just total number of units.

Also this move? Planned for years...

Windows Phone wasn't even yet an actual project when they had already figured out the direction for 8. They were still working on 'Photon'...sorry to burst that theory...even though it's a popular one. ;)

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Phone sales are actually picking up...even percentage wise...not just total number of units.

Also this move? Planned for years...

Windows Phone wasn't even yet an actual project when they had already figured out the direction for 8. They were will working on 'Photon'...sorry to burst that theory...even though it's a popular one. ;)

nice selective replying there!
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With all due respect Shane, give it a rest. It might have been cool at some point or another to constantly remind people of where you worked, but it's since become repetitive and at times unpleasant.

There are two sides to all of this. Microsoft made changes that they feel were necessary due to what they can see internally (Something you repeatedly remind us you're privy to, at least to some degree) and the view customers have where things were changed "just cause" for all intents and purposes. Maybe sometimes you need to step back and discuss some of these things as a consumer, which is what everyone else around here is. Your position doesn't need to change (everyone is entitled to their own opinion), but you might want to rethink the way you bring it across. The "I worked for Microsoft and know what I'm talking about, you're all wrong" attitude that you exude is really starting to get old. You'd probably find that there are few who really actually care who you may or may not have worked for in the past or present. Has anyone asked you to prove you know better than anyone else around here (aka. Prove you worked where you say you worked)? Anyone can say all sorts of things on the Internet.

It's not about cool. It's about pointing out that there are things that I do happen to know about. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm cool.

If that were a consideration I would spend my days kissing ass. Sorry not gonna happen. ;)

As regards that...some of the staff know precisely where I've worked. There are some projects I've worked on that I can't talk about...in fact most of them are things I can't even really comment on. Probably the only safe project I can talk about or point to (and the one I had the most fun on) was Fable II. If you happen to own the game you can pop in the disc. I'm in the credits...several minutes in. :p

The other teams I've worked on have all been related to Xbox, Zune, & Windows Phone. The nature of the work is such that it's not really something I can talk about...due to specific agreements signed as part of that work.

]nice selective replying there!

Considering that I'm replying to multiple folks via social media, here on the forums, talking to my fiancee, and working on a side project all while doing this you have to learn patience, and probably some manners.

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With all due respect Shane, give it a rest. It might have been cool at some point or another to constantly remind people of where you worked, but it's since become repetitive and at times unpleasant.

Tedious ain't it?

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It's not about cool. It's about pointing out that there are things that I do happen to know about. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm cool.

Then why do you feel you need to repeat it nearly every single post? Heck, I've seen you post it in replies where it was completely irrelevant.

If that were a consideration I would spend my days kissing ass. Sorry not gonna happen. ;)

Except you kiss Microsoft's ass everyday at least twice a day in one of your responses?

As regards that...some of the staff know precisely where I've worked. There are some projects I've worked on that I can't talk about...in fact most of them are things I can't even really comment on. Probably the only safe project I can talk about or point to (and the one I had the most fun on) was Fable II. If you happen to own the game you can pop in the disc. I'm in the credits...several minutes in. :p

Why would anyone care whether the staff around here know where you may or may not have worked? This is the arrogance I'm referring to. From what I've seen, nobody actually cares. It's not really significant. I mean, it's absolutely helpful once in a while to say "Hey! That's not how it actually works guys, it's like this." However, you're attitude is more of a "You're wrong. I worked for Microsoft. I know better." which doesn't really depict you as the person you like to describe yourself as around here.

The other teams I've worked on have all been related to Xbox, Zune, & Windows Phone. The nature of the work is such that it's not really something I can talk about...due to specific agreements signed as part of that work.

Ok...?

Considering that I'm replying to multiple folks via social media, here on the forums, talking to my fiancee, and working on a side project all while doing this you have to learn patience, and probably some manners.

Not sure what manners has to do with anything. Just expressing how annoying your reminders of having worked for Microsoft have become. I know you're a smart guy. I believe that you have worked for Microsoft. I just don't believe it's absolutely necessary for you to repeat either of those things every other post.

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Considering that I'm replying to multiple folks via social media, here on the forums, talking to my fiancee, and working on a side project all while doing this you have to learn patience, and probably some manners.

Manners? really?

Think you need to work on your own mate. I'm not the one who seems to **** people off with every second post.

Anyway, I'm not here to argue.

I thought you were ignoring the posts which you didn't like, you've now replied to those so my point is invalid.

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