Windows 8, Farting Goblins and Why Windows 9 is the One that Really Matters

windows8While I was watching Brian Boyko’s hilarious and somewhat accurate and somewhat over the top bash-fest on Windows 8, a few things kept coming to mind.  One, while Windows 8 is clearly frustrating, it’s not as bad as all that.  Especially since it is, I believe strongly, a transitional OS, bridging the gap between the former desktop world and the future mobile/touch world.  Two, every time he raged about the weather app that kept opening, I thought about the way the stupid Mail app on my iMac does that, popping up and begging for me to set up a mail account.  I use Gmail via Google Apps.  All I need from the Mail app is for it to go away.  Third, I kept imagining Ed Bott beating out a response, that I can’t wait to read.  It’s hard enough to carry the Windows banner without all the negative hyperbole.

Nevertheless, Brian makes some good points, and this is a worthwhile way to spend 20 minutes.

Without a doubt, the dual interfaces Microsoft jammed into Windows 8 are non-intuitive.  I am sure Windows 8 will look and work much better on a Surface Pro than on a legacy desktop.  I also expect computer makers will build hardware- eventually- to take advantage of the touch interface.  Most of all, I believe the next version of Windows is the one that really matters.  It’s a little hard to tell where the operating system is going in 2012.  In other words, will everything really be touch based at some point (I guarantee you Apple is thinking about the same thing).  It will be clear by 2014 or so.  Microsoft is getting a lot of crap for moving too much cheese.  Windows 8 seems to me to be a concerted effort to move cheese in stages.  I have a hard time faulting Microsoft for that.

And it’s not like some of the problems aren’t shared by other operating systems.

All the hand wringing about the lack of an installation disk, while accurate, is no different than OS X.  I needed to do a clean install of Mountain Lion on an iMac the other day because the computer would not stay in target mode (e.g., serving as a second monitor for my primary iMac).  It was doable, but not easy.  No problem for a computer geek, but impossible for grandma.

At the end of the day, much of the frustration with Windows 8 revolves around the dual Metro (or whatever we’re supposed to call it) and desktop interfaces.  Sure, grandma is going to have some trouble getting around Windows 8, but imagine if Microsoft had decided not to “staple” Metro onto the desktop interface, but instead moved all the cheese and dumped the desktop interface altogether?  Sometimes you need to take a long journey in smaller segments.

Windows 8 is a big gamble for Microsoft.  It doesn’t look like it’s going swimmingly so far, but the game isn’t over.  Apple’s computer (as compared to phone and tablet) business is largely consumer based.  Sadly for us Mac users in corporate America, Apple doesn’t have to worry about how an upgrade will go over in a huge office with hundreds or thousands of desktop computers staffed by people who only want to create and manage Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.  Microsoft has to worry about exactly that.  In three years, Windows 8 will be the operating system that set Microsoft’s course into either the future or the ditch.  I’m still thinking the future.  Not because it is so wonderful, because it’s not.  But because it will pave the way for the next version of Windows.  That’s the one that will more clearly define Microsoft’s vision for the operating system of the future.  I can tell you unequivocally that if you installed Windows 8 in a large corporate office overnight, there would be panic, bedlam and mutiny the next morning.  But here’s the thing, you don’t really have to.

Corporate America likes Windows 7, and is not moving away from desktops any time soon.  You can be sure Microsoft knows this.  The typical large company upgrade path often skips versions (think Vista, for example).  It’s the next version of Windows that really matters.  That’s where Microsoft needs to pull everything together into an operating system that works intuitively on tablets and desktops, with fingers and mice.

Is is guaranteed?  No, it’s not.  Microsoft could panic over its passion for the tablet market at the expense of the corporate desktop-oriented market.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Appearances and hilarious videos the the contrary.

Risky Business: The Windows 8 Story

I’ve been reading a lot about the forthcoming Windows 8. I’ve used the Developer’s Preview a little. There’s a lot to like about it. And there are some problems. I haven’t written much about it, simply because I can’t decide if Microsoft’s Windows 8 plan is brilliant or idiotic. It’s clearly one or the other.

There’s no middle ground. That’s for sure.

Here’s what I think I think. So far.

One, Michael Mace has a fantastic write-up on the state and prospects of Windows 8. Literally one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. In any medium.

Two, I’m just about certain the bolted together combination of the new Metro interface and the more traditional Windows interface is not going to make anyone happy.  Will people suffer through it as an interim step into Microsoft’s mandated future desktop?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If I were a Windows user, I would.  Because I’m a computer nerd.  Those who don’t care about anything other than finding, starting and using the programs they need to do their work?  That’s a tougher call.

Three, I think it is very risky for Microsoft to bet the farm on a mobile-first computing experience.  I’ve thought about it a lot, and I simply don’t think anyone is going to use a Windows tablet, when the iPad is so clearly the established, preferred and beloved brand.  Even dedicated Windows computer users have embraced the iPhone and iPad.  I don’t see that changing.  At all.  Even if somehow Windows tablets turn out to be significantly cheaper (and I doubt this will be the case, especially when you add next to latest generation iPads into the mix), then there’s Android to deal with.  It seems like Microsoft is aiming for the lower end of the market.  Or at least drifting that way.

Fourth, pigs will fly before corporate America makes its change-resistant and outspoken workforce retrain under Windows 8, and Metro.  My company is moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 (a tiny step at most), and you’d think they were moving from an Abacus to a Cray.  The IT folks are, rightly so, very worried about the potential hue and cry from the people who create content.  The jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8 would be seen (rightly or wrongly) as an invitation for mutiny.  I think Paul Thurrott may be onto something, when he wonders if Microsoft has already given up on business adoption for this release.

If so, that is straight up crazy.

Fifth, while not specifically Windows 8 related, if I were running Microsoft, I would absolutely, without a doubt, nurture my last remaining monopoly by releasing Office apps for iOS.  As fast as I could.  The iPad experience has conclusively demonstrated that users will not forego a better tablet simply because Microsoft Office isn’t natively on it.  There are multitudes of third party developers standing by to implement work-arounds.

Sixth, Microsoft’s inability to deliver a clear and concise marketing message is catching up with it.  Need some examples?  Well, there’s this.  And the never-ending branding/naming changes.  It seems very haphazard.  Maybe it’s not, but nothing coming from Microsoft proves it.  As much as anything, Microsoft needs someone to step up and become the spokesperson for- and face of- its strategic plan.

In sum, I want Windows 8 to be a roaring success.  For a lot of reasons.  I’m by no means certain it won’t be.  But I am by no means certain it will be either.

Scary times for Microsoft.

Windows 8: Initial Impressions

Like just about everyone else, I installed the Developer’s Preview of Windows 8 tonight.  My test machine is a big, heavy three year old HP laptop.


The short answer is that it looks good.  Really promising.  It only confirms my expectations that Windows 8 will change things for the better.

Here are my initial impressions.

I did a clean install.  I don’t want a bunch of older stuff to clog up my new, thinner Windows experience.  The installation process looks substantially identical to the process for Windows 7.


It took about 14 minutes (unattended) to install.  I only saw the computer restart once.  That’s pretty snappy.

The set-up process, called Personalization, is much more elegant.  It gets you online easily and asks for your email address to integrate Windows Live apps.  I like this.  It just seems cloudy and light.

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Give the software a couple of minutes to prepare your PC and you’re up and running.

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To say that the new Metro Interface is a change is an understatement.  To say it has HUGE potential is not an overstatement. 

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Even Internet Explorer 10 seems stripped down, slim and fast.  Switching between Metro and the more traditional Desktop View is as easy as clicking a button.

My initial reactions are 100% favorable.

Windows 8 is going to change things.  Just watch and see.

A Better View Through Thinner Windows?

imageThere’s been a lot of talk recently about the digital diet that Windows 8 seems to be on.  A diet that is as promising as it is overdue.  Let me be clear.  I think it’s wonderful that the next version of the venerable, but a little long in the tooth, operating system is looking to shed some bloat.

In fact, I think Windows 8 can be a game changer.  On the desktop and on various mobile devices.

How much of a game changer depends on whether Microsoft is being visionary or reactionary.  If the former, Windows 8 could set the stage for both the reinvention of the desktop and Microsoft’s long awaited push into the mobile space, after a few starts and stops.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  Microsoft has to recreate Windows.  Because the world is going small and mobile and the current and past versions of Windows are not well suited for small and mobile.  I remember trying to use Windows 7 on an HP Netbook.  It was a horrible experience, because of the hardware and the software.

On the other hand, Windows 7 on a regular laptop or a desktop is mostly a wonderful experience.  And that’s saying something.  Microsoft has to make an operating system that will run on an almost infinite number of devices.  Apple, on the other hand, has to make an operating system that will run on a handful.

Microsoft’s biggest advantage is its biggest problem.  Zillions of hardware makers jacking around with its product.  And its image.

Start a Windows machine for the first time, and get it set up the way you like it.  Then do the same thing with a new Mac.  The initial Windows experience is, at best, a time consuming chore.  The initial Mac encounter is simply cinematic.  Some of this is not Microsoft’s fault.  I refuse to buy an HP machine, because they put so much bloatware on them (it still chaps me that they make you uninstall those stupid games one at a time).

Fortunately, it looks like Microsoft is in the process of addressing many of these issues.  Bloatware, via the Signature program.  Yet another ridiculous name, but I applaud the intent – as long as it’s not a half-baked smokescreen to drive people into Microsoft Stores (the horror).  Bloated load times are under attack via a combination of a traditional boot with hibernation.  This is excellent news.

And, of course, look for a bit of mandatory cloud integration.  Which makes the primary job of the operating system to load fast, and get out of the way.

Yes.  All of this is really good news.

I use Macs, but I run Windows via Parallels, all the time.  I’m writing this blog post via Live Writer.  But even after installing Windows 7 on my iMac, I had to go in and remove a bunch of stuff I don’t want.  And that’s from a downloaded (via TechNet) Microsoft iso.  It’s ten times worse with an OEM machine.


I have very high hopes for Windows 8.  I have reasonably high hopes that Microsoft will be successful in reducing the bloatware that ends up on PCs.  I just hope Microsoft gets in front of the curve.  It’s time to stop playing catch-up.

It’s time to lead quickly, load quickly, and get out of the way.