Windows 8 – And now for something completely different!

OK, right up front I have to state that either Ballmer & Co are absolutely brilliant OR the lot of them have been smoking copious amounts of crack somewhere on the Redmond campus.  I have started to noodle about with Windows 8 (the Consumer preview) and I have to say that I’m kind of leaning towards the “crack” theory.  If ever there was a change made for the sake of change, the whole Metro UI on top of an underlying Windows backend simply has to be “it”.  I mean, what the hell is the point???

Yes, Metro is pretty smashing on a WinPho handset and the tiled look and the whole interface works well on said handset.  But on a large PC screen the whole thing looks rather amateurish, flat and somewhat cold.  Moreover, the navigation that works so well on a phone simply falls flat on a PC.  Now maybe I’m just showing my (advanced) age and am being cranky because Microsoft got rid of the “Start” button.  After all, you kinda sorta get the same thing by clicking down in the far lower left hand corner of the screen to bring up all the Metro tiles, don’t you?  Well, yes, that is true but again the question is “why”?

When Apple overhauled the Mac O/S and gave us OS X they actually put a tonne of work into improving the interface and how it operated.  Yes, it was rather different from the earlier Mac interfaces but it was slick and felt “evolutionary” as well as “revolutionary”.  Metro on top of Windows just feels contrived and disjointed, most significantly so when you slide back and forth between the Metro tiles and the “sort of” Windows desktop.  Again, as I use it I have to ask “why”, there is never a moment where I feel “wow”.

Microsoft has never been a “consumer” company, all of the millions of Windows machines sold to home users notwithstanding.  Their bread and butter is corporate software – Office, SQLserver, Exchange, SharePoint, Windows Server and, of course, the Windows client side O/S that talks to all of it.  It is the corporate market that ponies up the big bucks for licenses for these products (and make no mistake, we are talking big bucks, you should see the pricing for SQLserver 2012, it will take your breath away) and the corporate market will look at Windows 8 and wonder what the hell is going through Ballmer’s head (not unlike the corporate investors that hold the biggest chunks of Microsoft stock).  If Microsoft thought they had a tough time getting the corporate market place to move off of XP and on to 7 they are going to be positively gob-smacked at the probable resistance to moving to 8.  And that is even before we get into the whole issue of application compatibility.

To be fair, 8 seems pretty speedy (I’m using it in a VMware Workstation VM) but the whole interface overhaul seems to be ill-thought out in terms of those who will actually be paying the big money to Microsoft for Windows 8 licenses (or so Microsoft hopes) – the corporate user. It’s not like Microsoft makes any real money off the versions of Windows that get loaded on to the low end PC’s sold for home use. 

Now it may be that things will be rather different with the “Professional” versions of Windows 8, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  But at this point I cannot see a stampede of users beating down Redmond’s doors demanding that they be one of the first to get a “real” copy of Windows 8, al la the Apple “fanbois”.  What I can see is a bunch of users that are confused and possibly a bit ticked off by the clumsiness of the new interface and a strong push back, again, by corporate users.

I read somewhere that Ballmer stated Windows 8 is a “bet the company” kind of proposition.  Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t but Windows users deserve something better than what is being delivered.