Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums


My personal view on Windows 8 & where Microsoft is heading

  1. #1


    Posts : 959
    Windows 8.1, 10

    My personal view on Windows 8 & where Microsoft is heading


    Here is my personal view of why Microsoft made Windows 8 the way it is, and where they might be heading. I'm expecting I've got one or two details wrong, but bear with me.

    Mods, apologies if this is in the wrong section; feel free to move it to the "Windows 8-related Rants and Essays" section of the Forum or whatever .

    Once upon a time, computers were pretty rare beasts. Only real specialists used them for specific tasks. As time went on, mainframe computers started to be more common, and a new type of job emerged as more and more people had a job "working in computers". But computing still wasn't part of everyday life.

    Then came the "Personal Computer". These started to become widespread in business, and people who had other jobs that weren't just about using computers started to do more and more on PCs; things like word processing and spreadsheets. Some people also had home computers, which I suspect tended to be used mainly for games.

    Fast forward a little more, and the internet became widespread. And suddenly, ordinary members of the public who hadn't been interested in computers or playing games up to now found a reason to get a computer for home use.

    At one point, Microsoft had two separate branches of operating system releases; for instance Windows ME and Windows 2000. Both were designed for the non-technical user rather than a server adminstrator, but had different code bases. Roughly speaking, Windows ME was for use at home (well, if you could stand it, anyway), and Windows 2000 was for use at work. But then the user-focussed operating systems got merged into Windows XP, with Windows Server products continuing for the server types.

    And it's got to the point where lots of people (including myself) spend hours a day at work using a computer, even though I'm not in an IT role. Also, computers got used by students at school/ college/ university.

    But now we have tablets. And I strongly suspect that those ordinary members of the public who didn't really want to use a computer in the first place, but liked the access it gave them to the internet etc, are finding that a tablet as a personal device is as much of a computer as they need. Because they weren't really interested in using the computer, and don't spend all their time on one, they just like a subset of the functionality a computer previously gave them, and find that tablets now do that job.

    I heard an interview the other day with someone from PC World/Currys (pretty much the sole surviving big chain of electrical bricks-and-mortar stores here in the UK) saying that a big reason they made a profit last quarter was people buying tablets.

    So (to finally bring my story to Windows 8!) I can entirely understand why Microsoft wanted to bring tablet-friendly functionality to a new version of Windows. It's where a lot of money is at the moment. And I guess they at some point considered whether to branch off a separate operating system (back to the days of Windows ME and 2000) or to keep them together. I guess they sort of did the branching thing, with Windows RT, but there is some evidence that the code base of Windows RT and Windows 8 isn't all that different. (Windows RT jailbreak smash: Run ANY app on Surface slabs ? The Register)

    Windows 8 is a compromise; it does most of the things in previous versions, adds the tablet-friendly functionality, adds some things in desktop mode (I really like Task Manager for instance) but also took away a few things people liked as well.

    The big question for me is what happens next. For some people who don't use computers as an end in itself, I think they'll be happy with tablets for their personal device, and maybe Metro/Modern-style apps are the way to go for those people.

    But for people at work (and perhaps the students trying to work on a laptop); basically people who spend a few hours a day in front of a computer, something like Desktop will still be essential.

    The big thing which means Metro/Modern will never work in a business environment without a substantial change is the lack of multiple windows. I'm forever comparing rows of values between emails and spreadsheets, or spreadsheets and databases, or databases and websites, or websites and a report from bespoke software; sometime comparing 3 windows from different applications at once, and this often needs to be windows "above-and-below" rather than "side-by-side". And the thing is I'm not even in a hugely technical role; there must be hundreds of millions of people who need to do the same, and that's before you get to the people with very technical or specialist roles who need multiple/ huge screens with 15 windows all visible at once.

    Apologies to Ray8 for taking this quote out of context:
    Quote Originally Posted by Ray8 View Post
    Microsoft has said that Windows 8 apps/start menu will be the interface for all devices, no matter how big or small. They want the user experience to be the same, even if devices are used for totally different purposes. Screw the desktop users, you will use a mobile phone interface, so get used to it.
    but if this is true corporate users will just ignore Windows 9 and stick with 7 or 8, or all buy Apple Macs.

    The cynic in me suggests that if, hypothetically speaking, you had an operating system with an Apps Store which didn't have many decent apps in it, then the above is exactly the sort of thing you might say to encourage developers to pull their fingers out and start writing some apps.

    But for me, there are just way too many people who need functionality in multiple windows for a desktop-less version of Windows to be feasible as a corporate option. Likewise for all those students who need computers to write essays or whatever. (It's much more tedious to copy and paste from Wikipedia without multiple Windows )

    Maybe Microsoft will branch off a business edition again, but that seems to be the opposite direction of travel to the smaller number of editions in Windows 8 compared to the number of editions for Windows 7.

    So I hope that what Microsoft will do is to tidy up some of the Windows 8 oddities in a Service Pack, but keep the Desktop mode as a fixed part of the operating system (or make Modern/Metro *much* better) going forward. But if they don't, Windows 8 will still be good enough for me for a few years to come.

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  2. #2


    Posts : 1,925
    Windows 8.1 Pro


    Quote Originally Posted by DavidY View Post
    The big thing which means Metro/Modern will never work in a business environment without a substantial change is the lack of multiple windows. I'm forever comparing rows of values between emails and spreadsheets, or spreadsheets and databases, or databases and websites, or websites and a report from bespoke software; sometime comparing 3 windows from different applications at once, and this often needs to be windows "above-and-below" rather than "side-by-side". And the thing is I'm not even in a hugely technical role; there must be hundreds of millions of people who need to do the same, and that's before you get to the people with very technical or specialist roles who need multiple/ huge screens with 15 windows all visible at once.
    If this is what you do, then I say Computers have failed you.

    This is precisely the kind of tasks computers should be able to do for you. This is precisely the kind of thing that software should be doing to make peoples lives easier. Why are you spending hours every day doing this menial work that a computer could do in seconds?

    Windows 8 is not the ultimate end-goal for WinRT. It's just the first step in a multi-release transition. It could take 2, 3, 5, 10 releases until it's as mature as current Win32. And each release will ad more functionality. The problem here is that people assume that this is the final state. It's not. And getting bent out of shape about it at this stage is beyond premature. If WinRT does not yet provide enough functionality for you, then ignore it. It's quite easy to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidY View Post
    But for me, there are just way too many people who need functionality in multiple windows for a desktop-less version of Windows to be feasible as a corporate option. Likewise for all those students who need computers to write essays or whatever. (It's much more tedious to copy and paste from Wikipedia without multiple Windows )
    The desktop is not going away any time soon. Office alone will take years to fully port to WinRT.

    I really don't understand your comment about it being more tedious, you have to switch windows either way, what does it matter if they're full screen or not? Copy, alt-tab, past, not more tedious at all (yes, I know it was a joke, but the concept behind the joke is what i'm addressing).

    WinRT is the new portable (as in can run on any CPU) API. It's what will allow the same apps to run on any device (phone, tablet, desktop, server). Obviously, not all apps need to run on every device, but many people would benefit from being able to do so with many kinds of apps, and have them optimize themselves for whatever form factor they're using. It's not there yet, but it will be someday, and this is just the first step.
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  3. #3


    Posts : 446
    Win 8 64-bit


    Quote Originally Posted by Mystere View Post
    If this is what you do, then I say Computers have failed you.

    This is precisely the kind of tasks computers should be able to do for you.
    Have you ever worked in a corporate environment? Or are you just talking 'in theory'?
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  4. #4


    Posts : 959
    Windows 8.1, 10


    Quote Originally Posted by Mystere View Post
    If this is what you do, then I say Computers have failed you.

    This is precisely the kind of tasks computers should be able to do for you. This is precisely the kind of thing that software should be doing to make peoples lives easier. Why are you spending hours every day doing this menial work that a computer could do in seconds?
    Probably my fault for not explaining the problem well enough. The sort of data I was thinking about is different every time - think 50 individual comparisons (all different) rather than one comparison with 50 rows on each side. If I get structured data where there are many rows of data at once, or if every query followed the same structure, then yes I can automate it, but more often than not, it's far more efficient just to look at the two things and compare them on the screen at the same time.

    Even in the cases where I can automate it I still need to see both sets of data as part of checking that I've built my automation correctly before I go on to use it again.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5


    Posts : 5,707
    Windows 8.1 Pro


    Interesting.

    I think the bigger reason why people are looking into tablets these days, other than the ipad, it because it offers something a desktop or laptop can't: superior portability. It's SO much easier to keep a tablet with you than a laptop. It's more or less the natural evolution of personal computing. The problem however, is that these tablets are based of smartphone OSs and smartphone hardware like the ARM processor and therefore aren't able to do things like a laptop PC can do. You will usually find that most people that have a tablet, will usually have a laptop or desktop PC. Why, when they could just chuck their PC? Because their tablet simply CANNOT perform the functions of a PC with ease, like printing a simple Word document or using external hard drives or setting up HomeGroups to share between devices and PCs.

    This is where Windows 8 tablet PCs come into action.

    With a Windows 8 tablet PC, you can probably chuck out your old PC for the tablet PC as the VERY same functions can be performed in a preferred form factor that is light, portable, and powerful (using an i3, i5, or AMD APU processor). If you gave anyone that has a tablet like an android or ipad, along with a Windows 7 PC maybe or older, if they could have both in one, I would imagine a lot would go for that. You don't sacrifice your PC's advanced functions nor do you sacrifice your tablet's form factor and portability and touch screen.

    And also, Windows 8 isn't Microsoft's first tablet venture. They started WAY WAY WAY back with Windows 3.1 with Pen Computing. The again with the Windows xp tablet PC, some touch refinements with vista but that would had NEVER worked well with a tablet PC in those days, and again with Windows 7 with updating the UI such as larger window control buttons and larger Taskbar along with code efficiencies. Windows 8 is more of a full on redesign of Windows for touch input as well as addressing a piece of UI, the start menu, that would had been used even less and less if it stayed there in Windows 8. This is fact.

    Now, will the enterprise adopt Windows 8 right now? No. The dynamics aren't there for a new adoption of a new OS that hasn't been tested fully like Windows 7 has. But that's not to say that the enterprise will full on reject it. There still is the Windows 7 Desktop there, just a different start menu that is pretty easily configurable for Desktop work. Literally, the VERY same functions are there, it's just that you don't see the start button, but it's still there. The other thing that needs to be learned would be the Settings Charms and probably Search. That's it. But again, this needs to be realized in an IT field that isn't too open to "drastic" changes it seems....

    But going into the future, this is pretty big shift. Windows 8 is a pretty big deal, but I don't think anyone has underscored the fact that there is not only a GUI model change, but there is a drastic input change that hasn't been seen since Windows 1 and the GUI system with touch. Touch has been around for a while now, but not on the PC in the mainstream. Windows 8 has accelerated that.

    Oh, by the way, to say that Windows 8 and the new UI style isn't ideal on a desktop or a laptop or just something non-touch because Microsoft wants that UI model on ALL devices regardless, ummmmm, the start menu and Taskbar model has been on the desktop PC, the laptop PC, the touch PC, the netbook PC, and pretty much everything in between that has ran Windows. Quite frankly, Microsoft enforced a UI standard of the Windows 95 styled Desktop on all those devices until Windows 8 for a LONG time.
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  6. #6


    Posts : 1,925
    Windows 8.1 Pro


    Quote Originally Posted by DavidY View Post
    Probably my fault for not explaining the problem well enough. The sort of data I was thinking about is different every time - think 50 individual comparisons (all different) rather than one comparison with 50 rows on each side. If I get structured data where there are many rows of data at once, or if every query followed the same structure, then yes I can automate it, but more often than not, it's far more efficient just to look at the two things and compare them on the screen at the same time.

    Even in the cases where I can automate it I still need to see both sets of data as part of checking that I've built my automation correctly before I go on to use it again.
    No, I still say that computers have failed you. Regardless of whether the data is structured or not, whether it's similar to other data you've seen, etc.. If you can figure it out, then software can be written to figure it out.

    I understand that you probably don't know how to do that, and that's my point that computers have failed you. We should have software that can do these menial tasks.
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  7. #7


    Posts : 228
    Black Label 7x64


    Quote Originally Posted by Mystere View Post
    No, I still say that computers have failed you. Regardless of whether the data is structured or not, whether it's similar to other data you've seen, etc.. If you can figure it out, then software can be written to figure it out.

    I understand that you probably don't know how to do that, and that's my point that computers have failed you. We should have software that can do these menial tasks.
    Then why hasn't the software been written? You think companies would rather keep all these humans on payroll, which is the typically the biggest expense for any business, instead of streamlining for greater profit?

    One big reason it hasn't been done is that a gazillion bazillion spreadsheet columns and rows all over the world are filled in based on human decisions - do I want to spend X dollars on Y product or Z service? These decisions aren't set in stone before the ball gets rolling on whatever needs to roll. The variables that influence them are infinite. Life isn't static, stuff happens that affects decisions - people change their minds in the middle of every freaking project I've ever witnessed, great or small. My wife deals with multi-million dollar projects, which would be impossible to manage if she were a software program.

    When the computers start making all the decisions in the business world, that's when they'll handle the spreadsheets.
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  8. #8


    Posts : 1,925
    Windows 8.1 Pro


    I didn't say anything about computers making decisions. David was talking about menial tasks of comparing and validating multiple spreadsheets, this is something that requires no decision making, and is solely about following rules and performing some process if the rules are violated. This is something computers er... excel at (pardon the pun).

    The big reason that the software hasn't been written is because so many of these tasks are done by people that really don't know what's possible, and they have no real IT staff to deal with it. This is the failure that we software developers (of which I am one) and software project managers and IT in general bear. The fact that we only provide "good enough" solutions to problems.
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  9. #9


    Posts : 959
    Windows 8.1, 10


    Quote Originally Posted by Mystere View Post
    No, I still say that computers have failed you. Regardless of whether the data is structured or not, whether it's similar to other data you've seen, etc.. If you can figure it out, then software can be written to figure it out.

    I understand that you probably don't know how to do that, and that's my point that computers have failed you. We should have software that can do these menial tasks.
    Thanks for your response and for taking an interest.

    In my situation there is software that in theory does the menial tasks (and some complex ones).

    I don't write the software, but I'm one of the lucky folks who has to test that it is working correctly, and also answer the queries from people who think it's wrong.

    By "unstructured data" I include emails from people saying "why does your software give answer 37 in situation x when I think it should be 42?" And "situation x" in this context involves xml data, reference data from other databases, data that's shown on a web application, etc. etc., and it's often easiest to line all those data items up in a few windows to see what's going on.

    I can't see a situation where computers could automate answering all of those emails for me, and even if it could, I'd still be the one who had to test all the scenarios to make sure it was correct, which would still require multiple windows.

    But my main point is that I need to see multiple windows at once to do my job, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    Windows 8 is fine for this, but my big bugbear is with the idea that future versions would lose the Desktop and everything would be in a Metro/Modern UI without multiple windows being displayable at the same time.
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  10. #10


    Posts : 228
    Black Label 7x64


    Quote Originally Posted by Mystere View Post
    I didn't say anything about computers making decisions.
    You didn't have to, it's implied. How else are the numbers placed there to begin with? David explained what happened when a discrepancy is found, and at that point you have to evaluate. Obviously I don't know his work situation, but what if one of those discrepancies leads to another decision that benefits or hurts the project or entire business in a way they didn't think of before? Computers can do a lot of things better than a human - discover in 0.0000000000001 microseconds than cell # 9,382,829 in Row DF is off compared to cell # 2,145,665 in Row EJ. Yeah, that's awesome - but is that necessarily good or bad? Computers cannot criticize like people.
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My personal view on Windows 8 & where Microsoft is heading
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