It’s only been a month and people are already ringing the death knell for Windows 8.
From pieces like this one claiming Windows 8 is an opportunity for Apple, to reviews panning the Microsoft Surface with RT, the tide has turned, from excitement and enthusiasm for Microsoft taking such a bold step, to opprobrium and ridicule for getting some things wrong with the latest release of their operating system.
As an Apple user and advocate for nearly two decades, I was always comfortable gloating that Apple seemed to get the User Interface right more often than not, even when the underlying operating system was a little flaky at times, to say the least. The interface always improved, even when the OS continued to fail.
Remember System 7.5? ’nuff said.
As a result, I was waiting to be disappointed by Windows 8, after all the Zune, Kin and Vista debacles of the past. It seemed they were on a trajectory of hubris and pride and not understanding the user, making bold assumptions based not on what many people experienced and needed. Many examples of engineered not designed, products carrying the arrogance of scant attention to user needs or people’s expectations.
But Windows 8 looked good. It had great ideas, a lovely modern and clean appearance, novel interaction design models, beautiful typography, layout and features. It is a bold step in a new direction where shadows, textures and shapes are no longer required and computing interfaces looked like they lived on computers again. For once in almost 2 decades I started thinking about buying Microsoft, probably an MS Surface, started thinking of Microsoft as a company truly interested in real User Experience and design. They were making Apple look “old school” and backwards; childish and pedestrian. Although MS was supposed to be the “enemy”, I was looking forward to using Win8 and giving it a fair shake, with my own money, and not just as a UX research tool!
It was disappointing to see all these reviews starting out fairly optimistic, then turning downright hostile, in the face of this bold step Microsoft were taking. It made me recall all the hostility Apple received when they launched both the iPhone and the iPad. All those computer users telling us these devices had nor real use case, weren’t “professional-grade” devices, would never take off. People laughed at the “huge” iPhone form factor, the lack of applications in the Apple Store, and poor network connectivity. Every new release had a new crisis, from cracked screens through arrogant antenna bug fixes to dodgy space-shifting Maps. That these products were considered silly, that only dedicated fanbois would be interested in them, not “real people”.
I hope Microsoft proves us wrong, just like Apple proved their critics wrong, and they stay the course; releasing useful updates, keeping the vision but listening to user needs, adapting to requirements and expectations, building carefully and with due consideration. I would love to see real competition in the operating system space, including increased activity in Ubuntu, so that all operating system ideas can build off each other for the greater benefit of users trying to enjoy their tools, getting more out of them.
An interesting space to watch for 2013.