Windows 8 and the marginalization of geeks

On Tuesday, Microsoft made the Windows 8 Developer Preview available publicly without demanding so much as a Windows Live login name and password in return. I know, I was surprised too. After a bit of poking around, I managed to get the DP up and running in a trial installation of VMware Workstation 8.0, and I’ve spent a good few hours tinkering with it.

Now, I think we can safely assume that the full release of Windows 8 is still a year or so away. That means what we’re looking at here is very much a work in progress, and criticizing Windows 8 for specific bugs or omissions based on this early build would be unwise. Nevertheless, we’re beginning to get a clear sense of where Microsoft is heading with Windows 8, and I think some general observations (and predictions) are in order.

I believe consumers are going to love Windows 8. I don’t mean just any consumers, mind you. I’m talking about the kind of people who use technology on a day-to-day basis but aren’t intimately familiar with it. To those people, Windows and Mac OS X must seem like strange, Byzantine concoctions, with layers upon layers of unexplored settings and features. Today’s tech-aware citizens may be comfortable enough to browse the web, send e-mail, exchange instant messages, and write reports here and there, but they lack the assurance to venture too far beyond that familiar realm. As a result, they might endure annoying pop-ups from an unregistered anti-virus program or leave all of their files scattered across the desktop, not imbued with sufficient confidence to explore the file system and harness the file-and-folder metaphor.

People with that level of technical expertise unarguably make up the majority, and I think their problem lies not with education, but with the excessive complexity of modern operating systems. With Windows 8’s Metro interface, Microsoft is tackling that problem head-on. The goal seems to be to streamline the everyday PC experience as much as possible: present the user with a friendly start screen full of application tiles, an app store where he or she can fetch more software, and a solid web browser. Make everything modal, track down and viciously destroy any traces of user-interface clutter, and simplify access to advanced functionality.

Put yourself in the shoes of a non-expert user, for example, and imagine your computer is on the fritz. Things aren’t working right, say, and software keeps crashing. What are you gonna do about it? You could open the Control Panel, click on System and Security, then look around the mess of items for the words “Backup and Restore,” click on those, then click the unexplainably small link at the bottom that says, “Recover system settings or your computer.” You might then end up with something like the screenshot below… and, in all likelihood, System Restore won’t be of any great help.

But let’s not kid ourselves; you’re not actually going to do any of that. Instead, you’re probably going to call your friend, coworker, nephew, or kid brother who’s good with computers. Failing that, you’re going to overpay someone underqualified and hope they manage to fix it without wiping all your family photos.

In Windows 8, your odds of resolving the situation by yourself are much better. Just open up the Control Panel, click “General” in the left pane (the description underneath helpfully includes the words “refresh your PC”), then scroll down the right pane. It’s all right there, literally two clicks and one flick away: “Refresh your PC without affecting your files” and “Reset your PC and start over.”

We’re still talking about the Windows 8 Developer Preview, so those options might change slightly or move to a different place by the time the operating system is finalized next year. Still, this is a fine example of what Windows 8 is all about: turning the PC into an appliance, something with a considerably softer learning curve than today’s systems—something you’ll need to waste far fewer Sunday afternoons to become familiar with.

There’s a reason Metro looks so much like Windows Phone 7, by the way. I reckon it took smart phones to make everyone realize that PCs don’t have to blind users with science so much. When was the last time someone called you for help installing an app or sending a text message on their iPhone?

But I digress.

I also think people with above-average technical expertise, especially enthusiasts, are going to loathe Windows 8. I think those people will cling to Windows 7 for their dear lives as long as humanly possible. The new Metro interface, you see, is a double-edged sword.

Think of it like Russian nesting dolls—or peeling an onion, a more appropriately unpleasant metaphor. Doing anything remotely complex in the Windows 8 Developer Preview involves a strange waltz between the classic desktop and Metro. All of the functionality power users need, like file management, advanced configuration options, and access to legacy applications, is constrained to the desktop. However, Metro takes over as the application launcher and treats the classic desktop just like another tile or app. That leaves you dancing between layers of very different and conflicting user-interface conventions all vying for attention: Metro, Aero, and all the Windows 95/98-style interface items Microsoft still hasn’t cleaned up. Add an Office-style Ribbon to every Explorer window, and the picture is complete. You’ve got what might be the most confusing hodge-podge of UI conventions this side of the Milky Way.

Some of those inconsistencies will no doubt be smoothed over by the time Windows 8 is released. However, the underlying issue will remain: Metro is designed for simplicity, so complex options and tasks will need to be stashed away in the Desktop. Yet Windows 8 will put Metro front and center, so power users may not be able to shove it into a corner and forget about it. They may be forced to maneuver around its big, chunky, friendly UI whether they like it or not. The need to maintain backward compatibility, which Microsoft usually fulfills with religious fervor, may prolong this unhappy marriage until the desktop has faded into irrelevance—something that could take decades or possibly even never happen. Microsoft was never able to get rid of the command line, and the traditional desktop metaphor provides too many benefits to power users to be fully replaceable by something like Metro. Attempting to merge the two would make Metro more complex, which would defeat the point entirely.

Microsoft isn’t the only one facing this problem. I already complained about the strange mix of UI conventions in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and Apple still hasn’t given an indication of how it plans to deal with that. Will iOS and OS X merge into a single operating system, and if so, will that OS also turn classic and modal interfaces into unhappy roommates? Will Apple attempt to produce a hybrid of the two? Or will the two operating systems remain separate, borrowing from each other on occasion?

Such thorny questions are inevitable as the personal computer continues its transformation from a niche product once reserved for an educated elite into a commodity appliance operable by everyone. We now have computers in our offices, in our cars, on our couches, and in our pockets. We might not call them all computers, but we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t. Consequently, the target market for our most powerful personal computers is shifting from the elite to the common man, and user-interface designers are responding accordingly. That’s great news for most folks, but I think it’s eventually going to leave us geeks longing for the good old days—back when computers were designed by geeks for geeks.

That feeling of longing will be rendered all the more bitter by the fact that, as our computers become simpler and simpler to use, us geeks will lose two things we prize ever so dearly: control and routine. We’re the smart ones—or so we tell ourselves. We’re the ones who should be deciding how our computers are configured, how our data is backed up, and which applications should run in the background. Yet in a few years, we may find ourselves no longer needing to do any of those things… and with a lot of free time all of a sudden.

Perhaps I’ll take up fishing. What about you?

Comments closed
    • spartus4
    • 8 years ago

    With Windows 8, I’m hearing the Undertaker starting to put the nails in the coffin of PC Gaming. Windows 8 reminds me of order registers at big chain resturuants. Push one button for one meal and another for another meal. It’s more than dumbed down.

    I can see, however, where someone like my 80 year old aunt in the mountains of Northern Alabama who has never used a computer in her life, would find metro easy to learn. Really there isn’t much to learn from what little I used it. But Microsoft should not through the Geek under the bus. I don’t see why they can’t come up with a updated version of Windows 7 with the new security features, Internet Explorer 10 and the faster booting and whatever other new feature are added to Eight that can be used with the standard desktop.

    I think we’re going to see a lot of changes under the hood (under Metro too) in the next year. I just can’t see the current desktop environment vanishing. Business are to relient on it and I know Microsoft is not going to say FUWK YOU to the business community.

    • TheEmrys
    • 8 years ago

    If this means my mom and sister, who are 1,000+ miles away will quit borking their own machines because of Windows 8, I’m all for it.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    “I also think people with above-average technical expertise, especially enthusiasts, are going to loathe Windows 8. I think those people will cling to Windows 7 for their dear lives as long as humanly possible.”

    Yup.

    Windows 7 was a good indication of how they’re messing up the UI. They streamline somethings and in other cases they make it obscenely hard to do other things. Like looking at network interfaces requires quite a few clicks in Windows 7, where as in Windows XP it took two. This is taking into account you know where you’re going. It took me forever to find adapter settings in Windows 7, even though I’m a very experienced user simply because they hid it in a obscure place…

    Whoever thought it was a good idea to hide buttons in links like a weblink online is downright retarded as well. A button should be clearly marked as such so a user knows what they’re looking for, not as a weblink in a sentence.

    I sorta understand where MS is going with things, but just because technology is easy to use to older generations which have a hard time programming the VCR doesn’t mean the newer generations will have trouble with it when they’re older. Maybe I’m overestimating the progress of society. Kids today aren’t the same kids as ones who were born without computers.

    I digress, the way Windows is going MS may inadvertently force most of their technology oriented population onto Linux and duke it out with Apple for all the casuals I suppose you could call them, as other people have noted.

    • OckhamsStubble
    • 8 years ago

    Given that W8 automatically configures for use on two monitors with Metro on one and the ‘old’ desktop on the other, am I missing something if I say that most geeks will likely get a cheap monitor to display Metro (if they don’t already!), and carry on? The wailing and gnashing of teeth from some seems a tad OTT…

      • A_Pickle
      • 8 years ago

      It is. I think Windows 8 looks awesome. I haven’t been this excited about a Windows release since… well, ever, really.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 8 years ago

    The more I play with Windows 8 the more I hate it. The Metro UI is so gimped for main PC desktop use it borders on annoying. I don’t even want to get started on the Start Menu. Where are all the program icons going to end up? I really hope it’s not goign to be desktop shortcuts. I am sure that I’ll get used to the new look at some point but right now I hate it.

    • gdonner
    • 8 years ago

    Why not give everyone what they want? The higher-end functionality is there–and always should be there–so simply give the user the CHOICE as to how, and how much, they have access to. Whether command line interface for hard-core users, GUI for us geeks, and Metro for the Millennial media bots.

    Microsoft broke this rule big time by giving users NO choice on the ribbon interface in their Office products.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 8 years ago

      People have been asking Microsoft to include a button that says “I’m an advanced user, get rid of the new crap” to Windows since XP, or before. They won’t do it, on the grounds that the least advanced users are also least likely to know better, and geeks can figure out how to customize things on their own.

      I don’t suppose I can argue with that reasoning.

    • Pantsu
    • 8 years ago

    I suppose we’ll see how well the “casual” people take to the new GUI. It’s simple and user friendly compared to the old desktop, but it’s still new and requires changes in usage behaviour and the learning curve might prove steep for some. Or rather it’s not the learning curve but simple resistance to change, people tend to get irritated when their old ways don’t work anymore. This is obviously very true of “nerds” too. We hate change, and ease of access, and call it “dumbing down”. And ultimately we as users also fall back into line sooner or later once we get used to the changes. Of course there are some that never accept anything new as is, but I’m talking the vast majority here.

    Personally Metro UI seems a nice casual interface when I don’t have to multitask or power use my PC. Jumping between Metro and desktop might prove problematic at times, but so far I haven’t seen it as a big problem.

    It’s fairly obvious that Microsoft is trying to create a unified experience with WP7 and W8, and most likely all the subsequent MS OS will also follow Metro style to enforce that unification. That is also the way forward, synergy between all the mobile devices and desktop devices. Give it a few generations and we can run any application in any device and switch between devices with minimal effort. This will of course lead to walled gardens, but it’s not that different from the current situation, where you got Apple garden, Windows garden and scattered “open” Android/Linux garden. If you want the synergy, you need to pick a side, as compatibility between competitive ecosystems might be limited.

    • End User
    • 8 years ago

    From your Lion article:

    “Hopefully, the future of the Mac lies with a supercharged version of iOS and an OS X compatibility mode for legacy apps. OS X as it exists today just needs to retire, though. Its best days are gone, and the future calls for something quite different.”

    Now slightly modified:

    Hopefully, the future of the Windows lies with a supercharged version of Windows Phone 7 and a Windows 7 compatibility mode for legacy apps. Windows as it exists today just needs to retire, though. Its best days are gone, and the future calls for something quite different.

    That sounds like Windows 8.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      For Cyril to write it that way would require him to like Windows Phone 7. He may, he may not, but if he doesn’t it’d be disingenuous to write it.

    • AGerbilWithAFootInTheGrav
    • 8 years ago

    I wish for fishing, but all that will be left is bitching… as what was an hour job will become a two hour one… real fear and a likely outcome…

    on the positive side, Metro may finally signal the death of MS desktop dominance… so something good may eventually come out of this change.

    • psyclone
    • 8 years ago

    IT’S THE RETURN OF BOB!

    Maybe in ZOMBIE form. 😉

    [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob[/url<] For those too young to remember MS's first and horribly wrong user friendly interface.

    • Malphas
    • 8 years ago

    Ultimately all that matters to everyone, enthusiasts and the IT illiterate alike (except the absolute enthusiast fringe who get enjoyment from fiddling with an OS for its own sake, in which case they’re always Linux) is that you can run the actual applications you want with the OS getting in your way. The OS is just a means to an end, which I think a lot of the Windows 8 backlash crowd are missing the point of, how exactly do you discern between “dumbed down” and the UI just being more efficient? The same people whined when the Windows 7 taskbar was first revealed, but it actual gives you more control than ever. Same goes for the MS ribbon – although I know that’s more contentious and a lot people would disagree with me, but I’ve been using Windows since the beginning and DOS before that, and the ribbon is a definite improvement in my opinion, it’s just people are too stuck in their ways.

    Overall, I don’t think it matters. You could have made an even stronger same argument about the marginalisation of enthusiasts when computers made the switch from CLI to GUI, but there aren’t many who’d want to go back to using the command line now (apart from the odd Linux zealot who still like to harp on about how great using a CLI is).

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 8 years ago

      The command line is still the best way to get a lot of server-related tasks done. Perhaps even its the most efficient way to do anything that (1) you are familiar with and (2) is not inherently graphical.

      The standard Windows prompt and environment sucks, of course. That is a major disincentive to using the command line on Windows.

    • moog
    • 8 years ago

    The UI is not all that important. Any high level geek uses the cmd line exclusively and gvim as their text editor of choice.

      • travbrad
      • 8 years ago

      gvim is for newbs, real geeks use punch cards

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      emacs, baby, emacs….

      • APWNH
      • 8 years ago

      gvim sucks. Give me a good text editor that can display color and I’ll use vim happily ever after.

        • LiamC
        • 8 years ago

        You’ve got two colours, black and white, what more do you need?

        //black and white aren’t colours–way too predictable

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      Funny, I used to have the same attitude on my Amigas years ago. The “LoadWB” was ripped out of my startup-sequence file, and my AmigaShell (a UNIX like command line) was tricked out with a ton of alias command definitions and path assigns in my shell startup file so I could do just about anything with a keystroke or two. Between that, Diskmaster/DirOpus, and Menumaster, I didn’t need silly ‘icons’…

    • PeterD
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]We're the ones who should be deciding how our computers are configured, how our data is backed up, and which applications should run in the background.[/quote<] You're a bit of the mark: it's not only about geeks, it's also about being in control of the computers of your own company, and of being in control of the computers on which you put import information for your family, such as boring things like taxes. Do you really want to put the power over that control in the hands of the companies selling computers to you? Don't make sort off "geek problem" out of it. It's much more than just a geek problem.

    • bhtooefr
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]I already complained about the strange mix of UI conventions in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and Apple still hasn't given an indication of how it plans to deal with that. Will iOS and OS X merge into a single operating system, and if so, will that OS also turn classic and modal interfaces into unhappy roommates? Will Apple attempt to produce a hybrid of the two? Or will the two operating systems remain separate, borrowing from each other on occasion?[/quote<] Based on Apple's history, and where they're positioning things, here's my prediction: iOS is the [b<]successor[/b<] to Mac OS X. However, there's quite a few users and applications still on OS X that haven't moved to iOS, and some functionality isn't on iOS yet. So, OS X is getting maintained and picking up some iOS UI conventions - merging the concepts of the Mac and the iDevice, but the Mac will eventually get replaced by desktop and laptop iDevices. Apple's concurrently sold old platforms with new multiple times in their history - Apple III and Apple II were sold in parallel (although the Apple II was being positioned at a lower-end market when they did that), Apple III and Lisa were sold in parallel (for the few businesses that were on Apple IIIs), Lisa and Macintosh were sold in parallel for a short time (and the Lisa was actually modified into a Mac clone, even), Apple II and Macintosh were sold in parallel for almost a decade to give the Mac platform critical mass - and Apple STILL didn't wait long enough, there (but, then again, OS X and iOS use some common APIs, so porting is going to be easier, there. Also, the Mac didn't have critical mass in any market, ever. The iPad dominates the tablet market, and gets plenty of third-party developer attention.) In any case, I do think that the iPad is actually what Steve Jobs was going for with the original Mac.

    • cheapFreeAgent
    • 8 years ago

    maybe there will be versions of W8.
    -home (tiles only)
    -pro (tiles, windows, taskbar)
    -geeks ( … )

    • south side sammy
    • 8 years ago

    I use XP for my work projects. I tried Vista and found the promises were all lies. I use W7 for most of my gaming ( DX10/11)…… will I jump on W8. NO effen way after I read somewhere that you’ll need an internet connection for it to work. Guess “daddy” has to call home to make sure it’s legit. Sometimes this crap goes too far.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, it’s starts to be Big Brother. Communism gets in through the back door.

        • Kaleid
        • 8 years ago

        Has nothing to do with communism. The private sector are just as capable to become big brother.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          IT’S COMMUNISM. IT’S ALWAYS COMMUNISM.

          • mutarasector
          • 8 years ago

          Good point. Not to mention that given the economic power multi-national corporations wield these days, many are little more than economic totalitarians. Apple/Obama are of the exact same mindset/ilk, the only difference is one is political, the other is economic.

            • sweatshopking
            • 8 years ago

            what?

            • Kaleid
            • 8 years ago

            George Orwell in his Animal farm made the point that in the end you couldn’t differentiate between the communist and the capitalist. For both the average human is to be exploited. Notice how capitalists love sending jobs to China?

          • A_Pickle
          • 8 years ago

          And willing to, as well. I say block the AT&T T-Mobile merger if only because AT&T was only happy to collaborate with Verizon in giving the government petabytes of recorded calls, e-mails, and text messages.

          Of course, the people deciding this merger [i<]are[/i<] the government, so we'll see just how useless that argument'll be. "It was to keep you safer!"

      • moog
      • 8 years ago

      I recommend not to use Google software/services – it’s spyware.

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        Or the internet.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          OR TALK TO ANYONE. THEY’RE ALL SPIES.

            • yogibbear
            • 8 years ago

            OR BREATH. It’s NERVE GAS.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            Breath is a noun.

            • DeadOfKnight
            • 8 years ago

            That doesn’t matter; it wasn’t even a sentence.

            • PsychicMuffin
            • 8 years ago

            Grammar Santa knows if you’ve been using your semicolons correctly; it looks like you’re safe for now.

    • Vasilyfav
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve only recently (spring) upgraded all my machines to W7 SP1, after using XP for a good decade.

    I won’t be interested in any OS changes and jiggamagogery until 2020 at the earliest. Metro, shmetro, it can all go to hell.

    Funnily enough, I bet we’ll still see at least a 10% XP market share even in 2020. That thing just refuses to die.

    • Xenolith
    • 8 years ago

    Others have already made this point, but this apparently needs to be spammed to get the point across… you don’t have to use Metro in Windows 8 if you don’t want to. The aero/start UI will be there for you.

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      There have always been registry tweaks to disable or conceal some of the more dramatic new Windows features. That doesn’t make them irrelevant.

      Changing the default Windows UI so drastically is a big deal, and it’s going to change things. Imagine, five years from now, a new Metro version of Steam being better supported than the classic desktop version. Imagine the next version of Office running in Metro (something [url=http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9220091/Microsoft_CEO_hints_at_Metro_ization_of_Office<]Microsoft has alluded to[/url<]). Imagine missing out on some cool new application that happens to be Metro-only. Slowly, but surely, I think mainstream support is going to shift to Metro. Hardcore geeks may wall themselves inside the old desktop interface for years to come, either by sticking with Windows 7 or by running a modified Windows 8, but I think they'll be forced to come out eventually.

        • FuturePastNow
        • 8 years ago

        I have worked on enough computers of non-geek people to know that they never change Windows from its defaults. They never look in “Tools” or “Options” menus, never change any settings, anywhere. Consequently, if they buy a Windows 8 PC, they are going to use Metro, unless someone like me disables it for them.

        They’re going to use it, and I think they’re going to hate it. They’re going to be baffled by the changes, even if those changes are in favor of simplicity. They’ll resent what little knowledge they have of computers being made obsolete. I could be wrong about this.

        They’re not stupid. They just believe they don’t or can’t understand computers, and that belief becomes self-fulfilling.

        Sorry, Cyril, this started out as some kind of response to your post, then drifted off into a rant.

          • travbrad
          • 8 years ago

          You bring up a very good point. This is really the first time ever where Microsoft has completely changed the GUI, and one of their strengths was always that familiarity to the consumer, with their huge market share.

          While I’m not convinced people are “going to hate it”, I do think it’s going to seriously annoy some people having to learn something new. People are resistant to change. At one of my past jobs we switched the staff over to Outlook (from some terrible old mailserver from the 1990s’) and some of them were acting as if we had committed treason.

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]Changing the default Windows UI so drastically is a big deal, and it's going to change things. Imagine, five years from now, a new Metro version of Steam being better supported than the classic desktop version[/quote<] They'll have us by the balls when Windows 7 will no longer support the latest DirectX, so the new shinny video card won't be able to flex it's muscles unless we install Windows 8 or 9. How long is it now till the next Direct X?

        • Xenolith
        • 8 years ago

        You are making my point. The geek/enthusiast loves making things work that weren’t intended. I bet making a metro app work in aero would be a fun challenge. Also trivial because it would be written in Javascript/HTML5/CSS3. I also see geeks making their own UI that will run metro apps. For instance, an IOS-like UI to replace Metro will definitely be made.

        There will be plenty to gnaw on for the enthusiast, trust me.

    • spigzone
    • 8 years ago

    I for one will welcome our Metro Overlords.

    I’ve always learned just what I need to know to do what I want to do, no more, no less, and Windows 7, IE9, 7 Stacks and a few tweaks makes me a happy happy hippo, so an even easier interface is all good for me.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 8 years ago

    There’s at least one lesson Microsoft didn’t learn from Vista- nerds are the ones who tell their friends and family what to buy… and what not to buy.

    I’m guessing we will see Windows 7 “downgrade” licenses available until 2016 or so.

      • Kharnellius
      • 8 years ago

      Yes, and more and more I am noticing the average Joe ignoring the nerds because newer computers are “good enough”. I have experienced it first hand in my family.

      Sorry to say, but once a computer is easy to use out of the box (like most every day appliances) people will not turning to you or I anymore…especially once word gets out.

      Frankly, I’m fine with that. I don’t want to fix anyone’s computer and I don’t really care to offer recommendations anymore either as it seems people listen then buy whatever was on sale at Micro Best Egg Direct USA Mart, anyway. (That’s a real store…for real…I SWEAR!!! 😉

    • IHTurbo
    • 8 years ago

    Whilst I understand the direction Microsoft is heading with Windows, I can’t help thinking that as the world in general gets more IT-literate, Microsoft keeps dumbing-down Windows.
    Surely, it must be close to the stage where these 2 collide and anyone under 30 is IT-literate enough to work most Windows 7 PC’s?

    I also can’t understand why Microsoft forces us to do it only the ONE way, namely their current way.
    Why do we HAVE to ONLY have Metro as an option?

    Why not Themes; Metro (maybe even as the default), Windows 7, even Windows Classic (XP?) or Ribbon, whatever you want.

    They already have ALL these UI’s, just not as a cohesive whole.

    This method would provide the UI of choice for each individual, which seems to be a word lacking in the Microsoft Dictionary.

      • Joe Miller
      • 8 years ago

      Even Ubuntu goes this way with Unity. But at least there you will always have choice to install any alternative interface, and hope it works well…

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      There is more: the more powerfull CPU’s and their successors will become, the less need their is for simplified UI’s. If MS waits a few years, all computer thingies will have strong enough processor not to need simplified software like Metro, iOS, webOS, Android or whatever is out there.
      But in the meantime MS is throwing away what they have, and making it all much more complex at the same time.

      • SpaceCadet
      • 8 years ago

      Please read the article. You still have the normal desktop as an option.

        • PeterD
        • 8 years ago

        But how will that be? Maybe only after you have paid a bill which could have been avoided if they hadn’t been fiddling about with the UI.
        And anway: why didn’t they just put in some extra icons on the standard desktop? They could have done it that way too.
        But no, they want to change the complete look of the thing, because it’s easier to SELL new things than to sell to old stuff again.
        Those cubes are all about marketing, not about any technological or user friendly necessity.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          no. they’re definitely better. it’s about improving. it took my wife, who’s borderline pc retarded about 2-3 minutes to get comfortable with metro. it took her weeks with the change to windows 7

      • sweatshopking
      • 8 years ago

      you can use whatever you want. feel free to continue using the same desktop you always have. you can have whatever ui you want.

    • edlight
    • 8 years ago

    To make Win 8 into Win 7 and back again, just use notepad to make 2 .reg files to run, and put them on the desktop:

    start menu on.reg

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer]
    “RPEnabled”=dword:00000000

    stare menu off.reg

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer]
    “RPEnabled”=dword:00000001

      • mnecaise
      • 8 years ago

      Thanks. That’ll be handy as I’m testing our in-house software on the Win8 platform.

    • TEAMSWITCHER
    • 8 years ago

    My biggest problem with Windows 8 is that Windows doesn’t need the Metro UI. Microsoft needs the popularity of Windows to entice developers to make applications for Tablets. It’s not that I don’t like the Metro UI – I just don’t need it on my desktop or laptop.

    Metro is really a UI for tablets and we haven’t seen any reviews of Windows Tablets yet. The biggest problem will be power. Using ARM processors will help, but the smaller form factor will mean smaller batteries too, and I suspect Windows 8 will have roughly the same battery life as today’s PCs.

    That’s not gonna unseat the iPad that’s delivering 10 solid hours of use. Microsoft is off to a good start, but the real challenge is yet to come, can they get roughly the same power envelope as Apple? The average consumer will not buy a tablet that can’t go the distance.

      • bronek
      • 8 years ago

      Microsoft badly needs something to replace aging Win32, it’s holding them back (as does fetish of backwards compatibility). They also need to break out of desktops to tablets and need something to work equally well on ARM and on x86/x64. Ergo, they need Metro.

      Granted, many (most?) users don’t need new GUI paradigm, they are perfectly happy with Windows being Windows. Many will fight nail and tooth, just like they fought Vista; there will be future versions of Metro and Microsoft no doubt will do its best to persuade everyone they can to embrace it.Perhaps they will add new features to Metro to make it more acceptable to “traditionalists”.

      But it’s not about users. It’s about creating new ecosystem and the future of the company. I can imagine in 10 years time we will look at desktop Windows as we look at Windows 95; bit longer and we will look at it as we look at MS-DOS (don’t confuse with command prompt – I think this one is stuck for good) and then Microsoft will be able to put Win32 behind, just like it put NTVMD behind (on x64 at least). At which point, hopefully, only few will complain.

      Alternative is staying stuck with waning desktop market – shareholders won’t forgive that.

        • BlackStar
        • 8 years ago

        Something like DirectUI you mean? Check out Win8.

        (Also, WPF, Silverlight, WinForms, MFC and a host of other now-forgotten UI technologies they’ve introduced over the years).

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]Many will fight nail and tooth, just like they fought Vista[/quote<] And Vista was one of their worst selling major OS releases ever, when it should have been their best (5 years gap from XP was abnormally long) theoretically. Obviously Vista had some very fundamental issues though, far beyond a new GUI. I doubt Win8 will have anything like those kinds of problems (since it's very similar to 7 "under the hood") [quote<]Microsoft badly needs something to replace aging Win32, it's holding them back[/quote<] Maybe, but I haven't seen any evidence of it from their competitors. Programs don't really seem to be any faster on a linux/mac PC. In the case of games Windows actually has a huge advantage despite that "win32 holding them back". 😉 Mobile has been their weakpoint (MS slow to a new market? *gasp*), but surely that is more down to x86 and battery limitations than anything. Apple hasn't released a full MacOS (x86) tablet either, because it would use too much power, and Apple breaks compatibility about 5x faster than MS.

          • A_Pickle
          • 8 years ago

          >(5 years gap from XP was abnormally long)

          And also completely fine. A long gestation time in the ecosystem turned out to have positive effects with XP — it’s stable as hell and people know how to use it. It does what people need it to do, so why are you so impatient to shell out another $129 to Microsoft? I think five years between operating systems is just fine. I think three years between them is probably just perfect.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t think technically-minded people will be obsolete any time soon. I mean, the easier PCs are to use, the less the average user knows about them. Unless you’re technically-minded, you’re happy to have to learn EVEN LESS.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 8 years ago

      Damn straight!

    • LoneWolf15
    • 8 years ago

    “I also think people with above-average technical expertise, especially enthusiasts, are going to loathe Windows 8. I think those people will cling to Windows 7 for their dear lives as long as humanly possible. The new Metro interface, you see, is a double-edged sword.”

    That’s been my thought so far on trying it. However, you can use a registry edit to turn off Metro in the developer preview, to go back to the traditional Start Menu. I did so fairly quickly.

    I have a strong suspicion that registry edit will change to a toggle switch by the time Windows 8 is released, so that users can make that choice more easily.

    P.S. Links to useful information.

    Virtualization links:
    [url<]http://lifehacker.com/5841065/how-do-i-install-windows-8-in-a-virtual-machine[/url<] [url<]http://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2011/09/15/install_windows_8_dev_preview_in_vmware_workstation[/url<] Turn off Metro: [url<]http://www.mstechpages.com/2011/09/14/disable-metro-in-windows-8-developer-preview/[/url<]

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    With all that free time, maybe I will finally be able to catch up on my backlog of 500+ queued movies and shows on Netflix.

      • jwilliams
      • 8 years ago

      Hmmm, when I tried to increase my netflix queue to over 500 items, netflix informed me that the maximum allowed was 500.

    • squeeb
    • 8 years ago

    Good read.

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 8 years ago

    ” I think those people will cling to Windows 7 for their dear lives as long as humanly possible. ”
    I watched the BUILD conference. I remember seeing a Windows 8 desktop with huge resemblance to my current Windows 7 desktop.

    “Add an Office-style Ribbon to every Explorer window, and the picture is complete. You’ve got what might be the most confusing hodge-podge of UI conventions this side of the Milky Way.”
    This one is worse:
    [url<]http://gizmodo.com/5819418/mac-os-x-lion-this-is-not-the-future-we-were-hoping-for[/url<] [url<]http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2011/07/0missioncontrol.png[/url<]

    • ShadowTiger
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t know if you have anyone reporting from the Build conference, but Paul Thurrott made some important commentary on the podcast Windows Weekly.

    He said that Microsoft is looking to make the difference between Windows 7 and 8 invisible to businesses, allowing you to completely disable the metro interface. If this is true, I think that means advanced users can simply pick up the business version of Windows 8 and not have any problems.

    I think this is his article discussing this feature… obviously with a disproving tone…
    [url<]http://www.winsupersite.com/blog/supersite-blog-39/windows8/enable-start-menu-windows-8-peril-140597[/url<] As for the future of geekdom... I think that we have always been under threat. And guess what, when things like metro and smart phones lull them into a false sense of security, it only makes it that much easier to take advantage of them. That came out weird... insert evil laugh here?

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]He said that Microsoft is looking to make the difference between Windows 7 and 8 invisible to businesses, allowing you to completely disable the metro interface[/quote<] That's nice. So we'll probably have to pay extra to get less. 🙂

    • Sargent Duck
    • 8 years ago

    Anybody think of how Windows 8 and businesses will get along? Although I can get used to this whole “Metro” thing at home (all I do is simple stuff), the business world is a little more complex.

    I’m sure Microsoft is thinking about this. I’d be quite happy if there was a “turn Metro off” button somewhere. Done.

    • luipugs
    • 8 years ago

    The reasoning in this article seems off to me. It suggests that the next generation would be unable to manipulate a PC like the current one, i.e., us. I was of the inclination that with each generation the users would be more computer literate; I can see this today. But if this is the future of OS’s, then it suggests that geeks and computer enthusiasts are just outliers in the history of computing.

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t think we can safely assume that newer generations are fully at ease with today’s computers. Us Millenials certainly have no problem using Facebook, Skype, Twitter, and the like, but that doesn’t mean we’re all intimately familiar with the inner workings of Windows or OS X.

      For example, my girlfriend is 23 (about three years younger than me), yet she occasionally asks me for help with relatively simple tasks like printing documents across our home network or transferring music to her phone. She has a laptop and a smartphone, and she uses both extensively, but her usage patterns mostly revolve around the web and relatively basic tasks. Other parts of the operating system are mostly alien to her.

        • bobboobles
        • 8 years ago

        My little brother and sister are the same way. They’ve been using computers for just about as long as me, but don’t really know how to fix much that goes wrong. This is probably because I’ve always been around to figure it out and they just didn’t have to learn. I’d imagine that’s how a lot of people are.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        i’m currently in college, and the entire class is retarded. we had to spend a solid hour on HOW TO LOGIN TO EMAIL BECAUSE HALF THE 20 YEAR OLDS COULDN’T FIGURE IT OUT.

          • Coran Fixx
          • 8 years ago

          This year email, next year caps lock… baby steps

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 8 years ago

            I think its easiest to learn about caps lock before attempting to log into email.

            • sweatshopking
            • 8 years ago

            that’s what i thought too, but we went the reverse.

            • ShadowEyez
            • 8 years ago

            Is this a humanities class or comp sci?

    • syndicatedragon
    • 8 years ago

    Do you mind sharing the steps you used to get it running in VMware?

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      Sure… just open up the VMware Player, make a new virtual machine, select “I will install the operating system later,” and tell it you’re going to use Windows 7 (I downloaded the x64 build, so I picked Windows 7 x64 in the drop-down). Once the VM is created, click “Edit virtual machine settings,” and point the virtual CD/DVD drive to the Windows 8 DP ISO.

      You’ll need VMware 8.0 (either the full version or the trial) for this, though. I tried with the older, free version of the VMware player, and it didn’t work.

    • bcronce
    • 8 years ago

    “Yet in a few years, we may find ourselves no longer needing to do any of those things… and with a lot of free time all of a sudden.

    Perhaps I’ll take up fishing. What about you?”

    Once they get it working reliably, I will love it. Anything that saves me time and does what I need is welcomed.

    • hubick
    • 8 years ago

    Linux. Giving power user refugees a good home is a huge opportunity for the Linux desktop. Especially KDE, since Gnome appears to be trying to pull the same style metamorphosis as Windows. Though one can debate if Linux is yet ready for the masses, it certainly now works well enough that most moderate power users could find a happy home there.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 8 years ago

      However, the graphics performance and install base isn’t there. For anything that isn’t gaming, I love linux, but gaming is my main activity on my home PC.

        • Ringofett
        • 8 years ago

        I’ve been seeing complaints about driver support with respect to power management features on Zacate, wouldn’t be surprised if Llano is undersupported as well. That kills it for the mobile space for me. Linux seems to be great at everything BUT the desktop.

        • A_Pickle
        • 8 years ago

        Graphics performance on Linux isn’t bad at all. It’s roughly comparable to Windows, and [i<]way[/i<] better than Mac OS X. At least, that's what I gather from reading Phoronix...

      • scribly
      • 8 years ago

      Sadly enough, linux has shown with the new Gnome version that they too are starting to cater to the mindless sheep everyone else is targeting as well

      • ShadowEyez
      • 8 years ago

      Linux. I agree. I use win7 for gaming, and Linux for most other stuff.

      • A_Pickle
      • 8 years ago

      If Linux worked half as well as Windows did, I’d be with you. I want to use Linux, because I want to use as much GPL, open-source, free (as in liberty) software as possible. If I knew how, then I would be using GPL-licensed software only. Unfortunately, Linux hasn’t been kind to me… which is why Windows is one of the remaining non-GPL software that I still use.

      Unfortunately, when I try to install a PDF printer via apt-get and then am suddenly unable to boot the damn computer, I’m a little turned off. It has happened time and again for me. I’m probably doing something wrong, but [i<]what?!?[/i<] I know my way around technology. I'm not an idiot. I know Windows inside and out, I understand the usage paradigm, I code Cisco routers and switches day-in and day-out... so why is Linux just bad karma with me? I dunno. I have frustrations with Linux and the OSS crowd in general. I believe wholeheartedly in the cause, but the execution of that cause is just terrible. We have umpteen-billion different Linux distributions because developers can't agree on some of the most trivial software minutia. That alone is the single most significantly contributing factor as to why Linux [i<]isn't already[/i<] in a position to compete, aggressively, with iOS and Android, Windows and Mac OS X, etc. I wish I could change it, but I don't know where to begin.

      • CreoleLakerFan
      • 8 years ago

      I recently switched from Gnome to KDE because the shenanigans Canonical and the Gnome 3 development team pulled are exactly what was described in the above article. I’m a power user. Multiple high-resolution displays. I don’t want a “touch-friendly” simplified desktop interface – I want the exact opposite. I don’t use Windows for anything other than gaming, so not much of a big loss for me anyway.

        • DarkUltra
        • 8 years ago

        They cannot make a mouse+keyboard UI touch friendly without making every object large and bloat away the screen space. So far the ribbon menu system have some elements very large, but most are too small for finger use. I hope they let the UI dynamically change when the user disconnects from keyboard/mouse, or chooses to do so. There is so much space wasted so far on what I have seen to make desktop more touch friendly, for instance:

        huge icons on the ribbon file menu
        [url<]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3272/3011160892_1868a17fd9.jpg[/url<] huge task bar which have often almost 70% of its area unused [url<]http://www.blogsdna.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Windows-7-Taskbar-Texturizer.png[/url<] I really look forward to the explorer QAT and I really hope i can still set the task bar to small icons like win7 [url<]http://jooh.no/web/Windows_7_multiple_small_explorer_windows_file_management.png[/url<] Easier and faster to identify programs and explorer folders if I have both a small icon and its name instead of clicking an icon and identifying a thumbnail and then another click.

      • Ashbringer
      • 8 years ago

      Give me linux applications already. If I could run most of my Windows applications on it, I would take a dump on Windows. Windows 8 will be the death of Windows.

    • UberLaff
    • 8 years ago

    This is going to be a tough project for MS. Besides the geeks they need to address the existing 1+ billion customers already using Windows. They struggled to learn the existing UI and now will have to break this habit. Chrome-less UI’s might work for touch but how do I explain to my wife that where the new pop-up window in IE just went with a mouse and keyboard.

    I just upgraded to Windows Phone Mango and I noticed that they are including more onscreen UI elements to help make discovering actions easier. Also, Mango seems to have a more intuitive multitasking system than Win 8. Cards make much more sense than the “flick and pray” app switcher Win 8 is incorporating.

    I expect lots of hair pulling and teeth gritting with this release BUT everything should fall into place with SP1 or Windows 9.

    • Theolendras
    • 8 years ago

    Well as long as explorer is there somewhere, if metro si simplifying most tasks for most users, I can’t complain. Why would I have to explain my mom she need to classify her photo in order for her to find them back easily, that’s something explorer by itself can’t guide the under average user effectively.

    I see this as a great opportunity to have a kind of casual mode and a productivity mode. One of which might not be of any use to the average user in a decade or two. I can see myself consuming media browsing the internet on the couch, in the kitchen or waiting for the bus with a tablet using that interface and use Explorer when a docked to a station to do real work.

    Today it’s somehow rare I open up the command prompt to achieve a define result. It’s mostly do so when I have no other choices to do something efficiently.

    Also I think most people will enjoy it, they will feel empowered to select the apps the need themselves, not by a more technical friend.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]You've got what might be the most confusing hodge-podge of UI conventions this side of the Milky Way[/quote<] Yeah, we really should ask the Klingons for some help. Watching Star Trek, I'm continually impressed that extremly complex actions, usually with a dozen or so variables, each with a presumably wide range of settings, can always be accomplished with just a few taps on whatever display panel happens to be closest to you at the moment. Three taps, and you can completely re-configure the environmental controls for a Bird of Prey from the same touchpad (oh, sorry, hp) in the cafeteria that you use to order fresh gaak with a side of blood pudding. EDIT: continuing with my Trek (NG) metaphor, I must say that Metro looks to have designed for use by the Pakliids.

      • PeterD
      • 8 years ago

      Nice.

      It also shows how they sell us computers using utopia’s which never come true. Sigh…

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      How does a spiral galaxy have a side?

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        Top side. Bottom side.

        Or, inside, outside. So many ways…

    • cobrala
    • 8 years ago

    Your intro is what Jobs Mob has been preaching for decades now.
    Nerds Beware: you were the dawn of an era that will soon have no appreciation for you.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      They still need to have the OS designed in a way that keeps Developers and Sys-Admins happy. They will have power settings somewhere in there.

      • OckhamsStubble
      • 8 years ago

      …and, when exactly was it that folks were singing the praises of nerds? I must have missed that.

        • A_Pickle
        • 8 years ago

        I don’t think it ever began. I mean, people love their iPads, but are more than happy to diss the people that actually make stuff like that possible.

    • BKA
    • 8 years ago

    I got it running on a spare PC in the office yesterday. Still getting used to the Metro interface. I’m kind of 50-50 on whether I like it or not right now. Took me a minute to figure out how to restart/shut down. Don’t know if that’s the only way but Start>settings>power>sleep/shut down/restart seems to be to many clicks. I dig the tiles and everything but I’d rather the desktop be the main boot screen when windows loads and the metro as a secondary. Haven’t found any setting to change that yet.

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