Microsoft: Windows 8 was thought up before the iPad came out

One could easily assume Microsoft designed Windows 8 in response to the iPad. After all, tablets were seen as an iffy proposition before the iPad really took off, and back then, Microsoft was still pushing Windows 7 on touch-enabled PCs.

But you’d be wrong. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, newly minted Windows chief Julie Larsson-Green shed some light on the thinking behind Windows 8’s new, touch-centric interface. When asked if Windows 8’s revamped interface was a response to the success of iOS and Android devices, she responded with the following:

We started planning Windows 8 in June of 2009, before we shipped Windows 7, and the iPad was only a rumor at that point. I only saw the iPad after we had this design ready to go. We were excited. A lot of things they were doing about mobile and touch were similar to what we’d been thinking. We [also] had differences. We wanted not just static icons on the desktop but Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life; we wanted you to be able to do things in context and share across apps; we believed that multitasking is important and that people can do two things at one time.

Color me surprised.

Well, maybe not that surprised. Windows Phone 7 premiered the whole Modern UI thing in November 2010, which means Microsoft likely began development on it long before June 2009. Bridging phone and PC operating systems with the next Windows release probably seemed like a logical next step to the Windows team—even without the iPad to goad them on.

In the interview, Larson-Green also suggested that her tenure as Windows chief may not see radical departures from the previous strategy. She and Steven Sinofsky "think a lot the same," according to Larson-Green, and "not a whole lot" is going to change now that she’s in charge. Steven Sinofsky stepped down as President the Windows and Windows Live last month.

Comments closed
    • Kretschmer
    • 7 years ago

    If I was Microsoft, I would be embarrased to admit that my time-to-market allowed Apple to create a market, dominate said market, and suffer burly competitiors in this market before I even showed up.

      • A_Pickle
      • 7 years ago

      Also, let’s not forget that Microsoft was… actually really way ahead of [i<]everyone[/i<] in smartphones and in touchscreen computing. They were into tablets and smartphones for YEARS before Apple and Google.

    • ThorAxe
    • 7 years ago

    [url<]http://www.lawlz.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/microsoft-surface-meme-tablet-pc-history-ipad-stole-idea-apple-2002-2010-2012-600x358.jpg[/url<]

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 7 years ago

      That’s the dumbest argument I’ve heard in a while.

    • moog
    • 7 years ago

    Not all that surprising, remember Microsoft’s Courier (the dualpage book/tablet that featured hand writing input)?

    That was 2008, and I’m sure MSR had proof of concepts before then.

    • sli
    • 7 years ago

    This was big news years ago. How do none of you remember the original Microsoft Surface news from 5+ years back?

    [url<]http://technabob.com/blog/2007/05/29/microsoft-surface-interactive-touch-computing-tech-revealed/[/url<] [url<]http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/reviews/4224767[/url<] [url<]http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2007/may07/05-29mssurfacepr.aspx[/url<]

    • DarkUltra
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]We wanted not just static icons on the desktop but Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life; we wanted you to be able to do things in context and share across apps; we believed that multitasking is important and that people can do two things at one time.[/quote<] Whaaaaat??? I multitask much better on my 27" monitor on the desktop than Metro/Modern UI ever will. In fact I'm afraid people will never learn about organazing their files, drag-and-drop and get used to several program windows open if they only use Metro. Hmmm actually I think they will be forced to the desktop sooner or later, and slowly realize its benefits. Live Tiles and Metro and access to desktop programs on a tablet will be a huge advantage over iPad and Android, but not for users with a mouse and keyboard.

      • oldog
      • 7 years ago

      So use both like Win 8?

        • BIF
        • 7 years ago

        Sure, when applicable. “When” is a question that each user should answer for himself.

    • Anarchist
    • 7 years ago

    as always the problem with microsoft product is not the idea but execution. In fact the idea of colourful live-tiles is excellent. Problem is in trying to force that into desktops. In addition it’s obvious the surface tablet was indeed designed 5 years ago. Problem is that design should have evolved during the production cycle to reflect evolving technology and associated change in cost. Failure to do that left surface with 5 year old display technology in a tablet where entire device is basically the display. The old microsoft way of throwing something out into the market and refining it gradually will no longer work.

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Between AMD’s SeaMicro rant the other day, and now this, there must be something in the water.

    • hoboGeek
    • 7 years ago

    It took Apple only a year to produce the device, and people bought a lot of them.
    Then Android tablets showed up, and took what clients have left.
    The only MS answer to touch devices was those pathetic Atom units running Win 7.
    Fast, uh i guess slow, forward 3 years later, windows 8 is out.
    My question is : “Why bother?”

      • A_Pickle
      • 7 years ago

      Win32 and x86 compatibility, that’s why.

      I guess most people are satisfied with ad-riddled and barely functional computing devices, but I’ve got a method to my madness on Windows, and I wasn’t ready to abandon it (or control of my device) just to have the shiny new thing. There are fundamental differences between PC’s and current tablets.

    • tviceman
    • 7 years ago

    If you thought it up before the iPad then, Microsoft, your execution sucks even worse than everyone thought.

    • 5150
    • 7 years ago

    Is that supposed to make it better?

      • TEAMSWITCHER
      • 7 years ago

      A better strategy would be to admit this was rushed hack-job. If they really spent three full years developing this catastrophe, the Company is worse off than we all fear.

        • cygnus1
        • 7 years ago

        designed by committee, what do you expect…

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        i think it’s decent, and i’m not the only one.

          • 5150
          • 7 years ago

          It works fine. But in my opinion it wasn’t necessary.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            today, probably not, but in 2-3 years? i think something would have been.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            If MS just did the following things:

            Left start menu be enabled with registry hack
            Include Aero as an alternate theme
            Put a system into Windows for seeing what hotkeys are available at any given time

            No one would have a leg to stand on with complaints. It’s like they wanted people to moan and b–ch about Win8. No such thing as bad publicity I guess.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            I agree with your 3 desires. it would have kept the whining to a minimum, which would have been great. i [i<] guess [/i<] you're agreeing that the market is changing and in 2-3 years it will be needed?

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Honestly I don’t know.

            I’m still not sure that going for a consistent interface across all devices is the right way to go. It certainly is an interesting experiment though.

            • BIF
            • 7 years ago

            I too agree with your suggestions.

            And to that, I will add: Let the user customize desktop UI elements. Colors, contrast, etcetera. Light Grey on white (scrollbars) DOES make it look like it wasn’t thought out properly…AKA, a “hack job”!

            And yes, with the things listed, I would be a lot less apt to be one of the “whiners”. It’s not my fault that the designers made things harder to see!

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            yea, i did setup custom themes. gots a pretty blue one.

            • Liron
            • 7 years ago

            That would minimize the complaints against the OS, but not my complaints against Metro itself.

            If they wanted me to like Metro too, and not just Win8, they made some puzzling mistakes.

            My first problem with the start screen is the same as the reason why installshield has always annoyed me: Because it [b<]unnecessarily[/b<] obscures the task bar. I've always -hated- when the installation wizard of a program or driver feels like it has the right to cover the entire screen and hide the taskbar. I wasn't heavily invested on the start menu, but it allowed me to pop up the taskbar at any time, just by pressing the Windows key. So when installshield, a video player, or something else covered the taskbar, I could just press the Windows key and: Victory! Now I can't even do that. How do i call the taskbar when something covers it? Was it so hard to keep the taskbar visible at the bottom of the screen while we visited the Start screen or ran an App? Was it so hard to add the Apps that we run to the taskbar as well so we have centralized control of our tasks? What benefit is there to hiding the taskbar on the Start Screen and not adding the running Apps to it? Not to mention what an uncontrollable mess my Start screen is now because I can't figure out how to create collapsible groups in it (like I could create submenus and sub-sub-sub-menus in the old Start menu). Again, what possible difficulty could there have been in that? Subgroups are old and well knows technology.

          • BIF
          • 7 years ago

          “Decent,” yes; and I am about to upgrade to it myself.

          But NOT as good as it could be. Not as good as it SHOULD be. Removing UI customizability features is a “fail”. Ignoring peoples’ vision and usability challenges, needs, requirements…also a “fail”.

          I expect MUCH better from a UI standpoint, from a company such as Microsoft. And so should everybody else. This is not some kid’s high school project!

      • shank15217
      • 7 years ago

      I bet you never used it for more than 5 min

    • Voldenuit
    • 7 years ago

    Slow news day. Details at 11.

    • deathBOB
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t doubt MS can come up with big ideas. I think it’s the poor execution of those ideas that’s killing them.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      OH NO! DYING BY RECORD PROFITS!

        • BIF
        • 7 years ago

        Made me laugh. Thanks!

        • cphite
        • 7 years ago

        We should hold a bake sale or something and help them out!

        In all seriousness, every year people start yelling about how MS is dying and about how their latest product is going to spell the death of the company… meanwhile, MS rakes in billions and grows.

    • cheesyking
    • 7 years ago

    “Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life”

    phrases like this make me want to barf.

      • drfish
      • 7 years ago

      I love Live Tiles but I have to agree.

    • Shouefref
    • 7 years ago

    T’echnology always has a lot of fathers.

    Anyway: what about PalmOS?

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 7 years ago

    While this would be before the iPad, it’s not before the iPhone so it’s a meaningless date.

      • MaMuS
      • 7 years ago

      Not only that, but the iPad was actually “thought up” before the iPhone… So yea, Microsoft was late in any way you look at this.

        • Decelerate
        • 7 years ago

        What would be more interesting would be to see what, if anything, Microsoft has changed after seeing the iPad.

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        No, no, no, there is no magic it that, Steve woke up, snapped his fingers and it was on the market 2 weeks later.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        [url<]http://i.imgur.com/E5GLT.jpg[/url<]

          • no51
          • 7 years ago

          People also believe that Apple created the MP3 player and smartphone.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            No, just perfected them.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            You after my troll crown?

    • Sahrin
    • 7 years ago

    This is a surprise to you, Cyril? I know it wasn’t the most popular device, but did you miss the Zune? Metro has been in development – and active deployment – for far, far longer than there has been an iPad.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      You mean the Zune HD that came out 2 years after the iPod touch?

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        nope. he’s referring to the Zune 30, which had a Release date of November 14, 2006. Remember that the first product metro is pseudo based upon is WMC

          • Deanjo
          • 7 years ago

          Oh you mean the iPod Video 2005 knock off.

            • davidbowser
            • 7 years ago

            You mean the Palm Lifedrive imitator?

            I can’t troll nearly as well as SSK and Deanjo, but I do like these debates.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            You’re right, David, but deanjo knows we weren’t talking about the device, it was a discussion of UI. He often resorts to random unrelated things when he’s wrong.

            • End User
            • 7 years ago

            Much like you do.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            COOL STORY!!!

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]We started planning Windows 8 in June of 2009, before we shipped Windows 7, and the iPad was only a rumor at that point.[/quote<] Yeah... so what. They *started* planning Windows 8 in 2009, but that doesn't mean they were unable to screw with the design after the iPad came out. [quote<] We wanted not just static icons on the desktop but Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life;[/quote<] Market-dribble aside, you know what's annoying about those "live tiles?" With an icon I can quickly acclimate myself to identify a single graphical symbol that (if done properly) is specifically designed to be easy for me to recognize a specific function/application/whatever in my phone/tablet/PC/etc. A "live tile" that is constantly changing sure looks cooler in an idiotic 25 second commercial, but sucks when I'm trying to figure out what the "tile" means quickly & efficiently in real life. On top of that, by their very nature the tiles are too small to effectively convey a great deal of information, so they are *not* a good replacement for full-sized window applications either.

      • RickyTick
      • 7 years ago

      Nothing on a mobile device is going to be a “good” replacement for a full sized windows app, but these live tiles can be re-sized to small, medium, or large. They work really well for giving just a small amount of info like # of emails, or the temperature outside, and so forth. Beyond being cool, I like the tiles quite a bit so far. jmo

    • gmskking
    • 7 years ago

    Sure you did, Microsoft…

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    First thing that comes to my mind: “You mean, in about 1/2 the time it took you to put together the software, your competitor manufactured, pre-promoted and launched a complete product, built the supporting ecosystem, retailed the hell out of it, achieved dominant market share and effectively took away your entire potential market?!?”

      • SkyWarrior
      • 7 years ago

      Exactly. She actually said Microsoft was late to think of something like touch controls compared to Apple.

      • stmok
      • 7 years ago

      Yeap. No one cares for excuses. Everyone cares for results.

      MS had a strategy that wasn’t competitive with Apple…And the results reflected that.

      One can scream and stamp their feet about how its not fair. But this is life in the competitive technology world…Either learn from mistakes for the next time around OR GTFO. ie: Get on with it!

      On a side note:

      I personally think MS have lost the plot in recent years. They have this obsession in trying to emulate Apple’s success. They should be defining their own path that is unique to their company…To understand their userbase’s needs and provide ever improved solutions to cater that need.

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