As I was strolling through my “Technology” news feed on feedly this evening, I came across a handful of articles related to the “learning curve” announcement Microsoft made today. If you’re just hearing about this now, here’s the thirty second version of the story – Microsoft released it’s new Operating System called Windows 8 about a year ago, and among some of the new features were “live tiles” and touch-based gestures in an effort to accommodate the mobile/tablet market. Here we are a year later and a lot of people believe that the OS is confusing and difficult to use as evidenced by this Nick Wingfield of the New York Times in this TheWeek.com article:
[T]he company is for the first time confirming that it is making changes to the software to address some of the problems people have when using it. In a recent interview at Microsoft’s headquarters, Tami Reller, the chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows division, revealed that Windows Blue will be released this calendar year and will include modifications that make the software easier to learn, especially for people running it on computers without touch screens. “The learning curve is real and needs to be addressed,” Ms. Reller said. [New York Times]
I’m kind of caught between a rock and a hard place here. On one hand, I don’t like it when software companies try to merge desktop and mobile/tablet Operating Systems. For me, it just doesn’t work. The problem (assuming you agree with me here) is that tablets are great when it comes to entertainment and light work, but they fall short of the mark when you introduce some real work (e.g. a spreadsheet, a Word document over 200 words, coding, photo organization/editing etc). In my mind, a tablet falls short in these areas because everything is “dumbed down” a few notches to make working sans mouse a little easier, and a lot more enjoyable. The experience on a desktop and a tablet are not always the same, so the OS should be mindful of that and differ where it needs to. A perfect example of this would be the “live tiles” pictured above. This is a sharp looking interface and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t think Microsoft was capable of thinking so far outside their box. The problem here is that this screen only works via a mobile phone or tablet’s touch interface. Clicking a tile with your mouse pointer on a 24″ screen just feels like you’re using a tablet OS on the desktop. It’s clunky, and I don’t get it.
Back to my point though about being stuck between a rock and a hard place…
Here’s my issue. While I strongly believe in the points I made above, a small part of me can’t shake the fact – and it is a fact – that people don’t like change. Especially if that change is related to computers. Take, for example, a group of people switching from Excel 2003 to the “ribbon interface” in 2007? In the grand scheme of things it really isn’t a big deal, but people really get moody when it comes to the software they know and love.
Windows 8 was most certainly a drastic change for most people. While I personally don’t like the way it caters to mobile devices, it’s not without some redeeming qualities (in fact, here are 5 for you). For me, my general apathy towards the OS is based on the “live tile” feature and it’s mobile-loving interface – both of which can be tamed by simply switching to “Desktop” view, restoring a more Windows 7′ish interface with the desktop we all know and love (?).
I’d be curious to know who the rest of the Windows 8 detractors are. Are they people like me who are still “meh” on the tablet-like interface (when not in desktop view), or are they people who just can’t handle such an abundance of change in one fell swoop? Time will tell perhaps.
In the meantime, here’s hoping Apple gives up on Launchpad - another tablet-like app that was sent packing long ago.
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