Not Really Looking Forward to Windows 8

October 26. How many of you have that marked on your calendars?

If you don’t already know, October 26th is the official release date of Windows 8. Windows 8 is significant in that it is (in my humble opinion) the most significant change to Windows since Windows 95.

Looking Back on Windows 95

I don’t even have to look up the date. I was so excited about it for so long. August 24th, 1995. Windows 95 was a significant upgrade over Windows 3.1. I don’t know how many of those reading this ever used Windows 3.1. Windows 3.1 was more of an operating system shell than an actual operating system in and of itself. To say that it was complicated to use is an understatement. I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to get it to work on the Internet. Support wasn’t even built into the OS. I used an application called Trumpet Winsock, and all the details of it are fuzzy, but I think it required a Unix account on our local server and a manually compiled PPP application to connect to. I was finally able to make Netscape work. Most of the time with Windows 3.1 I was happy to just use the modem dialing application to connect to my Unix account via terminal.

When Windows 95 came out, the whole computer world changed. Network integration, much easier interface and an OS that actually behaved like an OS. I actually did some beta testing and was able to use some pre-release versions of “Chicago”, so I was more than aware of what was coming on the 24th of August. To this day (17 years later), I can’t hear the song “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones without thinking of Windows 95. Microsoft had a massive marketing campaign, and it was exciting. They truly did an amazing job promoting their new operating system just watch their commercial:

[youtube id="P0AJM6HMYjM" width="600" height="350"]

Looking Forward to Windows 8

Almost two decades later, a lot has changed for me. I’m primarily a Linux user now, and instead of working in IT, I’m working in development. This could color my perspective on the coming release of Windows 8, but I haven’t sensed the excitement for Windows 8 that I did for Windows 95. Windows 8 brings the Interface-Formerly-Known-As-Metro to our desktops. I’m not a fan of the new UI. I think it’s ugly and ill-suited to a desktop environment. To me it seems as if Microsoft believes it’s desktop monopoly is being challenged by Apple with iOS and Google with Android. It’s trying to leverage that monopoly as quickly as possible by forcing a touch screen interface suited more for tablets and smartphones onto the desktop. In doing so, Microsoft hopes to extend it’s desktop monopoly to the tablet and smartphone markets.

I give Microsoft some credit with this UI because I think it’s the most innovative OS UI to be developed in years. Apple may claim to that the iOS UI is innovative, but it’s just an icon grid. The same interface we’ve seen in pretty much every UI since the 70s. I think that Android is a little bit more innovative in their interface with the utilization of widgets, but that’s not really new either. Despite the fact that I think Microsoft’s UI is innovative, I don’t think that it’s good for a desktop. It works for a touch screen interface, but speaking only for myself, I can’t get over how ugly it is. It’s so ugly it deserves to be hyphenated. Ug-ly.

Conclusion

I’m not certain that Microsoft’s attempt to use it’s desktop monopoly to push it’s products into mobile space is going to be successful. Windows 7 phones have been available for a significant amount of time, and they’ve failed to make a dent against iOS and Android. Windows 8 phones don’t offer a significant difference over Windows 7 to make it stick out. Further, I think that the new UI on the Desktop will be a flop. It’s going to be difficult to learn for both people who’ve used Windows for a while, and for new users. This is going to force OEMs to come up with alternative solutions to the new UI, such as Samsung’s new S Launcher. These solutions will hide Microsoft’s new UI and neutralize Microsoft’s attempt to use their desktop monopoly to bring themselves into mobile space.

Think I’m wrong? Why not explain more in the comments…

Not Really Looking Forward to Windows 8
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