Windows 8 and is change ever good?

The tech sector thrives on change, it is what lets the next generation discover the mistakes of older generation, except in a new context. It is also why there are still thousands of new patents every year, same invention different context and use. People in all walks seem to be afraid of change, just recently the South Congress merchants association fought the city of Austin as they felt it would harm their businesses, drivers complained as it changed the “user interface”. Yet a month or so on and it seems to be working perfectly.

And so it’s no surprise to find Microsoft having to re-assure people over the upcoming UI change in Windows 8. This reminds me of almost every other big change, making sure people know you have not forgotten or overlooked what is important for them.

And so it will be with Windows 8. I had a version of the metro UI installed for a while, but I never really got to use it much. None of my apps exploited it, I never really put in any time to learn how to operate it, with a mouse since I don’t have a touchscreen laptop, well apparently thats the same as Mary-Jo. Introducing new interfaces, either user or programming, is always problematical. Ultimately something will end up going into “sustaining mode” and become pure cost to maintain compatibility. The only question is which it will be, the new or the old?

And there’s the rub, maintain two entirely different and to a degree incompatible sets of interfaces, is an entirely different game. When they are on the same platform, even more so. The question is will there be enough benefit over time to drive PC users to use the new interface exploitation, or should Microsoft just gone with the new UI for the new platform/form factor tablets?

This is what Apple have done fabulously well on. Picking the form factor device and building around it. As I’ve posited a few times in the last week, Steve Jobs wasn’t the best innovator, he didn’t deliver any earth shattering new technology. What Apple did under his recent reign was to deliver on a set of previously established technologies, but deliver them in such a way that the user experience was as good as it could be, even when that meant forcing change.

An interesting question for all those change loving technologists, are we reaching a point where the technology is good enough, and getting it right is more important than changing it?

I guess that depends on what change is. I’ve nailed my colors to the mast pretty much, simplification isn’t change, removing complexity is one of the most important things we can do, and it is one of the biggest barriers to entry.

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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