Posts Tagged 'microsoft'

Windows 8 – Hero or Villain?

Friday evening I headed down to the Woodlands to see the Beach Boys, just as I was walking in I got an email, it said simply “Hi Mark, what are your thoughts on this[Windows 8] as a user?”.

Since I had 20-minutes before the concert started, at least, I figured I’d bash out a quick reply. I’d been thinking I should write a follow-up to my earlier “Windows 8 and is change ever good?” entry and earlier in the day had read “Final thoughts on Windows 8: A design disaster” on zdnet.

If you ended up here to get confirmation that Windows 8 is indeed a bad idea, and you are not interested in anything else, then good news, just read the next paragraph and you are done. If you do though, you are risk of missing the point, and that’s what I think is happening now. Reviewers are missing the point, well mostly. And before you accuse me of being a Microsoft shill, remember I contributed to the IBM Linux strategy as discussed on my “corner” over the years, so don’t have my past or my future vested in Microsoft’s success. One of my documents on Linux, from the year 2000, is still available from the About page of this blog.

Corporate PC use: As a corporate laptop user with a keyboard and mouse, Windows 8 is indeed a pain. A number of the default windows behaviors have been changed which mean using it with a mouse is, clumsy at best. I sort of like Metro, and full screen windows, but then I’m an old guy who used grew up on 3270 mainframe terminals.

Ultimately these inconsistencies are going to be a big barrier to early corporate adoption on traditional PCs and laptops, the lost productivity will be a big cost, eventually i can see MS having to ship a Windows 8 that doesn’t boot to metro so they can withdraw support for WIN7.

Home use touch-screen: At home I’ve got an Dell 17-inch Inspiron touch screen laptop attached to my tv and home theatre system. Windows 8 and metro are brilliant, everything i had before works, I’ve been able to write scripts with a UI to automate a few simple, repetitive things I do. For example most mornings I listen to BBC Radio London over the Internet, I’ve now got a metro initiated script that launches the web page and stars the player, all it takes is a simple tap on a big button and it works. Even when the button is off the screen it takes just a few simple swipes. No more trying to scroll win7 scrollbars, trying to be accurate double touching icons, etc.

As a software architect:  One of my current projects the Dell Enterprise Systsmes Group Software/Firmware mobile/UI strategy. I love that you can use a knockout.js   implementation and that you can build apps out of html5 JavaScript and a smattering of CSS and this I think is a key point. There is a great article here if you don’t understand this.

My view is Windows 8 shouldn’t be aimed at corporate for a while, I don’t have a Windows 8 tablet, but one of our guys has bought his own Samsung, taken a Dell IT early Windows 8 build, and is using it in the office. So when Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says on zdnet he’s “going to avoid commenting on Metro on touch-based systems for now because Windows 8 is too far off in the future to know what the hardware is going to be like.” – He’s just wrong.

With the ability to use touch on a tablet or phone, build UI apps easily, I think Microsoft have taken a bold step, making WIN8 pretty compatible with mobile hybrid apps, and touch. In the next few years that will turn out to be a masterstoke but with the ability to capture a new generation of developers, writing web apps, Windows 8 apps, Windows Phone apps, and xbox.

As a PC User: All the apps from win7 are compatible, I get a pretty useful touch paradigm, and best of all, we get a pretty easy way to write metro apps without the old complexities of windows UI programming.

And I sent off my reply. A Few minutes later the reply came back “Sounds great Mark and I am seeing this in a similar way to your view below but you’ve added some new insights. Thanks and enjoy the beach boys! Michael [Dell]”.

Touchscreen won’t kill the mouse… [or will it?]

I’ve really not been keeping up with what Microsoft are doing in UI design, although as the owner of an HTC Windows Mobile PDA/Phone thingy, I have a passing interest. I also sometimes look longingly on at iPhone users who swish their fingers around and do funky things, while on my HTC phone, apart from the contacts application, my finger basically just replaces the mouse. Still, I have my work calendar, address book, journal/notes, task list and more syncronised on my HTC phone!

In my post of the other day, I bemoaned the fact that creating slides and moving objects around even in the latest PowerPoint, really hasn’t changed much since Freelance under DOS, and even it had some neat features not found in todays PowerPoint for selecting, moving, duplicating and aligning objects.

It was with some interest then that I just spotted Robin Bloors commentary via his twitter stream, on Bill Gates latest claim that Touchscreen will kill the mouse. Robin is probably more right than Bill, but either way, hopefully creating objects, grouping them, moving the around on the screen and aligning them will get much easier. I’m all for that.

The chances of me still using Microsoft products by then, remote.

[Update] I’ve been giving some more thought to Robins argument, I do think he is right. However, I also think there is a reasonable alternative, at least one I could use. At home I use a draftsmans table as a desk. You know, one of those ones that sits up at an angle. Using my laptop on it, with a large external monitor for the extended desktop contain mostly the windows I’m not currently working on, IM clients, my calendar etc. works out ergonomically quite good.

I could see replacing the laptops sit up screen with a touch sensitive display of somesort, along with either a visual touch keyboard, perhaps projected onto the desktop; or a standard keyboard. I think that would work out fine, no mouse.

However, on a traditional flat desk it would be no use at all. Rather than having to hold your arms up all the time, you’d spend the day with your chin on your chest, not ideal for the neck. Still, I’m sure someone could resolve that, ergonomic touch screen stand anyone ?


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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