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Windows 8 is leaky. Tablet paradigms leak into mouse and keyboard interfaces. It extremely confusing. There is no clean cut, no mode switch.

I understand the abstract principle behind it, but that does not help.

Two examples I noticed when fooling around with it. Nothing major, but they illustrate the problem very well. This is using a default and clean install of the consumer preview:

So you boot it up and are presented with a big image that displays the time and nothing else. Clicking just makes the image hop, you actually have to swipe upwards (with the mouse!) to be allowed to log in.

You see this PDF in the Explorer and double click it. A Metro app launches and removes all UI elements you just saw and are used to. There is no way to close it on screen, nowhere to click to get out of it. You have to know about the hot corners or keyboard shortcuts to get out of it. Even then: It’s a jarring transition between two completely different UI paradigms. That is no fun even if you know how to get out of it, even if you know that it’s supposed to be that way.

All of this would be fine if normal Windows apps were on their way out. If we all were to ditch our mice. If the Desktop were only there for compatibility reasons, to run those old apps no one is going to use in a year or two anyway. Only, even Microsoft doesn’t seem to be on that path. It looks like Office will not be a Metro app, for example.

I don’t want to see Windows 8 fail. Metro is incredibly cool for tablets and phones. (Windows 7 also was incredibly great – for Windows – as a desktop OS. It works really well.) It’s really awesome! But I’m not sure about the Metro and old Windows UI hodgepodge. I just can’t convince myself that touch interfaces work well with the mouse. It’s just not fun to swipe with a mouse. And interfaces which are fun to use with swipes and taps are not necessarily fun to use with a mouse. (The reverse is obviously also true.) All the Metro apps seem like incredibly cool tablet apps. I can see that I would have a lot of fun with them on my iPad. The Store is also cool and very well integrated. But with a mouse? In such a leaky environment? Where the mouse user is confronted with touch interfaces over and over?

What Microsoft is doing is incredibly brave. That alone deserves recognition. But I really can’t see it succeeding. Maybe I’m wrong.

Serious question: if Microsoft is convinced of the "Post-PC" meme, so Metro is the future — and the Start Menu is in the trash — then office work should be done on an iPad.

So what's the disconnect?

I'll give my opinion at the bottom. You've pointed at the leaky tablet paradigm, but let's just assume Office takes a year to catch up to Windows. That's historically been the case.

"Normal" windows apps should be phased out rapidly and Metro everywhere should become the new Windows UI.

Since when has real office productivity needed a Tablet UI? It seems obvious to me that the iPad (and iPhone) are for casual use or travel. It may be productive to review sales figures, or tweak the wording in the presentation, while on the plane. Anything more requires a keyboard in my opinion.

The physical difference between the iPad and a keyboard is the primary reason I think office workers will hate Metro. Second to that I see them hating Metro because they just want to "get stuff done." Metro lacks the streamlining that the old apps have taken years to achieve. Instead of being able to add a formula with one click, you have to learn a whole new set of interface tricks.

Microsoft wants a quick success. So Metro will probably get ditched for something new by 2016, regardless of its core merits. (Obligatory: I'm biased: I think there is a niche for PC's and a separate niche for iPads. I see no Post-PC world, only an admission that Dell's profit margins will never return to 1990's levels.)

I see no Post-PC world, only an admission that Dell's profit margins will never return to 1990's levels.)

The "Post PC" world doesn't remotely mean PCs will disappear. We've been in the "Post Mainframe" world for 30+ years, yet Big Blue still makes a lot of money on super computers.

When people talk about "Post PC", they are referring to where the majority of dollars will be spent and how the average person will interact with computers. We are still learning how to make that interaction really effective for producing content, so we haven't completely left the PC world, but within a couple years, we will be there.

One other thing that will be a hallmark of this transition will be ubiquity of computing. In the PC world, there were one or two general-purpose computers in a home. In the Post PC, there will be dozens. And even more special-purpose devices.

Up to today, Post PC products have been mostly used for consumption. This is a side effect of two things: most computers are used for consumption and, as I mentioned earlier, the interactions for creation are still a work in progress. But progress is happening. I've used my iPad to author business presentations from scratch, to do mockups for my web product and to author blog posts.

There are a lot of advantage to having a device that works more naturally with my creative energies. If I'm relaxing on the couch, I can continue to do so. The laptop forces me into a different mindset.

But, yes, PCs will certainly continue to be around and useful for a good number of people.


As I recall, average have jobs. Jobs are becoming PC oriented all the time. That is because the PC architecture (screen, local storage, keyboard) is pretty much needed for full-time production on a PC (and when has been computerized that means that less, not more, physical activity will be needed).

Post-PC products may indeed continue making inroad in consumption and those jobs where people need to walk-around. But outside that, the form factor that is the tablet's advantage become its disadvantage and only obsessive cool-aid swallows will take it beyond these areas.

The only thing that changed the crazy sales of PCs to something a bit more normal is that a four year old PC is now still fast enough to do most of the stuff that you could do with one you bought today.

And it will remain that way until applications will be able to make more effective use of multiple cores.

When I'm in the office (75-80% of my year), i'm a heavy user of Windows. I cycle between five core apps (Word, Excel, Visio, PowerPoint, Outlook+Lookout, VMware/VirtualBox) working on RFPs, Technical Architectures, Transition Documents, Reference Designs, etc...

My "travel system" has changed three times in the last 9 years (Macbook Pro, Macbook Pro, MacBook Air) - but my productivity desktop has remained the same - a Dell Precision 650 running windows XP. I'm _already_ looking forward to my fourth laptop (picking up a 2012 thunderbolt MacBookAir - local backups over a thunderbolt connection to a high-speed NAS will make local backups both more likely to happen as well as more painless) On the flip side- my circa Q1 2004 productivity desktop _still_ does pretty much everything I need of it - I don't have any real incentive to request a new machine, or upgrade off of Windows XP.

I'm picking up a new iPad on Friday, but I don't really see how Windows 8/Metro is going to be a useful replacement for my fairly optimized Windows XP experience. Eventually the Precision 650 is going to break - and I'll probably upgrade to Windows 7 + whatever dell desktop will last me another 10 years, but I agree 100% with the parent - Mobile/Tablets/Laptops still have 2.5-3.5 year lifespan, desktops have moved into the 4-6 year rotation in the enterprise (And, in my case, even longer)

As the world becomes more mobile, and desktops continue to extend their life, we'll see even more transition of leadership (and profit) to those vendors who focus on the "Mobile Experience" - that's what's driving Microsoft to Metro - not because they believe it will enhance our desktop experience (it really, really won't) - but because it's where the market is moving.

The "Post PC" world doesn't remotely mean PCs will disappear.

Agreed. But given what they're doing with their "operating system for the post-PC world", one can't help wondering if that is exactly what Microsoft thinks it means.

They spoke to this quite a bit during the BUILD conference. In short, Microsoft is expecting that the days of computers - all computers - having a screen you can't touch are going to come to an end.

We're going to look at non touch-sensitive screens like relics of an old era.

If you buy that future, you may also come to the conclusion that your flagship OS and cash machine had better be ready for it. And, clearly the last few shots at making a windowed UI touch-enabled didn't go so well.

Personally, the only way I would spend any extra on a touch screen for a desktop is if it was built into a drafting table-like surface, so that it could be used ergonomically. An upright touchscreen causes gorilla arm syndrome, and is worse than useless to me; these touchscreen desktops on the market today from HP and others are just way off the mark as far as usability.

I'm willing to believe, for the sake of argument, that touchscreens will take over. Regardless, those days haven't ended yet, and will be here for years to come.

With that in mind, I submit that it's prudent to wait for the baby to stop moving before you throw it out with the bathwater.

For anyone who has to stare at a computer screen all day, touch screens won't replace non-touch screens until the screens become fingerprint-proof.

Yes, the same discussion as before leads me to the same question: if this is a world of entertainment embedded devices that support 3rd party apps, why is the term "Post PC"?

Mainframes never achieved the dominance of PC's precisely because they weren't as useful; so it is logical to say that PC's will continue to dominate embedded devices because the iPad isn't as useful.

Embedded devices never even had to compete with PC's on units sold. That didn't make the PC an afterthought then, so what's different now?

Using your definitions, we are just in the computer age, and have been for 70 years (maybe there was the vacuum tube age and the transistor age). That is an engineering definition and doesn't apply.

These padigm shifts aren't about what is inside the device. They are about how the devices are used and how that usage impacts people and society.

The glaring, obvious sign that the world is changing is a grocery store checkout line. Five years ago, a couple people in the store might be looking at BlackBerries. Now, everybody and their kids have a device, and often, those devices are talking to each other, via wifi, 3G or Bluetooth.

That is the people impact in the Post PC world. And that impact will be as large as the impact PCs had on the world (IMO). I just hope it's a positive impact.

Reminds me of what happened the other night.

I was on my way out of town and stopped at the new supermarket to pick up a sub for dinner. As I was checking out, a young guy and his girlfriend were in line in front of me.

He says to the cashier, "you know your cell phone coverage sucks."

The cashier says, "yea, only Verizon works."

The reply was, "I bet they're sorry the didn't think of that when they were building it."

I don't see where you got that. I didn't define anything.

> everybody and their kids have a device, and often, those devices are talking to each other

The inter-device communications are just part of the app, another way of describing the cloud.

The ubiquitous embedded device is as unimportant to the PC as the wristwatch. I still don't think a wrist computer (or an iPad) will be so dominant people say, "remember when we used to use keyboards?"

Everyone may have a "device," but they will still use their laptop every day.

We're moving into an age of five different types of inputs:

    1. Keyboard
    2. Mouse
    3. Touchscreen (finger, stylist)
    4. Audio (e.g. Siri)
    5. Video (e.g. Kinect, eye tracking)
In video games, going all the way back to the Atari 2600, we've seen plenty of new types of input controls tried and failed. Joysticks, rotary controls, gamepads, keyboards, mice, trackballs, touchpads, light guns, robots, power gloves, giant floor-mats with buttons, analog sticks, analog buttons, vibrating controllers, skateboards, drum kits, guitars, microphones, steering wheels, arcade sticks, etc...

Some were great, some were terrible. The "great" tended to be so because they were tailored to the software they were programmed for. Playing Guitar Hero with a guitar controller is good, but playing Call of Duty with it is bad. There are plenty of different types of inputs that exist and will be invented, but some work best for some things and terrible for others.

As you mention, Microsoft Office is designed around a keyboard and mouse. A touchscreen is a hybrid of the two, more portable, but clunkier. An accountant who lives by arrow keys, hot keys, and their numberpad in Excel is going to hate a touchscreen. For MS Office to work on a tablet, it'll have to be re-designed from the ground up, and even then it may not be superior to its desktop counterpart in an office setting.

I don't know what MS wants to do with Win 8. To think all desktops are going to die and become tablets is wrong, just like thinking that T.V. was going to kill radio. Both have their places, but a tablet != desktop.

Maybe you're right that they just want a "quick success", but that strategy hasn't paid off for them recently (Zune vs. iPod, Bing vs. Google, their fragmented mobile efforts vs. iPhone). MS has been in reaction mode for a while, and now they're reacting to the iPad with Metro.

One thing Microsoft does have going for them is the corporate market; Apple hasn't directly targeted that yet, though to think that Apple is not going to go after it shortly is foolish. MS is entrenched in here with Active Directory and Exchange. But cloud efforts are going to shortly give that a run for its money.

Thanks, I agree. To reiterate something that I think you're saying (correct me if I'm wrong), "An accountant ... in Excel is going to hate a touchscreen. For MS Office to work on a tablet, it'll have to be re-designed from the ground up." Ok then, why would Accounting firms switch to Metro?

With multiple competing options (some in the cloud), surely one of them will cater to the old UI that uses the arrow keys.

I think you're correct that with multiple computing options, some cloud-based, you'll see tailoring to specific jobs. Accountants, lawyers, salespeople, programmers, all do slightly different things, and will need different UIs. Also, as contexts switch, so will devices. Lawyer in litigation making a presentation will need a different device than when sitting alone in an office.

Specific to accounting, my anecdotical experience has been that many accountants don't like change unless it makes them more productive. If it's confusing or has a large learning curve, expect lots of complaints and resistance. I upgraded a few with new computers, from Win98 to Vista, and from Office 2000 to Office 2007. The "ribbon" UI was so terrifying to them that they literally unplugged the new computers, plugged the old ones back in, and used them for 9 more months before they finally crapped out.

Any type of manual data entry needs to be done really fast and accurate. Keyboards are better at this than touchscreens in most cases. Touchscreens will have to become more keyboard-like to compete (this is going to begin happening soon, but we're a few years away before it becomes good enough: http://cnettv.cnet.com/senseg-demos-prototype-touch-feedback...).

"It seems obvious to me that the iPad (and iPhone) are for casual use or travel. It may be productive to review sales figures, or tweak the wording in the presentation, while on the plane. Anything more requires a keyboard in my opinion."

You can easily pair a wireless keyboard to an iPad. This is how I got my parents to replace their computer with an iPad, and further lower my family tech support costs.

That's what inspired this post:


and the subsequent discussion here (can't find it right now)

Your point on lower tech support costs stands, though :)

Yeah I remember that post and it definitely doesn't apply for my family at large. The majority of them are happy as luddites. They are happy to be in their locked down and limited Apple post computer device that "just works".

Hey! Don't be down on your family...

My dad is utterly overwhelmed by a computer with a mouse and keyboard. We could never email pics of his grand kids and family events because even something like the gmail login page (that users like you and me take totally for granted) was too much for him.

He'd fish out his login details from the desk drawer, hunt and peck them in and finally gain access (sometimes) only to learn that there is no new email waiting for him. At which point he'd throw the desk upside down and start kicking the computer to shit.

Contrast that with simply tapping the envelope to retrieve email and I say retrieve not check because the badge notifications mean that he never even has to tap the envelope unless there really are emails waiting.

You simply cannot underestimate the value of this for people on that side of the digital divide.

He now has a Facebook account, he messages us from that and uses regular email, he has access to family pictures, groups he shares interests with and generally does have an authentic slice of the digital age of his very own that he greatly enjoys.

Even hunt and peck typing is a more fluent thing on a touch screen... Who'd a thunk it?

My whole point is this: horses for courses.

You and I have no frame with which to reference the massive value of a 'Luddite' device just as my dad has no way of understanding the type of functionality guys and girls like us require.

It sounds like we both agree on post-PC devices for non-techies.

As for my family, a number of them, like my sister, proudly exclaim that they are luddites, and they like wearing it stubbornly like some strange badge of honor.

I don't think the dichotomy is as extreme as you make it out to be. What will likely happen, and what is already happening in Apple world, is a merging of elements between the pointer model and the touch model. A touch-oriented UI can work just fine with a touch pad, as OS X Lion hints at. Meanwhile, you can buy a key board for your tablet, and for typing up documents while out and about, that works just fine.

What is really likely to go the way of the dodo, at least in the office productivity area, are mice. There is pretty much no good reason for mouse-oriented UI's these days.

>no good reason for mouse UIs

As someone who frequently uses applications like Illustrator, Autocad, Sketchup, etc. I'd be very interested to hear how you'd qualify that statement.

On the lock screen you can hit any key and the image will slide up and reveal the log in dialog. I do agree though, the issue that Windows 8 seems to suffer from is it's not that intuitive on a desktop. My biggest issue is there seems to be no indication of the hot corners when you first begin to use it, and even when they are activated, they feel finicky (especially the 'recent apps' pane on the left).

Any key on the keyboard but you have to slide up (swipe, basically) with a mouse instead of just clicking? I get it that it makes sense on tablets as a lock screen, but on desktops? Ok, I’m going to call that a bug and ignore it. It’s easy to fix and no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Even with that changed and the hotcorners indicated, the hodgepodge stays, though. The hotcorners are only the tip of the iceberg, what you notice immediately. (Or, rather, not at all, like me, who figured out to use the Windows key pretty quickly – but still after some confusion – but didn’t find the hotcorners for a long time after that. I can totally identify with the guy in the video. I wasn’t quite as helpless, but close and I’m young and grew up with that stuff.)

> Any key on the keyboard but you have to slide up (swipe, basically) with a mouse instead of just clicking?

You can also scroll the mousewheel.

When testing with a friend, we had to Google up a video after spending like half an hour trying to find a way to shut down the system. Looks nice, but definitely not intuitive on desktop :(.

I agree - shutting down and quitting a Metro app were the first two things that annoyed me. I shouldn't have to go through 5-6 clicks just to shut down the computer. I thought we had that issue already with Vista, where the default "shut down" option was set to Sleep or something, rather than Shut Down? Microsoft should learn from their mistakes.

Ever hear the "stateful UI is bad; on/off is a state" UI design principle? My Macbook-using friends tell me there's no way to close the lid without suspending it.

There was an influential blog post years ago documenting the 11 or so ways to shutdown Vista. More than likely someone is reciting the "multiple ways bad" mantra.

I'm surprised UI designers let us shut down our computers at all.

> My Macbook-using friends tell me there's no way to close the lid without suspending it.

95% of the time for 99% of users, this is perfectly reasonable behavior - unlike wanting to shut off your computer which is a far more useful use-case. For the small remainder (power users), there's InsomniaX [1].

[1] http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/2389/is-there-any-w...

What even worse: there're tons of tutorials on "how to create a shortcut for shutdown on Windows 8 desktop". It shouldn't be like that in the system that tries to be familiar for users of earlier version.

Did you try pushing the power button on the machine itself?

Hidden gestures everywhere seems to be the biggest problem I have with Windows 8.

I have that problem with my iPhone. "Intuitive" makes me laugh these days, and I'm now scared of Windows 8.

People have been putting together 'cheat sheets' like this one to overcome that problem: http://docs.com/IOLP [.docx]

Having some optional hint or tip mechanism built in for new users would be nice. Maybe not in the style of Clippy from Office but something that would point out all the nice little shortcuts.

If your interface needs a cheat sheet or tip mechanism or animated assistant to explain to the user how it works, it is a failure.

I think this is where Microsoft isn't getting a fair shake. Half of the iPhone features require a gesture. If it wasn't for talking to people and 'cheat sheets' no one would know how to search, kill apps, set the orientation, move apps, uninstall apps, etc.

Clearly Apple traded off a lot of learnability for aesthetics and a pleasant experience after you learn. I see this as very similar.

I agree that Microsoft isn't receiving entirely fair treatment here. As noted in the comments on the link's page, I'm sure a simple tutorial at install will do just fine for many, many typical users.

However, with regard to my personal experience, I picked up the iPhone 4S as my first smart phone. I've never seen an iPhone or iPod touch in action before and this was my first experience with an iOS device. It took me very little time to figure out how to navigate it, close and uninstall apps, etc. I never googled how to do something, and even had fun trying out my new toy.

I think comparing something like the simple iOS and the should-be simple Windows 8 is a very complicated act. The basic nature of a single Home Button and a touch screen simplified my learning of the iPhone. I imagine, without an introductory tutorial, Windows 8, with such complications as an external mouse and full keyboard and no touch-screen monitor, may be a very hectic experience (as seen in the video).

Searching, killing apps, setting orientation, etc, aren't core functionality necessary for using the device.

Win8 is frustrating and I personally don't like its interface but I disagree with calling it a "failure". I did literally drag and randomly click until things happened when I couldn't figure out what to do. However knowledge has to be conveyed somehow. No one can instantly know how to use a device unless told how to, whether by tutorial or by labeled buttons and you can't label gestures. Complex gestures and shortcuts are in no way obvious.

Yes, users have to be "told how" to do things, but what's more reasonable: a clickable menu or button that tells you what it does by having its function literally written on it, or an arcane gesture that you have to discover either by trial and error or by querying external documentation?

OS functions aren't discoverable without external reference materials, applications run in full-screen and offer limited integration with other applications, and multitasking is crippled.

Welcome to DOS.

So Linux CLI is a failure? Even geeks sometimes need the cheat sheet for it.

In terms of being intuitive for a new user? Yes, the Linux CLI is a total failure. Can you imagine sitting an absolute newbie in front of a Linux (or any Unix) TTY and telling them, "Go at it"?

Why yes I can. I remember using a PC for the first time and typing all sorts of things at a prompt trying to work out the range of commands that were available.

The user will likely type "help" first. On Kubuntu I get this:

  username@loclahost:~$ help
  GNU bash, version 4.2.10(1)-release (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu)
  These shell commands are defined internally.  Type `help' to see this list.
  Type `help name' to find out more about the function `name'.
  Use `info bash' to find out more about the shell in general.
  Use `man -k' or `info' to find out more about commands not in this list.

  A star (*) next to a name means that the command is disabled.
  job_spec [&]                                                          history [-c] [-d offset] [n] or history -anrw [filename] or histor>
   (( expression ))                                                      if COMMANDS; then COMMANDS; [ elif COMMANDS; then COMMANDS; ]... [>
   . filename [arguments]                                                jobs [-lnprs] [jobspec ...] or jobs -x command [args]
   :                                                                     kill [-s sigspec | -n signum | -sigspec] pid | jobspec ... or kill>
   [ arg... ]                                                            let arg [arg ...]
   [[ expression ]]                                                      local [option] name[=value] ...
Which is surprisingly helpful and would give you a start at interacting with the computer at least. How far you'd get if you were literally thrown in at the deep-end with this I don't know.

To an inexperienced computer user, that help screen would be beyond incomprehensible.

>To an inexperienced computer user //

Actually I don't think it's about experience, it's about willingness to read and attempt to comprehend a system. If a person doesn't want to try then yes this will be difficult for them; it needs effort.

I did exactly that. It wasn't very helpful. One of the things that would bring shell into the 21st century is a decent discovery mechanism for new users. Learning shell by immersion in the oral history of *nix just isn't a scalable way to teach. No matter how enjoyable.

To be fair, several of your complaints are really polish. This isn't the RTM by any stretch, and from what I understand, the reason for even having the consumer preview is to get feedback like that. Saying it's doomed because of some of these things isn't really fair.

I'm not sure about the mouse-tablet thing, in general, sure. But the specific way you use the lock screen, for example, is likely to get fixed before they release.

(I've been using the Consumer Preview for about a week on my primary machine and I'm pretty happy with it.)

The problem isn't any specific thing. Rather it's the fact that Microsoft is (once again) trying to make a single UI fit both the desktop and tablet use cases. It makes no sense. It's like trying to fit the same set of controls onto a car and a motorcycle.

All of these specific UI issues result from this impedance mismatch between tablet and desktop UIs. So yes, Microsoft may iron out the specific bugs we bring up. It won't matter, though, because UI issues of this nature will crop up at every seam between the desktop and tablet interfaces. What will happen is that Microsoft will patch these piecemeal and we'll end up with layers and layers of band-aids trying to compensate for a fundamentally broken design.

I don’t want to say it’s doomed. Most of the people at Microsoft who decided to go that way are likely cleverer than me. I can only say that I don’t see their plan and I’m not sure whether they can be successful. (And also that I personally don’t like Windows 8 all that much, but that doesn’t say much.)

Swimming against the trends and making something that's the best version of your own vision would qualify for a positive adjective like "brave".

Junking your existing stuff and making your users into involuntary recruits in your drive to hijack what the pundits say is the latest and great thing merits adjectives like "arrogant", "overweening" and "full of hubris".

Apparently you are under the opinion that Microsoft is deleting Windows 7 from everyone's current PCs.

No-one is being forced to upgrade, and security patches for 7 will be coming out for a while yet.

I think the users that don't want Windows 8 will live.

Tablet paradigms leak into mouse and keyboard interfaces

For what it's worth, Kinect for Windows was released on, I think, February 1st. There's some talk that we may see Kinect technology and gesture recognition coming to all laptops within a year or two.

Personally, I've been waiting for the RSI-inducing mouse and keyboard interface to die (or at least be demoted) for a long time now.

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