I don't understand the thinking here: are they abandoning business users?
People use their computers in very different ways, and while a user may have a windows PC at work and an iPad at home, that doesn't mean they want to "do work" on the iPad. In many cases they actually hate the idea.
Secondly, I get the feeling that many windows users are still 100% windows because that's what they know. Microsoft seems insistant on forcing users to re-learn the OS at every release. I can't help but think this is what makes more and more think, "well, if I have to learn a new OS I should try out those apples/Linux that everyone loves to talk about". That can't be good from a Microsoft pov.
If you're a consumer, you use the Metro UI.
If you're a producer, you use the Desktop.
The line between "consumer" and "producer" is so fuzzy that this doesn't sound feasible to me. [For the record, I haven't used Windows 8 yet.]
Both "types" of users—if we assume for argument's sake that such a distinction can even be made—tend to use a number of apps; each of those individual apps falls somewhere on a continuum of consumption vs. production. And even where each app falls on that continuum for that person may vary throughout the day!
I expect there will continue to be tablets — and they should have tablet UIs — and there will continue to be "desktops" — and they should have desktop UIs. They should be made similar in aspects where it makes sense, kept different in those aspects where it doesn't, and there should definitely be many apps that run on both (with appropriately varying UIs depending on platform) and which constantly sync so that the users' production and consumption can flow between them as desired.
If Microsoft pulls off a single system (even with two modes) that can transition without confusion and frustration between the two and that doesn't heavily compromise either one, then they'll have a very unique offering. But I don't think it's clear that such a goal is even achievable.
> If you're a consumer, you use the Metro UI. \ If you're a producer, you use the Desktop.
The problem with this is that the "new" desktop is fundamentally different from the old one. It's not as simple as saying "oh, just use the desktop".
> IMO, they are insistent on improving their products.
I wouldn't consider presenting users with a puzzle to be an improvement. I can pick up my iPad and instantly figure it out. I can pick up a MacBook Air with iOS-like features and instantly understand how they work. I was stunned at how much effort was required to learn Windows 8. Absolutely stunned. How exactly is that an improvement?
By the same token, I can pick up a Windows Phone 7 device and instantly understand how to use it - but Windows 8 still somehow turned out to be a confusing mess with a mouse/keyboard. Even on a touchscreen device - it's not completely clear how things work. It was as confusing to use as a Blackberry Playbook.
> The problem with this is that the "new" desktop is fundamentally different from the old one.
If you can't figure out how to use the desktop without the start button (by going to the left-right sides with a mouse movement that is even easier to do), then you really should be using the Metro UI instead, because it was made exactly for you.
> I can pick up my iPad and instantly figure it out.
1. When I got my iPad it enraged me to learn/figure-out that I had to install iTunes and connect the two.
2. You're now comparing the touch based iPad UI with mouse/keyboard driven Windows 8 Desktop UI.
1. You don't need a compute to use an iPad anymore.
2. It doesn't matter if it's apples-to-oranges as far as touch vs. mouse/keyboard - the key issue here is how understandable the UI is. Windows 7, if you know how to use a mouse and a keyboard, is completely understandable. Windows 8 makes absolutely no sense.
From what I can tell everyone is going to have to use the Metro UI because it has replaced the Start menu as the built-in launcher. There is also a new menu on the right side of the screen that let's you access search and settings among other things. So even producers must use some of the Metro UI on a daily basis.
I predict we will see a number of utilities emerge in the next few months to emulate the Start menu or otherwise provide alternatives to the Metro UI for said tasks.
You're not asking non-power users how they feel, are you?
2000 to XP was a big change. So much so that many people reverted to "Classic" mode as soon as they could do so.
XP to Vista wasn't even accepted by most users. I have no idea how many old XP users went to OSX like I did, but I would posit that the number is not zero.
Vista/XP to 7 was also a decent sized change, as I learn anytime I've attempted to verbally explain where a particular setting is and realize that it could be called anything. Unlike Vista, this has nothing to do with the quality of the OS, as Windows 7 is very good. However I can't help thinking that at least some users have gone OSX from this change as well.
> 2000 to XP was a big change. So much so that many people reverted to "Classic" mode as soon as they could do so.
"Classic" mode only changed the way the OS looked. It had nothing to do with the functionality, and certainly didn't change whether the user had to "re-learn" the OS.
> XP to Vista wasn't even accepted by most users.
How did users have to "re-learn", though? Vista was certainly not adopted at the rate that Microsoft had hoped, but whether users accept the product is a different question from whether they have to "re-learn the OS".
> Vista/XP to 7 was also a decent sized change, as I learn anytime I've attempted to verbally explain where a particular setting is and realize that it could be called anything.
They did move some settings (can't recall if this was actually Vista or 7). I would hardly say that this required re-learning the OS, though. I will admit that one of the first things I always do is switch the Control Panel to "Large Icons" rather than "Category".
Disclaimer: former MCSE who quit administering windows altogether.
A minor aesthetic change which requires a minor intuitive leap for the power user is a major change for most home users. Sure, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car, but thats minor. Except that now the user has to learn how to drive on the other side of the road.
I loaded up windows 7 to look. Where's add/remove software? Wait, that changed and I need to set the control panel to classic to see it. Uh, where's classic mode at. Turns out you select the drop down box to Large/Small Icons for it to change the icon selection entirely. What? I spent a while longer searching for where to install OS components (IIS, etc). Minor irritants to me. Major headaches for my Father, Sister, Brother, etc. Even moreso when they call the family tech who can't figure what the hell they're talking about.
I change to the interface IS a change to the OS as far as all by %1 of users are concerned.
When you click Start and see a textbox which is labeled search, do you not think, what if I type "add remove". Google has taught me this, so when I see search I expect to enter keywords or search criteria and that expected results are returned.
Guess what it works.
Classic what? Click what? Where's what?
Just search for it.
Implying the rest just seems archaic, especially from a user perspective.
I'm one of those people. I switched to OS X somewhere around XP SP3. Have never used Vista on any of my own machines, and only run Win7 on a VM to get access to IE 8 and 9.
Search on Windows is horribly broken. One of the first "shortcuts" I learned on OS X was Cmd+Space and typing out the application I wanted to run. Spotlight immediately brought up what I wanted. Windows never did that for me, or spent 45 seconds or more with a spinning hourglass to return a document that happened to be named similar to a program I wanted. I don't care if it works better now, they've set a precedent in my mind that it is broken, because it was broken for the ~15 years I used their OSes.
I agree that when you're very familiar with the control panel, it's frustrating to have to adapt to the non-classic categorised view. However there are clear advantages to some changes, and I would argue that the Windows control panel is more usable now than it has been in the past. The large directory of icons with no clear grouping by function is a user interface nightmare, and it's only because we're familiar with it that we can navigate it.
And for reference, if you go to the control panel in Windows 7, "Uninstall a program" is right there on the bottom left. If you want to install a program (like IIS), clicking "Programs" takes you to a convenient menu that lets you "Turn Windows features on or off".
It's not quite how it was, but it's actually more intuitive. I'd imagine that you learned the old way of doing it by trial and error. The new system makes that process easier.
You're advocating the retardation of progress for the sake of familiarity, which has never worked for any company at any point in history, and I fail to see why Microsoft would willingly fall into that trap.
You innovate or you die, and Microsoft is dying. The iPad is killing them. Maybe not quickly and obviously, but it will end Microsoft's dominance in less than a decade.
The change in taskbar buttons was absolutely massive. Never make the mistake of confusing your ability to learn interfaces with what the general consumer knows. The general consumer doesn't find computers intuitive -- full stop. Everything they know is learned; everything.
Getting rid of the labels was, I think, a change of minimal impact. I agree that grouping them was a pretty significant change, though, so that's a good example.
I don't think any of the examples so far justify the claim that users have to "re-learn the OS" every version, though. It's a sensationalist claim with pretty much no backing. Most of the changes have been very incremental. Users have moved straight from XP to Win 7 in droves, and few people have complained about having to "re-learn the OS", despite it being a jump of not just one by two major versions.
I think you are speaking from the position of a person who understands metaphors such as the task bar. Most users do not.
Users only understand the most primitive of abstractions; they understand that a button is a button, but what the button does is only learned from experience (good labels help, of course). The change to the grouping-based icons on the taskbar absolutely forced users to relearn.
See to you the fact that the buttons are in the same place as the old ones is an indicator that they have similar functionality; the typical user does not make these connections at all. They only know that the old task buttons are gone, and replaced with something they don't know how to use (yet).
Now the level of change for this is much smaller than some other changes. Most users figured it out, many on their own (but many did not). I only used this example to demonstrate how things that are obvious and simple to you are massive barriers to common consumers.
There's a large area between "power user" and "computer illiterate". I have no doubt that there were some users who were so confused by the taskbar grouping that they never learned the new behavior, but I cannot believe that this was a common response. (Wouldn't those people actually return their PCs to the store?)
Sorry, but just I can't accept that the vast majority of computer users are morons who can't understand it at all when interfaces change and have to start at square one every time. This is too cynical.
The taskbar grouping was not that big of a change. Users look for icons in the taskbar, so dropping the labels was pretty minor. The grouping behavior itself was quite discoverable. If you ask an XP user who's just switched to Win7 to open a couple of word documents, and a web browser, and a few more things (enough to trigger grouping), and then ask them to go back to the word document, they'll be able to do it. They'll look in the task bar, click on the icon for Word, and then when the window thumbnails pop up, they's say "what's this?" and then click on one of the thumbnails. Functionality discovered. Yes, there's some initial confusion, but I'd hardly call it a "re-learning" of the entire OS.
I also can't believe that Microsoft would have added the grouping if focus groups showed that average users were so lost that it was like using a new OS. There's not enough value added by grouping to ship it if it significantly hurt typical users' experiences.
No, users look for documents and text labels in the taskbar, not icons. At least most of the users I've been familiar with. Stacking loses n00bs altogether and slows down "power switchers" (I won't call them "power users"; they aren't interested in the machine/OS itself, but they have more than one doc open and for reference/cut-n-paste, etc.). XP needed a preference setting to get back to something useful; 7 won't allow it at all. And don't try to tell anybody that thumbnails of sustantially-similar looking text documents are a substitute for taskbar labels.
> No, users look for documents and text labels in the taskbar, not icons
I think you're wrong. Before the grouping was added, I watched people click through half a dozen different windows trying to find their document. The labels were never useful once you had multiple documents, because they got truncated so short.
Moreover, I don't believe that the entire UI world just randomly decided to add icons to everything. It seems more likely that all indications are that people use the icons.
> 7 won't allow it at all.
I don't know what you're talking about. The "never combine" setting is still there.
> And don't try to tell anybody that thumbnails of sustantially-similar looking text documents are a substitute for taskbar labels.
Actually, they're much more useful, because the thumbnail often reveals a lot about the document, and also because the title is right above the thumbnail.
> I can't accept that the vast majority of computer users are morons who can't understand it at all when interfaces change and have to start at square one every time.
You're right, that rather hyperbolic interpretation of what's being described isn't quite true.
But it sounds like those kinds of users are quite a bit more common than you realize. And when it comes to driving the PC market, those users are powerful. The reason why most companies in my industry are still standardized on XP is precisely because there are a lot of people like that, and the potential benefits of switching to Windows 7 are minuscule compared to the productivity (read: $$$$) losses that would result from getting these users back up to speed on the new OS.
The hyperbole is not mine. I simply rephrased what MatthewPhilips said.
> See to you the fact that the buttons are in the same place as the old ones is an indicator that they have similar functionality; the typical user does not make these connections at all. They only know that the old task buttons are gone, and replaced with something they don't know how to use (yet).
>Sorry, but just I can't accept that the vast majority of computer users are morons who can't understand it at all when interfaces change and have to start at square one every time.
You're right, they tend not to change. Hence, Windows XP.
Your company's problem isn't that people will use XP forever, its that when they do buy a new computer, they may not buy a Windows PC, since they understand that they have nothing to relate to from Windows XP.
Are you under the impression that Apple (or Ubuntu or whatever) generally changes their interfaces less that Microsoft? I'm not clear how Microsoft's changes are inherently an issue while, say, Apple's are not. Or are you of the opinion that no one would ever choose Windows except for the sake of familiarity (which if true would mean Windows is doomed anyway).
My point (which I stand by) is that normal users struggle with small changes that power users quickly work around / accept. Being the existing way that (most) people "get things done", Microsoft has an obvious advantage. But as the changes grow, and obviously Windows 8 is a massive one, the incentive to stick with what you know shrinks; it is no longer what you know.
Really from an interface perspective Windows 8 is a completely new beast. The only advantage you have is that you still have Word. Otherwise you'd be at major risk of losing higher end customers to Apple, but you're probably still at risk of losing customers to the iPad on the lower end.
Honestly, can you explain why Microsoft chose to all but abandon the desktop market? The only explanation that makes sense to me is infighting; the Windows division successfully killed the courier and got to be the ones that made the tablet, and it made sense (to them) to not break the team into 2 separate groups (as is more logical) so they simply picked what seemed like a more future-proof bet.
> My point (which I stand by) is that normal users struggle with small changes that power users quickly work around / accept.
Absolutely. I think we just disagree on how catastrophic that is. I think most Windows XP users would find that Windows 7 is much less of a change than OS X Lion.
Windows 8 is a different beast altogether and it is indeed a huge bet.
> Honestly, can you explain why Microsoft chose to all but abandon the desktop market? The only explanation that makes sense to me is infighting; the Windows division successfully killed the courier and got to be the ones that made the tablet, and it made sense (to them) to not break the team into 2 separate groups (as is more logical) so they simply picked what seemed like a more future-proof bet.
[What's below are purely my thoughts and guesses. I have zero actual insight into the Windows team or its non-public history or plans.]
I don't think infighting is a factor. I think a fairly unified vision is driving Windows 8. But I personally think that it's for the best that Courier was killed off. After using modern tablets, it becomes obvious that two smaller screens is simply less compelling. It's worse for media consumption, and it is also more awkward to use when not placed on a flat surface. Gate's original vision for tablet computing was close to what users want. However, touch first and pen second is what was missing (and obviously users will give up the pen entirely if they have to). Of course shoehorning the desktop OS onto tablets was not the right approach, any more than it was the right approach for phones.
I also don't believe that Microsoft is abandoning the desktop market. They've got a different vision for it now, though. The Metro world is much different from Windows 7, but it's not worse. I would say that in many ways it is much better. I even think that Metro with a mouse and keyboard will be an improvement over Windows 7. What's jarring is the marriage between the legacy desktop and the modern style. I think the legacy desktop is intended to become less and less important over time, though, and eventually typical users will never see it at all (though I could be wrong). At that point, the only interface they will use will be Metro, and the transitions to and from the legacy desktop will be gone. I expect that the various other differences will eventually either become moot as people adjust or they will be addressed in a future release.
I disagree that splitting the team into separate groups would be more logical. There's no reason that a compelling tablet OS can't be a compelling desktop OS. It does require changing some interaction paradigms, though.
In my opinion (I support Macs, PCs, iOS devices, etc.), it's especially hard to intuitively grasp a metaphor from taskbar buttons if, as is the case in Windows, the taskbar buttons are so tiny and poorly-designed that it's nearly impossible for people with average vision to discern what the icon is supposed to be.
The question at hand seems less about how quickly or readily people can adopt Metro than how often they need to leave it. It seems the context switch is actually the hard bit. Metro Office will go a long way to fixing this.
I would have to agree that you are looking at this as a power user, rather than a regular user. And, from that perspective, I would agree that the changes are rather minimal and intuitive between recent versions.
However, for older folks, this view is not typically the norm.
I do computer repair and routinely listen to gripes about changes in Vista/7.
For instance, I often hear complaints about things like changing the theme/style settings, searching, modifying network interfaces/settings, or changes to how the control panel works.
These are often, aside from theme/network settings, an improvement, minimal, and intuitive changes IMHO.
But, to someone who is barely computer literate, even "little" things like that can represent a big change and can be very confusing.
And, of course, the change from Win7 et all -> Win8 is massive, even to me...
I don't think that these changes actually require re-learning the OS, though. They do require some learning, but "re-learning the OS" implies a much bigger learning curve than most people actually faced with the changes in the past. Yes, some people are greatly confused when, say, the control panel changes. But those people were already confused by the control panel. It's not as if these people were ultra-competent until the category view was added.
I actually agree that the control panel change is annoying, though. I think it was a bad change, because it's not merely different. I think it's actually less usable.
And yes, the change from Win7 to Win8 is massive. Not a lot of people would dispute that.
Literally having to re-learn the OS is almost certainly an over-statement with pre-win8 versions, as you are correct base functionality in previous versions is in many ways consistent.
However, how I interpret that statement is that it is ill-advised to over-estimate the general computer user's ability to adapt to changes, or the way 'little' changes end up disrupting the way they interact with the OS.
I might be interpreting OP's statement with my own bias, or reading into it too much, and we could probably go back and forth on semantics all day.
Regarding the control panel, I think the search functionality, which again a lot of non-techies may not even realize is an option, is the main redeeming quality and makes it much less aggravating to work with.
I took the statement about re-learning the OS to imply that every Windows release has had a massive change in interaction, similar to Windows 8. Based on run4yourlives's later reply, my interpretation seems correct.
I agree that it is dangerous to overestimate the general user's ability to adapt to changes. Microsoft does a lot of focus groups for this very reason. I don't think that Microsoft can cripple itself by never changing the interface, though. Maintaining an identical interface might work for a while, but eventually competitors who weren't afraid to innovate on the UI would win.
I agree about the control panel as well. Search fixes a lot of the issues. I'm glad Windows 8 has kept search working (and arguably improved it).
What do you see as the changes that forced the user to "re-learn the OS"?