You're right that this will change Microsoft at a deep level, but I think odds are good that it's a change for the better.
Personally, Sinofsky was one of the biggest reasons I left Microsoft. He was willing to ditch potentially game-changing products/features spanning multiple industries because it didn't align with his idea of software engineering, which was more suited for boxed software like Office than for rapidly deploying services. He didn't/doesn't get services - he's a boxed software guy at his core. All the Office Live stuff happened after he left Office - arguably he should have seen it coming and been ahead of the game while he was running Office.
If Microsoft is as full of smart people as is rumored, Sinofsky is far from the only guy there who disagrees with Ballmer.
If Ballmer fires them and installs yes-men in their place it'll be the end of Microsoft.
Could be hard for someone like that to take advice from engineers below him who have half or less the experience.
But designers tend to drastically underestimate discoverabity, particularly discoverabity by novice users. Many entire software companies exist purely because the market leader's product lacks discoverabity of a feature. Twitter, in some ways, exists because blogging software doesn't make it obvious that you can use their platforms for microblogging.
If you think of usability as a funnel, with discoverabity feeding into learnability feeding into usefulness feedin into ease of use feeding into efficiency feeding into fun, discoverabity is like your home page. It's where you have the biggest drop off of engagement typically, and it's where problems can absolutely make or break you.
Offscreen and corner gestures, while useful and efficient, are often so undiscoverable that they almost exist only for power users. On the lates Build and Analyze, Marco Arment said he has to include a button to show the side navigation on The Magazine because so many people have no idea they can swipe in from the left.
Apple typically gets this better than most companies, and will use a text button instead of a gesture because they know that even if 80% of users discover the gesture, they just can't rely on it for your core interaction. Because the 20% will just walk away and tell all their friends the product is crap.
My prediction is that over-reliance on gestures and hot corners will put a serious damper on Windows 8 and Windows Phone's network effects. It's good design for power users, but it's in no way universal design and for an OS universal design is a must.
I think you either missed "the importance of" or meant "overestimate".
It's that hardware feature that stands for 95% of the usability of the device.
Personally I think the product is incredible in many ways, and overall very overwhelming/impressive relative to my expectations, however to me it has two very core faults:
1. Performance. Many actions are perfectly fine, however v things like videos can be choppy, and even reading a Kindle book is choppy.
2. DPI of the screen. It's a nice screen, and the responsiveness even beats the iPad (incredibly), though after using new high-res displays, the Surface screen looks pixelated (primarily when rendering text).
A friend with $500-600 comes to you and asks what tablet he should get. Can you recommend a surface over the latest iPad? We can't say "oh, give it time, the ecosystem will get better, hardware will improve" -- your friend needs something today. (That's why it's underwhelming to me. It isn't a good deal against its competitors.)
I don't think there's an obvious answer to which tablet provides more value - it's very context-specific.
In the same way, if someone wants a top of the line tablet, it just seems obvious it's an iPad. That's what almost anyone with a tablet is going to have. It's just going to fit the expectation of what a tablet is for a naive user. Surface doesn't. Just like Linux on a desktop may be better in your context-specific suggestion, but it isn't what a naive user thinks a computer is.
Unless the friend also wants to pay me regularly to teach or tech support their computing device, in which case I might go outside the expected zone, but I've yet to find this to be the case.
From the first paragraph of the article:
Prior to its announcement on July 22, 2005, Windows Vista was known by its codename "Longhorn"
edit: ref to wikipedia
edit2: suggestion to parent.
In late 2004 we cancelled the project and scrapped all the code we'd written since 2001. We forked Windows Server 2003, and reworked the specs to get the most bang for the buck on a limited time budget. Compromises like using a search index instead of a relational db filesystem, the sidebar was rewritten for the 3rd time, etc. All in all, it was an ok release considering.
On a side note: Do you think the Wikipedia article is accurate?
I think you just have to read more, for example:
You can't expect to quote one single line out of a whole series of articles and expect to get the whole story.
Both (Longhorn and Workplace) were the culmination of RDBMS hype, where companies left and right tried to solve every problem by using hammer as a tool of choice.
Back to Longhorn, it has been chronically late and finally the project got dumped and rebased upon NT stack. Thus Vista was indeed a rushed attempt of fixing the Longhorn fiasco and after that Win7 was a solution to the Vista fiasco.
Thus from the viewpoint of how bad it could (and indeed should) have been. Both Vista and Win7 were an exceptional success.
Also it made me really appreciate how nimble and agile Microsoft really is.
XP released in 2001; Vista released in 2007, essentially an updated XP with some Aero bells and PMP whistles. That it was only started in 2005 after throwing away the Longhorn fiasco stuff does not make Microsoft "nimble" or "agile" in my opinion.
MS is not agile in the same sense as your YC funded startup is. That would be comparing speedboats to super tankers and in the world of super tankers Microsoft is one of the super tankerest of them all.
Nokia, RIM, Boeing, HP, Yahoo and many others couldn't pull a single "pivot" out of the hat all the while Microsoft keeps on dancing.
They are far from my favorite companies, however Microsoft and IBM prove year by year that elephants can and do dance. And what a gracious waltz that is. For an elephant of course.
Vista was pretty extensively reworked under the hood. It featured UAC, new driver models, a completely reworked network stack, and a new, vastly-improved memory manager among other things.
Vista was, ultimately, far less ambitious than Microsoft had intended for Longhorn -- which is why they essentially scrapped the project and started over in 2004 -- but it was still a quantum leap over XP from a technical perspective.
W7 is essentially a UI-updated and polished Vista (which is why the NT version number only bumped from NT6.0 to NT6.1), but even given the relatively incomplete state of Vista at launch, it was a huge step forward for Windows, and certainly more that "an updated XP with some Aero bells and PMP whistles."
That's a matter of perspective and spin. Vista is what was salvaged from Longhorn. The plans for Longhorn were much more ambitious.
> I think that you are thinking of Windows 7 being rushed, focused, and pragmatic fix to the fiasco that was Vista.
I doubt it, and it seems that cookingrobot knows what he's talking about here a lot more than you do. Windows 7 was the fix to the fix.
That Vista was a fiasco is debatable - the fact that with minor tweaks and smoothing out (Windows 7 is basically Vista Service pack 2) it was a hit suggests that despite the bad press that Vista got initially, it wasn't that bad.
That is very true. Re-reading cookingrobot's original comment I can know see that I misinterpreted his comment. I was thrown by the part where he wrote "don't remember Longhorn?" which made me think he was under the impression that Longhorn was a version of Windows released to consumers.
it seems that cookingrobot knows what he's talking about here a lot more than you do
This seems a bit rude? I can't quite put my finger on the reason why as it is a true statement - cookingrobot does sound like he knows the truth of the matter.
p.s.: your handle made me smile!
They (the consumers) are unintentionally blind to the landscape, this will be new to a ton of people and/or right under their noses for the first time. This is the time.