Windows Blue–A Chink Of Light

Following on from my previous post about my fears that Windows Blue was actually not going to undo some of the terrible things Microsoft had done to its loyal desktop users, it now transpires that they have actually listened to their customers and senior management have finally sent down an edict to the Windows developers that the user SHOULD be able to bypass the start screen and boot straight into the desktop like Windows 7 if they want. 

I know as a developer myself that this will have annoyed those developers that have put hundreds maybe thousands of hours of their lives into creating the new Start Screen and the Live Tiles technology.  Allowing the customer to bypass that and ignore it completely would bug me if I had spent chunks of my life inventing that, but the bigger picture is that the customer IS actually right and they DON’T want the METRO User Interface shoved down their throats, particularly if they are using a PC that uses a mouse and a keyboard for productive work. To me once you start using your Metro full screen applications, you can’t see the live tiles anyway, so it was a bit pointless at best unless you take the view that you were just going to turn on your tablet and just stare at the live tiles all day???

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As you can see above I very rarely look at my Live Tiles as I don’t have any apps in view that present Live Tiles because I am a desktop user and just never want to see it, to me it’s just a mess (I don’t know why PHP is in amongst my games??? like I really care anyway!!).

Given that Microsoft appear to have seen sense (I say “appear” because this is all based on a confirmation from an MS insider that Mary Jo Foley deals with and isn’t yet official public Microsoft policy):

http://www.zdnet.com/microsofts-windows-8-plan-blue-bring-back-the-start-button-boot-to-desktop-7000014075/

But if it is true and I am pretty sure it is ….

HURRAH!

The move to allow users to put back the Start button (we’re still not sure if they are actually going to put the Start Menu back yet), but I think they should, as that is what makes existing users feel so bad about Windows 8, it’s that jarring experience going between the desktop and the new start screen, it’s just horrible I hate it and no matter how fond of live tiles you are, this constant switching of modes between desktop and Metro is just plain nasty

What MS seemed to be ignoring and a lot of the commenters who are in favour of the new UI miss, is that the new UI is great if you’re using Windows 8 on a tablet or mobile device where you are not doing anything productive because your using the very blunt (in all senses of the word) tool of your finger.

Yes on a device that the finger is your main input device and because it has no keyboard and mouse is the ONLY possible device that makes sense, then yes Metro works and is a sensible and logical way to interact with a computer.

Where MS are completely wrong is trying to apply that interface to people like me who want to be using desktop computers for years to come and who will NEVER EVER want to poke about with our fingers. Poking about with my finger, writing with a pen or even talking to my PC are just not as efficient as using a keyboard and a mouse.

I can type much faster than I can write with a pen and when I am thinking what to say, the keyboard is more efficient. That’s because when trying to talk to my computer and apply my constant corrections as I rethink what I am about to type, takes too long using verbal commands.

(Believe me I have used “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and although when I think a sentence and get it perfectly right [and I have spent hours training it], the speaking is faster than typing.  However when you take out the time correcting my work it’s not, as the commands to re-edit my text are much slower than using the keyboard).  So again it’s a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Sure you can use all sorts of clever people to come up with neat ways of achieving what you do with a keyboard and a mouse with your finger, but at best it’s forcing a cack handed technique one me that is just longer winded and less efficient and just annoys the hell out of me because it’s slowing me down. 

Which is why most of us non trendy people who don’t use tablets to do real work on their computers, can see Microsoft forcing a wholly inappropriate interface on us and damaging our future productivity when they finally phase out the desktop chasing Apple for iPad customers who are a completely different demographic to their core Windows user.

That’s why I keep suggesting here in my blog and on the various blogs and forums like Paul Thurrot’s Supersite For Windows and Mary Jo Foley’s blog at ZDNet and others, that what Microsoft need to do is realise that trying to force these two mutually exclusive interfaces into one O/S is wrong.

On tablets and phones and other mobile touch centric devices Metro is great. I have a Windows 8 tablet and when I just want to read on the sofa or in bed, Metro works like a charm and I think it’s as good if not better than the alternatives from Apple or Google, same on my HTC 8X I love it there, it makes sense it works with my stubby pointing device.

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(you can see why I don’t want to use touch on my twin 24” monitors as I have greasy fingers)!

So have Metro on Windows RT devices running on ARM chips and get great battery life and accept that Metro Apps are the way to go in that environment.  On my tablet I never go anywhere near the desktop EVER. It just doesn’t work with my finger because it was designed to work with very accurate mice pointers and so it should stay.

Don’t try and make the desktop work with a finger, you are undoing 30 years of evolution of the desktop environment that is pretty damn efficient and is in no need of change in that direction.  I am sure there are other innovations that the desktop could embrace but using your finger isn’t one of them.

I think if Intel can produce devices that have ARM like performance and very low power consumption and that can lead to the creation of tablet type devices that cost £150 to £200 in price, the reason to buy iPads or Android tablets would become less of an issue. 

Most Windows users would probably buy them as a companion device to their desktop PC (I know I would) and the OEMs and Microsoft should distinguish them from Windows PCs and sell them as the Windows flavoured tablet from Microsoft that CAN’T run Windows desktop applications, but embraces this key new tablet interface that runs Modern UI applications. 

The thing that would also sell this to a lot of users is the ability to print to your printer like a PC, which is an issue for Android tablets where printing is not baked in and you have to buy third party apps that are patchy at best.

If they do that I can see both sides of Windows flourish again and they would keep their existing productivity users (mainly in businesses) happy and the new market of tablet users would have an alternative to Apple or Android that brings them a more familiar Windows style experience that is tuned for a touch device.

So if they have seen sense and taken the pragmatic decision to allow us desktop users to turn Metro Off officially and resurrect the start menu and booting to the desktop and thus avoiding the irrelevant (to us at least) Start Screen, I for one applaud them for taking that decision and listening at last to their loyal users.  It may just save Microsoft in the long run as I can’t imagine where they were headed if they absolutely stuck to the course they were on.

Siv

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