Was Windows 8 a Mistake? Microsoft Seems to Think So

Microsoft showed off the future of Windows this week at its 2014 Build developer conference, and it looks pretty retro. In fact, it looks a lot like Windows 7.

During a tease of some possible new features in a future update, Microsoft’s executive vice-president of operating systems Terry Myerson revealed a tool that users will recognize from previous versions of Windows: a Start menu. He also showed that users would soon be able to run Modern — aka “Metro” — apps (those apps you buy in the Windows Store with touch-oriented full-screen interfaces) within individual windows on the desktop.

In other words, it’s exactly how Windows used to work.

“Honestly I’m not really surprised,” said one Build attendee, a developer from a major software company who didn’t want to be named. “The new UI hadn’t really caught on. There was a lot of user backlash. And let’s be honest: Metro apps aren’t the biggest draw.”

Microsoft was going in this direction already. The latest Windows 8.1 Update reasserts some of the old-school desktop tools, such as the Windows taskbar, as well as buttons for close and minimize, which will now appear in Modern apps.

A new Start menu, along with windows for Modern apps, takes the Windows 8 retrograde to another level.It’s tantamount to an admission from Microsoft that the approach it took with Windows 8 was a mistake; that tiled, touch-first interfaces simply don’t work very well on traditional PCs like laptops.

That wasn’t the party line when Microsoft debuted Windows 8 in the fall of 2012. At the time, the design philosophy implied desktop tools like the Start menu and taskbar were antiquated in an ever-connected world. And signposts such as permanent icons for power and search were simply unnecessary — just noisy “chrome” that distracts you from whatever you happen to be doing.

That’s dead wrong, according to user-experience designer Jesse James Garrett, chief creative officer of Adaptive Path, a design consulting firm. Garrett believes the whole approach of Windows 8 was broken from the start.

“It was just too different,” he said. “I think they made a lot of decisions that make complete sense if you’re bringing a completely new tablet OS to market. But the PC experience is loaded with expectations that go back decades. That was completely up-ended by what they put in front of people.”

Killing the Start menu is probably the most revealing example of why Microsoft’s approach irritated users. In Windows 8, the Start screen was intended to be a supercharged version of Start menu. Adapting it for touch, with smart, visual notifications in the form of live tiles, seemed like an idea that couldn’t lose.

“The [Start menu] was a touchstone, an anchor you could always come back to,” Garrett said. “The Start screen isn’t an obvious analog to the Start menu. It’s visually so complex that people get lost. Without the anchor, it creates friction for users.”

Microsoft appears to have seen the error it made in merging a touch experience with a mouse-and-keyboard machine. It began to reverse course in Windows 8.1, bringing back the Start button (although it only served to return to the Start screen) and giving users the option to boot to the desktop.With the 8.1 Update and the future changes Myerson showed, Microsoft is separating its conjoined OS twins even further. Windows, as a desktop interface, will be more or less back to normal (tablets will remain Modern-first).

“I think the initial idea to combine desktop and tablet was a mistake because it assumed that tablets would be the next evolution of the desktop,” said Coty Beasley, a senior user-experience designer with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. “That idea certainly didn’t take hold in the way Microsoft was expecting.”

Source : Mashable

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Posted in Tech News
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