I recently read an article at FastCompany. It broke the ice for me in a way. I am really intrigued as to why this new iteration to an age old operating system from Redmond has turned out to be a complete dud. It’s a case study, much like the Korean Plastic Giant is for me. The only difference being that in spite of selling completely trashy cheap plastic phones in the name of affordable handsets, they have become world leaders.
Back to Windows, here’s my take on the OS…
Playing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Everyday scenario: My Windows 8 PC boots up in Metro UI. I want to check some file stored on my HDD, switch to Windows UI. Need to see the XBOX Gaming app to check if the game downloaded, go to Metro UI. What about my System Updates? Switch back to Windows UI. Need to check some appointments in the calendar app, go back to Metro UI. Where’s my music? Go back to Windows UI….on and on…
In almost 5 minutes, I switch from Metro UI to the “normal” Windows desktop UI at least 20 times. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Undoubtedly this is the only OS that suffers from a split personality disorder. Look at the omnipresent Linux (in particularly any form, Android or Jolla), or Apple’s OS X, or heck even the newly born Google Chrome OS…they all have one, JUST ONE UI.
Then the fundamental question is, why two UIs in one OS? Does that enhance my user experience? No. Does it ease my daily activities? No. Does it make me angry and confuse the hell out of me. YES!
If Microsoft wanted to really “upgrade” their OS, they should have stuck to the “normal” desktop Windows UI, and made finer performance enhancements instead of “adding” another skin on top of the familiar desktop OS.
They could have made the OS backward compatible, that is, to make it run on older hardware. They could have added the finer elements of social networking from Mac OS and their very own Windows Phone. In short, they could and should have simplified the user experience, instead of making turning it into one mess of an OS.
Metro Modern UI
When Microsoft showed the world that a phone OS doesn’t need to look like iPhone’s iOS, I was floored. Initially called Metro UI, it was one super-fast operating system that even looked good. Then ‘Metro’ ran into some legal trouble and was quickly and aptly named Modern UI. Sure it’s snappy and cleaner compared to that the age old clunky desktop. Information is available at a glance, gestures ease user experience, and the added advantage? It looks great!
But the transition from traditional desktop UI to this new Modern UI is incomplete. More than half the tasks still require me to look away from this new interface. So what’s the point in having something I can’t use?
Face-lift or face-palm?
No one knows what Microsoft was thinking when it jumped, money tightly clenched in fists, for this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. I guess they wanted to offer a seamless experience throughout all their products, phones, tablets and desktops. But here’s the real question, was it necessary? Would someone NOT buy a PC because it looks and works different from their phone’s OS? Hell no! Some people might not even have a smart phone to match it with their desktop at all!
This feat has proved to be far more expensive than Microsoft’s estimate.
To begin with, there is the R&D cost. I ran into a cul-de-sac trying to dig out the precise number. But let’s assume it wasn’t anything less than a few millions. Next, the desktop sales “plummeted” by 14% this year, Microsoft being partially responsible.
And then there’s the $900 million debacle from the Surface tablet sales that was the real eye opener for the Redmond giant. As if early reports of people not taking well to your new OS weren’t enough, Microsoft happily went ahead and pumped in more money in developing the Surface tablet. Only when people showed absolutely no love to the new tablet, Microsoft realised it was on the wrong road all this while. But the loss wasn’t just in cash. Microsoft also lost an evangelist, a loyal friend and CEO of the last 13 years as a dominos effect, Steve Ballmer.
Days of the future past
At the core of all this is an operating system that people are so clearly averse to. So when the numbers dwindled and the scenario looked bleak, Microsoft brought back the Start button with the 8.1 update. And now there are rumours that Windows 9 will do away with the Modern UI altogether (on phones at least). Of course there is no way to confirm this, but if it turns out to be true, Microsoft is going to be the butt of all Tech-jokes in no time.
But it will also teach them a lesson they won’t forget. In this rapidly developing imperfect world, people are looking for perfection. Not demented offsprings suffering from multiple personality disorders. And now doing away with it only shows that the ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ approach was a mistake.