Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

Windows 8: Trying to be Everything to Everyone?

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Last night, I finally downloaded and checked out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a virtual machine. I’ve been interested to see where Microsoft’s heading with Metro UI integration and was pretty pumped to grease the wheels.

I wasn’t irrecoverably disappointed, but I wasn’t blown out of the water.

The experience between a desktop and a tablet isn’t the same, and I think Windows 8 is trying to be everything to every device. It might have partially been the performance of the virtual machine I was running, but some of the gestures (dragging down from the top of the screen, exiting Metro apps, etc.) just weren’t intuitive with a mouse and keyboard. And yeah, you can switch back to Windows Explorer, but switching between two completely different modes shouldn’t even be necessary.

Much more conducive for touch instead of click.

I guess this comes down to the philosophy of differences in hardware – I’m not sold on the model of having one operating system for desktop and tablet. This is where I think Apple got it right with the breakdown between iOS and OS X. It’s a seamless enough experience, but they’re also different enough. And yes, the gap between those differences eventually needs to narrow, but the release cycle is doing that incrementally, not all at once.

That said, I’m excited about the potential for Windows 8 on a tablet. I’ve never used it on a tablet yet, but I can see things making a lot more sense in that form factor. I like Metro UI and I like Microsoft’s intentions, I just think they need to draw the line between desktop and tablet a little clearer.

Thoughts? Have you used Windows 8 on a tablet before?

Behind Closed Windows

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Windows 8 Start Menu

At AllThingsD’s D9 last week, Microsoft showed off a preview of Windows 8. Wow. It’s obviously a radical departure from previous versions of Windows, and is somewhat similar to what Mac OS X was to Mac OS 9. The UI is moving towards Windows Phone’s Metro UI, although the revealed screenshots of the new Start menu look more like a different implementation of Windows Media Center than an actual operating system.¬†On the whole, I like where Microsoft’s heading. I’ve always been a fan of Metro, and even though it gives off a little bit of a bare, unfinished look, the emotional response of cleanliness is good.

I’m slightly concerned that this might be too big of a change, though.

I don’t want it to be. I really don’t.

But it all comes down to the ability for developers to adapt. And if such a heavy emphasis is being placed on touch, hardware has to be both ready to support Windows 8 and widespread enough to make it worth the investment. That brings us to the classic Apple argument – it may be a bit stale by now, but it’s true: they control their own hardware. If they want to migrate OS X over to a touch interface, it’s much easier than Microsoft having to wait around on manufacturers to catch up. Yes, there’s a legacy mode to run apps Windows 7-style, but the end goal shouldn’t have to be dependably held up by backwards compatibility that’s used more than the new features. However, I suppose the argument could be made that by working closely with OEMs, revealing early (as they did), and forcibly delivering by a certain date, the OEMs will be forced to keep up.

I certainly hope that’s the case.

Microsoft: What’s in Store?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

I stopped into the brand-new Microsoft Store in Atlanta on opening day last Friday. On the whole, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of unifying hardware with Windows, but I wasn’t totally sold on the execution.

What could have been better

Remind you of anything?

Boy, were they trying hard. Even down to individual elements, design inspiration from Apple was very obvious. Pricetags next to each machine looked very similar to the inclined plane-esque placards that used to grace the Apple Store (before the iPads), and the screens wrapping around the wall were probably the exact same dimensions as their upstairs counterpart. I could go on about the similarities – everywhere you look, the physical design screams Cupertino.

The music inside was also a little too loud; I couldn’t hear much outside of the blasting of Ke$ha. Hopefully that was just a little first-day overzealousness, but that extended past the decor. The employees were really aggressive in approaching people; walking in felt like being in a gauntlet of being asked how I’m doing, if I needed any help, or if I knew that “this computer is touchscreen!”. At the Apple Store, the employees are bombarded by the customers, but at the Microsoft Store, the customers are bombarded by the employees.

What they got right

Even if the idea was far from original, there’s an interesting twist on the wraparound wall displays: they’re actual screens, not just sheets advertising products. Information about different products is rotating marquee-style, and even cooler, Xboxes are connected in certain areas and can be played on the screens.

Two Microsoft Surfaces were also sitting out - if nothing else, this is the one element that makes the store unique. Most of the people that’ll come in from foot traffic will likely have never seen a Surface before, so at least for a while, it’ll be a good way to generate buzz.

Big picture

Over time, the idea of the store will come to settle with people, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy a PC, it’s one of the better environments for buying a PC that I’ve seen. I doubt it’ll convert many Mac users, but it’s a great option for the existing base of Windows fans who are itching to buy a new machine.