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Not quite, Julie…

Not quite, Julie…

Well this is quite disturbing. Here we are, post-launch, and even Microsoft employees seem to have forgotten what Windows 8 is all about.

Admittedly, she’s led by the author of the post to a certain extent (“Windows 8 throws out design features familiar to Windows users since 1995, swapping in simpler, bolder interfaces designed to be operated using a touch screen.”), but really this would’ve been a perfect opportunity to set a few people straight… if she’d actually known the facts.

See unfortunately, Ms Larson-Green simply wasn’t privy to certain information regarding Windows development pre-promotion, and clearly nobody’s thought to fill her in since she got the job. Either that, or she’s decided to re-state Microsoft’s stance on certain issues for reasons unknown.

During her tenure with the Office design team, the entire team was basically hated by us over at Windows UX; the simple reason being, they had some bizarre aversion to making a UI consistent with the general Windows look-and-feel. Their UIs were basically the equivalent of running a Qt app on a GTK-based desktop environment; or running a badly-skinned Winamp on any version of Windows. And we hated them for it.

With that in mind, we essentially locked the entire department out of future development concepts; we’d tried the whole “here, look at what we’re aiming for, please try to match us” approach, to no avail, and then the whole “here’s our frameworks, please use them” approach, still to no avail; so eventually we went for the “oh well, make your product look like a joke” approach. It didn’t do much for consistency, but it made us feel better at least.

So anyway, here we are in 2012, and we have Larson-Green in charge of a development team who essentially hated her, and everyone working under her, for the better part of 8 years. She can blame Sinofsky all she wants in interviews, but the fact is it was her decisions when in charge of the Office team that led to the schism.

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Personalization

Okay, I can’t use the term “we” to refer to Microsoft anymore, but I still have a rough idea of how things work, so here’s the answer to that endlessly repeated question – and rather often demand – of why can’t we disable metro / why don’t you bring back the Start Menu?

Basically, Microsoft has always been supportive of users having choice when it comes to their own systems; with one notable and very important exception. Choice is not supported when it gets in the way of industry progress. For example, Windows Millennium – as a transitory product between the 9x and NT codebase – fully dropped support for real mode DOS. The explanation at the time was ostensibly that it would speed up boot time and increase overall stability, which was true but was in fact a secondary issue; the main reason was to prepare people for the transition to the NT codebase which never has – and never would – support real mode DOS. By pushing people into finding alternatives to their legacy applications, Microsoft paved the way for an easier transition to Windows XP when it launched.

Metro is, to a certain extent, an exercise in the same. If Microsoft felt that people would give Metro a fair crack of their own free will, then allowing it to be voluntarily disabled wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question. However, the vocal opponents of Metro – often without ever giving it a fair go – sabotaged their own choice to a certain extent. Especially people who stated flat-out that they would disable Metro on every system they had access to, especially on those that they “administered” for less technical users.

The fact is, Metro is the long-term strategy for Microsoft on ALL platforms… there hasn’t been as big a re-design of the user experience in over 30 years, and that’s something which both usability studies and plain common sense showed had to change. Metro is somewhat akin to the LCARS interface used throughout the Star Trek series’ since Next Generation, with a focus on content rather than interface, something which makes sense in today’s content consumption world. Within 3 release cycles, the Desktop itself will be more or less dead, with no significant applications being created or released for it; assuming, of course, that replacement applications have been built – and used on a regular basis – in the WinRT environment. This is reliant on both user and developer adoption, something which the opponents to Metro would have significantly hampered.

Basically, if the naysayers had kept their mouth shut, they would’ve had personal choice for at least 1, if not 2 release cycles. As it stands now though, they’ve talked themselves out of that choice, which is a shame really.