Windows 8 Noise: Everyone’s a Critic, Even When They’re Not.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gartner Analyst Gunnar Berger last May at a function we were invited to during Citrix Synergy in San Francisco.  Since then, I’ve been following his tweets and blog posts and I think he’s a very fair and well-spoken researcher and technologist with the on-the-ground experience to back up his writing.

Naturally, I was excited to dive into his 5-part blog last week which was a very comprehensive, industry analyst’s hands-on review of Windows 8.  It was an exceptional piece of work, and having the benefit of following his Twitter feed during the time he was actually getting hands-on and under the hood with the OS, I noted that his analysis was overall pretty complementary to Microsoft and Windows 8, and appropriately critical (from his experience and data collection as an industry analyst) where he felt it had weaknesses, missed the mark on something, or otherwise generally fell short.

I was quite surprised at the reaction that the Register had published – “Gartner Analyst Thinks Windows 8 is Bad.”  Wow.  I wondered if they actually READ any of the article or took his criticisms completely out of context and focused only on those.  I suspect the latter to be true.  I then started to ponder on the general consensus and trend I have seen shaping up in the media lately about Windows 8, much of which is quite negative, and wonder if there is a bandwagon effect here where everyone just wants Windows 8 to fail – even those who have zero experience or deep technical knowledge of the upcoming OS.  My biggest question is why?

If there’s a sentiment in the industry among CIO’s and IT leadership that Windows 8 is going to be a no-go for them for whatever reason, then I have to ask why they even care to bash Microsoft for delivering a new OS and making changes to the way that it looks, feels, or operates.  If you’re in the middle of a 30,000 seat migration from XP to Windows 7, then fine – finish your Windows 7 migration,  but how can you be so naive to assume that the vNext version of any OS should remain exactly the same as it has over the last 12 years?  The post-PC era is changing the way that people are using technology to get their work done and consume information.  With that comes new and innovative, and extremely pervasive human-computer interactions, such as touch and gesture.  I applaud Microsoft for their long-awaited move out of stagnation – I see Windows 8 at least as a public display of innovation.  Might it fail horribly and make Vista look like a winner?  Dunno.  Possibly.  But at least Redmond wasn’t just rolling over and letting every major trend in the post-PC era pass them by as they seem to have in the last several years.

The bottom line for this post is that I feel like there’s a lot of negative press out there for an OS that’s going to come anyway.  It’s going to be OEM’d and show up for consumers – they’re going to get used to it at home and the argument that users will never figure it out is pretty weak.  In the consumer segment, price is still going to be a factor in what hardware people buy, and therefore what OS they’re going to be forced to use (and get used to).  There are a LOT of consumers that can’t afford even the entry-level Apple products, and are going to pick up a $400 laptop at Wal-Mart as opposed to going to the Apple store and plunking down north of $1000 for any of their gear.  It’s going to have Windows 8 on it soon.  And they will use it.  Many of those same folks use PC’s at work.  And you know what, at some point, just as they got used to Windows 95 from Win 3.11, they’ll be OK with using their newly “familiar” Windows 8 at work.  The case of consumerization and it’s manifestation in BYO programs will only accelerate this trend.

Mr. Berger, in his review, had many positive things to say about Windows 8 and some educated criticisms.  I think it was irresponsible for other industry rags to misquote him out of context and reveal their preemptive negative reception and attitudes for an OS that hasn’t shipped one gold code unit yet.



2 responses to “Windows 8 Noise: Everyone’s a Critic, Even When They’re Not.

  1. Good post. I’ll have to read that Gartner blog. I have some concerns about Windows 8 under certain circumstances, but in others I think it will do well. One thing I know for sure right now is that I do not think putting touch interfaces in the server OS (Server 2012) was the right move. Servers will probably be the last pieces to get touch-friendly devices. Beyond the server aspect, the biggest area is see the challenge is the traditional desktop. Desktop, not laptops that is. I can see it working on laptops in the long run, but I don’t think the desktop awkwardness will ever go away. Some of the gestures to perform in some cases essential functions are too awkward for a traditional mouse to perform all the time. This may change and maybe people will get used to it, but why should they force themselves to get used to awkward. I also think that making the start screen (replacing the menu) not hierarchical and making people type the application to find it will take a lot of getting used to for traditional Windows users. One thing Windows has always had even in the early days was menus with hierarchy. The new Windows start screen really doesn’t have hierarchy (it kind of has menus, but not in the traditional sense). Personally I like typing to find apps and I think a lot of people will too, but it will be a hard pill to swallow for some. Again, there is a lot of awesome potential here that may be realized, but I’m not ready to say that this will succeed in every way.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Regarding the touch interface for Server, I concur in thinking that it was a mistake. The recommended configuration for Server 2012 for optimal performance is actually to run it headless (no GUI). I think that’s going to be something we’ll definitely see more of as automation and management tools evolve. I think the Metro UI might actually succeed in many instances where apps are developed to make the interaction easier – but that is not something specific to the Microsoft platform. There’s a reason that the majority of apps in the Apple App Store are never downloaded – UI design and human factors/workflow considerations are an art and science that warrant significant consideration in app development.

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