There’s been a lot of chatter about Windows 8 since Microsoft released it’s consumer preview. It is apparent that this is no baby-step up from Windows 7 – it’s a completely redesigned operating system slated for tablets, phones as well as traditional PCs. It’s server counterpart, Windows Server 2012, is being developed right alongside it, and will provide the back-end network services that Windows 8 will rely on.
Windows 8 carries the biggest graphical interface change since Windows ’95 with their new “Metro” interface. This is a brand new user experience, with groupings of tiles that represent programs instead of menus. I was no big fan of the “Start” menu since Windows ’95 came out – to me, it was too easily cluttered with garbage. At least, with Windows XP, they consolidated a number of useful shortcuts and threw the rest of it into their virtual junk drawer dubbed “All Programs”. But the Metro UI isn’t the only big change that’s coming with Windows 8…
I find it interesting that, with so many negative reviews about the Office ‘ribbon bar’, Microsoft has taken it upon itself to integrate it into Windows 8 via the Windows Explorer ribbon bar. This means that working with files will require you to become familiar with it. Everyone that I have talked to has expressed their utmost dissatisfaction with the Office ribbon bar. Nobody seems to understand why the Office team ripped out the very stable and familiar toolbar interface, to replace it with something that is, according to them, extremely frustrating and counter-productive to accomplish goals…not to mention it’s ‘just another unnecessary interface change’, providing very little more than stressful sighs as one attempts to find the same tools and utilities they could easily locate with muscle memory in previous versions. It is akin to the constant “Control Panel” interface changes, along with their sub-category evolutions like from “Network Neighborhood”, to “My Network Places”, and then again to “Network and Sharing Center”.. I mean, do you really need so many redesigns? The goals of connecting your computer to a network and sharing files really haven’t changed that much over the years. I don’t see why putting the same options in different menus is necessary.
Of course, I guess nobody can really think that graphical user interfaces can always stay the same no matter how much time passes or how much new technology arrives, with no evolution or change to adapt to them. But, for something so standard as working in a word processor, or now with Windows 8, working with your files, is such a drastic change really necessary? How many radical changes were ever seen in the “interfaces” of typewriters during their heyday? If a typewriter company suddenly switched all of their keyboard layouts from QWERTY to DVORAK, making it impossible for anyone to use their brand without learning an admittedly more productive key layout, would their customers just sigh and sign up for the next DVORAK typing class? Or would they hang onto their old typewriters, which were never really broken in the first place, until they were forced to purchase a new one? And when they did, would they move to the newest model from the same brand (learning DVORAK in the process), or would they shop around for a competing brand with the still immensely popular QWERTY layout?
This is simply what has been the track record for Microsoft, and Windows 8 is simply the newest piece of evidence to the claim that they don’t really mind ripping out the carpet from underneath their customers. Not to sound harsh, but to me anyway, I just have to sigh and laugh. It’s their same old story – same old song and dance.