First of all, let Microsoft themselves speak about what they thought a good UI should be like. Suzanne Hansen, a product manager at Microsoft, explains:
While the Visual Studio 2010 visual appearance is unique, it does follow the Microsoft Windows UX guidelines. Microsoft does not use one standard visual appearance for all its products for multiple reasons, including:
* Not every product has the same users and therefore the same UI is not appropriate everywhere
* Microsoft has such a wide range of products, it would be impossible to do one visual appearance that is a “one size fits all.” For example, it would be virtually impossible to use a single UI design for Zune, XBox, Visual Studio and Bing.
* Different visual appearance of different products helps differentiate/brand them.
* Having a single UI appearance would not give individual products flexibility to evolve as needed in response to trends, customer and business needs.
Thank you, Suzanne Hansen, Program Manager, Visual Studio Platform Shell Team
Suzanne explains here why Visual Studio 2010 has a different look and feel than Windows. And the explanations make perfect sense! (unlike the stuff they tout out with Windows 8) But isn’t this the complete opposite from the current Windows 8 design philosophy? And yet, this was Microsoft’s credo just two-three years ago! How is it possible to trust in Microsoft’s Windows 8 vision, when they were able to flip their own philosophy completely on its head within such a short timespan?
Windows 8 is clearly a “one size fits all” rush-job that was driven in a dictatorial fashion by its main-overseer at Microsoft, Steven Sinofsky (the man “left” the company shortly after the Win8 debute. Signs and wonders). Countless of people have raised their voices on the official Windows 8 blog when the OS was in development, yet the dev team and Sinofsky have demonstratively ignored the highly technical issues that were brought up and only answered the simplistic ones. it went something like this:
user 1: Hi there! I like Windows 8.
user 2: You said Aero shouldn’t be in Windows 8 because it harms battery life, but that doesn’t make sense because Aero can be turned off when the computer is on battery. It actually wasn’t long ago that Microsoft was defending Aero as having minimal impact on battery life. Are you now going to claim that Microsoft was wrong? In fact I have multiple links showing specific benchmarks that Aero only uses 1-4% when on and…..
user 3: Will Windows 8 have a Twitter app?
Sinofsky: That’s a great question that I’d be happy to answer. Yes Windows 8 will have a Twitter app.
(week later user 2 comment is gone)
(Quoted from the blog “Techbroil“)
I was reading the W8 blog regularly, it was EXACTLY like this.
But let’s concentrate on the product itself – Windows 8 has a new programming interface, called WinRT, and a new GUI, formerly called Metro. What’s the problem with WinRT and Metro? Here’s the list:
1. The desktop has multiple windows, Metro has not.
2. Desktop programs can be resized, Metro apps cannot.
3. The desktop has drag and drop between applications, Metro has not. Instead of just selecting the items you want to export and actually move them into the other program, you need to handle with “charms” which comes across far more unintuitive than just dragging and dropping.
4. The desktop has nearly unlimited multi-tasking abilities, Metro has not.
5. Metro apps are far more limited in scope, by design, than desktop programs.
6. Desktop programs have depth and 3D, Metro apps on the other hand seem to be approved by the Flat Earth Society.
7. Desktop programs are usually more colorful and vibrant, the Metro design principle consists of CGA style mono-color.
Winzip for Desktop:
Which one does look more like a C64 program?
8. You can open up other programs in the desktop, through the start menu, without disrupting workflow. On the other hand the start screen is something like the “item menu” in games where you dress up your character with weapons etc. Everyone knows that it is quite distracting switching between item menu and game world in games, and Microsoft brought this concept onto its flag ship product! Hooray.
9. Desktop programs can be easily distributed, Metro desktops are locked-in into the store.
If an alien would just land on our planet and see Windows 7 and Windows 8 (and its programs) for the first time, without no prior knowledge, he would think Windows 7 is the successor, not 8. And that’s just the problem of the WinRT part. The fact is that Win8 has multiple control panels and update mechanisms and is a duality monster. Win8 apologists in all seriousness propose arcane keyboard shortcuts as solution for some of the glaring problems, where previous versions worked just fine without using them. Also the Metro start screen offers absolutely no indication that it is searchable, yet it is. It’s full of little news items and ad-like graphics. It resembles something like cnn.com, only that CNN HAS a search box! Would you “just start typing” at cnn.com, if the site had no visible search box?
So, fine. Use ONLY the desktop then! But here’s the catch, and the reason for all this negativity – Microsoft put away the start button. If you click on the hidden start button, you’re back to the Metro interface. It’s a jarring experience. They want you to force going Metro, yet the whole Metro and WinRT experience is so limited and smart phoney, it’s just insane to use it on a screen bigger than a tablet. No one, and I mean NO ONE was able to tell me what the heck the benefit of the start screen is for desktop and laptop users or why the Metro apps are this castrated (the mail app can’t handle the most common mail protocol IN THE WORLD!), yet MS forces you to use them (the default image/video/music viewers/players are awkward Metro apps in W8.. even in desktop mode! They look as if they consist of one single code line). The explanations only come to “newer mobile devices have something like that, so.. eh.. and you will get used to it!”.. And that’s pretty much it. That’s not a compelling argument to warrant such a hassle.
Oh, and did you know that for multiple users Windows 8 is just arsed? The “All Programs” system is bonkered in Windows 8. Let me explain: If installers (of Win32 programs) put links into the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs folder, they ARE NOT GLOBAL. Not really that is. The link appears in the start screen for the user who installed the program, but all other users don’t see it. It’s only visible for them if they right-click and chose the “All Apps” screen (yes, IT’S HIDDEN ON DEFAULT!)
Windows Vista and 7 didn’t highlight newly installed programs in the start menu for other users as well, but the “All Programs” submenu-button wasn’t hidden, so it wasn’t such an issue like with W8.
Oh, and let’s also not forget that W8 Metro “apps” need to be installed per user, undeleted per user and updated per user. Just try it out: Install the updates of all the default apps through the appstore, create another account on the computer and log-in to the app-store. What do you see? You need to install the updates for that user as well! Trying to manage this for multiple users is hell! At the moment, the only reasonable tactic if you have multiple users and you want to use them apps is to let them use ONE account only and lock that one down with scripts etc. BACK TO DOS, BABY
And it’s not only about the metro-menu and all the headache that brings, it’s the whole approach. For example the darn “apps” themselves: How hard could it have been to include a “Pro mode” (with scary “You’re on your own now!” warnings if needed) or something like that which would allow sideloading? They could still have their store and still make the enthusiasts and “Pros” happy. It would have been easy to make the Metro-Notro-Win8stylestoreapps-whatever more appealing to the laptop and desktop users. How about more features availble the bigger the screen is? “Windows has detected you have a 24 inch screen, multi-tasking and windowing of Metro apps is enabled now”. Stuff like that wouldn’t be too hard, freeware like Bluestacks does it! But no, Microsoft has chosen the most limiting and existing-customers-repulsing way possible. That is why there are complaints and bad feeling all around. That’s where the “walled garden” and “dictatorial” accusations come from. MS was a quite comfortable choice between the strict Apple- and the free-for-all linux world, pretty much the golden middle, now they are doing their darndest to change themselves into a totally redundant MicroApple and this generates ill felings. The many game developers were annoyed for good reasons IMHO. And let’s not start on the limitations of the metro apps.. Oh sure, they aren’t forcing metro down on you, except they do:
Now let’s forget the start screen, just open up an audio file on the desktop.. BAM – You’re on a full screen monstrosity, with “parental advisory” graphics from obscene rap album covers and stuff like that. With no obvious way to get out of it. PROGRESS. They wanted to simplify Windows 8. That’s why instead of clicking on an easy to spot bright red X, (that’s faaar to power user for the common idiot to understand) you need to “grab” the application by its invisible head and drag it down the drain so that it can disappear. And if you managed to close it, you’re back on the metro screen instead of the desktop (where you started). Just fabulous! So just playing a darn audio file means switching through completely different GUI environments and playing a mini-adventure. Same is happening when you open up pictures and movie files. Yes, that’s what I call a great user experience right there. Then there’s the DVD codec issue and WMP not playing them even if you have the codecs installed, mail apps that can’t handle common protocols.. No one is going to change their provider just because subpar OS update decided it wants to out-hipster the whole world.
Sure, you can hack-around to link WMP back to the files etc. but shouldn’t an “upgrade” make stuff.. you know, better?! How’s stuff like that a good default experience? In the first beta versions, the welcome screen could not be clicked away. You had to drag it away with the mouse! Totally insane. That’s one of the very few things they have fixed, but the fact that something like that made it into an alpha version, yet alone beta, makes it clear what kind of carelessness the “design” of Win8 truly was/is. I am pretty sure the main reason the server got metro too is to prevent “power users” running Server 2012 as a desktop replacement.
All that is just NOT comparable to the previous versions. Never before were there such regressions in usability of Windows and “feel” of the company.
Then there’s the whole subplot about their handling of developers and the whole Silverlight affair to promote the W8 craplets – killing SL just when it was going strong as LOB tool. The amount of badwil they have created with this OS among their (former) allies, devs and supporters is just staggering.
Steve Ballmer compared Windows 8 multiple times to Windows 95, yet the comparison doesn’t hold water in the slightest.
Windows 8 is the anti-95.
Win32 programs didn’t gave you the feeling that something is amiss compared to Win 3.1 applications. (with Metro you have this feeling constantly). Even the first generation Win95 programs at launch felt more capable than their 3.1 precursors (Corel Draw 6, Office 95). Notro provides the complete opposite feeling.
Windows 95 came with uncrippled winfile.exe and progman.exe (the win 3.1 GUI), and you were able to boot directly into it without even seeing 95′s explorer.exe at all (“shell=progman.exe” in system.ini). (works in win 98 too) There was even an official option at the Windows 95 setup for that if you upgraded from Win3.1.
You also were able to directly boot into DOS with ease (just set bootgui=0 in msdos.sys, that also worked in Win 98).
Windows 95 is the anti-thesis to Windows 8. The philosphies were completely different. The team had enough courage to provide all these options because it truly seemed as if they were proud and confident about the system to stand on its own. Windows 8 on the other hand comes across as coward’s darling – “the users are too stupid to appreciate our beautiful hippster GUI, let’s cripple the desktop as much as we can to force them to this”. Windows 95 didn’t need any crippling, users chosed explorer.exe because it was better, and they had the ability to use the old GUI without compromise If they wished to do so.
Windows 95 is confidence. Windows 8 is cowardice.