Microsoft's Windows 8: Can a mashup of various features work well?

There's good news on the Windows 8 front: Microsoft may be learning from its more nimble units such as Xbox and Windows Phone 7. The bad news: It's unclear whether this Windows 8 mashup can result in a coherent user interface.

There's good news on the Windows 8 front: Microsoft may be learning from its more nimble units such as Xbox and Windows Phone 7. The bad news: It's unclear whether this Windows 8 mashup can result in a coherent user interface.

The weekend was abuzz with Windows 8 possibilities. For starters, Windows 8 may incorporate an Office ribbon, a handy little navigation tool. That tidbit comes as a Windows 8 start screen looked downright Windows Phone 7 and Xbox-ish. Toss in some Windows Live hooks and it looks like Microsoft is borrowing a lot of existing features to craft something new.

Of course, these Windows 8 builds are early. In fact, you shouldn't take them all that seriously. Who knows what will wind up in the real Windows 8. Microsoft isn't talking anyway.

Todd Bishop at GeekWire put it best. Windows 8 has a hint of Office, a dash of Xbox and an ounce of Windows Phone. That's what happens when you have a massive company trying to thread every phone, laptop, desktop and tablet needle with one operating system.

Given that these features come from units that largely run independent of each other you have to wonder how this user interface will come together. Perhaps, Windows 8 will offer personalization. Pick you tiles. Pick your ribbon. Pick your Kinect connection.

Where's the glue?

If you zoom out a bit the Windows 8 talk comes along as Fortune ran a story about how Microsoft has lost its way. Former employees say Microsoft is too insular and can't innovate. The conclusion: CEO Steve Ballmer has to go. And while we're at it let's break up Microsoft to be more nimble. Sound familiar? That same storyline runs almost every quarter.

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