Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | September 19, 2011 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Ed Bott and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols debate whether Microsoft's next operating system is headed in the right direction.

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Windows right


Windows wrong

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Best Argument: Windows right

Closing Statements

Place your bets!

Ed Bott

Is Microsoft going in the right direction with Windows 8? Yes.

Will they succeed? Place your bets!

Look, we all know the future of computing involves devices of all sizes and capabilities: smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming rigs, monster graphics workstations, developer consoles.

To work on those smaller devices you need a simple app framework and a simple user interface.

Microsoft has built that interface in such a way that it scales to larger platforms. Look at the Windows 8 Start screen and Metro-style apps, and then look at Mango on a Windows Phone. Same DNA, same developer story.

The real test will be how many companies follow Microsoft's new direction. If developers fill the Windows 8 Store with great new apps and games, Windows 8 will be a success. Let's meet here same time next year and check the selection in the Windows app store. That will tell the story.

The end of Windows

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

There will be more people running Windows in 2015, years after Windows 8 shows up, than all other operating systems combined.  But, they'll be running Windows 7. 8? Not so much.

Windows won't be replaced on the desktop, but I don't see any compelling reason for end-users, businesses, developers, or OEMs to move to Windows 8.

I spoke to Linus Torvalds yesterday and he said, “Breaking the user experience in order to 'fix' something is totally broken. If you break the user experience, you may feel that you have 'fixed' something , but you fixed it by breaking the user.”

Microsoft wants to “fix” Windows to be the universal interface for PCs, smartphones, and tablets. But, that will break users' Windows experience. That, in turn, will alienate their core audience, and the tablet and smartphone audience will already be committed to Android or iOS.

Windows 8 looks to a dead-end.

My verdict on Windows 8: Affirmative

Jason Hiner

Let's be honest, this was a home game for Ed, and Steven was a big underdog.

Nevertheless, both Steven and Ed put a lot of points on the board and I think they represented the views that we hear from a lot of commentators and technology professionals in the trenches.

In the end, I have to give the nod to Ed.

The Windows franchise is under serious pressure from mobile devices and Microsoft has to do something dramatic with Windows in order to stay relevant in the long term. At this point, we have to give Microsoft credit for being bold -- and watch with interest to see how it plays out.

Doc's final thoughtsIN PARTNERSHIP WITH Ricoh


It’s always a little sad to see Microsoft’s new offerings, as the folks in Redmond are usually playing catch up to Apple. In Windows 8 that trend continues, with a heavy emphasis on a new look and new compatibility with tablet devices. Trouble is, Microsoft doesn’t have the iPad or the legions of Apple developers on its side, and it’s a little late to the tablet party – after all, it’s all about the apps. But for those tablet buyers who will insist on a Windows operating system, I suppose Windows 8 is a step in the right direction. Still, the touch-screen-optimized Metro tile-based interface already looks dated, reminiscent of a 1980s brochure for some sort of health care organization. Also, it’s debatable if a one-size-fits-all strategy is appropriate for today’s variety of computing devices.

And as far as traditional Windows desktop and laptop users go, is there really much interest in yet another new look for Windows?  It’s hard for me to get excited about this latest attempt by Microsoft to be more Apple-like, even if the effort is nimbler and more memory efficient. And while Microsoft promises better inter-operability between apps in Metro, that also sounds like a potential sinkhole for conflicts. Yes, there is support for ARM processors, but legacy apps won’t run on them without being re-written. Also in the me-too category is enhanced support for multiple monitors and, at least in the Metro interface, a lack of support for Adobe Flash.  Big whoop. Windows 8 could certainly breathe some life into the rather stagnant Microsoft franchise, but revolutionary? It hardly seems so from what we’ve seen thus far (which admittedly has been limited).

Doc remembers back in 2000 when Microsoft showed a prototype tablet PC from Compaq running an optimized version of Windows, and was extolling the virtues of e-books. Back then the company was ahead of its time. Now it seems like just another also-ran.


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  • RE: The Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

    Microsoft is on the right track, but needs to act fast because of the competition of iOS/Apple and Android . Also, the lack of compatibility between ARM windows 8 and x86 Windows 8 is a serious but unavoidable drawback.
    Reply Vote I'm for Windows right
    • RE: The Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

      @Andries02 Agree that MS needs to act fast because of the competition but I am also with their approach of focusing on quality not release date, which is what Steve Jobs' Apple always does.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • iPhone 4?

        @kentchen Quality not release date? I'm not saying windows hasn't done this (Vista) or Google (Honeycomb) but we can't forget the iPhone 4. Delaying the white version because "it looks to yellow" doesn't make up for it.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • OS X 10.0?

        @kentchen Remember that? Definitely not quality over release date.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • What do you mean? Apple really takes long time to do thing, but they do try

        @Akilestar: to make them good. If Microsoft lately is capable of similar approach, then it is good thing everyone (except for Apple, which already can not mock MS for Vista any more since W7 release).
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: The Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

        @kentchen - MS does need to act fast, but cannot sacrifice quality. Vista was actually fine as an OS but it was the quality of the user's experience that killed it. Windows 7 proved this.<br><br>Regarding Linus & SJVN's comments about "breaking" the UI:<br>a) How is it that Apple can break OSX' UI to create iOS and the world sees it as "magical"? <br>b) The UI isn't broken - existing apps work just as they always did, but you get a new start menu & new environment for new apps to run in that's safe, reliable and touch friendly.<br><br>Windows 8 is both business as usual and the biggest single shift in OS UI design since the move from DOS to Windows.

        Or, to put it another way, Windows 8 is a mullet - it's all business up front, but there's a party going on around the back ;)
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Metro makes no sense on the desktop... on a tablet sure..

        @kentchen ..but on a desktop it is just idiotic and a huge step backwards.. agree with Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols the only reason that MS is doing this is to trying to desperately hang on to their Windows/Office cash cows and status quos.. frame it any other way and it just doesn't make sense.. it's certainly not about user experience at least on the desktop because it is definitely a worse experience..
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: The Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

        @Andries02 While I would agree that Microsoft needs to step up their game......putting a metro gui on Windows 7 and calling it a new OS is NOT the answer. <br><br>There really isn't any real business reason to upgrade from 7 on the desktop. Yes Microsoft does need to come up with something for the tablet market and this is not it, 2012 will be really late to the table and seriously over priced due to the hardware requirements of Windows except for the starter version and that is a failure in its own right.<br><br>Microsoft should have worked on merging them (a very good idea, but, not in one windows version (ie from 7 to 8). The roll out of this Windows 7 sp? gui update does not deserve a new version designator and most people are looking for ROI and not just to upgrade a gui.....Microsoft has a real management problem with either too much change at one time or too little. Vista was too much and as a result it failed for all the documented reasons dispite being an excellent OS once SP1 rolled out....then 7 rolled out and fixed a lot of the issues with Vista and people bought it Microsoft thinks they can change the gui for the tablet market and call it another major improvement......NOT, not even deserving of a SP designation unless there are substantial improvements over Windows 7 which I seriously doubt. In Android this is called changing your "launcher" and costs $3 or the burning question is "this justifies a cost of more than $100 how?"<br><br>Where is the vision that Bill Gates gave us...missing in action...this is nothing but more of the same failed business model we have been subjected to for some years now. What we need is a change in management and some new vision not the same old failed also ran idea's.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Compatibility

      @ Andries02

      Judging by the Visual Studio 11, this is mostly a one-way problem. Windows on Arm won't run traditional x86 apps, but Metro apps written in .NET (e.g. C#, F#, VB) or JavaScript are (by default) architecture-independent. This isn't surprising since .NET is only Jitted to machine code at install time or run time, and JavaScript is only Jitted at runtime. That's why .NET and JavaScript are already architecture independent today.

      For Metro apps written in C++, it looks like they'll be architecture-dependent, just like traditional Win32 apps. For well written code, compiling for multiple architectures is easy, but if I were a developer targeting both Arm and x86, I'd probably use .NET and/or JavaScript rather than C/C++.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: The Great Debate: Is Windows 8 headed in the right direction?

      @Andries02 . I am more of a neutral person as I do lot of Win32 - low level stuff - for a living. However, I have seen many 2 or 3 year old kids use an iPhone, iPod or iPad WITHOUT EVER SEEING A USER GUIDE OR MANUAL. I have seen some kids pick up the same app in an iPhone and an iPad without any hesitation. If MS can do that, then they will succeed. Stevie Wonder just recently praised Steve Jobs for Voice Over, he said that the iPad/iPhone leveled the playing field for the blind. Is Windows8 similar to iPhone/iPad? Can people use it without ever looking at any guide or manual? Remember, all Windows users currently have been either taught the initial steps by somebody or read a user guide/manual.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided