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

or

Windows wrong

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Best Argument: Windows right

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks for tuning in

    The debaters will post their closing statements tomorrow and I will render my verdict on the winner on Thursday. Remember to vote and post your thoughts in the comments.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

  • Great Debate Moderator

    PC-mobile convergence is the next step

    Convergence between mobile devices and PCs is coming (think of the Motorola Atrix as an early prototype). I've written a lot about this recently and even cited it as a big opportunity for Microsoft: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/microsofts-one-big-opportunity-in-mobile/8893 Does Windows 8 show that Microsoft gets it and will have the right strategy for it?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    That depends

    There's no question Microsoft has a well-thought-out *technical* strategy for mobile devices. I don't know any serious analyst of mobile tech who isn't impressed with Windows Phone 7. In Windows 8, you can see a very large amount of that DNA. So anyone who uses the full range of Windows-powered devices next year, from phones to tablets to multi-monitor desktops, will have a consistent experience. They'll also have an app store that serves all of those customers. Having used that full range of devices, I think they're on the right track. Now, as to the *marketing* strategy, that's another question. After a year, Microsoft still has no traction with Windows Phone. They really need a Windows 8 halo effect to attract buyers for mobile devices.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Ballmer? Vision? Do these things go together!?

    I think Microsoft is showing some vision. Ed's right about Sinofsky. He's pointing MSFT in new, interesting directions. But, again, I don't see Metro as being a good direction. I think Metro's going to annoy too many developers and users. That in turn is going to mean that Microsoft???s hardware partners are going to be much too scared of cannibalizing their revenue from their PC and mobile devices by creating a converged device, Also, keep in mind that very few vendors make both PCs and mobile devices equally well. Samsung might be able to do it, but I'm hard-pressed to think of another that could pull such a device off. Add to that, the state of the economy, and I think MSFT would have a hard time getting anyone to committ. That presumes, of course, that MSFT would buy into the idea. So long as Ballmer is CEO I can't see it. A pity, it Might work. It certainly would be a bold step forward.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The tablet question in Windows 8

    Windows 8 is going to run on tablets. Was it a good move to scale down Windows 8 to tablets or would Microsoft have been better off scaling up Windows Phone 7? The fact that the first prototype Windows 8 tablet from Samsung has a cooling fan is a little disconcerting, isn't it?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Two classes of tablets

    Microsoft is betting that there are two buyers for tablets. One wants a full PC that can be used as a tablet when needed. The other wants a dedicated tablet device that's a companion to a full PC but doesn't replace it. That first idea has been around in hardware form for a long time as the Tablet PC, but it's never had an operating system that was designed to really work well with touch. I used that Samsung device for a few days. Yes, the fan is surprising at first, but the device proved the concept. Now it's time for Samsung and other hardware companies to build cooler devices (in both senses of the word). I'm really looking forward to seeing the ARM-based tablets, which definitely won't have fans and should have a nice long battery life, like an iPad. That's a few months away, though.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Tablets FTL

    What people forget, even Windows fans, is that Windows has actually had a long, good run on tablets. It's just that they've always been vertical market tablets. What MSFT could never do was make a popular tablet. I don't see either a Win 8 or WP7 tablet doing it either. With that out of the way, I think by pinning its hope on tablets that won't even ship until late 2012 at the earliest, MSFT has made a strategic mistake. Today, the iPad owns the tablet world, but Android tablets are finally making inroads at lower price points. By Dec. 2012. will anyone really want a Win 8 tablet? I can't see it. They'll all have IPads or Android tablets.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Evolving the PC ecosystem

    Of course, Windows isn't just about Windows, it's also about the complex ecosystem that has emerged around it. How is Windows 8 going to impact the ecosystem -- hardware makers, developers, enterprises, systems integrators, etc.?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Remember what I said about iPads?

    The iPad is a great start, but I hope we see hardware makers doing more than just clone it. The thing to remember here is that you can combine touchscreens and processors and input devices in an amazing number of ways. If Windows 8 has an Achilles heel, this is it. Microsoft's hardware partners have a checkered track record of producing devices that consumers and businesses fall in love with. They've bought billions of PCs, but they don't have the brand loyalty that Apple-branded devices do. So I'm hoping that the vision and design sense that have gone into the OS can be matched with some visionary hardware. Will we see breakthrough devices that take advantage of the OS? We won't know how that works out for a year or so.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Time for a switch from the fat-client desktop

    I see Windows 8 as a non-starter on the eco-system. MSFT has yet to show that it can be a player on either smartphones or tablets. Why should Windows 8 be any different? So, what do you do if you've been in the Windows business for years, decades, and you're not going to be shipping or using much Win 8 product? Well, you can do an HP, and abandon the PC business???albeit I think they did that for entirely different???and dumb---reasons. Or, you can move to other platforms. I see a lot of ISVs, integrators, and businesses looking long and hard at cloud-based operating systems???Chrome OS, Android and iOS???applications, hardware, and systems. Curiously this will benefit MSFT in one way. I see the next version of Server having potential to be a real player in this cloud, Internet-based world. It's just that those Server-based apps may not be running on Win 8 desktops.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Microsoft's view of the future

    I've been pretty tough on Microsoft about its lack of vision lately (and others have, too). What does Windows 8 say about Microsoft's vision of the future of computing? Is Win8 a purely reactionary move, or is there a legitimate vision emerging here?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Windows, reimagined

    You can divide Windows history into two eras: pre- and post-Sinofsky. When Steven Sinofsky took over Windows development in 2006, that was the first time in a decade that someone with actual vision had been in charge. We saw a hint of that vision in Windows 7, but mostly that release was about fixing the mess that Vista left behind. That work is done (and very successfully too). With this release, Microsoft gets to "reimagine" Windows. Even outsiders are paying attention to what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8. The Mac-centric John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who normally ignores or mocks Windows, is paying attention and has written some thoughtful and positive analyses of what Sinofsky and team are doing. It's a genuinely new approach to user experience with a very compelling and consistent design sense. I'm glad to see it.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Reactionary MSFT.

    Ed said it in his first reply. Win 8 is a response to iPad and Android. In a broader sense, it's a response to the move away from the desktop to smartphones and tablets. It's reactionary. That said, I give them credit for the idea of having a single interface for desktops, phones, and tablets. I just think that Metro is a lousy implementation of a good idea. I fear Apple, which shows signs of taking iOS to the Mac desktop will win in the long run.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The biggest changes in Windows 8

    For those who are just getting up to speed on Windows 8, what are the most significant changes in Win8 (for better or worse)? Give me your top 2-3.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Metro, apps, and great backup

    There's the Metro interface, of course. It's addictive and almost impossible to understand until you use it. One thing I've found after living with it for a few days is it definitely requires a change in rhythm, and I think we'll see significant changes between now and final release. The new apps are only there as a tease right now. Literally every sample app that came with the Developer Preview was written by a student intern. I think they give a hint of what's to come, but we won't appreciate the immersive apps until we see some professional efforts. And then there's a bunch of under-the-hood stuff. My favorite sleeper feature is File History, which brings together some backup features that have been in Windows since Vista but are finally getting a usable interface. But there's still a lot of missing pieces.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Something for the better... ah... ah...

    I see Metro as a terrible mistake. Leaving aside that I think it's a dreadful interface for desktop computing, my real concerns about it are for application development. While both the conventoinal app side and the Metro side share common programming languages, such as C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, HTML and Javascript, the APIs which you use to write the applications to ??? the frameworks, the function calls, all of the things which make up a complex software program such as Microsoft Word or Excel are totally different. Seriously, app. developers out there, do you want to write two versions of every application? Users, do you want to not only re-learn the desktop itself, but learn how to use a new rendition of your old favorite application? I don't think so! I honestly don't see anything to recommend Windows 8. I can see the good things in Windows 7 and XP SP3. Win 8? I'm sorry, to date, it's a non-starter as far as I'm concerned, and I suspect I won't be the only one to see it that way.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows 8: What does it need to accomplish?

    Okay, we've got over 140 comments before the debate has even started, so the audience is already juiced up for this one. Let's start by talking about what Microsoft needs to accomplish in Windows 8. Why does Microsoft need Windows 8, and more importantly, why do we need Windows 8?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's about the iPad and Android

    Can you say iPad and Android? Microsoft can, and thats why they need Windows 8. Many of the tasks we used to need a PC for are done on phones and tablets now. That trend is only going to accelerate. We need Windows 8 because the old ways of interacting with PCs are getting tiresome, and a lot of the baggage of legacy Windows needs to be thrown off the train. The change in the underlying app model makes a whole bunch of good things possible: excellent power management, communication between apps, much greater security. It also comes at the short-term price of introducing a new interface and learning how to use it. That might be disruptive in the short term. But I think in the longer term its a good thing for everyone. It worked fine back in 1995, remember?

    Ed Bott

    I am for Windows right

    Need a new copy of Windows? I don't see any "need" for most folks.

    Gosh. Why does MSFT need Windows 8? Because its business model depends on you needing to buy a new operating system and copy of Office every five years or so. It's that simple. Now do we, who are not MSFT stockholders need to do that? I don't think so. Look at all the people who are still running XP. If it's not broke, you don't need to fix it, never mind replace it.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Windows wrong

Talkback

361 comments
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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.
    Andries02
    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.
      kentchen
      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.
        Akilestar
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • OS X 10.0?

        @kentchen Remember that? Definitely not quality over release date.
        blu_vg@...
        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).
        DDERSSS
        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 ;)
        bitcrazed
        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..
        doctorSpoc
        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 wholesale....now 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 less...so 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.
        bobtran
        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++.
      WilErz
      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.
      GoForTheBest
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided