Microsoft's original, uncompromising vision for Windows 8

Microsoft's original, uncompromising vision for Windows 8

Summary: Watching Microsoft's Program Manager for the Windows User Experience, Jensen Harris, tell the story of Windows 8's UI design has a little of that disaster movie feel.

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One of the conceits of the typical disaster movie is that -- at least at the beginning -- the audience knows what's going to happen, even as the people on screen go about their seemingly normal lives.

When Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet boarded the Titanic, you knew they'd have a rough voyage, even though they had no idea what was coming. When Bruce Willis is climbing around in the pipes of his oil rig in Armageddon  (the best movie ever made, by the way), he has no idea that in a few short days, he'll be in a spacesuit, fighting for his life on an asteroid about to impact Earth.

Watching Microsoft's Program Manager for the Windows User Experience, Jensen Harris, tell the story of Windows 8's UI design has a little of that disaster movie feel. He gave his talk back in August, when -- you'd think -- he'd already know about the deep compromises and designed-by-committee feel Windows 8 would eventually end up with.

This is an impassioned and proud speaker who talks about the Windows 8 design principles of "Do more with less, authentically digital, pride in craftsmanship, be fast and fluid, and win as one." And yet, we've seen Windows 8 and we've seen the highly problematic Surface RT. The vision was strong, perhaps somewhat impractical, but the execution has been rife with dangerous and possibly deeply damaging compromises.

I just can't help but think that he's going to leave that stage having no idea the firestorm that's about to rain down upon his baby.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Windows 8

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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69 comments
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  • I work on asteroid deflection

    for my job and I can tell you from that standpoint Armageddon (which is also spelled wrong) is not a good movie. From my standpoint Deep Impact was a much better movie, although still slightly unrealistic.
    Sam Wagner
    • Good movies don't have to be realistic

      If I want reality, I'll watch the news.
      lepoete73
      • Maybe they don't have to be realistic

        But they need to allow us to suspend disbelief long enough to feel it is in the realm of possibility. I agree with Sam, Armageddon was entertaining, but I had a hard time believing that the U.S. Government would ever let those guys live the rest of their lives without paying taxes...come on. Pure fiction.
        gomigomijunk
      • But if I want pure fantasy...

        ...Godzilla is probably a better bet.
        John L. Ries
      • News?

        Yes because the news is the MOST true thing to watch. They neverrrrrr change up information or ever ever politically motivated. Note the sarcasm.
        Eryk Chamberlin
      • News or noise

        The 'News' is mostly noise. It's all punditry and sensationalism. It's ultimately just entertainment, and the only facts are sport scores and yesterdays weather.
        Tojuro
  • This stupid article is yet more proof 'bloggers' have lost the plot...

    This has to be one of the dumbest, stupidest articles I've seen to date on ZDNet. And oh by the way as you pointed out that presentation has been around for months, I've previously tweeted about it, and it's a good presentation.

    After reading this my IQ dropped 50 points....are you related to MG Siegler?

    Larry Dignan, seriously where do you get these clowns?

    P.S. I'm a very happy Surface RT owner who hasn't had a single issue with it (hardware) or the Windows 8 OS. I also now own a Nokia Lumia 920 and it's the best smartphone I've owned to date.
    Martin_Australia
    • This article was the real "disaster"...

      What a pointless article. It's like a big budget movie with cheap special effects, bad acting, no plot, and a predictable ending. I feel like I'm seeing a lot more of that on ZDNET lately (with a few distinguished exceptions, of course).

      Windows 8 has been out for about a month and anyone who says they know whether or not it will be a success or failure is either lying or doesn't know what he's talking about.

      The reality is, we simply don't have much to go on... yet.

      What we do know is that Microsoft has increased production of the Surface RT tablet (or so they said today) and that they are expanding availability to Staples, Best Buy, etc. I've also read that at least one Microsoft Store was selling about 60 Surfaces... per day... which are iPad numbers.

      As someone who actually owns a Surface and a Windows 8 desktop, I can tell you that I think Microsoft is on to something by "mobilizing" their desktop OS, and I imagine that by Windows 9 it will be a "unified" OS--one desktop/start screen. I also believe that Apple & Google will probably have to follow Microsoft's lead... but that's just my opinion. Only time will tell.
      newyorkcitymale
      • They had better NOT.......

        If they DON'T wont their clients/users to leave in droves.

        We 115 Users have ........
        Moved our users to a flavour of Linux "Zorin 6" which has a UI that looks and works like WIN7.

        We purchased Zorin 6 Ultimate with DVD media for NZ$30.00 and it has applications also When we can move to Linux flavor Zorin 6 Ultimate, "http://zorin-os.com/premium.html" for NZ$30.00 with DVD and Support.

        This includes Libra Office and a full range of Applications Business, Multimedia, Gaming, you don't need to purchase anything else.

        Ans we also also be purchasing Ubuntu Server Advanced loaded or Zental Server "https://store.zentyal.com/" with all options.

        The cost saving per user is around NZ$800.00 per user, and the server well we were very surprised, and our accountant loved the savings to the balance sheet.
        carlsf@...
    • agree ... what is this firestorm he speaks of?

      Windows 8 is the big step we need to take to the future where touch and gesture are everywhere. Guess what? your Windows 7 desktop is one key away and yet you have all this extra UX in your OS.

      No one else can do it and everyone will play catch up for the next 5 years.
      hubivedder
      • Haters think their view is the same as everyone else

        Windows 8 haters cannot fathom why MS did not incrementally improve Windows 7, even as demand for Windows 8/RT TOUCH BASED SYSTEMS, significantly exceed expectations. It is non-touch based Windows systems which are falling behind in sales, yet many Windows 8 haters believe touch is not important. Windows 8 haters are out of touch, and they ignore high user satisfaction levels from ordinary users, choosing to judge the likeability of the OS, based on the opinions of pundits, who are predominantly anti-Microsoft.
        P. Douglas
        • Nice pun!

          "Windows 8 haters believe touch is not important. Windows 8 haters are out of touch"
          lepoete73
        • Not at all

          We just doubt the sanity of the MS executives that let this out the door.
          John L. Ries
        • RE: Touch

          We knew they needed to go into to the mobile/touch world to compete. We just can't fathom why they made a half hearted attempt to try to make a touch system work with the mouse. Should had two separate operating systems one for touch and one that incrementally improved Windows 7. If they truly believed touch was not important and will be immediately history as most of the WIN 8 lovers do, the "not compromising" thing to do would have been to have an all touch system and end all support for mouse products. Even the inventors of the "post-pc" phrase have continued to incrementally improve their mouse user experience making mobile/touch like experiences for those users.
          edkollin
          • RE: Touch

            Funny all the people design browsers, google, you name it design their software to work on all current platforms and do not take the attitude mouse users must stop computing for the future of the world
            edkollin
          • RE: Touch

            You missed the point. The touch experience is good for a new generation of application interfaces, but the mouse and keyboard still have huge value in productivity applications where fine-grain accuracy is still needed. The mouse's ability to point to an area within a few pixels is far superior to touch for business applications and many design/graphic applications while touch is great for UX where pixel level accuracy isn't needed but the new gestures permit a better interface for applications. Zooming in/out using touch is far superior to the mouse/keyboard counterparts but mouse/keyboard are far superior to touch for business applications. The good news is that many of the UX touch gestures can be supported via the mouse, but not so much the other way around once you exclude multi-touch UX needs.
            Jim_McCusker@...
        • It's not about being a hater - it's about seeing the motive!

          Microsoft periodically forget what it's client base (businesses) want, and try out some stupid gamble devised by their bean counters.

          Windows 8 is failed attempt at one size fits all. It comes across as two operating systems, fronted by a crappy start screen. The desktop OS has been compromised with a resulting impairment to productivity (no start menu), while the tablet version is woefully limited. During installation it should have asked us whether we want to use it for (mobile or desktop) and then configure itself appropriately, but instead Microsoft are trying to push the tablet idea onto everyone.

          Microsoft have the amazing ability to do the most stupid things, and they do it again and again, never learning from their mistakes. A far cry from the visionary days when Bill Gates was at the helm.
          Jason De Donno
      • Haters think their view is the same as everyone else

        Windows 8 haters cannot fathom why MS did not incrementally improve Windows 7, even as demand for Windows 8/RT TOUCH BASED SYSTEMS, significantly exceed expectations. It is non-touch based Windows systems which are falling behind in sales, yet many Windows 8 haters believe touch is not important. Windows 8 haters are out of touch, and they ignore high user satisfaction levels from ordinary users, choosing to judge the likeability of the OS, based on the opinions of pundits, who are predominantly anti-Microsoft.
        P. Douglas
        • Pundits are predominantly anti-MS

          I wonder why. But regardless, I consider it to be a welcome change.
          John L. Ries
        • Payola?

          Maybe they're on the Apple payroll.
          randygrenier