The Windows 8 tragedy: How Microsoft can avoid disaster

Microsoft's Windows 8 adaptation to 'consumerization' world assures it will stay in the past -- unless it makes these changes

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But even an equivalent to Quickoffice or iWork is insuffficient: Microsoft needs to make Office 15 on Metro uniquely compelling. In other words, it needs to signal that Office for Windows 7 is done, and the innovation will be only on Metro. As Apple's work on iWork, iMovie, and GarageBand for iPad set both the example and the bar for iPad developers, so must Microsoft do for Metro. That will be hard for Microsoft, which is too cozy to its enterprise customers' inward focus and conservatism to tell them it's time to make the change. Orphan Windows 7 where it is, and put the future in Metro. They'll complain but adapt -- otherwise, their only other adoption is to go to Apple, which they know will not indulge their desire to stick with the old forever.

And Microsoft needs to give Metro much more capability and sophistication. The UI may be clean, but it's very limited. iOS and Android can run circles around Metro in so many ways, it's pathetic. Metro is an OS to run widgets, not a serious computing platform. Microsoft needs to change that soon, or else Metro will be just as irrelevant on PCs and tablets as it is in smartphones.

Is Microsoft able to bet right on its own future?
If you listen to Microsoft's marketing (you shouldn't), you'll hear that Windows 8 is the culmination of Manhattan Project-like usability research scientifically proven to be the one true approach for humanity. It's not. The Metro UI is a blownup version of what Windows Phone 7 offers: a clean, simple interface for running a handful of widgets. It works poorly on a large touchscreen, and it works terribly with a keyboard and mouse. Windows 7 is likewise completely inappropriate for the touch environment. These UIs would not have survived real usability research.

Every time Microsoft has a new OS, it changes the UI. If the UI were based on legitimate usability testing, it wouldn't need such radical changes every few years. That constant level of significant UI change simply means Microsoft is still getting it wrong. Compare Windows to Mac OS X, which had a major retooling 12 years ago. It has evolved dramatically since, but no one has ever had to relearn the Mac UI from version to version. A Mac user from 20 years ago would recognize the fundamentals in today's version, as different as they may appear on screen. That should have been the history of the Windows UI as well.

I saw a Microsoft presentation this week on Windows 8 and all its glories. The marketing exec painted a vision of thin laptops and tablets as what Windows 8 would make possible. As I looked around the conference, I saw dozens of MacBook Airs, scores and scores of iPads, and scads of iPhones and Androids. I also saw a lot of rolling eyes as the Microsoft rep continued to embarrass herself with clueless claims. That future Microsoft pretends it's inventing already exists, and today's reality is far ahead of Microsoft's "vision."

The foks in Redmond need to stop telling each other how wonderful they are. The emperor has few clothes left.

I can't understate the danger around Windows 8 as it exists today. The current implementation will fail, and that will be worse for Microsoft than its previous debacle, Windows Vista.

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