Here’s a lesson for any would-be bloggers and users of social media: don’t be so subtle.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, because while we were trying to gently suggest to Microsoft that Windows 8 wasn’t exactly the best OS, and that it might be better with a few desktop-oriented tweaks to make it a little more intuitive when not using a tablet, it turns out Microsoft was working on a whole new OS that had those refinements. If we could have somehow shouted louder, raised more of a ruckus, those changes just might have been implemented in Windows 8 or 8.1. But we didn’t, and now we have to wait for Windows 9.
Of course we weren’t subtle. We screamed from the every corner of the world that while Windows 8 seems kind of okay on a tablet, it was really horrible to use on a desktop. Everyone from random people on twitter to Paul Allen himself commented on the fact that there were multiple versions of applications (for instance, one IE for TileWorld, and another for the desktop) that had nothing to do with one-another, and that switching between apps was not very intuitive. We could not have been louder, and we could not have been more angry that all those complaints appeared to fall on deaf ears.
We held out hope that Windows 8.1 would somehow come with a Start Menu and some level of device awareness so that there wouldn’t be so large a learning curve for users switching from Windows XP or Windows 7. What we got were small refinements, mainly aimed at mobility and BYOD scenarios, though we did get the ability to boot to the desktop. Those that forced themselves to get used to Windows 8 have finally adjusted, but users don't exactly like to be forced.
This past week, rumors have been circulating through none other than Mary Jo Foley that Windows 9 (or “Threshold” until further notice), which is due to be released next Spring, will be just what we’ve been waiting for. It will have a more advanced level of device awareness, meaning that if it’s on a laptop with a touchscreen, you’ll default to a touch-based interface, whereas if you’re on a desktop you’ll get a more Windows 7-like interface.
It will have a modern Start Menu that looks like a nice blend of old and new (we saw examples of this during Build a few months ago).
The icing on the cake, though, is that after nearly three years Microsoft has finally cracked the code on making Metro apps work better on desktops. As part of this device-aware experience, rather than switching to a full screen TileWorld whenever you want to use a Metro app, Windows 9 will run the app...wait for it...in a window. Yep. The solution to the problem we’ve had since day-freaking-one is to do what we’ve been doing for 20 years–put it in a window. Of course, that won’t make gestures any easier to learn, let alone hot corners and such, but for the one-off Metro app that people would use on their computers, it’s nice to be able to not have to leave the desktop to use it.
Microsoft has been on a Star Trek movie trajectory now for many years where every other OS isn’t so great. Observe this chart:
|Star Trek Movie||Windows OS|
|Star Trek: The Motion Picture||Windows XP|
|Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Khaaaaaan!)||Windows Vista (Vistaaaaaa!)|
|Star Trek III: The Search for Spock||Windows 7|
|Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (One word: Whales)||Windows 8 (One word: Metro)|
|Star Trek V: The Final Frontier||Windows 9|
It’s not scientific, but there could be some unwritten cosmic law. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m very optimistic about Windows 9. While it’s fun to bash on an OS from time to time, I really would prefer to have something I can get excited about rather than annoyed with. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some more favorable licensing out of this, too!