Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Microsoft follies, brought to you by Microsoft

 Uh, maybe you should have stuck with the old ending.

Mr. Softee has officially fallen on his sword.

"Microsoft admits failure on Windows 8," says the story in MarketWatch. It is apparently only a rumor, however, that they have renamed the operating system Edsel.

Your blogger counts himself among the blessed, having bought a new computer loaded with Win 7 just before they force fed the world's PC users with the savage Win 8. My mother-in-law was not so lucky. She got a new computer with the built-in plague and couldn't make hoof nor ear of it. My wife, who is more of a techie than me -- well, almost anybody is, but she's good -- went to her mum's house to sort it out. Eventually she did, sort of, but came out of the experience bleeding.

What is wrong with Mr. Softee? How can a company that captured the OS world and then the office software world 20 years ago, which has tens of billions of dollars to play with, lay an egg like this? Is it simply hubris?

Actually it's only an especially advanced case of a problem that is widespread in the consumer technology field: a combination of planned obsolescence and Coolness Syndrome. Especially the latter. I suspect this is more a management problem than a designer problem, but there is a gripping urge to constantly remix the features, add functions no normal human gives a hoot about, and make you learn to walk and talk all over again. So the Microsoft mountain has labored and brought forth a mouseless system. Why is touching a screen better than using a mouse for control? 

This is clouded brain computing. I'm sure a few Microsoft functionaries will be tossed over the side for the flop. It won't be the executives in the corner playpen, though.

Once commenter to the story summed up the farce: "I hear Windows 9 is even more challenging, as it changes the position of the letters on the keyboard every day just to entertain the young."


David Foster said...

"Why is touching a screen better than using a mouse for control?"

It depends on how you're using it. If the screen is part of the dashboard of an automobile or an aircraft, then a touch screen can make sense. (Although I certainly hope no one is using Windows for safety-critical systems.) For a tablet that is horizontal on a table or lap, it's probably okay. For a vertical screen, it is very awkward because of the angle you have to hold your arm out at.

YIH said...

It seems like Windows is like the (original cast) Star Trek movies - one not so good, one good:
Win 95: meh
Win 98: better
Win ME: kill it - kill it with fire!
Win XP: much better
Win Vista: and there's your one step back
Win 7: better
Win 8: everything I've heard so far is like what happened with Vista; ''No, I don't want the new Windows give me the old version instead''
Though it seems M$ is (somewhat) paying attention: It seems they are going to do with 8 what they did with ME (BTW, did I mention I hated that one?) move up the schedule for the next version, currnetly being called 'Windows Blue' a name that at least lends itself to sarcastic renaming.

Rick Darby said...


Yes, a touch screen might have some advantages in an airplane cockpit, as a feature in a head-up display ... although you wouldn't want to control safety-critical systems like the throttles with it! (Too easy to make a slip of the finger.) A touch screen on the HUD would make sense for pushing to talk over the radio, too, even for the pilot not flying. Two heads up are better than one.

As far as I've heard, no one is designing a touch screen for HUDs (I saw the HUD available as an option on the 787), but one of these days, who knows?

YIH, I've thought the same thing. When Microsoft does come up with a decent operating system -- and as you say, some have been reasonably satisfactory -- you don't want to be an early adopter for the next version. That is, if Mr. Softee gives you a choice.