Most of us have a very personal (-ish) relationship with our computers, we connect to people through them, we pay bills and explore through them too. So, when Microsoft turned our familiar Windows on its head, the public let loose.
The tile interface idea for Windows 8 by itself wasn’t all that bad; for users with touch laptops and tablets it works just fine, but then Microsoft went a step beyond. They took a nice innovation for touch devices and inexplicably shoved it into the desktop realm. Removing every familiar aspect of the operating system and forcing keyboard and mouse users to work within an architecture that is incredibly unfriendly to the use of a mouse and keyboard was incredibly short-sighted.
Even this, as unnecessarily manipulative as it was, would not have been too egregious if they had simply given everyone the choice to start with either the desktop or the tile screen, then business users would at least have been able to move the tile UI out of the way so that they could focus on actual business.
Systems without touch hardware are left struggling because the touch architecture makes the keyboard & mouse highly inefficient, since all of the controls have been broken up into pieces and locations that only make sense for non-touch users if you operate your computer with two mice simultaneously and have a second set of hand available to operate the keyboard.
Making the Windows 8 user experience touch-only proved to be a monumental gaff. It didn’t end there, Microsoft compounded that by requiring developers to buy a completely separate license if they wanted their programs to make use of the tile interface at all. Nothing like double-dipping after you’ve forced software designers into a corner, is there? In order to make money off that concept, it had to have teeth, locking the tile screen in place was strictly a financial move which solidified that extra revenue stream, forcing all users to get through the tile interface first before they are allowed (temporarily) to use the familiar desktop (without the start button).
So now that we’ve dispelled the myth that this was merely an idealistic design choice born of aesthetics, we’re left with only two possible motivations: Greed or stupidity. Microsoft is not comprised of stupid people so what we are left with is pure avarice and greed. Squeeze your customers of every dollar they can or cannot spare.
Removing the start button compounded that mistake by continuing to “remake the computing landscape.” All of the familiar management tools, troubleshooting tools and features we have all gotten used to over many years vanished. Some went to the left side of the touch screen and some went to the right, only coming out if you swipe your mouse/touch to the right of left edge of your screen with nothing visible for the users to cue in on. In this decision they have now forced all computer technicians to retool and learn where all of their tools are and how to navigate an interface that ignores all common sense.
And how did we all take it in? How did their customers respond? While some drank the cool-aide and dove right in, the vast majority of Windows users cried foul at the loss of everything familiar to them.
Microsoft was left on the dance floor; pants around their ankles; the laughing stock of the computing world…
Continued in part 3: The aftermath of Windows 8