What I like about Microsoft is that the company is not afraid to do sociological experiments on its massive user base. (Forget the fact that it never actually publishes the studies and findings). Now, Windows 8, to be released later this week (opens in new tab), is part of this history.
I've been trying to dig up the real reasons that Microsoft has decided to make Windows 8 into a loopy phone OS scaled up into a desktop OS while stopping along the way to drop it on a few tablets. The entire idea makes no sense.
I suspect Microsoft is concerned that there are still too many people unfamiliar with computers and who have never been mentally poisoned by any GUI. Try to explain the "desktop metaphor" to the digitally naïve. It's simply not possible. "This is your desktop. These are file folders into which you put documents." They might even be confused by the concept of a folder.
(opens in new tab)Bill Gates recently came out extolling the virtues of the Windows 8 OS and was roundly criticised by some media outlets for being a typical rah-rah booster. You have to consider the possibility that Gates, who is now a great traveller and has seen first-hand how users worldwide experience computing interfaces, has a broader view. But how do you universally translate an office desktop or the usefulness of a file folder? Bring on Windows 8!
Windows 8 is the new version of what used to be called a "file loader" or "program loader" back in the MS-DOS days. How many users actually need to have a slew of Windows open on the screen anyway? Maybe readers of ITProPortal, but Microsoft must figure that all of you are going to gravitate towards Linux anyway.
By simplifying the interface with giant blocks you move around with your finger like a kindergartener might do naturally, the goal of being fully inclusive is finalised. Everyone can now use a computer. No matter that people with some sense of the older metaphors are completely lost in the process; they will learn to love the giant tiles and eventually figure out how to turn off the machine.
And while the idea makes no sense to anyone in the industry, it must satisfy some need for originality that Microsoft desires. I mean, there has to be some reason the company did this besides the fact that it's just different and original. Nobody will accuse Microsoft of stealing this concept, although the idea of full-screen-only applications seems to be nothing more than a throwback to MS-DOS 2.0. I'd call it anything but an advancement in technology or UI design.
If we look at it as an experiment, we may learn something. We already know that Microsoft copies other ideas and then goes out on its own and seems to fail, even with good ideas. It's a shame that it has to use its huge user base as the lab animals on which it experiments. I'd rather not have to go through this agony.