back to article Metro, that ribbon, shared mailboxes: Has Microsoft lost the plot?

In a previous piece on Office 365, I discussed how difficult it was to enable public folders. The reality is that Office 365 doesn't support public folders in the traditional sense. Instead, to achieve a similar functionality to the most common use for public folders – a storage point for group emails – Microsoft have offered " …

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Anonymous Coward

Demand that you must hold a windows licence on the device you are using as an RDP client

Good luck with that - one of the final needs we had for Windows was remote access for my wife to her school's Windows system. Having sorted out OpenVPN on Linux the Linux RDP solution was faster AND more reliable than using Windows. The last copy of Windows on our 6 machine network got binned.

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Big Brother

Re: Demand that you must hold a windows licence on the device you are using as an RDP client

Yeah, Microsoft seem to forget that not everyone uses Windows. Does anyone have any insight on how one would check that an RDP client has a valid Windows license without changing the RDP protocol and leaving all the changes undocumented in order to break cross-platform compatibility thus forcing everyone to install windows just to manage .. erm ... Windows?

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Re: Demand that you must hold a windows licence on the device you are using as an RDP client

@Miek: Which, you will notice, they have done. Not that it has worked, there are now open source clients that speak the latest version, but they have tried.

Now, if you're looking for technical measures that wouldn't break compatibility, RDP is complex enough you should be able to open a covert channel. For example, server embeds a challenge steganographically in the low bits of the desktop pixels, client sends response by jittering the timing of mouse and keyboard events.

But, in a business environment, the main bugbear probably isn't technical at all: the legal threat of a compliance check.

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Anonymous Coward

As always,

I can't help thinking that if Microsoft had been broken up by the DoJ last decade as a result of its antitrust naughtiness, the various surviving bits would seem likely to find themselves in a better state today than their cohesive whole seems to be.

The little tiny nuggests of genuine brilliance and innovation are too easily lost in a tidal wave of mediocrity and product infanticide.

When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

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Gold badge

Re: As always,

Agreed. At the moment there's always all of these small divisions and ideas around all fighting to get noticed so they get funding. There's also politics where one team tries to block or knobble the other teams product.

At least if they were all separate they could all fund their own ideas and there would be a big price for failure.

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Pint

Re: As always,

Couldn't agree more. Upvote if you think Ballmer should have been fired long ago.

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Silver badge

Re: As always,

I think he shouldn't have been fired. But then, I *want* Microsoft to fail. It is not good for one company to define an industry.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As always,

@captain save-a-ho

This isn't YouTube. Asking for up votes. Please

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As always,

How about not wanting MS to fail, but wanting other companies to do better?

What does MS failing do? It means lots of people are out of work, it means that lots of customers have no way to keep their software current. RHEL or Apple or whoever doing better would be a much nicer thing to wish for.

But that is a certain class of FOSS enthusiast all over, they want MS to die, more than they want FOSS to succeed.

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Anonymous Coward

Ferk them all - they are evil.

No I am not kidding.

>But that is a certain class of FOSS enthusiast all over, they want MS to die, more than they want FOSS to succeed.

No, I do want FOSS to succeed a lot.

But that does not preclude my visceral loathing of ms and their evil ways.

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Silver badge

@AC:How about not wanting MS to fail, but wanting other companies to do better?

Why do we want MS to fail? Because until they do MS remain willing&able to *unfairly* prevent other companies benefiting from doing better.

I don't want other companies to just do better at creating products. I want other companies to do better AND survive to share the benefits with me. That's not happening right now in any meaningful way. MS defines an industry in a coercive and obstructive way, that's what needs to change.

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Silver badge

Re: As always,

> What does MS failing do?

It would reduce business, government and private costs by 80 billion per year.

> It means lots of people are out of work,

Many will find work as other enterprises grow to fill the gap instead of being suffocated by the monopoly.

> it means that lots of customers have no way to keep their software current.

Their software will not stop being 'current'. XP and Win7 will keep running just as it is until users switch at their leisure to better things, or not. Unless of course you are saying that MS could pull a 'death switch' in which case everyone should get rid of it as soon as possible.

> RHEL or Apple or whoever doing better would be a much nicer thing to wish for.

And the thing stopping them doing better is ...

> they want MS to die,

Yes, that is the only way that MS will stop killing, or trying to kill, the things they like.

The GPL has become what it is though evolution, the survival of the fittest. The MS carnivore has killed off almost everything else through buying up, stealing, monopoly practices, 'partnerships' and various other mechanisms. The GPL has made FOSS the shrew like mammals of the dinosaur age.

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Thumb Up

Re: As always,

I like where Ballmer is leading the company. I hope he stays until he finishes the job.

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Bronze badge

Re: Upvote if you think Ballmer should have been fired long ago.

GLADLY!!!

I feel that Ballmer should have experienced a Career Trajectory Re-Alignment a long time ago.

IMHo, that re-alignment should have been accomplished by putting him in one of these and, yanking his chain.( http: //www.real-world-physics-problems.com/images/trebuchet.jpg )

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Devil

Re: As always,

Uh, have you seen vids of Ballmer 'performing'? It is just not him that is out of control, it is the whole goddam M$ company. They've lost it. But then, dinosaurs are notoriously hard to kill. Just look at Yahell! or AOL or....

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WTF?

Re: As always,

He can't even kill it at a proper pace.

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Mushroom

Re: As always,

Asking for up-votes reminds me of a tyke doing the pee-pee dance...

"Mommy! Mommy! I jus' GOTTA!"

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Linux

Starting to act like a company whose time has come...

...and gone.

$DEITY, I hate that ribbon...

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Happy

I actually like the ribbon, took a week or two but...

Yeah if I use a old style Office now its a miss :-)

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FAIL

Re: Starting to act like a company whose time has come...

I have tended to view anything Microsoft as drinking a bucket of week old warm vomit.

So this statement - just you know.... "Duh"

"There's a problem in this thinking; it is focused entirely on how Microsoft would like us to use its software (so as to maximise revenue potential) and has absolutely no connection to how people actually use it in the real world."

In a lot of ways, the best Microsoft Office ever got was 2003, and sure there is room for growth and development - as technology and communications change....

But when you look hard at it, almost all of the REAL development was just scummy, "Move with the times" crap of Office 2007 - and the Ribbon interface, the Docx scandal of rigging the ISO voting system etc., etc., etc...

And it was all designed to keep on pushing the new repackaged old product onto the table while pushing last years product off the table and killing it with backward compatability issues.

It was just all a cynical effort to keep everyone on the perpetual upgrade / cash cow / money grabbing cycle - for software that has really not evolved much at all...

It's just playing dirty and greedy and being manipulative and lying - through manipulation and coercion - "Last years model doesn't work with this years model - so you had better upgrade now OR you will be left behind."

Kaching! Kaching! Kaching! - go MS's cash registers....

I was given a set of Office 2007 CD's and I tried my best to use it and - it was so buggy and such a piece of stupid shit.... I threw the CD's in the bin....

I thought, "Naaaaaa you people in Microsoft are that stupid that you move garbage software like this into the market? Seriously defective software and the only major "improvement" is that idiot ribbon that takes up 30% of the screen space - and can't be gotten rid of - back to plain menus? - Fuck? Really?"

And they call it an innovation?

I call it a cynical respray of the same crap with new badges.

If they had of made their number one objective, of really refining and adapting and developing great software, they could have earned the reputation as a quality product producer - but they just got more and more insanely greedy and focused on manipulating the market for the share prices...

And doing really stupid shit in order to keep that scam running...

Now everyone hates them, people have left in droves for Linux, Open Office / Office Libre, Apple Macs etc.

People are just getting sick and tired of being sick and tired of Microsoft and their stupid cash grabbing bullshit.

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When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

Come back a year after Win 8 has been released and we'll see if that has been the case, or if people are calling for his head.

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FAIL

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

If Win 8 fails, Balmer will through chairs around and blame someone else. It will *never* be his fault.

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Silver badge

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

I don't think he'll be given a year. The two quarterly reports following a Win 8 launch ought to be decisive. Given the lack of dramatic success with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is going to need some big, poster child success with Windows 8 tablets to convince investors that it has got the right strategy.

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Coat

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

Why waste the pastures when you can take him to the barn and ...

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jai
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Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

if Win8 fails?

why didn't it happen after Vista?

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Thumb Up

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

"Why didn't it happen after Vista"...

My view is beause although Vista didn't sell as well as hoped, customers generally didn't spend and stuck with XP - they lost specific licence sales but people kept within the Windows family. This time, because so many corporates are coming to the end of life with XP, there is a much bigger danger that if Win8 is rubbish they may start to plan a world without Microsoft.

Do I think there will be mass defections to Linux etc? Probably not, but if Win8 fails there will be enough to make Balmer lose his job.

Oh, and that's before I mention consumers - if Win 8 sucks on the desktop then there is less UX & brand leverage for a WIn Phone, Win Tablet, Win Laptop etc etc.

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Meh

nah its a pretty safe punt (win8) everyone is going win7 64bit and no further.

Win7 is good enough for the next 5 years easy.

They get a free beta with win8 and sort it out for win9.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

If so, then Steven Sinofsky will be the most likely candidate as scapegoat. I bet Ballmer hasn't forgotten how Sinofsky screwed up the Surface presentation.

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WTF?

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

Vista's failure equated to Rather large profits. All of the bad mouthing Ballmer gets seems to forget that no matter how you frame his time at MS, the company has never been so successful. Yes, Apple has taken a huge lead in mobile and tablets and google is way strong in mobile, but if windows 8 sells as good as vista it will still be huge and will create a big ecosystem for app developers with metro. This isn't a fanboy blowing smoke up your a$$. This is basic math.

If you look at the size of the desktop and laptop markets which MS owns and think if 3/4 of all of those sold have some kind of win8 on them from fall and afterward, it will still be massive if this is a "failure" like vista. All the posts here completely lack perspective and are thoroughly biased with selective use of facts and figures.

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Headmaster

Re: When is Ballmer going to be put out to pasture?

I knew Balmer had a tendancy to throw chairs - I didn't, however, know that he was 'though' about it - did he throw ALL the chairs?

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Anonymous Coward

"Rooting around in the dark magic of its own relevance"

Nothing new about that, which has always been a hallmark of Microsoft. It's just that enterprises now have better options, so Microsoft is frantically rooting around to find the relevance it once had.

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Stop

outside of a few Excel power users ...

Don't forget Access. None of the freebies come near it.

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jai
Silver badge

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

and for good reason. no serious enterprise should still be using Access

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Anonymous Coward

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

I used to like working with Access. In the right hands it's reasonably powerful and up to a lot of tasks. However, that's all changed after I've seen the way it's been used in my current place. It's actually forced me to re-evaluate my own knowledge base and to take steps to move to other technologies.

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

"Don't forget Access. None of the freebies come near it"

Trudat. Ignore the downvoters. Access is a wonderful prototyping tool for proof-of-concept, a great fast development tool for small admin databases and it is still (just) ahead of the pack.

To me, the fact that it once allowed me to pull reports out of the air concerning a huge mainframe upgrade and show the complete tw*t in charge that I had better things to do with my life than do his idiot make-work puts it in the hall of fame. I can make useful applications in sparrows fart time and make them look good enough to draw attaboy comments from those that shoulder surf. It has some issues, but none that have been show stoppers for this one-time mainframe DBA.

I use OpenOffice for most things now, but I often wish I didn't. From the formatting woes I get in Writer which wants one and only one page format throughout a Writer-authored document to the bizarre formula lock-ups in Calc that require me to restart the workbook to clear them, to the truly demented Base need for an autonumeric primary key on any table you want to use in a foreign key relationship with another.

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

If you spend any amount of time writing documents then even going back from Word 2010 to 2007 is a big wrench. I'd hate to think I had to spend hours every day in Writer. It's great for a free tool but Word 2010 saves me loads of time with useful features and I'm used to the Ribbon now.

The paste-preview is magic. I can't live without it :)

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

> Access is a wonderful prototyping tool for proof-of-concept, a great fast development tool for small admin databases

Are you serious?

I guess you've never used anything halfway decent then. If you like limited drag-drop-and-draw stuff then it's ok, if you need anything complex then the syntax is unusable (if things are even possible) (and made worse by MS deliberately obstructing you), you can't dump stuff out in a reliable way so you can't version control it except by backing up the entire db, it crashes and corrupts (tip: make a copy of entire db every day, this will save you some pain) and the documentation is truly abysmal. It's awful, godawful. It's perhaps the worst development environment I've ever used.

I guess for simple stuff it will do, and it integrates well with external data sources such as excel (but not csv because MS don't own that, don't push it too hard with csv). It's a toy, much better than excel for storing and processing data, but a toy nonetheless.

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

The obvious follow on question is: what is a good (and I mean a good) alternative to Access for a single file, database application development application?

I've used Access for years, but with all the recent fails coming through from MS I'm now seriously looking to get away from MS based machines where that's possible.

Linux Mint seems to be the logical choice, but the reasons not all can go that way is that there is always some piece of hardware (either recent or legacy) that doesn't have anything other than Windows drivers, or a piece of software that only comes in a Windows flavour. Outlook was one, but I think I can probably live with Evolution (I prefer a one stop shop for email and PIM).

Access doesn't have an alternative to the best of my knowledge (which isn't much), so I've been looking into working out how to put together HTML5 based apps, but to do so securely with all that javascript on the browser front end requires far more knowledge and effort than Access (not that Access is in anyway a secure application development system, far from it!)

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

What exactly should they be using?

We're not talking about big multi user systems... What about those small systems that are required to be working in a couple of days?

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ... @Novex, Spoddyhalfwit

I was really replying to Stevie who from his platform of ignorance was telling the world it was a great product.

It suits his needs well so for him it #is# a great product. Clearly he's doing little but basic stuff and if it gets his (and your) job done, bully for him (and you), don't let me put you off, just don't extrapolate that to what the rest of the IT world needs.

It has its form and other UI stuff, which can be handy but not part of a database functionality. Try and do anything that *does* involve db functionality like some halfway complex processing - where the real value of a DB lies - and you will start to bleed from the ears.

It's reasonably stable if you don't push it too hard but please make daily backups if you're developing. Trust me on that.

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Bronze badge

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

>I guess you've never used anything halfway decent then

Everything I could do with Access I can do with Java Beans and a team of 15 developers.

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Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

Kexi looks interesting: http://www.kexi-project.org Still a bit beta-ish for real work, but YMMV.

I'd agree that Access fills - or filled - a useful little niche for those who want a small, quick and dirty DB for tracking stock in their small business, or cataloguing their Bob Marley CDs. Sure, you'd be mad to hang your multinational on it but there are other types of people out there.

These days it throws a snit about being run on a single computer, making it kind of pointless.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

> The paste-preview is magic. I can't live without it :)

Given MS's long record of 'improving' features from one release to the next, I'm very sorry to hear of your impending death.

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Gold badge

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

Everything I could do with Access, I could do with PHP and MySQL while drunk out of my mind and in half the time to boot.

*shrug*

Anyone who complains that Access is "just easier" is simply someone afraid to take the ~4 hours out that is required to learn PHP. Once you learn that, you'll never - ever - go back to Access.

Microsoft Access is Velcro, invented by committee and implemented by wage slave who view the end user as the enemy.

PHP/MySQL is proper shoelaces. Still not the best, but a damned sight better than most alternatives, and easily understood by the common man.

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Re: Don't forget Access. None of the freebies come near it.

You do realise most end users use excel for tasks for which they should use access, monolithic end user spreadsheets are the bane of our IT Department, Hate Excel.

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Go

@Novex

HTML5+Postgres+PHP/Perl/Python clearly is much more complicated than an Access kludge for small-scale things.

Why don't you go with Lazarus and Postgres ? Both are rock-solid and you will quickly have something useful by doing a fat-client approach. Client/Server setups are always more expensive, so if you just need a little, relaibale database app, use a fat client approach.

You could also use Java/JDBC and Postgres, but Java is a slug...

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Linux

Re: outside of a few Excel power users ...

I haven't owned a copy of Windows since 3.1 I've been using Linux since the floppy disk installs back when. But I have to begrudgingly admit, Access is easier than hell to use to set up a small database and get screens setup in very little time. I just tried Libre Office Base again, for the umpteenth time to do that. It is not intuitive. Access is. I have Mysql jumping through hoops, and run a virtual box running 3 webservers. BUT! I cannot find one single easy-to-use report/query/input page generator anywhere for the average computer literate user. THAT I want to see happen.

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It seems to me as if Microsoft has lost the plot..

Take their stupid instance on the Ribbon interface. I have been using Office for longer than I care to remember (well over 10 years), and have used it for various projects, both large and small. Up to Office 2003, I could do most of what I wanted or needed to do quickly, and with little need to go to the help system.

Now, with Ribbons, I frequently find myself having to spend a minute or two looking for an option, or in extreme cases, look it up on the help system

With Windows 8, along comes Metro. An interface that seemingly ignores 20 years of Human Computer Interaction research seemingly based on some vague idea that Joe Public loves the Windows Phone interface and would love to see it on his PC. Guess what? The WP interface is good for phones. It's probably fine for tablets (I'll be honest, I've never used in on a tablet).

There are a couple of problems I have with Metro.

1) It's not obvious how to bring up the start screen, the control panel, or even how to shut the computer down safely. I'll admit, even as a OSX fan, that OSX doesn't make those things obvious, either. This means it might be difficult for an inexperienced user to find their way around a system. It's not obvious that if you want to start another application (or switch to one), that you need to let the mouse pointer hover over an area of the screen. It's also not obvious that you need to touch an area of the screen. OSX at least has the dock at the bottom of the screen, and virtually any Finder window has an Applications shortcut on it.

My point is that people are used to buttons and switches. They've been in use since before the first computers were even conceived. There is something physical (or at least visual) that you can push, and there is usually a visual or auditory notification that it has been pushed. Even touch sensitive controls on modern electronics still have clear markings showing you where to touch. Windows 8 Metro doesn't appear to offer that. OSX offers that. So do most of the flavours of Linux (although with Unity, Canonical appear to be dragging Ubuntu down the Microsoft route UI wise). So do earlier versions of Windows.

2) Ergonomics. Steve Jobs rightly (IMO) pointed out that touch screen PCs do not work for long term use. Try holding your arm up and touching your PC screen for 20 minutes, and I suspect you'll agree. After a while, you will start to lose feeling in the arm. Now, I did see suggested on another forum that people would be using a touch screen monitor on it's back. With today's generation of monitors that is a staggeringly bad idea. Quite apart from the fact that the heat from the electronics in the back of the monitor would rise, and possibly damage the LCD of the monitor with prolonged use, even thin monitors would require the user to hold their hands several centimetres above the desk. Something that has been linked with RSI. That's with a monitor a few centimetres thick. Now imagine the problems caused by someone with an All in one PC that can be anywhere from 5 to 10 centimetres thick.

All I can say is that Apple must have looked at Windows 8, and are currently rubbing their hands with glee over the number of potential mac users that are actively looking at other platforms.

Maybe Apple used some of that huge cash pile to buy a large share of Microsoft to run it into the ground?

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Anonymous Coward

It wasn't just Saint Steve that pointed that out.

"Gorilla arm" has long been known as a serious obstacle to touch screen adoption. Wisdom from the eighties, at least in my memory, but probably older than that. Yet now-a-days you can hardly buy a phone without a touchscreen.

Your examples of what "isn't obvious" are actually a larger point and that is that "intuitive interfaces" aren't. Compare the old saw "the nipple is intuitive, everything else is learned" and then consider the irony in the frustrated young mothers that can tell you in more detail than you'd care to know that, no, the nipple isn't "intuitive" either.

So what we have here is a bunch of smartarses that take the things you (and lots of other people) are used to, and turn them on their head. That by itself is highly risky, but you know, people have gotten used to interfaces based on poorly-thought-out metaphors before. The point to take home is that our "intuitive" interfaces really rest on other things we're assumed to already have learned.

This is rather insidious as the particulars of some arbitrary mapping of function to metaphor isn't obvious for everyone; the end result is that there's people who *don't* get it and they feel themselves given a dunce hat and a corner to stand in because supposedly everyone else does get it. Now ask yourself, who designs these things? Are we all such people? Do we even have comparable backgrounds?

As you point out, other systems have a different methaphor mix, and hey, people still get by. So any particular mapping isn't universal. Realising this opens the door to, well, trying something new, and hey, they brought this to market. That is innovation.

I'm no redmond fanboi by any means, but that doesn't change that what they did is indeed innovative. You can ask whether it's a good idea, as "being innovative" by itself does not guarantee that at all. It might not be, but then again, they might have enough market power yet to make us like it regardless of what we really think. That would be sad as it means the idea didn't (need to) stand on its own merits. We've seen that before, too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It wasn't just Saint Steve that pointed that out.

> "Gorilla arm" has long been known as a serious obstacle to touch screen adoption.

Given that Ballmer's knuckles drag along the ground behind him anyway, we can hardly have expected him to understand this.

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