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back to article Why Microsoft absolutely DOESN'T need its own Steve Jobs

Microsoft is a company in transition. Speculation is rampant and everyone in the IT industry seems to have a strong opinion on what Microsoft should – and shouldn't – do. Analysts are increasingly lumping PCs in with mobile devices, a trend that's decidedly bad for Microsoft. Others remain sceptical of the practice and seem to …

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I have the same notion. MS must steer clear of the 'Jobs' be all end all identity.

There are a load of smart heads in each department and I believe it is up to the new CEO to purely oversee and ensure each of these departments are stepping in sync with each other and communicating between divisions. MS is huge and there are many divisions.

Done correctly there is a huge future in Microsoft and it definitely isn't dead in the water just because there's a form factor change. I say GO FOR IT Microsoft! Show the naysayers what you can pull together as far as a mature ecosystem that thrives. The seeds are in place, just pick up the pace a little more.

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'huge future in Microsoft'

As a life long MS developer I disagree. In fact you made me write:

..................... An Open Letter to Microsoft:

Question: When was the last time I as a developer was rewarded by Microsoft for helping push its product base?... Answer: It was over a decade ago when MS gave out free Pocket PC's.... MS were actually one of the first to push Mobile... Who knew! So what happened? In short, nothing, because as always MS didn't engage with folks on the ground, so it never took off for them.

MS turned their backs on their core sales partners by cutting sales incentives, and hurt core developers by ditching qualifications and developer tools. MS pushed .Net not because their hearts were in it, but because senior execs were envious of the Java model. Now they want to turn away again and go back to JS / Html etc..... 'If you stand by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by'... Should we go and dust off Visual studio 6?

Server Products are where MS continues to stand tall, but in retail there hasn't been any new ideas in forever! No ideas with any real utility anyway, just change for the sake of change. They cynically changed Office ala the Ribbon and the Win8 UI to usher in a new era of lock-in. But it didn't wash this time, because MS doesn't have the tribal fan-base of the likes of Apple. But the greatest self-inflicted wound was to play the Great Emperor card far too long and play into the hands of Dr. Google, and now Dr Evil are the new MS. Go figure! Who saw that one coming!

MS has also shown itself to be completely untrustworthy regarding user privacy. It practically bent over for the NSA, but it took comfort that it wasn't alone, with the usual suspects getting onboard too. However, the new Xbox has seriously stepped over the creepy line with privacy concerns beamed directly into ones living room. Not even the others have over-stepped that mark except for LG maybe! In addition, the extra Xbox cost is too high for hardcore gamers that won't benefit from a Kinect. So yes, MS will continue to make big money out of locked-in corporates for a long time, but on the retail side it will continue to blow-up because its POV is so skewed it sees Trusted Computing as a desirable user feature!

I got started in this game studying for a Comp-Sci degree and tinkering with Minix etc. So I know that I can change, and I know that I can migrate to Linux and FOSS and thus herald my own era of micro-freedom. And of course I'll still keep some old VM's for the useful Office stuff. But from here on I'm incredibly motivated to break away... I've worked for a selection of Fortune 500 shops and still have many contacts there and will be actively sought out to advise and consult and influence... But this time I wont be wielding the MS flag....

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Fully agree with the original.

One thing has been clear in MS that inter-department infighting has fragmented any possibility of a coherent vision. Steve Jobs had a unique place in Apple. Unless Bill Gates comes back(and he won't) they need a CEO who can fight the big beasts in the company and break down the internal barriers. Getting rid of stack ranking was a much needed step, but happened much too late.

Another thing they need to look at is why the pipeline from MS research to products is so slow or even non-existent. MS spent huge amounts on attracting the best talent, but as far as I can see they have got little from it. Ideas such as the two screen tablet and the table surface interface have raised there heads then been killed off, almost certainly due to department heads protecting their fiefdoms. Any new CEO must have a vision and be willing to go for it even if it means affecting the bottom line of their twin cash cows, desktop and office. I don't who that person is, but its a tough ask

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Absolutely right about Apple - it's Google that's winning the race, and doing so because it's offering the virtues that used to be Microsoft's, such as (relative) openness and responsiveness.

There once was a unified vision at Microsoft: to deliver the hottest technology to the user, faster and cheaper than anyone else. There are many examples. Support for the 386 processor. Protected-mode multitasking. Big memory and 64-bit processing. The Windows PC succeeded because it offered more horsepower, sooner and cheaper than the competition. It was never the sexiest, but it was always the best overall value. Now Ballmer has become dazzled by overpriced consumer devices, forgetting that it was power, not pizzazz, that made Microsoft successful.

Ballmer's tenure at the helm has been dubbed "Microsoft's lost decade". An unflattering term that is misused by many who blithely ignore that Ballmer's tenure still saw Microsoft grow profits by an average of over 15 per cent per year to a company with a net income of $23bn. We should all hope to fail so well.

Baloney. Ballmer reaped those profits by allowing the company to coast on momentum. Now the momentum is gone, and competitors who kept their foot on the gas are far ahead. Ballmer allowed Windows and Office to languish, while turning a huge lead in mobile devices (including both handhelds and tablets) into a total disaster. That's not the kind of FAIL anyone should aspire to.

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If my company could "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15% I would be quite content. Alternately, a net income of $23bn would be...desirable.

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Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

I think this statement sums up part of the problem. As a business MS has these last ten years or so been focused on increasing net profits rather than investing in a whole bunch of stuff like Amazon are doing and so declare a much smaller or negative net profit.

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Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

I don't particularly disagree...but look how many major companies tanked in those ten years, hmm? Even if all he could do was "coast" to 15% year-over-year, that's way better than most of the industry. Credit - and criticism - where it's due. Ballmer deserves a large helping of both.

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Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

I'm curious to know if people/business feel if every price rise corresponds to a rise in benefit from using MS products.

Slap on a new GUI and make you buy it again in order to keep using exchange, isn't a feature I'm interested in. The question is not 'are there wizzbang new features' but 'do I want/need the new features?'

I suspect the answer for most people (for pc's and increasingly for phones) is 'not enough to pay for it.'

With the office365 stuff I get the impression that the profit increases are short-term. People are unprepared to switch, but when they do it will hurt MS. When they can no longer sweat the assets because the don't own them, the global economic crunch will come home to MS and those who who sell enabling tech - you can't keep increasing prices when your customers aren't.

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Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

From your keyboard manipulating digits to the Redmondian ether, sir. Amen.

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SJ did have one thing right

When he said Microsoft have no taste. I still can't believe they expect people to buy their products when they have a proven track record of producing nothing but utter shit. And that has been going on for nearly thirty years.

The problem with Win 8 is that it is trying to bend the laws of the universe, and you just can't do that Jim. Stuffing a full PC into a machine the size of a thin paperback with enough oomph to run Office and Photoshop and any number of programs while having a battery that lasts for more than ten hours AND costs less than an iPad.... Even if they would have been able to make it, there would be no room for profit.

They were either tool lazy, or too incompetent. As SJ said, good design is about saying no. Three different runtimes for phones, tablets, and Xbox? No. Forcing a non-proven UI that no one wants onto your mainstream OS? No. Offering a low-cost(-ish) tablet whose USP is an office suite that isn't even ready for use on a touchscreen devices? No.

If they had covered those points (plus several other ones) then they would have stood a chance, but they don't care, they have never cared about quality because they never had to. Every time when they had to compete with a company that did put in some effort they either had to spend billions (Xbox), or lose (Kin, PlaysforSure, Zune, Windows Mobile, I could go on...).

Microsoft isn't going to go away, but they will never be able to enter the consumer market unless financed by their business unit. Here's hoping their new CEO will see that and start cutting off those parts that bring nothing but embarrassment.

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Re: SJ did have one thing right

"Microsoft isn't going to go away, but they will never be able to enter the consumer market unless financed by their business unit"

I don't think it is the money at all. - the problem they have is that they don't have a visionary CEO who can see the world through the eyes of customers (or employ somebody who can, and then listen to them). In many ways the article is right about managing change, but the reason that Microsoft messed up is because they wouldn't see the world as the customer sees it, and they wouldn't listen during (eg) the extensive beta testing of either Vista or W8. In both cases the testers flagged up everything that was not to like, and in both cases MS ignored them. And I think that's what SJ did bring - he didn't realy on beta testers because he had a flair for knowing (mostly) what would sell at a good margin, by understanding what people want, often before they could articulate that themselves. I'm no Apple fan, I own none of their products, but I'd argue that under SJ they made great not good products. Microsoft make good not great products, and that's a lack of visionary zeal, and that's why they do need their own Steve Jobs. Not to become an Apple, but to make Microsoft produce great stuff that people want to buy, rather than believing they have to buy it.

At the moment we're still stuck with the old non-listening, good-not-great Microsoft: I have previously railed against Win 8.1, maintaining it should have been a service pack under Windows Update, and bleating on about how I wasn't going to use the Windows app store etc etc. And I owe Microsoft an apology: It automatically came up that 8.1 was available, would I like it, and then downloaded in the background and installed with commendably little fuss. I'm sorry, Microsoft. BUT....8.1 doesn't do enough for those of us who don't like TIFKAM (which I acknowledge works fine for many people). They've begrudgingly added in a start button that doesn't give me cascading menus, so Classic Shell has gone back on. And I'm therefore forced to conclude that they still aren't listening or thinking like customers. How can adding a start button that doesn't do much useful involve a 3.5 Gb download? I'd hope there's a lot more clever stuff been done within that 3.5 Gb, but even taking my hat off that (on a fast broadband connection) it was a completely painless "upgrade", why?

It would be nice to think the new CEO will bring something new, but how many of the candidates are real entrepreneurs, or have produced magical products? They all look big corporate types, who have been paid fat salaries for too long to be driven and hungry. All will come in with restructuring plans, sack thousands, move management around. Will any make great products? I doubt it.

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Re: SJ did have one thing right

It's funny you said that, I thought of that line from SJ when I first saw Windows 8's Metro interface. Microsoft have no taste. For anybody from a design background, this has been abundantly apparent throughout their products for a very long time. I think you are onto something when you say they never really feel they have to compete. MS has always had the business Windows/Office/Exchange/SharePoint/CRM revenues to fall back on, but I think their various mistepps from Vista onwards, a plateaus in software and hardware demands, lack of presence in Mobile and BYOD causing Apple devices to come into the organisation has caused a perfect storm for them which they might struggle to recover from. They certainly don't feel as infallible as they used to and many people I know both at work and home now don't use Microsoft at all, and that used to be very rare indeed. I think that the failure of the Surface has been a good case study in things they are shooting themselves in the foot with.

As you said, no touch enabled (as in designed from the ground up for touch) version of Office 2013/365 included or available at launch, or a year later, is totally unforgivable:, that would have been a killer feature in the enterprise! When we tested out the Surfaces, you could see the disappointment on people's faces with what Redmond had come up with, and we rapidly started buying iPads again. It's a similar story wherever you look. Why does Outlook behave different to every other Office product with regards to saving to SharePoint and why haven't MS fixed that and other key Sharepoint "design decisions" over a period of *years*. If their own products don't even work together well, it just looks bad. People have become used to MS's screwing things up.

Of course, the damage to the company right now does not seem obvious, it didn't with RIM either, but MS's whole business model will need to be rebalanced, given the trends and where we are heading. Other than software EOL forcing companies to upgrade, what compelling reasons are there to upgrade Windows, Office and the rest when almost as good much cheaper or free options exist? All of their profitable divisions are relying on markets in a current state of flux, from the Xbox (competing with iOS games costing pennies and an erosion of dedicated home consoles) to Windows and Office, their best strategy might be to move to an IBM model as their enterprise server products are still generally well respected.

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Re: SJ did have one thing right

" I don't think it is the money at all. - the problem they have is that they don't have a visionary CEO who can see the world through the eyes of customers (or employ somebody who can, and then listen to them). "

To me this has MS all along. They have some very smart people, some great ideas but they just can't get their act together to get the to things working. They reek of the same mind-set they had back around 1988 when DOS was king, that somehow they could do as they wish and everyone would fall in line as everyone only had a PC on their desk. The world has changed and we consume media and information from so many sources. Sometimes we may use a phone while we're out, back home on the sofa, whip a tablet. Serious stuff we jump on the laptop or desktop. Sometimes we may use all three devices more or less at the same time and we pretty much need to be able to quickly have the ability to use them without any problems. MS can't see that.

Much as Apple Corp irk me you can't fault their ability to see what people want, design it and flog it to them, even if most of the customers don't realise they need it. They offer a range of devices that compliment each other, you use one you pretty can use any of the others. Somehow they've manage to stoke up the right crowd to get cachet and consumer loyalty that most corps will almost literally kill for.

MS need to shake off that monolithic, 1988 mindset and actually start looking at the what is happening out in the world. Or at the very least, fire their researchers 'cos they obviously don't seem to have a clue about what's happening out here and MS are following their advice!

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A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

Never quite understood whether the new user interfaces being foisted on us are because *we* (the punters) lack vision to understand it, or *they* are just being arrogant and treating us like cash cow cattle.

It does seem that Microsoft's corporate culture is stuck in the past; we won the browser wars (yes granddad, but you lost it all in the end).

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

"Never quite understood whether the new user interfaces being foisted on us are because *we* (the punters) lack vision to understand it, or *they* are just being arrogant and treating us like cash cow cattle."

It's the former. Windows 8.x replaced the rather weird Start Menu with a proper app launcher, which also runs big widgets. All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone calling themselves a seasoned veteran or professional should know – are unchanged. ALT+F4 will close a ModernUI app just as it closes a conventional Windows GUI app, for example.

There are textbooks on this. Many of them written as far back as the late '60s and early '70s, when the R&D phase for the WIMP desktop metaphor we still see on desktop GUIs today was still in its infancy.

That the above is clearly a surprise to many so-called "professionals" is shocking to me; it was very basic stuff when I was studying Computer Science in the 1980s.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

> replace the rather weird start menu

Unfortunately with something that completely distracts one and looses one's context in the task at hand. The Start Menu may have been weird, but was functional. The start page with all it's irrelevant flashing nonsense is utterly unusable and is downright unproductive. IMHO.

> ALT+F4 to close a TIFKAM app

How the fuck am I supposed to know that? Worse still how on earth is *everyone* supposed to know that? You may as well have told me to run ps -ef 'poxy_app' | kill -123 What's wrong with a [X] in the upper right-hand corner? And why can't I run these damnable apps in windowed mode?

Jeez

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

"How the fuck am I supposed to know that?"

I have RSI so I use keyboard shortcuts a lot, but I thought a lot of them were pretty common knowledge. Alt-F4 is one of the basics I thought, it's up there with alt-space or alt-tab. Everyone knows that closes a window, consistently, on most window managers - don't they?!

Let's have a poll - upvote = "I knew alt-f4 did that", downvote = "I didn't know"

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

I didn't know it. TIFKAM looks and acts completely differently to the classic desktop, why would I (or most people) expect classic desktop shortcuts to work?

For a start there are no windows in TIFKAM, what Alt-F4 does in TIFKAM is close the program, which is different.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

You may know, but the User Interface doesn't expose this. There are principles of User Interface discoverability which TIFKAM drives a horse & cart through.

Which is the point: Microsoft seem to be like a little dog with a bone - we must get the tablet market back. But they're completely ignoring their massive user base which will couldn't care less about touch screens: those people who use a computer at work. TIFKAM on a large screen is ridiculous. Then reading "swipe up from the left" when I'll never have a large-scale touch screen is just ignorant.

Vision or arrogance? More like ignorance and infatuation.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

" There are principles of User Interface discoverability which TIFKAM drives a horse & cart through."

Absolutely. I know fine that the charms menu slides in from the middle right when I go to the top right or bottom right corners, but i still find myself putting the mouse in the middle of the right hand edge momentarily, before remembering that its origin is not its trigger.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

Sean, I agree with most of that except the first sentence. MS came up with an app launcher for perfectly decent reasons but they inflicted it on the user base in the way they did out of pure arrogance.

A while ago I wrote: "...I reckon a fair few of my users would be happy with TIFKAM if they discovered it for themselves. If I imposed it by diktat - not a chance." Nothing I've seen since then has made me change my mind.

What I'd like to see is a drop down at logon so you could choose between "Classic" and "Modern". I'm not holding my breath.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

The problem with shortcut key presses is context. The whole point of a GUI should be simplicity with visual clues and obvious solutions to all major events (closing an application is pretty fundamental and as has been said, an X in the corner is more or less perfect - simple, unobtrusive and intuitive).

Expecting "professionals" or anyone else to learn keyboard shortcuts by wrote is bordering on enforcing a CLI. MS are either in the GUI business or reverting to CLI. Either is valid and both have strengths, but MS have it wrong.

It seems to me that the mess that is/was metro is neither fish nor foul and MS seem to have managed to harness the raw professional power of the GUI and married it to the intuitive simplicity of the Command Line. - Madness!

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

Alt-F4 always closed programs. Ctrl-F4 closes windows.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

"There are textbooks on this. Many of them written as far back as the late '60s"

Upvote for a discussion-provoking comment. However, it is quite wrong, or even worse, right in a wrong way.

Yes, some UI principles from 60's are back, garnered with a LSD-inspired colour palette. Many productivity enhancements made in the boring decades are suppressed. Instead of multiple windows working discreetly in the background, we have an awful race for the foreground - multiple apps are trying to jump up and grab the whole desktop. In direct violation of the lesser known 11th commandment - thou shalt not steal keyboard focus!

But to spin this as a good thing...

Yes, well, it could be good for some users. Just leave some choice about it.

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"...a proper app launcher... All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone..."

x-windows was never a superior interface. Not a bad first shot. Good enough for people who learned that interface first. But not 'better'.

>"textbooks on this... written as far back as the late '60s"

exactly. Textbooks written in the 60s.

At the same time that the world is moving to iOS and Android, MS is overrun with people who studied C++ and *nix at school, and they've imposed their command line & x-windows design criteria on what was previously a successful main-stream business.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance @Sean Timarco Baggaley

>All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone calling themselves a seasoned veteran or professional should know – are unchanged.

Obviously not a real fan and convert to the Windows GUI... If I remember correctly MS stopped promoting the keyboard shortcuts when it released Windows 95 et al. previously keyboard shortcut crib cards, they were intended to perch on the keyboard above the function keys, were included with Windows 3.n and the Office applications. The keyboard shortcuts were retained in Win95 to make it easier for Win3.n users to feel at home but MS didn't expect users in general to know about them. Hence in some respects it is a bit odd that Win8 retains this legacy UI feature, but not the more recent classic shell...

As for remembering all the shortcuts, well no. As a 'seasoned' professional (I've used 'Office' since the 80's), I found it easier to use the menu's because of constantly switching between differing (MS and non-MS) applications, plus when supporting end users, keyboard shortcuts are a bit 'magical' particularly when dealing with the ribbon interface, whereas directing them to use the menu's/ribbon helped them to find their way around.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

"How the fuck am I supposed to know that?"

Oh please. How are you supposed to know that Ctrl-v will paste? The c in Ctrl-c makes some mnemonic sense. But (and this is not a complaint) why is Ctrl-z undo? And why -- oh god, please, WHY? -- with Ctrl-z being one of the easiest single-hand key combos, did Ctrl-y, one of the most difficult, ever become redo, possibly the second most important command in all of computing? And why do some popular softwares still insist on Ctrl-y without also implementing Ctrl-Shift-z?

Weird key combs are not the problem.

Almost forgot... that's Command if you're on a Mac.

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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

Well that's just it. Windows 'stole' the shortcuts, which is why Ctrl-W will still close documents (on the Mac it's Cmd-W for docs, Cmd-Q for apps).

Having the command key to either side of the spacebar means that every key on the keyboard is within easy reach. Just try pressing Alt-Y, or Alt-W.

It is (close to) moronic that copying and pasting involves the following sequence:

Ctrl-C

Alt-Tab

Ctrl-V

Unless you're an acrobat, I have to rearrange the position of my hand THREE times. On a Mac, it would be:

Cmd-C

Cmd-Tab

Cmd-V

I can do all of those while keeping my thumb on the control key. And don't even get me started on the most useless key of all, the 'Context-Menu' key which does exactly....what? Thank God my IBM Model M doesn't have these newfangled aberrations....

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Can't equate CrtlC/V with Ctrl-F4

Short cuts work for things you do often, not for things you do once in a blue moon.

Copy/paste is often used and thus CtrlC/V is quickly learned.

Ctrl-F4 is very seldom doing to be used and is rather obscure. Chances are very few people would know it.

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There's part of the Jobs philosophy that MS need

And this conflicts with what the article thinks entirely. Microsoft need to start thinking of new ideas on their own. Just providing their customers what they are asking for isn't the way to riches and long life, the current boom in tablets shows this. They need to be out there coming up with new classes of thing that users didn't realise they wanted or was even possible.

To go back to the common car analogy, before the car was the horse drawn buggy. Microsoft's current strategy is to make better buggies, and to strap 2 stroke motors to the back of some of them. They need to be getting in to proper car design and manufacture while working out how to give the world jetpacks.

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It has? Who? And how many?

Metro "has earned a strong core of vociferous evangelists not unlike the turn of the millennium Macolytes".

It has? Really? First I've heard of it. Oh, there is a handful of Metro fanbois here on the Reg forum - but I do mean a handful, and they are pretty much absent most everywhere else. Then there are the rather more numerous ones (here and elsewhere) who don't much care for Metro but are resigned to using it because they have to; some of this as-yet smallish group has even gone so far as to have discovered the odd Metro feature that they like, but that certainly doesn't make them "strong evangelists". And then there is everyone else - and now we are talking serious numbers - with the usual range of opinions from "not much good" through "lousy" right up to "worse than Stoned, Code Red, or Netsky".

Sorry, the "strong core of evangelists" line just doesn't wash. We would need some pretty solid evidence before swallowing this outlandish claim.

(PS: I apologise for picking up on just this one point from a fairly lengthy article, but it stands out like the dog's proverbials and makes it a bit hard to swallow the remainder of the content - given this whopper, one thinks, what other untruth lurk within?)

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Re: It has? Who? And how many?

Metro works very well on Windows Phone, and it works well enough on Surfaces and other Windows tablets. Metro is the wrong interface for PCs with large, multiple screens, and servers. I can't understand, for example, why they forced it also on Windows Server 2012.

The wrong idea is "one UI fits all". Tiles could have some places in a desktop PC too - think about a "lock screen" which allows you to see updates for the apps you need (of course, if you're in a safe place where those info couldn't be seen by the wrong person) or something alike, but not the way to navigate through applications. If Tiles in Windows 8 on PCs were just an optional feature, people would have welcome there.

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Re: It has? Who? And how many?

Metro for many users is a term of abuse in its own right, on par with Windows ME and Vista (perhaps slightly unfairly in my opinion, as early versions of XP were also crap until service packs came in).

Had Microsoft produced full featured programs such as Office in Metro from the start, and not made it a requirement to use the Microsoft Store to sell and distribute Metro programs, it may not have been such a disaster on the desktop. Developers have little interest in the platform. it may be a bit of a silly example, but the developers of Football Manager 2014 have produced mobile IOS, and Android versions, but nothing for RT / Metro - the Windows version is a 'legacy' application. Hell, they even consider it worthwhile to do a Linux port, the idea of big commercial games like that touching Linux was always a nice idea, but now it is becoming a reality. Not good news for "Metro fans".

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Re: It has? Who? And how many?

For anyone who has just bought a Windows 8 machine -> press Win-d and it switches to being a normal PC desktop.

Windows 8 is fine. MS's only mistake was to set the default to Metro with a shortcut to conventional desktop, rather than the other way round. Phablet should default to Metro, PC should default to desktop. Simple.

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I agree with part of the article: Steve Jobs was exactly what Apple needed in their hour of need, but that's largely due to his previous involvement with the company. The only equivalent for Microsoft would be the return of Bill Gates, who has already made it clear he's not interested in retreading old ground. (For all Jobs' later success, Gates didn't need to mess it up and spend years in the wilderness to learn the necessary skills. Gates nailed if first time around.)

However, I disagree with the tiresome repetition of a pointless meme: what Apple has is a *gated community*. It's not the walling-in that's the point here, but the *curation*. Android has barely any curation at all, hence its frequent security issues. iOS' App Store, on the other hand, *is* curated, which is less like a gardener wandering around a walled garden and occasionally reacting with an, "OI! Gerroff the lawn!", and more like the guards of a gated community who stop undesirables getting in in the first place. (No, they're not 100% successful, but they're close enough.)

*

What Microsoft needs is *focus*. It is making a mistake Apple was making in the mid-90s: it's doing too much. They sell no less than three flavours of desktop Windows, each with multiple variants. They sell server variants too. They make a games console (also with its own OS), they make games, they sell a major office suite, own a bunch of cloud services, and they sell industrial-strength software development tools too. They even make keyboards and mice.

Jobs was right to slash Apple's massive, and very confusing, product range when he returned: focus is a common factor in very successful businesses. You can't do that when you have a portfolio even wider-ranging than Apple's under Gil Amelio's tenure.

Unlike Jobs' scorched Apple policy, Microsoft could slash its portfolio by simply spinning off the profitable units into separate entities. Microsoft needs to make itself agile enough to react more quickly and effectively to the ever-changing world of IT – an industry that is, almost by definition, in a state of perpetual transition.

THAT is the hard part: changing Microsoft's management and corporate structure entirely. Given the present corporate structure, it may be that what Microsoft really needs today isn't so much a Steve Jobs, as a Genghis Khan.

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Re: Gates nailed if first time around

Oh yeah, he really nailed the Internet on his first try - right to the wall.

Same with tablets. He nailed that to the table and they never took off.

Gates also nailed the Courier. He nailed it so hard that Allen left the company.

Gates has his failures, and the absolute worst thing that could happen to MS is that Gates gets involved in future management decisions. He was a successful business man in that he created the most powerful software company in the world, that is undeniable, but that success is like a glacier - you can track its progress by counting the litter it leaves in its wake.

I do fancy a Genghis Khan heading Microsoft though - as long as he directs his beheadings to his own personnel.

What ? You don't want to put a proper Start Menu on Windows 8.2 ? <thwack!><thud><roll> Okay, anyone else opposed to that idea ? <silence> Good. Next point : porting DirectX to Linux as an open source project . . .

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@Pascal Monett: Re: Gates nailed if first time around

> I do fancy a Genghis Khan heading Microsoft though - as long as he directs his beheadings to his own personnel.

> What ? You don't want to put a proper Start Menu on Windows 8.2 ? <thwack!><thud><roll> Okay, anyone else opposed to that idea ? <silence> Good. Next point : porting DirectX to Linux as an open source project . . .

Thanks for the image. Made my day:-)

Just missing the "Now bring me the guy who came up with the Ribbon idea - and make sure he brings a silver platter"

3-2-1 back in the room...

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The whole TIFKAM thing personally doesn't bother me, but I get why others don't like it.

All Microsoft had to do was do exactly as they have on Windows Server. On server, you have the choice of Core, GUI, or a halfway house that keeps MMC but is otherwise GUI-less. If they had done this with Windows 8 and given you a choice of Touch+Classic which would be what we have now, or just Classic, which would be Windows 8 desktop, maybe still with the start screen but without all the rest of the TIFKAM stuff (or even optional Start Menu/Screen), Windows 8 would have been considered a success.

Just performing a desktop-to-desktop comparison between it and Windows 7, it is faster, uses less resources and has some really nice touches.

The vision of merging the platforms was a desirable one, but badly implemented. As the author notes, internal fighting between departments completely ruined that vision, meaning it will take them years of unravelling what they now have to achieve what they wanted in the first place.

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@Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

Many people seem to have a problem with Windows 8.x, but I've actually found it's easier to get newbies into it than it was with previous versions. Rather than presenting you with a pretty picture and some cryptic icons, it actually starts with an application launcher that shows a bunch of very clear tiles, each of which tells you what it does and even gives you some basic information before you've even clicked on it.

As for myself: according to every WIMP GUI rulebook, the GUI is there for *newbies*. Nobody else. Intermediate and advanced users are supposed to learn the bloody keyboard shortcuts!

If, like me, you had done just that, Windows 8.x would pose no difficulties whatsoever. Want to close an application – or even bring up the shutdown dialog box? ALT+F4. Each new release has added new shortcuts, but many of the existing ones have been there since Windows for Workgroups!

The problem is that nobody's teaching this any more. When so-called "professionals" proclaim themselves grizzled veterans with umpteen years of expertise in a platform, yet admit to being bamboozled by changes to what is, when you get down to it, a glorified app launcher, you have to wonder what they're teaching kids at university these days.

Such people are, at best, amateurs, not professionals. Their blatant ignorance of basic GUI usage rules is proof enough of that. If you're still relying heavily on a mouse or trackpad to get your quotidian work done, and you're not an artist or architect, you're doing it wrong. By definition. There are actual textbooks explaining all this.

That tiled GUI really is piss-easy for neophytes to understand. It's easy to forget that we had to *learn* to navigate the (original hierarchical) menus and drill down to our application – never mind having to remember *which* application we needed to open! Now, my aunt need only look for the "Mail" tile, see that there's a message or three waiting for her, and click on it. It's all there right in front of her. And this is a Good Thing™ as it means she needs to rely rather less heavily on her failing memory.

iOS and Android – hardly surprising given the former's influence on the latter – led the way, but Windows' ModernUI picked up the widgets idea and ran with it, making it the central feature, but Trevor Potts' point about separating this from the old Windows GUI is a valid one: Windows 8.x is very much a transitional release, and it's likely Windows 9.x will be too, given the glacial pace of upgrading in the corporate field.

iOS was the first mainstream GUI to break with the old WIMP formula, so the keyboard shortcuts point doesn't apply to that. (Or to Android.) Microsoft also needs to make that transition, but whether beating Windows into submission with the multi-touch GUI stick over a number of transitional releases is the best way to achieve that is a question only the market can answer. In fairness, Windows 8.x is a pretty good choice for people, like myself, who have to do a lot of typing. Some of the hybrid Windows 8 "tabtop" devices out there are a perfect fit for my needs.

Wacom's Companion Pro (essentially a Wacom digitiser and stylus nailed onto a tablet very similar to the Surface Pro 2) is looking very attractive to me right now. It's flashing its ports seductively at me as I type this. Cease, you Jezebel! You tablet of the night!

Nurse! The screens!

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Re: @Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

Microsoft must be paying by the word today. All that waffle to say that the GUI's wonderful, and any problems the poor bloody users have with it are their own fault for not reading the "WIMP GUI rulebook" and learning reams of keyboard shortcuts? Oh puh-leeze!

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Re: @Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

Really? I have found that 'newbies' who are exposed to 8 have been in desperation looking for ways to get rid of it, be it asking friends to sort it out, or taking machines down to computer shops to either get them to put 'Windows' (as they know it) back on, or to return the machine. Intermediate users would have sorted out the problem themselves, as they would generally know how to install a Start Menu replacement, or install Windows 7 instead, and advanced users in the main would likely not have touched it in the first place, being happy with Windows 7 Professional, or even giving Linux a go. The sort of user who doesn't need a computer in the first place by now has an iPad or Android tablet.

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Windows

Uncertain futures ......

A very interesting article, with a lot of interesting insights. It is obviously true that MS have made some very serious mistakes, but then so did Apple, not so long ago. Apple recovered spectacularly. Why? Probably by being clear about the sort of products their customers wanted, and by making products that were, by new technology standards, solid and (mostly) reliable. They were expensive, but they worked in ways that users understood and were comfortable with, and they built a loyal customer base on that.

Can MS make the same turnaround? After all they have lived with the "good OS bad OS" cycle for decades now, and still made buckets of money. Business as usual, as usual? No. Because, unlike Apple, they have yet to recognise that a turnaround is necessary. And even if they do, their internal culture appears to be so seriously flawed that they will be unable to take the necessary action.

Apple can sell into a customer base which is comfortable with what it has got, and can be confident that it will still be comfortable with the next iteration in the product cycle. MS used can no longer rely on this. When the customer is not confident, he (and she) is not going to buy. The new CEO is going to have to deal with, simultaneously, a bad OS cycle and a loss in customer confidence. That may be too much to ask.

Time will tell ......

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good read

really enjoyed the article - especially the point about traditional windows users being given a brand new interface for absolute no gain to the end user.

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Managing changes starts with dissatisfaction

Trevor, I couldn't agree more. But I thinks it's worth mentioning that the first thing in managing changes is making the people dissatisfied with the current situation. While this is probably part of manage [...] people's rational thoughts, their emotions, and their environment it is a very important step on its own.

Dissatisfaction can already be there, eg due to a clumsy UI, or it needs to be created first, eg with exposing the users to much better (competitors' or own) UIs. The problem Microsoft had and still has is that a lot of keyboard/mouse users were/are quite happy with the Windows 95 et seqq. interface. For example, speaking of Office, while in my opinion it was never perfect (Open Office provided a more logical menu structure than MS Office 2003), it was good enough to work efficiently. Dissatisfaction started with the ribbons. I know, some people like them, I don't. After quite some time with the "ribbon Office" I still lose considerable time just trying to find some commands.

So, the dissatisfaction - for keyboard/mouse users - started with the new product, being it ribbons or Windows 8 tiles. It would be a perfect situation for a competitor. Problem is, there is none.

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WTF?

a tablet for windows apps ? really ?

> "[imagine] a brand new tablet operating system that maintains

> compatibility with your old Windows x86 apps but

> goes head-to-head with Android and iOS."

Yes, Bill Gate's old dream with tablet PCs, Steve Ballmer's with TIKFAM and probably a killer argument in a room full of marketroids. Even this article - otherwise not unreasonable - resurfaces it.

The reason everyone else is doing a separate system for desktops and another one for phones/tablets is that the problem here is not API compatibility but the UI. An app for tablets needs to work with touch and gesture input while a desktop app needs to be usable with keyboard and mouse. No amount of compatibility API layers are going to make a legacy windows app even remotely usable on a tablet.

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Holmes

Elephant graveyard

If anyone remembers ...

IBM dominated the business world. Big, beautiful machines with spinning discs and platters in the hallowed temple of the air-conditioned data center.

Bank after bank of young ladies sitting at card punch terminals.

Every office that hoped to retain talented secretaries paid a premium price for IBM Selectric typewriters. Nothing less than IBM was acceptable.

Microsoft is today's IBM. With one profound difference. IBM products were beautiful, had class, were in a class of their own.

Microsoft has no class, has never had class, and nothing Microsoft has produced could ever be called class. Steve Jobs had it right. Microsoft is all about money, and was never about taste.

The PC killed IBM as the dominant force in business; the tablet is killing Microsoft today.

IBM didn't see it coming; refused to acknowledge it when it arrived; and like an elephant, was unable to move quickly enough to escape the stings of the PC hordes.

Microsoft didn't see Linux and iOS coming; refused to acknowledge them when they arrived; and like an elephant, is stumbling in its clumsiness to catch up while suffering the stings of the hand-held hordes.

An epiphany: all this upset over Microsoft. In truth, we don't need them. If they don't produce useful stuff, they become irrelevant. If they cannot be consistent in quality, products, or innovation, they deserve to become irrelevant. It isn't like there's nothing else available. If a company is locked into MS products, that's unfortunate. If they are too slow to adopt better tools, perhaps they'll become irrelevant too.

One thing is certain. Nobody will shed a tear when their failures overwhelm their domination.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: Elephant graveyard

Almost nobody saw Linux coming - you have still an hard time to see Linux on a desktop or laptop unless you live in some really nerd environment. It's much easier to see a Mac running OSX (and often some Windows too..). After almost twenty years, there are still believers Linux will be the Next Great Thing on PCs. If Google was not the data-stealing machine it is needing a free OS (because investing in its own would have reduced revenues) for its data-stealing phones, Linux wouldn't be on phone as well.

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Re: Elephant graveyard

Linux may never be the Next Great Thing on PCs, but then Windows was never the Next Great Thing on Mainframes.

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LDS
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Re: Elephant graveyard

True. Just while mainframes market shrinks, Windows Server one grows.

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Their real enemy is Open Software. They should join the enemy, embrace Linux with their own distro and sell some really good production software licenses for it. That, or perish. Soon.

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