A Business Technology Place

Windows 8. I get it now.

Do you understand Windows 8?
I upgraded a machine with Windows 8 Preview to Windows 8 Pro over the weekend. The preview copies from Microsoft have a January 2013 expiration date, so I had to do this at some point or abandon my preview. I did enjoy playing with Windows 8 and captured my initial thoughts back in August with a post entitled Microsoft’s bold new move.

It’s not surprising that the Metro style interfaceof Windows 8 has created a buzz with tech media and bloggers. It is a dramatically new look for the Windows desktop that everyone is comfortable using. Change creates opinions.

The start page of Windows 8. Tiled application blocks.

But it’s not a dramatically new look if you think about the devices that most of us are using more and more of these days. As I was setting up applications on the Metro style start page a light went off in my head. I already recognized the new design was made with tablets and mobile devices in mind because the design is much easier to navigate with a touch screen.  But before today, I was focused on the difference in the user interface as departure of the traditional PC interface. Now I see that Windows 8 is Microsoft’s way to begin to transition the PC experience to be identical to the mobile and tablet experience. The idea is that regardless of which device you use, you can still maintain the same experience. With the heavy reliance and interactivity on a Microsoft online account, it’s possible to keep much of the same content inside the experience as well (“To the cloud!”).

There’s an app for that.
In a world known for multi-taksing we have become comfortable with a mobile interface that encourages uni-tasking. Our phones and tablets can support multiple running programs. But think about how we typically use these devices. That would be one application at a time. Find your app tile, click it, and go. Even though that’s mostly driven by space considerations (you can’t have multiple windows showing on your phone), the Metro start page for Windows 8 follows the same design principles.

What does it mean for the business customer?
I still believe Microsoft’s biggest challenge with the new interface will be in business adoption. Productivity and efficiency are key considerations for business usage of computing devices. Creating change is like creating disruption and business leaders don’t like disruption to their environment.

Think about the multi-tasking model of the traditional Windows environments. You can have multiple Windows open and bounce back and forth between them. That’s not really the model of the application tile interface. So it’s good that Microsoft left a way to get the traditional desktop in Windows 8. This will help make adoption and transition within the business environment smoother.

Navigation with a keyboard and mouse will be a challenge.
Try as a I might, I have found it awkward to push the mouse to the corners of the screen for menus. So I printed out a list of the Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts to help get the menus to appear faster. Others may not be as patient as I am and I’m already a keyboard junkie from early days in Unix.

Do I get it?
So when you think Windows 8 think about your phone.  Think about apps and tiles. That’s what it’s really about.

BTW – In case you were wondering, I haven’t given up my beloved Ubuntu Linux device. My Windows machine is a secondary device used mostly by other family members.

Microsoft’s bold new move with Windows 8

My home is an equal opportunity technology zone.
I use an Ubuntu Linux netbook. My wife uses a Chromebook. The kids have a Mac and an iPad. Then there is the older family PC that provides service for some school jobs and printing. It was using Windows XP until this past weekend when I upgraded it to the pre-release of Windows 8 (didn’t we use to call this Beta?). I had resisted upgrading the machine in the past due to the cost and because the machine is not the primary computing device for any family member.

But this past weekend I decided to upgrade the Windows XP machine to the Windows 8 preview release. Why now? As a technologist I need to stay in-the-know on new technology and I as mentioned, we provide an equal opportunity technology home. So it didn’t seem fair to pick-on Microsoft when the Windows machine was running an OS that is about to be retired from support.

The start page of Windows 8. Tiled application blocks.

The upgrade process.
I downloaded a ISO file from the Microsoft site and then found a free utility to expand the image file onto a thumb drive. At this point I ran the setup file from the thumb drive and followed the prompts. I chose to keep my personal files rather than wiping all files. The upgrade process started and while I didn’t time it, I believe it was around an hour and a half.

(I should note that on my first time through I kicked the power plug out of the back of the PC during the last step of the upgrade. The process didn’t recover, but it did a successful rollback to Windows XP. I had to start over. Doh!)

Windows 8, a bold new move.
My initial thoughts:

First – The OS was built with tablets and touch-screen PCs in mind. As a reminder, I converted an old Windows XP tower to Windows 8, so I recognize this limited me from experiencing the full breadth of features the new OS has to offer. But the move from Microsoft makes sense. Touch screen computing devices are fast becoming the new norm and they should be designing and developing to this.

Second – The start page of Windows 8 is radically different than what Windows users have seen in the past. People resist change and I expect there will be an initial outcry of critics as they adjust to the new look. (Change is hard on people!) The UX of the screen basically follows the growing popularity of application based tiles. Consumers will be used to this because they use it on their phones. But it’s a bold move to change the paradigm of the most used operating system in the world.

The UI of IE 10 included with Windows 8.

Third – Internet Explorer 10 is accessible from the start screen but the UX is again different. I think consumers will welcome this change because the interface is cleaner and free of the clutter of the navigation bars. The address bar is at the bottom of the screen and will auto-hide to give maximum screen real-estate for content.

Fourth – Navigation to different applications was not at first apparent to me. It seems all the magic happens in the lower left and lower right corners of the screen with hidden menus. Again, I recognize the UX was designed with touch-screen in mind. So I know my experience was not the ideal. But I also know that I’m bit more tech savvy than most and many people may struggle with the basic navigation of the new UX.

The good news with this is that the updated design, as with IE 10, removes clutter from the screen and allows more space for the primary application. But I found myself continually dragging to the screen corners to bounce back-and-forth between applications. I sense there is an easier way to navigate, even with the mouse, so it will take time to get use to the new paradigm.

Will Microsoft succeed with this strategy?
Microsoft is fighting a classic battle. On the one hand, they have the most popular OS in the world (by volume). So they get all the things that come with this such as a user base trained in a certain way. On the other hand, the company needs to show some innovative moves or they’ll become less relevant with each passing day.

Ultimately, Microsoft has to make this move. It’s a move to stay relevant with new consumer behaviors encouraged by computing devices that are smaller and more mobile than a traditional PC. It’s not the 1990s any longer and Microsoft is attempting to change to keep up. I like it. It keeps competition strong, which benefits consumers with more choices.

Marketing technology thought readings 8

I participate in digital spaces by capturing, marking, and commenting on content around the internet. This is a recurring post of three links that I think others will find valuable for their thought lives.

  1. Tracking 404 Errors in Google Analytics by Douglas Karr of Marketing TechBlog. Most 404 errors (page not found) are served due to honest mistakes in typing. But it would be a concern if it becomes a pattern because of an invalid link from a host or even a valid link with missing content. Karr shows a quick update to the Google analytics code that will provide tracking of the 404 errors so that you can determine if there are a large number of errors for any particular address.
  2. Goodbye to Windows Live by Randall Stross of the New York Times. I don’t use Microsoft services much anymore except for my work-issued laptop. The only remaining Microsoft OS in my house is an old tower that still runs Windows XP. So I was never really attached to the Windows Live branding from the company. Apparently not many others did either and the company is moving away from the Windows Live with the launch of Windows 8. This will make a great case study for MBA classes don’t you think?
  3. Microsoft is Better at Removing Infringing URLs on Google than Bing by David Murphy of PCMag.com. I love baseball, which is full of stats and trivial statistics. Apparently we are headed that way for digital marketing as well (LOL). This post discusses Microsoft complaints for copyright infringements and URL removal. It get’s a quicker turnaround on requests from Google than Bing. Go figure. Must be related to processes between different groups within the Remond giant.

Let me know what links you shared, tagged, or commented on this week.