Windows 8 does seem like a genuine attempt to bring something new to the table from Microsoft but will they pull it off? In the past Microsoft’s shameless attempt to copy Apple was a completely flawed strategy epitomised by the failure of Vista and the Zune. With Windows 8 it seems like they are truly trying to innovate and change how we interact with our computers. This said the general strategy of providing consistent experience across mobile and desktop seems remarkably similar to Apple’s evolution of OSX. While there is still debate over whether Apple will full integrate both iOS and OSX (with most backing against it) into a single OS across all platforms there can be no denying the similarity between mission control and the iPad or the various UX changes that have a distinct iOS feel. And once again their is a feeling of deja vu.
While there are still questions about Microsofts broader strategy is Windows 8 going to change the game? I really don’t think so and the main reason for this is the fact that it is still at least a year away. In the tech world a lot can happen in a year, John Gruber’s critical response to Paul Thurrott summed it up perfectly,
It’s all in the future. All potential, nothing actual. Think about how different Apple’s and Microsoft’s approaches are. Apple unveiled the iPad to the public only when it was a completely finished product, two months before it hit stores. The demo units we in the press had access to that day were exactly like the mass-produced iPads that shipped to customers two months later. Can you imagine Apple doing with the iPad what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8? Say, showing a prototype iPad at WWDC in June 2009, running on MacBook Pro-caliber Intel hardware? Letting the public and the press play with the OS in half-finished alpha state on prototype hardware? Impossible even to imagine.
I also have real concerns over the design, from most of the demos shown it looks very fragmented and difficult to navigate around. In his article reviewing users use of Explorer for core file management Marek Bell highlights the crazy approach to design and the gross miss interpretation of usage data to build a truly hideous UX.
If Windows 8 did turn out to be a well designed and enjoyable user experience then I think the whole industry would benefit from some new competition for Apple, I remain sceptical so we will have to just wait and see. I want to leave you with one final thought why didn’t Microsoft just got the whole hog and remove any notion of the classic view?