Can all this be done though?I think it could be done if the right ingredients were in place, first of all you’d need to find a way to frame the proposition you’re putting forward to your consumers in terms they understand – that is, you have to convince every user out there that having a tablet/laptop in one is what they need & want. Secondly, you will need to find a way to separate your product from the herd in the retail channel because right now although the brand Microsoft and Windows are attached to the said product(s) it’s also attached to the competing brands as well (ie its over-used and saturated). Microsoft have to work their product line like Apple does, by having a separate table / shelf for their products to occupy and be distinguished from the rest. Thirdly you have to find a way to become the circuit breaker for the taxonomy of online retail, by opening up a new category “both” as if you’re going to say the product on one hand is a tablet and a laptop then you need to find a way to position the products in that light. If you position in the tablet category (like today) then your $2,000 AUD Surface top of the range model will stand out as being insanely expensive for a tablet? If you in turn occupy the Laptop then you’re $899 AUD tablet with low specs looks cheap but fails on hardware specifications – moreover you also run the risk of positioning the brand as a “cheap” solution thus potentially poisoning your own well (ie "Surface = Cheap crap" perception could easily run unmanaged). The reality is Microsoft really haven’t got a structured story here with Surface Pro, it’s what I’d call a “shotgun” approach to competing with Apple/Google. In that it appears they are just collapsing the products for the sake of compete rather than actually trying to disrupt the behaviour we humans have around mobility. The product itself isn’t a measured response, its just reactive and filled with a lot of panic around how to solve this problem. The entire thing could be handled much carefully and strategically by simply easing into the above categories with momentum behind them vs just trying to force their way into the mindset of consumers that all-in-one is the best strategy. Lastly assuming they abandon these silly ads with people jumping around clicking keyboards and actually focus on “why” someone needs to buy the product they also face a very long entrenched campaign ahead. If they are onto a winning formula and assuming that they sort their marketing talent out, then they also have to wait out the consumers who currently have laptop and tablet out which could be 1-2 years minimum. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but keep in mind Microsoft is about to get a brand new CEO with his/her own ideas about Surface Pro and if anything Microsoft’s marketing machine has shown that they can’t handle a controlled message beyond the life of a single campaign.
- Surface as a brand will undergo a split, they will likely retreat back to forking the tablet and laptop offerings. There will likely be no technical difference between the two and price and category matching will likely influence it.
- Surface will have poor sales for the next 1-2 years and the industry will remind them off this without mercy. There is to much aggravation in the hardware space for Microsoft to occupy and they not only have to compete on Consumer sales but also Enterprise pie will decay over time as a result of losing focus. The failure in success over the 1-2 years will simply be the easy punch to the company’s kidneys.
- Surface RT will evaporate as a laptop solution. If you’re a developer today targeting ARM and you’re thinking to yourself “this is fun” then you’re currently in a small cluster. Today to target Windows 8 ARM would mean you are happy to migrate your code-base over to the new Windows SDK and it isn’t a clean migration at the best of times. Moreover you have to also ignore the lack luster ubiquity metrics that will come out alongside any and all developer relation(s) resets that have occurred in the last 5 years. If you can absorb all of that and still think ARM is the vehicle of choice – then yeah, I just don’t see any upside here.
Take the freaking call. 😳In ignoring this, they in turn let the message around what this all actually means fall into the hands of the horde, which in turn means a lot of assumptions, assertions and most importantly anti-Windows Phone fuel for the rumor mill fire(s). First reading you will take a pass at this being a case of Microsoft looking to rub their greedy hands together and go for the ye olde replenishment model. If you shift all your energy & focus onto a new release for new phones, only you can replenish your profit margins with the existing user base – as that is exactly what Apple does. After careful consideration however and you continue to read on in this saga you may stumble upon a link or two that points you to the real story in around the upgrade future(s) here, in that Microsoft will promise to give you a 8.x update.
“..Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities...”I could sit here and go all Troll/FUD on that last comment but in reality its like kicking that sick puppy again. I will simply say this; the messaging for this got lost yet again and now Microsoft have to spend cycles trying to put this genie back in the bottle. The only real way they can do this is by giving concrete assurances & specifics in around what 8.x vs 9.x will look like, specifically what does this whole Windows “Blue” strategy likely to become? They will not do that, as that would be as if again someone in Microsoft + Wagged were actually taking a proactive stance on Public Relation(s) – Probably reading their PRIME scores upside down still. To quote Tom on my facebook thread:
“..Microsoft used to control the messaging of updates a lot better, putting the blame on carriers. Carriers didn't like this, so Microsoft removed the tables they used to supply. Some phones in the US don't even have Tango right now, let alone 7.8. Have Microsoft committed to supplying 7.8 for every existing device? No. They've remained silent consistently about 7.8 and even pushed versions with buggy live tiles without a PR strategy. This support document with life cycle information has never been published before, and yet Microsoft has not managed the message well once again. It leaves people waiting for Tango or 7.8 concerned they will be left in the dark once again. Don't defend it, ask for change…”Simply put, this isn’t a story about Windows Phone upgrade good vs bad its more about how the hell does a company like Microsoft constantly forget to sit down and write a PR Strategy that actually makes sense. If you know you are about to launch a phone, then start campaigning now and furthermore do something about the release in a more visible / visual way that covers off your talking points of concern. The fact Microsoft are constantly trying to figure out a way to pander to the carriers in order to push more units is probably a strong indicator as to why Surface Pro has failed to go outside handful of zip codes as they still haven’t figured out what “logistics” and “partnerships” really look like. Apple is also being constantly used as baseline for success/failures for Microsoft in that all too often I see “but Apple do…” stop right there, Apple firstly have a strong history of success not simply because they had first move advantage on a touch-enabled phone but they have a very tightly controlled release strategy. When Apple sit down and release a product post, its actual design/development they focus in on the important areas such as:
- “How do I get this phone to some kid in outback Australia and New York at the same time?”
- “How do I control the entire PR noise around this launch so everyone takes queues from me not bloggers”
- “How do I convince consumers to move to the next phone without them realizing I’m replenishing my market”.
TITLE: The Days of Microsoft Lives
The door opens and in walks the CEO, he looks determined but still has the look of the 1980’s car salesman buried deep within.
CEO: Alright, listen up as we have a lot to get through today. Thank you all for all the hard work you have put into the work so far, it’s been super duper exciting and I want to thank you all for the brilliance you’ve shown. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to be the baseline markers for our future successes.
Sinofsky: If I may sir…
CEO: Grab some pine Sinofsky and shut your hole.
An awkward chill flows around the room as Sinofsky slowly sits down with an expression of both embarrassment and murderous intent leveled at the CEO.
CEO: Ok.. firstly given the huge pressure we have at making this release the biggest the will likely produce for some time I need to have our entire marketing and sales pipelines at full steam. With that, I need your resignation Sinofsky.
Sinofsky: What the f….
CEO: Basically not a lot of people like you and I asked you nicely awhile back to launch Windows 7 on the tablet and you wanted to play games. Well, you played and lost so with that, resign and clear your shit out by this afternoon. I also need to use you as a way to soften the upcoming failures with the board, so you may hear some things about what you did in the future, best you go along with whatever is said.
CEO: Now, I need to split his role into two as I never want to see an executive with that much power again. It frightened me a little.
CEO points at two executives either side of Sinofsky.
CEO: You two, yes you two you’re both in charge but in reality you’re not in charge. Speaking of executives with power, has anyone seen Scott Guthrie? … no?... Good, keep it that way as if he climbs out of that Azure hole we buried him in I want to be the first to know.
Sinofsky: Actually, he’s doing an amazing job with it and is likely to turn that turd around into a success. I mean it has come a long way since he took over the re…
CEO: Seriously you’re still here? … Is not there a box you should be filling…
Sinofsky: Shouldn’t we first figure out what we are going to say to the press? I mean my leaving will create an issue for both the PR for Windows and potentially the stock price.
CEO: You’re not that noticeable. Get packing, I will talk to the press later about it.
Sinofsky slowly gets up out of his chair and begins to walk out. Giving the CEO a glance as if to say “..this will be your undoing…”
CEO: Next, I want marketing to blitz the entire globe with ads about Surface and Windows 8, if you can also not separate the two products I think it will help cement that Windows 8 is a tablet and OS without saying that out loud.
Marketing Guy: Sir, wouldn’t it be prudent to ensure we keep the two separate and we also probably should discuss with supply & logistics about how we are going to supply the demand?
CEO: What’s your name? ..Does not matter…You are fired.
Marketing Guy leaves the room crying chanting, “I knew I should keep my ideas to myself, damn it, my wife is going to kill me…” as he sobs running into a glass door.
CEO: Market it my way people. Next I want to also limit our purchases of Surface online and via our retail stores. It is important we look like Apple In order to beat them at their own game.
RetailStoreExec: About that.. You know all of Apple stores are designed to reflect the environment they are housed within. In that, they really do go out of their way to work with the existing and surrounding architecture. We should really consider doing that as well as just copy their internal furn…
CEO: You want to join the others that got fired this morning? Pick one style and keep repeating them we don’t have time to be design focused.. more stores.. supply.. make it happen.
CEO: Can someone get in contact with Stephen Elop over at Nokia. It is time to move our timetable forward a little on Project Nokia Acquire. I want him to hold off on the Lumia 920 outside the US, if he can shorten stock orders worldwide that will surely lower the share price further for our takeover bid. Also, tell him that we got rid of Sinofsky, as he will be happy with that given Sinofsky used to always undermine him in during his Office days (builds favor you see).
OEMPartnerCVP: Won’t that also hurt our Windows Phone 8 adoption chances? As wont most hold out for that phone given it seems to be the one with the most features?
CEO: Yes. You are right but here is the thing: that was Sinofsky’s fault. If we can also bring moral and hearts/minds lower over the Christmas quarter I can then turn the ship around post Sinofsky leaving and make it look like I am a competent CEO and saved the day.
OEMPartnerCVP: Sir, you realized you said that out loud right. In that, it was not your internal voice.
CEO: I need your resignation by the end of the day. You know too much.
The camera begins to drift away from the scene with the CEO’s voice getting harder to hear but one last order is heard before the Microsoft logo fades into view.
CEO: Has anyone seen Guthrie? .. Make sure he his kept on the back bench do not let him out of that Azure cage. He has to many people adoring his abilities and he reminds me too much of Bill… Someone call Bill and make sure he knows that he cannot fire me or I show those Polaroid’s with him & two dead hookers.
You are all fired, you know too much now.
- Novice and Power Users. “Invited 12 experienced Windows users” is a weak / broad sweeping remark to make that XYZ demographic doesn’t like N-Product. Keep in mind I’m a tough critic of Windows 8’s design, but even I can concede it’s still usable whether the incentive is to use though is entirely different matter (Cognitive Dissonance measures Behavior vs. Incentive). I would have taken him more serious if he had of used a variety of audience(s) for this (OSX users, Seniors, GenY, IT Professionals, Sales force etc) .. everyone’s experienced In Windows is my point.
- Prospective Memory – I think he’s building up to “learn where to go” and associating it as a bad thing. The concept of a desktop works in favor of prospective memory, meaning “I’ll put x here so I can come back to it later” works in the same fashion as the start overlay. Its not ideal, but to declare this a cognitive overload is an over-reach given over time (behavior) users will settle on a rhythm that suites them. If I press START and start typing my context will adjust to the text I’m typing and so on.
- Dual Environments - The two environments in which he speaks of are WinRT and WinRT Pro, now the clue is in the word “Pro” firstly and it has to do with legacy support than actual user experience (context is annoying when you leave it out huh?). Tablet users won’t interact with the said duality he’s nominated so it kind of is a weak point to rest on and those that opt for the Surface Pro edition are doing so more as a finger in both pies approach to the problem at hand. If I pitched the problem that needed to be solved in that I need the user(s) to have both Windows Now and Windows vNext it shifts the results differently as if I said I need the users to solely focus on vNext only … Again, It feels more about airbrushing the facts without context (Ironic given the guy’s a usability “guru” and how context is important in ux as content).
- Added Memory. I see this a lot and I wonder if UX Practitioners suffer from this concept that we all suffer from sudden memory loss at any given point. I understand interruption etc plays into this but in reality we don’t multi task and phones today for example don’t have this issue – if anything given the complexity between switching from apps via navigation routines (ie iPhone double hitting the rectangle and using a slider style switch). I am baffled as to what moment of brilliance the author assumes he/she is uncovering here – I’m kind of lost between whether I dislike his point or the actual website itself’s design.
- Responsive & Adaptive Design– I think the author again (they really should sit down and study some basic design principles to articulate the points) probably wanted to say that the design of the solution isn’t responsive and/or adaptive depending on screen real estate. The said applications again don’t make full use of the screen(s) they are being deployed or used upon. I concede that this could be an issue for usage of LOB solutions but at the same time I also reject it. Having window support in today’s UI world is an absolute engineering challenge at the best of times and furthermore buy having to adhere and cater to this we in turn limit our future potential by sticking to the ye olde side by side window usage. As it now begs the question, why are two applications side by side if they are related? If we have a forcing function which puts emphasis on a single screen visualization would this not cut down on fragmented software delivery? What if the snap screen concept could be more broader in its execution where you allow users to have more than one window at a time but the designs themselves can be responsive to the state in which they are housed? This works better imho than just given floating cascade windows with dynamic border resize + maximize + minimize. It fixes and creates an interesting solution to much bigger problem.Again, the author is kind of saying “it’s changed, I don’t like it”. I didn’t like the day I gave up a tactical keyboard for a touch screen, but I got over it and can type just as fast now. Humans evolve.
- Flat styles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving along the highway and seen the turn arrow being flat and thought to myself “I wish that had a sense of depth, as that would give me contrast to make an informative decision”. The whole idea that we need depth in order to associate action is a kind of “drawing from a long bow”. If you’re a virgin user and never seen something for the first time, yes, you have that moment of initial “wtf” but you explore, because now it’s a puzzle and you have an incentive to figure it out. Take into account marketing and real-world surroundings it’s fair to assume that the learnability of a solid icon is considered both touchable and untouchable. You will discover this fairly easily but the learnability is probably shallow but discoverability isn’t - Key differentiation there. I don’t agree with Metro’s content over chrome metaphor and in the visual he provided it’s an easy fight to pick (grouping is all wrong) but the failures here are easily misleading given he left out the constancy of the design (in that it’s not isolated to one area, it’s throughout and again, surprisingly we all seem to navigate over time without issue – behavior vs incentive again).
- Symbology. Probably the only thing I would agree here is that there is way too much of a strong reliance on symbology to convey the context of what the said solution does. There’s no personality attached to apps and functions, meaning I think there still needs to be a balance between core operating and in-app functions and said Applications (one thing iPhone does well as the apps entry icons are able to retain a differentiation whereas Win8 it doesn’t). I don’t think the author articulated this very well but I sense that’s the direction they were heading
- Progressive Disclosure has always been a double edged sword. On one hand you free up user from distraction by giving them a chunk of information to process act upon whilst on the other hand you’re easily forgotten and totally rely on muscle memory / learnability to be your UX crutch. I don’t think the author framed this correctly in this case by asserting that the users will “forget” the charm icons etc. I think it’s got poor amount of UX friction associated to it but the idea that Novice/Power users will be absent minded users here is really again an over reach. I find the whole persona attachment in this authors writing to be disconnected and fluctuates between a virgin user and a veteran of 15 years+ user? (settle on them and grouping here clearly needs to indicate the level of friction associated to each point).Had the user stated “I sampled a user with only 6month usage of a computer” then yes, Charms would be hazardous to one’s health. The reality is that’s a generational issue firstly (ie they are deprecating) and secondly there is such a wash of bad UI in software today that the users in general are what I’d call “defensive” in that they have been trained over and over that UI today isn’t always a case of “everything is in front of you where you need it”. Furthermore if you take a step back in time and look at the green-screen terminals and how data entry operators would fly through the various fields etc one can see that a human and pattern recognition have remarkable abilities.