It’s Kool Aid Time: this year’s batch is Raspberry.When I read posts like these, I simply shake my head and admittedly get a little annoyed at the existence of such posts. More to the point, I’m also getting weary of seeing MVP’s of the Silverlight of yesterday flipping the script and now putting out a public audition for WinRT MVP auditions. I get the mindset that often goes into these style posts, and in many ways you have to give these folks credit, as they have simply have moved on. Unfortunately like most people inside cubicles around the world, the luxury of riding the new wave(s) is often restricted to a small cluster of adopters and influencers. You know these people: they are usually the same people on stage at a conference somewhere telling you what you’re doing wrong and how you should adopt vNext tech to do better.
Back to reality.I’ve been at the birth of a new technology; I’ve been in a team that spent millions on marketing and seeding the new technology to over 6 million .NET devs and around 500 million PC’s worldwide. You could say I’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot from that experience. The one consistent ingredient to seeding a technology is what we collectively call the “influencer”. The idea is you round up a bunch of Community Leaders, you shower them with Glass Awards, titles like MVP, or at the very least make them feel important or as your “favorite”, and then you get them to tell people your message (as the theory is that this in turn adds authenticity to your message). When I was an Evangelist, I went from being an unknown non-.NET developer in an Adobe/Macromedia scene, to being suddenly invited to speak at Microsoft Conferences, Twitter Followings, Facebook Friend Requests, Invites to Business Deals/Meetings and so on. You feel as if you’re now the one being dated whilst at the same time you in turn make others feel the same the ripples of influence continue. That’s how you artificially pump a community up around a technology adoption. There are different flavors to the approach, but ultimately, your job is to become a band manager and not the rock stars (you scale more).
The messaging framework.When the time comes where you need to broadcast your message to the crowd of followers, your main focus is to ensure you get traction around repeatable messaging. That is to say, you ensure that you all sing from the same hymn sheet and with enough repetition this message will be the consistent soundbyte you hear at a local conference near you. For example:
- Silverlight isn’t dead; it will be around for 20 years.
- You can take your Silverlight skills today and reuse them with Win8 tomorrow, as in the end it's just XAML and C#, right?
- And so on..
Change is the enemy.That’s how you flip the script; that’s how you get people to stop looking behind and start thinking about what’s coming up. You can shift an entire community from the old to new in under 2-3 years using that formula mixed with enough conference blitz, blog post(s) and so on. This is, however, all a false sense of change. That is to say at the conference / front lines, it looks as if things are moving forward fast, quick everyone get on the new wave! At the cubicle level, the environment that when the conference etc. is over and everyone retreats back to their various developer enclosures. They are still likely staring at WinForms, Windows XP, WPF, Silverlight and so on for the next 1-2 years minimum. This is where the thinking around change truly festers, as now it’s less about having XAML and C# skills but more about how to use them in an upcoming project. The bottom line is if you are writing Silverlight/WPF, the very notion or idea that you can transfer your skills in 2-3 years when Windows 8 dust settles is really pie in the sky broad stroke thinking. Today, you have to File-New Silverlight/WPF Project, as it’s realistically the environment in which you are likely to get success in this .NET space. You could go down the path of HTML/JS and really get ready for devices of tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow, this is today. Silverlight is at the end of it’s life, and in turn anything that takes a dependency on it is sure to decay over the next year or so. Windows 8 is not a desktop release; it’s a tablet release. The future around how Windows 8 plays a role in businesses of tomorrow is still a huge unknown. Microsoft really needs to stop switching gears so fast here. If the future is to gravitate towards the next wave, then fine. Change is good, yet do so in a manner that has clarity attached. Stop hiding behind the sound bytes of the usual muffin eaters at the same conference(s). Stop just abandoning the toys of today because they aren’t as shiny as the ones you make tomorrow. Spend more time in the transition or bridging between the old wave and the new wave, whilst lastly settle on a message around how you transfer and not throwaway messaging of “well if you know how to write code you can write better code tomorrow”. I think it's clear we all can learn a language or two. That’s not the point, the point is: What incentive do I have to relearn (or go backwards in) in order to move forward? WinRT is Silverlight 1.1 or 2.0 when it comes to development experiences. Windows Phone 7 Development vs. Windows 8 Development isn’t as clear as it could be. Lastly, if Silverlight has no more releases left in it, then how do other products like Lightswitch, Expression Blend, Visual Studio, etc. get affected by the end of life stigma?
I want you all to pause a moment or two.
I want you all to sit in front of Windows 8, and explore it some more and get to be intimate with “metro” as a user interface style. Really, immerse yourself in it and just stare at it, explore every pixel it offers up.
I now want you to imagine that this is going to be your user interface for the next 5years.
I have been doing “metro” rinse/repeat designs for quite some time and it has long past bored me to the point where I wonder if I have metro-blindness now. That is I’ve stared at it for far to long that I really need a release valve, I crave something more interesting and has more depth.
This is the part where you respond with the usual metro rhetoric about content-first design, authentically digital blah blah the usual Microsoft Metro Zombie response that often the person at the other end of the conversation has no clue at what even it means, it just sounds smart to say and gives one a sense of authority over the conversation.
I am not saying the path that Microsoft has put the hordes of developers on is wrong but I’m not inclined to say it’s right either.
Who is the target audience?
Today, a 50 something non-techy came into my work pod to talk about the new iPad 3, we talked about what it has and doesn’t have but then I tried to get an unbiased non-technical opinion on Windows 8.
Me: “Have you seen the new Windows 8 yet?”
NonTechGuy: “Nope.. is it out?”
Me: “Not yet, it’s still in beta, but here have a look”
I then watched his facial expression; it looked like he wanted to go to the toilet but was holding back on saying so out of politeness.
Me: “Cool huh!”
NonTechGuy: “is that the whole thing?”
Bottom line was that he was not excited by it and we soon retreated to the iPad conversation. My thinking here is not that well this user speaks for billions of humans worldwide; it was just interesting to see a virgin reaction to basically metro.
This person uses Windows daily and has no issue with it, but when shown Windows 8 front-start screen it had this jarring effect on his senses, as if to say – “this is not what I expected”.
This is the part where someone now responds with “give them time”, “users over time will get used to it”, “I have xyz friends who see the opposite to this view” etc. etc.
I get it, I just disagree with it.
Windows 8 is targeted at us, the tech crowd, the more I think about its practicality the more I contemplate that maybe the reason why Apple is much more successful than Microsoft at this space as they target the baby-boomer style crowd. Microsoft and Google target us and in turn they fail more than they succeed simply because we are much harder to please than the Apple audience.
When Steve Jobs said that they only make products that they would want to use, I think we all in the tech-scene assumed he meant us. He didn’t, I think he meant to say “no, I mean guys my age and people who aren’t preoccupied with engadget/gizmodo style blogs.. I mean me, you people aren’t invited”
The thing that struck a chord today was the fact that iPad3 has failed in the eyes of most tech bloggers etc., yet 50-something non-tech guy walks into the IT cubicle and asks “Hey, you seen the new iPad!”..
Think about that a bit more. Firstly, he has already heard about it from mainstream radio stations and secondly he did not say iPad3 he said “new iPad” (interesting choice of words to parrot).
Metro will outdate itself.
Here is the problem I am starting to see with metro and I am arguably pushing it earlier than Microsoft is with a number of audiences. Metro fast out dates, that is to say initially people’s reaction to the design is positive and emotive. However over time the more and more it gets used, the more and more it will start to taper out, that is to say, you probably are already seeing this with Windows Phone 7.
There is no differentiation; there is no unique upgrade or themed approach to the way you react to data. There is just this metro-zombie existence where if you can slap together a few tiles, fluctuating typography case & size, few background pictures and then some minor rectangle decals here and there. Boom metro installed, payday occurs.
The design and experience over time becomes like chewing gum, the flavor disappears, and soon we are keen to discard and invite new flavor as soon as possible.
I see this as a problem going forward as Microsoft itself can’t control metro in a way that elevates and retains consistency in their emotive experience(s) and to be fair, metro wasn’t born from a scientific analysis, it was born from a group of guys inside Microsoft UX leadership who decided that they wanted to simplify the brand some more.
So what if Microsoft is wrong? What if Metro isn’t the correct way forward and what if it hurts our ecosystem much more than we realize?
Yesterday, out of pure design frustration I decided to do the opposite of what I know about Metro, that is, break the rules, and see what happens.
I came up with this design and then posted it online to see what people’s reactions would be.
I got wave after wave of “this isn’t metro” responses, I never got any reactions around how one could evolve this further. I was craving that and was really just curious to see what would happen if you assault this audience with the anti-metro design. I knew upfront what the audience would parrot back and sure enough I got lecture after lecture on what is or isn’t metro (some weren’t even accurate to the actual principles of metro itself).
I could care less whether people enjoyed the design I put forward as it was always just a throw-away composition and was more about me taking some time-out to just evolve a design.
It struck me simply that I worry now that metro-style as we see it from Microsoft will become tomorrow’s WinForm(s) that is to say we’ve replaced WinForm static UI with now a more monochrome blocky style UI. Developers rarely deviate from Microsoft’s theming (see Ribbon and Office theming as examples) and so from here it’s likely we’ll see the tired old look over and over and over.
I worry about this as I think this really could be the step backwards and not forwards in evolving our design energy.
With that, I leave you with just one question – What if Microsoft is wrong, how do we all collectively recover?
I don’t dislike metro, but I’m not excited about it as much as I should be. I want have more fun with it though, I want to see what others do with it out of the confines of the “rules”, as I think this could evolve further!
Like 1million of you out there, yesterday I downloaded and installed Windows 8 onto get this – my 27” iMac – yes, I’m that guy.
Here are my love/hate notes and a YouTube video to match.
What I like
- Color Choice. I like the vibrant colors, I was skeptical from the initial //BUILD preview we saw that this would work as that iteration of Win8 came off very flat and really shallow baked. This iteration I am noticing some subtle differences and I am growing to accept its existence.
- Start Menu replacement. I am surprised at how much I do actually like the Start Menu vs. the traditional one; I am always a fan of enabling users to break out of their chrome and into a more contextually driven experience for at times when specific tasks need to occur. I like this approach, it’s still a bit hard to break a lot of habitual usage and muscle memory, but it’s something I can see the Operating System will chisel away at over time.
- AppStore. I like the AppStore, I think this is long overdue and am looking forward to seeing more about how this can increase the size of my own wallet (or decrement it). I still am skeptical of a try vs. buy approach to selling your apps, to me try kind of pushes prices further down then they need to be (AppStore anti-pattern).
I like the almost seamless integration between apps, and how you can pin/unpin them to suite your hearts’ content.
What I dislike.
- Tile Balance. The balance between typography and glyphs irritated me immediately. I found myself ignoring the glyphs and instead searching the text, but found that the text size itself is excessively small. The reason I think this is occurring is the shapes (glyphs) aren’t familiar outlines of entities I’m used to seeing, so my brain flips the concept around, ignores them given they are foreign and instead retreats back to typography for the answer. I think these needs more balancing between proportion and closer to home shape design(s).
- Grouping. The grouping seemed did not seem to follow a consistent pattern (prolong usage may alter this opinion). That is to say, how it allocates proportional sizes when you start moving tiles around does not immediately offer up a sense of consistency as I found myself at times wanting a particular tile to be bigger than the rest.
- Whitespace is amazingly wasted. I’m assuming the main driver for this UI is tablet / slate PC’s so I’m willing to cave a little on this opinion. That being said, if it is to go desktop then the reality around monitor sizes (I know Microsoft has this usage data, I’ve seen it myself) is quite alarmingly large. I mean sure I’m using 27” iMac monitor to view Windows 8 so my whitespace is going to be significantly high, but the thing is Microsoft needs to factor this into their designs (whether it by a pyramid of layout states etc.).
For instance, when you install an application you pretty much have the upper left locked as being the only elements of UI? To me the far right is a huge wasted opportunity as you can still utilise the AppStore upsell here by feeding in one or two apps that are similar to the one you are installing, give the user the opportunity to read reviews of the application and so on. Point is you can still uphold minimalism but do so in a much smarter contextually driven manner.
- Internet Explorer is terrible experience. I found the address bar being down the bottom to be frustrating at times, furthermore it often would get in the way of websites like Facebook who use the “Confirm/Cancel” buttons in the bottom right. I found when that occurred the address bar got in the way and left I playing a game of hide/seek until I could get to the said button(s). I am not sure what the science is behind moving it from a traditional top placement now to a bottom placement. I think they went a little too far on the “re-imagined” in this case.
- Movement without touchscreen. Its clear this OS release is primarily optimized for iPad compete, but again if it’s a desktop release then having smarter keyboard control over how you interact with the OS needs optimizing.
For instance, I found myself wanting to use START + LEFT/RIGHT Arrow to pan the screen left and right vs having to use the mouse and a scrollbar down the bottom (hit zone that alone was frustrating – fits law anyone?)
Look, this OS is a consumer release that much is clear and it is also clear that this isn’t a desktop driven focused experience but instead the anti-iPad release. I can see a having legs on tablet devices, and can see the direction they appear to be heading down that path and can get on board with that.
If this however is to reside as being the replacement for our desktop computers accessing Windows etc., then they really need to think beyond the tablet devices here specifically around how not just consumers but workplaces etc. are going to handle this release?
The design was done an ok at reducing clutter and their marketing “content-first” thinking rather comes of still as being somewhat lazy. I think they can still increase more feature density here whilst retaining a minimalist design (web apps etc. do it daily so it is not really a pioneering effort).
I can’t see pre-existing Windows users who aren’t part of the 6million .NET Horde racing out to their local PC dealer to buy Windows 8 and use it, I think the whole operating system has moved a lot of things around, specifically the removal of the Start Bar Icon itself is going to irritate initially.
This Operating system will require a lot of users having to re-learn there way around the operating system and things they have built up over 15+ years of habitual usage has now been removed – that alone is going to send a polarizing shockwave.
I’m keen to see what the next release will look like and how they plan to market this operating system to the world without tablet device as its primary delivery platform. I think that will be the challenge for them in terms of separating the tablet focused way in which computers are to be used from traditional dell driven workplace(s) / at home laptops and pc’s.
Windows 8 is the primary flagship for Microsoft, its got billions of dollars riding on its success and fail so I personally don’t think this company can afford another Windows Vista moment.
I still think Steve Sinofsky has probably cut to much out in order to make the shipping dates when he probably should have pushed the dates back (screw the shareholders) a little more to give this OS more time in the creative oven.
I am however growing to like it more and more, I can see potential in how I could make a buck or two with it (despite the developer SDK story being a hodge podge of PR “how not to succeed” strategies).
Going forward I bleed metro; its really thin blood and made up of two primary colors and the blood cells are grid aligned...
I also came into work today inspired, that rarely happens after using something new from Microsoft! 🙂
As inflammatory as this sounds, and it will piss quite a few Microsoft fans out there, but let me just get this piece out of the way before you make some snap fang filled responses.
The current “metro-style” as Windows 8 team puts it, simply is at present a huge missed opportunity that seems to be constantly being bent out of shape and isn’t ready to go electric (i.e. Bob Dylan went electric and everyone trashed him for it, who’s trashing now!).
Feature Density is cancer to Metro-Style.
The minimalist approach to design has been pretty much on the web for quite some time now thanks to a lot of creative souls in the CSS movement of the past (A List Apart, CSS Zen Garden etc. have all hinted strongly around grid focused design etc.).
There is really nothing new that the current “metro-style” brought to the table in terms of principles of design, the Zune however did put a new face to the idea that the a website-like User Interface could exist on a Desktop application.
It’s from there that the Microsoft UX mercenaries within various orgs began feeding the fire around what if you combined web design skills with desktop development.
Circa 2005ish we saw the first traces of the idea about bridging the two worlds together, but WPF got bloated and crappy performance and eventually failed in delivering to meet expectations. Microsoft Expression Blend also failed as at the time we found that whilst there where quite a number of downloads via MSDN subscriptions it had no revenue stream coming in and developers tried and pushed it aside. Designers disliked the complexity that came with the product and we at the time burnt quite a large bridge with Adobe in making the two potentially integrate with one another smarter (Adobe vs Microsoft war killed the vision).
It wasn’t until the guys behind the Metro as we know it today decided to regroup and come up with a pitch to the world on how Microsoft branding overall should unite, and to be fair – it at the time was a welcomed strategy (I for one was keen to see its momentum get traction).
Taking a page out of the Zune design it simply grew into what we see today, the infamous “metro-style” UI whereby you have a fairly flat canvas, a lot of typography, some primitive shapes and maybe one or two complimentary colors – boom, here’s your Metro-style application you ordered!
Attractive bias aside, the UI’s do look good and I don’t mind sharing that I’ve made a tidy profit churning these designs out for various clients, as they are dead stupid simple. The problem though I’ve personally found over time and discussed with many other fellow metro-designers out there in the interwebs is around how to navigate the pitfalls of feature density.
What do I mean by feature density?
Feature density is when you have a team of feature hungry customer(s) all wanting and willing to pay large bounties to cram as many features into the one product as possible and despite your many educational rants around “less is more” it plays out in way that basically ends up being a really bad execution of “metro”.
Interestingly when you discuss such things with others they tend to climb on top of that horse and start preaching the gospel around controlling the client, usability studies, user experience principles and what not to the point where you simply roll your eyes, make a hand jerk motion and thank them for listening and walk away from them even more frustrated than you were before – YOU DON’T FUCKING GET IT raging through your mind.
I at first like most out there I guess would be free to say that maybe I don’t get it, maybe I’m the guy who seems to not find the right balance between feature density and design?
The cracks began to emerge.
That is until I started to pay a lot closer attention to the way Microsoft themselves have been churning out applications within their own kingdom of metro`ness. Ahh yes, I’m watching you bozos and I can see what you’re doing so stop trying to hide it.
What I see is this, Microsoft started out with some pretty basic applications that arguably can fit quite snugly on a smartphone or tablet device? As in the end these aren’t necessary hardware elements in the day to day cubicles? They are more at-a-glance, downtime, basic operational use only (some may use them for word processing or two but in general it’s not a work tool at present).
Once you get past what I call “Kiosk” applications you then run into the same problems I’ve had a couple of years ago, how the hell are we going to keep parity with feature(s) in existing software with the new and modernized metro theme?
There’s a number of strategies I’ve formulated to help navigate these waters, but overall it comes back to cutting features down as much as you can and start dividing the monolithic application into user-contextual driven experience (content first is bullshit, context first is righteous).
Microsoft however aren’t catching up to this thinking as fast as I had thought, as I figured they are the ones who created this problem so surely they have some internal best of breed minds on the said problem right?
Look at Visual Studio 11, forget the grey controversy, that’s not the point what is the point is how do you think the Visual Studio team are going to navigate the metro waters with success? They are going to have to make some large sacrifices in features or come up with some radical left brain thinking here to overcome the “less is more” design principles outlined in the Microsoft doctrine titled “Metro Design Language”
Lets look at Office vNext (not officially but you get the point), I mean the current latest version of Office I’m typing this post in now has pretty much the right conditions for a flat metro theme, It’s almost pretty much there except that Ribbon kind of becomes the metro-style anti-pattern (note I said metro-style, not metro-principles).
Ok, so the overall problem with metro is that it’s probably gone a little to far to the left in scaling things back to the point where the grid-design patterns of the web probably aren’t going to map snugly to the desktop development story as even in the right hands it’s a balancing act.
In the wrong hands metro can fall off a cliff fast, you know those designs, you’ve probably seen them, hell even Microsoft itself puts those ones on full display (Microsoft.com itself is an metro-abortion on full display).
There is way out thought.
I think today, Metro itself as we see it in its incarnation is broken, it’s created this ongoing bad habit where if you nuke some gradients, whip up a lot of typography and pander to the masses you in turn get an instant “wow dude, so metro, high-five” – meanwhile you’re just feeling a little cheap inside, as you know that at the end of the day this is not your best work and you are just feeding the metro-zombies what they want.
Its only when I sat down to really think about how I would re-design Visual Studio that a few things began to click in how both I could navigate the feature density problem but also how unready the audiences were for such moves.
The problem I immediately am noticing the most, isn’t just about color selection (which to be fair guys is such a subjective discussion) its more along the lines of change management.
We are willing to accept small incremental changes or even twitter-like kiosk applications that sit on the Windows 8 mutated start bar or Windows Phone 7 install pile – they don’t really affect us as much as we think they do.
You touch my Visual Studio and Office whilst coming up short on whatever habits I’ve established today, expect a severe beating!!
On one hand the current execution of metro simply says “sorry, we’re going to have to make some radical changes here people” on the other hand it will require you the audience to be open to such change.
Its clear right now, in my view, the earlier can be done but the later, nope, that ones filled with a lot of forum focused anger “you suck Microsoft” style rants.
Sorry, Metro isn’t ready in the sense the current users aren’t ready for its minimalist focused design principles as we’re about to break the one known issue with most user experience today – Audiences dislike less is more, instead they are silently ok with the idea of having a 1000 features at their disposal even though the data says they probably use 20% of those features..
Metro isn’t ready for the mainstream.
The calendar increments by 1 year now and as it does I think about the last year and ponder what I liked and disliked in my sandbox that I call the Microsoft ethos
Windows Phone 7
- I liked Nokias approach to branding the product; they really took what they saw and made it the focal point of what the experience for consumers should be. That is, they did what I asked at the start of the year; make the metro design your familiar face in the crowd.
- I liked the WP7 Design contest; I rarely ever give an endorsement to contests as they are a desperate response to bad marketing, in this case though the designs that came back were actually tidy and immediately wanted you to explore the apps. Now to see if they make it into the appstore.
- I disliked WP7 marketing from Microsoft, it was chaotic, it lacked depth and $500million in marketing spent later, I still can’t put my finger on one message that you could hang your hat on. Compare Apple iPhone / Android marketing to Wp7 and it baffles me as to what is going on in that team – I think they just carpet bomb SeaTac / LAX airports with it knowing that Microsoft Execs travel through there and hope that’s enough to convince them they are “everywhere” – reality is, Bus shelter ads aren’t putting the wp7 logo on the bottom of their “get our apps” signage – which is a fail.
- I disliked the WP7 app store pricing model, fact is they are charging the same rates as iPhone devs or there about and in the end you have a marketshare that Samsung is even beating. I agree with Laurence Moroney – Reality check for two please and can we have that to go.
- I disliked the compete b.s that came from Staffers at Microsoft around WP7, fight the internal metrics and rise above the whole “heh did you see that, Apple just copied us!” mentality. Its very weak and if you are to beat the competition then you need to stop watching their every move hoping and praying for a weakness to occur. If Apple copy you, great, internalize that victory but keep it internal and instead move the bar higher as the best way for people to absorb that reality is when someone who doesn’t have an MVP or Blue-badge says “Did Apple just copy Microsoft?”.
Windows 7 and 8
- I liked the intent for Microsoft to bring balance to the UX force, which is a consistent looking brand / feel across all products from now on.
- I disliked the execution of the consistent branding. I wished they would keep all design decisions in a central team, which is everything from website design to UI design(s) for products. Allowing individual teams within Microsoft to interpret Metro outside of the central team at this early critical stage is clearly not working. If you want to attract a design enriched audience that want to take inspiration from your work, stop farming it out to agencies who nickel/dime their way through design creation and instead double down on providing a central experience.
- I liked the energy that the Windows teams have around device development, we’ve asked for this way back in the days of Surface birth. I think that’s healthy for the industry and will put touch enabled devices into more and more people’s hands sooner rather than later.
- I disliked the artificial inflation of the metrics (Windows and Wp7). Inside Microsoft you gauge success based on your ability to ignore qualitative data and instead focus on quantitative given it looks bigger. This often spills over into the marketing engine(s) at Microsoft resulting in just bad reality checks thus creating more distance between the ability to trust anything the brand states.
- I disliked the development experience required to get access to the touch enabled world. A friend of mine sent me this break down of tag trends over at Stackoverlow, basically if you are working with Silverlight and/or WPF the chances of you not using Stackoverflow in some form of way is next to zero. WPF and Silverlight dead? Can I have an extra order of reality check for team Sinofsky please?
- I liked the notion that Windows 7 is on the rise over Windows XP, the growth you have is great, and the sooner we can stomp on the neck of Windows XP the happier my development sandbox will be.
- I disliked the fact that Windows 7 has a huge market share right now, today, that I can’t access and instead am told to “chill” until Windows 8 AppStore comes online via Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft team decided “How else can I really fuck my customer base over” then some clown in the back puts his hand up and tells them of an idea to hold back AppStore whilst everyone just sits there nodding like he’s telling them that touch will be the future for Microsoft back in 2007 – oh wait… has anyone seen JJ Allard lately as that guys going places.
Silverlight / WPF.
- I liked the fact we got some releases for these products, shows there is still someone within the company stoking that release fire.
- I liked Silverlights new 3D capabilities, it hints at what could have been possible had we had it sooner. We back in the early days would often discuss how 3D would be our next frontier of innovation for the product and my hat goes off to the engineering efforts for pulling it off – they worked hard.
- I dislike that Silverlight release was late and I especially disliked the way it was done. Microsoft phoned in the release, let it happen in the dark of night instead of the grandeur we’ve been used to in the past. That for me sent a clear signal to the developer base – it’s time to move on, finish up your creations and wait for next shiny object to come to a install near you.
- I dislike WPF feature list, it was less than we were promised (technically it was more tease / flirt) and lastly the release itself was more of an internal upgrade spilled over onto external HDD’s – that is to say, the features were more derived from internal needs than external. MIC check, is this thing on, WPF is dead in the eyes of Microsoft but its far from dead in the eyes of your average .NET code jockey.
- I dislike the energy spent on HTML5 is the future, I’m yet to meet a developer who uses Silverlight/WPF get excited at the idea of abandoning this for HTML5. It must be the other developers I don’t’ see who want it – well that’s what we may be assuming amongst each and everyone one of us “must be the other guy needs it” (ie “Pretty girl syndrome”).
- I liked the SDK experiences that come with this ….product? … I think it is much easier at times than people give it credit for. I’ve used Amazon quite extensively this year and often will grow impatient that its not like Azure.
- I dislike the pricing models for Azure. I’m a fairly intelligent guy but even today I’d not say I can for certain grasp the pricing model needed for me to respond to a work order request from some of my clients (mining companies who pay very large sums of money may I add).
- I dislike the fact Scott Guthrie is running this only. In the short time he’s been the custodian of this product its gotten better, great, but Scott should be a higher power across all products. Steve Sinofsky you suck the life out of Microsoft development.
- I liked the way Bizspark program is breaking down the pricing barrier of entry for Azure, I was skeptical of this program when it first started (My office was near the creator of this program back in the day, wand watched its birth). I think this program is what stands between adoption and non-adoption but at the same time it has really piss poor marketing behind it so unless you know someone who knows someone, it needs more help (See Catherine Eibner in Microsoft Australia, she’s got her head screwed on tight around how this should work going forward. Promote her to lead the charge here).
I liked the fact IE6 is hated in a more formal fashion at Microsoft, but overall I just wish this product in its entirety would just die. Everyone else is embracing Webkit, stop fighting the obvious and bend over accept you lost proprietary way of life and jump into the stagnant waters of Webkit FTW.
- WCF team can rot in hell. I think there is enough issues around this product to simply state, stop what your doing and think about its effects on your audience. Until then, rot in hell.
- Entity Framework team, make a decision and stick with it or at least promote the reasons why you change APIs and their pro’s / con’s.
- Zune. Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Surface 2 – Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Bing. I googled Bing, enough said but the fact you didn’t have a Santa Tracker at Christmas – you are dead to me.
Yesterday the VP of Web Services at Microsoft showed us the upcoming future of Microsoft AppStore me to thanks for playing Apple iTunes clone but not quite because its metro style of solution delivery….*gasp*… (try saying that without pausing)
Side riff: Microsoft, try and pick one person to be the face of Windows.. I get VP’s want to be geek celebs, but really who is that guy anyway and why should we care about his existence?..sorry carry on reading…
I care less on who copied what and where, the fact that there is an AppStore in the Microsoft ethos for us WPF/SL developers to capitalize on and make some bank – count me in!
Oh wait, we don’t get an invite actually because in order to actually make some cash on this idea you have to kind of wait for Windows 8 to be more ubiquitous and outsell the current Windows 7 adoption curve that we have before us today.
Let me show you a big circle that has 500m attached to it and compare it to other devices and operating systems to give you a sense of scale and illusion around which is a smarter platform to target. I should also point out in September Microsoft also stated it was around 450million
Here it is.
Now, don’t ask too many questions (like how is Windows Phone 7 market share fit into that graph?) around how that number came to be, just bend over and accept its existence and let it soak into your brain mass that Microsoft have your back and we are the future of the interwebs.
Still not buying it? Well let me see if I can rustle up some insights for you from a Microsoft staffer, what about another VP at Microsoft – lets here what he has to say on the matter.
Comment: “ I thought I did, but to be honest, I’m not even sure what was said”
Comment: “…But the graph…it said…500m… and you guys also said 450m la…you know what, you are banned from using numbers”
Comment: I’m doing the math and I’m also including world population growth, projected device market sales targets and and and and… did you just tell me to start coding and stop whinging …..I am coding, I do it daily, but the problem I have is you’re co-workers interrupting that sales pipeline with a whole bunch of question marks about the future of what I’m actually coding on…so that is to say, I’m doing my part, what are your guys doing? …sorry back to the numbers.
Comment: OH snap.. no he didn’t….
Comment: Target what again… and you just said 500million earlier…what…what are we talking about again… and if Win8 launches today are you saying we should stop targeting Windows 7 and now focus on Windows 8?……. WHAT THE FU…
Comment: Which one? 500million, 450million or 300million… or….
Fair enough, he is not into the whole questions thing and regards it as being a case of being a whining and what I also found interesting was the implication that one should “shut up and code”
Only problem I find there is actually I have been coding, pretty much for the last few years and that’s the problem because I have been coding on the last set of promises they / me made to the community around Silverlight and WPF. I remember it clearly, we got up on stage and we gave the same formula you have before you yesterday, we drowned you in copious amounts of “We caught a fish this big” graphs, painted a bright and happy days future, then told you “trust us, we have this covered” story.
Fast forward today, Silverlight 5’s future is in question and WPF is well, dare I still say dead? In fact Silverlight 5 was scheduled to release last month and that was told to you by a Microsoft staffer but yet no sign of the product that describes another way of saying the word “Flash” (aka Silverlight).
Ok, well I guess we’ll all have to sit tight, hold onto the .NET …err I mean WinRT…err I mean .NET …C++?...HTML5?... Ok whatever it is we are supposed to hold onto, write some killer applications and wait for further information from Microsoft on how well Windows 8 will sell and to which verticals its likely to excite the most.
Its clear it will beat iPad / iPhone to death as once Windows gets onto a tablet like device, it will be unstoppable – well that’s what MVP’s at Microsoft tell me and why on earth would they be biased – crazy talk.
Look, I think Windows 8 is an opportunity for all to prosper, I think it has the potential to excite and increase the cash in everyone’s wallets. I honestly don’t care whether or not the developer story gets reset, what I do ultimately care about is how one can take the concepts of Windows 8 and use them in today’s Windows 7 upgrade environments.
Call me crazy but based on historical data and simply getting my fill of the Microsoft internal culture I honestly don’t think Windows 8 will replenish the market the way Windows 7 has today. I think its going to be mostly a tablet device story only and even then it’s got question marks above its head on what you can and can’t do when it comes to development.
Furthermore, Microsoft cannot seriously expect developers to trust them anymore as the amount of broken promises…. I won’t go down that path, I’ll simply leave it at “no, you haven’t earned the trust” so instead of throwing down metrics onto the table like they actually resonate with developers instead of making that team look artificially successful – why not answer some hard questions with that time.
Paint a detailed picture on what you think is the future of Windows specifically on areas where you think it interconnects, lets talk about how Windows Azure is the preferred server side engine for your Apps in the AppStore or more importantly lets talk about skill transference in more detail, how does a Silverlight / WPF card carrying .NET diehard fan transition over to the new Windows RT way of life.
How do they work with Designers in this new space? Whats your thinking around the tooling story and how they interconnect.
AppStore sounds fine, it looks good but why can’t we start today, why do we need to hold off for Windows 8 or is this your idea of a forcing function that will drive consumers to buy Windows 8 instead of Windows 7 – because of the Appstore?
That may work for new devices called tablets, but what about that 500m install base just sitting there waiting to be fleeced with my Flashlight glow in the dark Twitter application?
Stop whining and build? Build with what, who for and which platform?
So far there is less that 50,000 developers world wide targeting Windows 8 and that’s assuming that MSDN downloads indicate one developer per download ( I know I downloaded it 4x times since BUILD… so make that –4).
Never fear though, as you can now watch the developer uptake increase due to brilliant strategies like the Build Windows Contest featuring weird beard guy in front of a bicycle wheel? (WTF)
Catch is you have to be a US resident only and use the new secret stuff from Microsoft …actually I have no clue what the hell this contest is really about and lastly a VP at Microsoft once told me in a meeting “Contests are the last desperate refuge for bad marketing”… enough said.
Co-worker shares his thoughts after reading this blog post
Last night I was sitting in a child psychologist office watching my son undergo a whole heap of cognitive testing (given he has a rare condition called Trisomy 8 Mosaicism) and in that moment I had what others would call a “flash” or “epiphany” (i.e. theory is we get ideas based on a network of ideas that pre-existed).
The flash came about from watching my son do a few Perceptional Reasoning Index tests. The idea in these tests is to have a group of imagery (grid form) and they have to basically assign semantic similarities between the images (ball, bat, fridge, dog, plane would translate to ball and bat being the semantic similarities).
This for me was one of those ahah! Moments. You see, for me when I first saw the Windows 8 opening screen of boxes / tiles being shown with a mixed message around letting the User Interface “breathe” combined with ensuring a uniform grid / golden ratio style rant … I just didn’t like it.
There was something about this approach that for me I just instantly took a dislike. Was it because I was jaded? Was it because I wanted more? ..there was something I didn’t get about it.
Over the past few days I’ve thought more about what I don’t like about it and the most obvious reaction I had was around the fact that we’re going to rely on imagery to process which apps to load and not load. Think about that, you are now going to have images some static whilst others animated to help you guage which one of these elements you need to touch/mouse click in order to load?
re-imagining or re-engineering the problem?
This isn’t re-imagining the problem, its simply taken a broken concept form Apple and made it bigger so instead of Icons we now have bigger imagery to process.
Just like my son, your now being attacked at Perceptional Reasoning level on which of these “items are the same or similar” and given we also have full control over how these boxes are to be clustered, we in turn will put our own internal taxonomy into play here as well…. Arrghh…
Now I’m starting to formulate an opinion that the grid box layout approach is not only not solving the problem but its actually probably a usability issue lurking (more testing needs to be had and proven here I think).
Ok, I’ve arrived at a conscious opinion on why I don’t like the front screen, now what? The more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to the question – “Why do we have apps and why do we cluster them on screens like this”
The answer isn’t just a Perspective Memory rationale, the answer really lies in the context in which we as humans lean on software for our daily activities. Context is the thread we need to explore on this screen, not “Look I can move apps around and dock them” that’s part of the equation but in reality all you are doing is mucking around with grouping information or data once you’ve isolated the context to an area of comfort – that or you’re still hunting / exploring for the said data and aren’t quite ready to release (in short, you’re accessing information in working memory and processing the results real-time).
As the idea is beginning to brew, I think about to sources of inspiration – the user interfaces I have loved and continue to love that get my design mojo happening. User interfaces such as the one that I think captures the concept of Metro better than what Microsoft has produced today – the Microsoft Health / Productivity Video(s).
Back to the Fantasy UI for Inspiration
If you analyze the attractive elements within these videos what do you notice the most? For me it’s a number of things.
I notice the fact that the UI is simple and in a sense “metro –paint-by-numbers” which despite their basic composition is actually quite well done.
I notice the User Interface is never just one composition that the UI appears to react to the context of usage for the person and not the other way around. Each User Interface has a role or approach that carries out a very simplistic approach to a problem but done so in a way that feels a lot more organic.
In short, I notice context over and over.
I then think back to a User Interface design I saw years ago at Adobe MAX. It’s one of my favorites, in this UI Adobe were showing off what they think could be the future of entertainment UI, in that they simply have a search box on screen up top. The default user interface is somewhat blank providing a passive “forcing function” on the end user to provide some clues as to what they want.
The user types the word “spid” as their intent is Spiderman. The User Interface reacts to this word and its entire screen changes to the theme of Spiderman whilst spitting out movies, books, games etc – basically you are overwhelmed with context.
I look at Zune, I type the word “the Fray” and hit search, again, contextual relevance plays a role and the user interface is now reacting to my clues.
I look back now at the Microsoft Health videos and then back to the Windows 8 Screens. The videos are one in the same with Windows 8 in a lot of ways but the huge difference is one doesn’t have context it has apps.
The reality is, most of the Apps you have has semantic data behind (except games?) so in short why are we fishing around for “apps” or “hubs” when we should all be reimagineering the concept of how an operating system of tomorrow like Windows 8 accommodates a personal level of both taxonomy and contextual driven usage that also respects each of our own cognitive processing capabilities?
Now I know why I dislike Windows 8 User Interface, as the more I explore this thread the more I look past the design elements and “WoW” effects and the more I start coming to the realization that in short, this isn’t a work of innovation, it simply a case of taking existing broken models on the market today and declaring victory on them because it’s now either bigger or easier to approach from a NUI perspective.
There isn’t much reimagination going on here, it’s more reengineering instead. There is a lot of potential here for smarter, more innovative and relevant improvements on the way in which we interact with software of tomorrow.
I gave a talk similar to this at local Seattle Design User Group once. Here’s the slides but I still think it holds water today especially in a Windows 8 futures discussion.
I stumbled upon a blog post that I think should be titled - Genius is non-transferable. Nice up beat post about the influence of one Mr Steve Jobs and how his departure is affecting the future of Apple via a thought inspiring post.
This got me thinking about the day Bill Gates officially retired from Microsoft. I was on campus at the time and I remember everyone that I was near talked about this moment and there was a weird vibe around confidence levels. Most brushed his departure as the old guy has left the building, he didn’t do much anyway these days? Others who were more senior and seasoned didn’t follow this thread of thinking. Instead, they were more conservative and gave lofty responses like “we’ll see..” hinting that we as a company have only just began a journey of success vs. failure ahead.
Today, Amazon has setup shop right near Microsoft and recently the company lost or was expected to lose over 3,000+ staff to the ….online bookseller? storage in the cloud? company?. …Google, Facebook etc. have also setup shop just outside the borders of Redmond as well with I’m sure equal numbers of the 3,000 likely to occur as well.
How does the Amazon staff hiring blitz have anything to do with the topic at hand? Its simple for the first time in the history of Microsoft not only does the company have just as rich competitors today, but they also have their medium level competitors parked outside their village. This is a small but equally important issue as now not only is Microsoft HR departments on notice that they need to improve their metrics around success and fail but it also has a significant impact on the quality bands of their products (ie key staff leaving? Good or bad? Depends…)
Pre-Bill Gates departure, Microsoft was still a chaotic organization filled with typical large enterprise issues but it in turn was kept in check by a guy who remember outsmarted the beloved Steve Jobs on a number of business related tactics over the years. You worked hard to outsmart Bill in the organization and he did have a cultural impact on staff – prime example, ThinkWeek Papers.
Post Bill Gates, well products aren’t doing that great other than Windows 7 but in reality Windows7’s success is really a false positive given if you remove Windows XP from the market and force business/consumers down a path – it’s what I’d call a duress driven success.
You have a staff exodus problem occurring and furthermore you have no cohesive strategy around marketing products that at the end of the day are technically well built – Microsoft’s always had a marketing issue never really a technical one.
Windows 8 Predictions
This is going to give people their Microsoft high for the year, then in the following September 2012, he’s going to come back and officially release this to the world thus removing MIX Online from our memories for ever more.
While this is happening he’s then going to spend energy & time building out the desktop concept of Windows as we know it today whilst factoring in the disruption of Windows8 Device / ARM Operating system and its effects on the market.
Apple in turn are going to spend a lot more budget / cycles now to rebuild confidence now that Mr Jobs has stepped down for what we all know now sadly, health reasons. Inside Microsoft they will see this as a moment of weakness, the beloved General has fallen – storm the gates, hard and fast.
This is a software storm of under qualified sugar overloaded officers at best who are going to promise us the world, the future of a brilliant tomorrow when it comes to vNext Software.
The underlying impact here for all of you to consider and the moment in which I personally just shake my head and sigh.
There’s no Steve Jobs and Bill Gates anymore, just punks who think they have the capabilities that these old warhorses once had.
These two didn’t accidently impact our lives worldwide in a once off streak of luck, they had consistent measure of success over the years in everything they did and we in turn backed their abilities in one way or another.
We had confidence.
Today, you look at the landscape of software companies and what they are all busy right now pushing and pulling the industry into what it should be and you have to ask yourself a simple question?
Are you confident we are on the right path now? If that answers no, kind of or not stacking into the majority of “Yes” column. Then we have a problem and future CEO’s like mini-Steve may think he’s got the winning formula but in truth, he’s been too busy copying Steve Jobs/Bill Gates homework he’s not taken time to learn from what they’ve failed and succeeded at.
Inside Microsoft, watch guys like Scott Guthrie as whilst everyone is running towards Windows 8 / Windows Phone 7 gravy train(s), he’s walking towards Azure, a spot where you can easily hide for a while and let the mob fall on top of each other over Windows 8 / Windows 7 device rush.
Mark my words, he’s the one you should all keep an eye on as he has potential to one day become the next Bill Gates / Steve Jobs for Microsoft or maybe a competitor should he jump ship to?(minus the creative part of course).
I just noticed something about the overall Windows Phone 7 community outreach story. Well I’ve noticed a few things, but the main thing I noticed was the designer haven is non-existent. Looking at the Create.MSDN site which for me appears to be the front-door to “getting-started” with Windows Phone 7, there appears to be no upsell or solicitation in anyway for the “design” community to pay attention to Windows Phone 7.
Huge mistake firstly.
The reason this is not a bright start to the phone, is if you look at all the successful apps on the iPhone and even Android market-places, there actual apps clearly have someone with design muscle flexing their wares proactively. Inside the Windows Phone 7 ethos, it’s admittedly paint by numbers style design (Metro) but still there is potential vein of richness here should you but show some bread-crumbs.
The major selling point for Windows Phone 7 is metro, folks inside the WP7 marketing team can flog “apps” all they like, but in my opinion I’d declare the phone having apps as hygiene (i.e. Well? I expected you to have them so what? you want a high five?..what else you got?). Metro is the differentiator, despite my grievances with User Interface experience(s) I do recognize that pushing these bitter points aside, the phone needs to focus on this and this alone when it comes to the consumers?
Sitting down and having designed a UI for this phone for an upcoming (reveled later) I’m a little frustrated at the amount of Googling (Yes, I said Google, not Bing. Bing is an ass backwards Search engine imho) I’ve had to spend in finding vector icons, inspiration (design stealing) and lastly techniques / resources others have framed when it comes to handling design related issues.
For instance, I’m not a fan of accent colors inside the phone – in that I like certain amount of colors but Red, Green and Orange are imho off-limits. The reason being is most situations that call for “state” often rely on a stop-light palette. If you have your entire UI Green and you have “You’re now connected” green highlight somewhere, well..it gets lost in the accent theme.
On top of that the dark/light auto-inversing is a funny beast to tackle. I get that it inverses the color palette's in a fairly smart way at the same time it catches you a little off guard when you sit down to design. As now you have to keep that in the forefront of your mind whilst designing and at the same time accommodating for foreground and accent color adjustments as they occur.
To a developer this is simply state flipping in and out but for an average designer that’s a lot of conscious palette planning / thinking going on there and not a lot of resources around hinting at that either (Try googling that now, tell me what you find!).
These are the typical scenarios you’re likely to face as a designer, the techniques that go beyond “Look mah, I used the default color palette and I managed to ship! gimme my $1million app store sales now mkay!” moments. It goes deeper and you can’t rely on external blogging threads to carry this workload. As they also have a habit of becoming out dated mixed with spam sites re-gurgitating your blog feeds as their own in order to sucker punch you with Google ads.
My point is simple, the designers are clearly not part of the conversation here and whilst developers, developers and developers is the normal mantra of Microsoft it’s also the major reason you’re failing at the products. If you want proof, go check out he MSDN metrics around Expression sales and uptake of Silverlight solutions that go beyond the default theme(s) created by either Microsoft or Telerik, ComponentOne, Infragistics etc.
Paint by numbers gets you the default positioning of your product and nothing is wrong with prescribed UI. That is until you scope out the iPhone AppStore reviews long enough to see that your application now needs to do something beyond Tip Calculators / FlashLights and Twitter feeds. If you come up short on Function then you better at least deliver on Form.
Microsoft’s AppStore is filled with overloaded function it now needs personality and it needs more design focused bloodlines to underpin the Metro differentiation. If Microsoft can’t factor this into the outbound marketing today, then at least make a start as this will also set Microsoft up for a stronger position for when Windows 8 arrives (given Metro seems to be full steam ahead).
Point and case. Try for giggles, re-create the Office UI inside Wp7 today without leaving Create.MSDN.com and using the default Icons out of the directory found buried inside Program Files (which somehow we’re supposed to inherently know)?
How about Brandon (Marketing Director for Wp7) take the $1k ransom for Scott Adams (Dilbert) and put that towards the funding for hiring a designer minded person to run the wp7 community outbound initiatives. There’s a lot of people who could lift that burden and if anyone in Microsoft want some recommendations, ping me, I’ve got a list of candidates.