Beware of Windows Blue

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Every pundit on the Internet is buzzing about a Windows 8 “fix” called Windows Blue. As TechCrunch outlines it:

The new Windows Blue will offer improvements to popular features like Snap View, which can now snap apps side-by-side sharing an even portion of the screen, including up to four apps total on high resolution displays. More things are now viewable in the standard Windows 8 interface (formerly known as Metro), instead of hidden within the desktop view, including network connections and apps’ information panels.

The kicker reads, “The Windows Blue changes look like a promising indication that Microsoft is moving more and more of the experience to its new interface and away from the traditional desktop.”

Wow. Apparently at least one person prefers the dumb Metro interface over what is possibly the most popular metaphor—the desktop. The desktop metaphor began with the Xerox Star and ran through the Lisa, Macintosh, and Windows for decades to become the most popular product in history until the mobile phone appeared. But screw that, let’s do this instead. If it ain’t broken, let’s fix it with something dumbed-down.

Everyone knows I think it stinks. My Windows 8 has long-since been patched to push the tiles off to oblivion. I’m happy with the results. I boot straight to the desktop and there I stay.

So now Microsoft is pushing the dreadful Blue. Who wants more and smaller tiles? As I explained back in September 2011, tiles simply slow you down.

Microsoft used to be accused of producing sluggish bloatware because the CPU was too slow. Today it’s showing over and over that the software itself is slowing down productivity in new ways; the ribbon interface is said to knock down productivity by as much as 35 percent. You can’t help but wonder: does this company hate productivity?

And now, after everyone has groused about the advisability and usability of full-screen apps, especially on huge monitors, the Snap View feature allows up to four full-screen programs to equally share a screen. Wow! Innovation! Hey, I could do that before—and it was easier to accomplish.

Luckily, there are various third-party patches that make this dysfunctional program useful. But how long will they work if Microsoft makes Windows 8 worse with every new idea?

Windows became so popular in part because of the desktop metaphor. It was based on real-world considerations, not the abstract. For instance, people use file cabinets, especially in an office, so having a file cabinet metaphor on the machine is intuitive.

This sort of grounding is unnecessary if you can come up with something more—not less—efficient. But everything Microsoft has done since the confusing Ribbon interface has been less intuitive and more inefficient, especially for power users.

This new tile direction is about art, design awards, and abstraction. In no way is it about productivity. And despite the use of simplistic tiles, it is not about simplicity. Someone along the way confused “simplistic” with “simplicity.” There’s a big difference. The first is dumb and clumsy; the second is smart and elegant.

Alas, there is nothing we can do to stop this. Microsoft has made up its mind.

I’ve heard that Apple’s Jony Ives wants to take Apple into a similar direction, leaving Linux the chance to make real inroads on the desktop. The coolest thing about Linux is that the front end has various GUIs developed by third parties. These are dominated by, but not limited to, KDE and Gnome.

The longer all this goes on, the closer I get to switching to Linux. In my office, Microsoft is hanging on by a thread.

By John C. Dvorak, PCMag


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