Microsoft rolls out the Chewbacca defense

    General discussion

  • This is in response to last week's 'Reflecting on your comments on the Start screen' blog post:


    The arrogance Microsoft is displaying here is both staggering and disappointing.  In a post supposedly meant to address the serious usability issues that have been brought up again and again, they only look at a couple minor ones while missing all the big ones.  Sure, they bring out their telemetric data, their charts and college-level calculus formulas to distract us from the real issues.  But it's little more than the Chewbacca defense:


    Of course, we're all just peons and how can the peons possibly be right?

    But let me tell you this.  I have been developing on Microsoft platforms for about 15 years now.   I was looking forward to writing Metro UI apps for what I thought was going to be Microsoft's next generation of tablets.

    Instead Microsoft is trying to force a smart phone UI on to a desktop where it's completely inappropriate.

    The way you use a tablet/smart phone and the way you use a desktop computer are very different:

    • Tablets and smart phones are used primarily for consumption of data - web surfing, e-mails, social networking, watching movies, casual gaming, etc.
    • Desktops are used primarily for the production of data - word processing, spreadsheets, running business applications, data entry, software development, hard-core gaming, etc.

    These are two different use cases. 

    Sure, we can have one core OS for desktops and tablets, but the shells need to be different:

    • Metro UI for tablets
    • Aero UI for desktops

    Let those be the defaults and let users switch back and forth if they like. But they both need to be first-class citizens

    Now here's the thing.  In order for Windows 8's new Metro UI to succeed, Microsoft needs a lot of third-party apps in their app store.  But by alienating the very developers they need to write these apps, they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

    After all, how many developers really want to risk their career on what could be the next HP Touchpad?

    • Edited by I-DotNET Monday, October 17, 2011 3:30 PM Grammar.
    Monday, October 17, 2011 2:07 PM

All replies

  • I admit, I'm very disappointed that they won't put a functioning Start Menu in the Desktop Interface of Windows 8 and give us "counting pixels, screen resolutions, and formulas" as the justification.  (What about functionality though?)  (I actually like Win7 Aero on my desktop and laptop, but can't stand Metro.)

    A start menu in the desktop interface isn't going to interfere with anything Metro does or offers, but still gives the functionality that many millions of Windows XP/Vista/7 users need and want.  So why not offer both?  Seems like a win-win to me, but it seems the goal with Win8 is a win-lose result instead.


    Monday, October 17, 2011 2:30 PM
  • I really do like the Metro UI.  I've had a Samsung Focus for the last year and it's now my regular smart phone.  (My iPhone 4 died on me a few months ago.)  But I would never want this to be my regular UI for a desktop. 

    The contrast between how Apple and Microsoft sells their products is stunning.  You don't see Apple using telemetric data or complicated math formulas to justify their UI.  Instead, Apple just shows off their UI and it sells itself.

    That blog post is 9,000(!) words long.  Holy cow!  When you a need 9,000 word post to justify your product, something is seriously wrong. 


    • Edited by I-DotNET Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:20 PM Formatting.
    Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:15 PM
  • Couldn't agree more. Microsoft is forgetting the importance of choice. Everything it did prior to Windows 8 is suddenly declared "legacy". It's like sweeping the rug from under current Windows developers. Metro is appropriate only on a touch-first tablet device.

    I think Microsoft is getting carried away by its own excitement of building the Start Screen and now forcing it on the desktop metaphor where IT JUST DOESN'T WORK. They need to keep in mind that Metro UI and Start Screen was all about tablets, the very reason Microsoft took off from the traditional desktop paradigm and moved to a parallel universe was to make it tablet and touch-friendly. That does not mean that your working and well-designed interfaces on the desktop are suddenly inferior and no matter what you post to convince users that the Start Screen is better, it won't be convincing enough because the comments on the Building Windows 8 blog are giving a thousand examples of how the Start Menu is better than the Start Screen on the desktop for the past three posts. Does Microsoft still want to force their decisions on us eventually or give us a choice? Take the case of IEs. Why do we have two IEs in Windows 8? Because one serves its purpose for advanced users and the Metro IE has its simplified experience and this approach suits everyone. The user has the choice of using whatever IE he prefers. Start Menu has to remain and without any registry tweaks. In fact, Microsoft can make both available to users without disabling the other, if you just let users decide what interface they want to use with what input device.

    When Microsoft develops something new, all the old methods of doing things are de-emphasized and they start becoming secondary, so much so that Microsoft entirely disables the old way sometimes just to make us use the new way. They should not let the enthusiasm and passion about Metro get the best of them. You cannot change the desktop Windows so radically without giving a choice or let me give Microsoft a caution notice as a well-wisher, your product will spectacularly fail.

    I think the only reason desktop and laptop users are being forced to use the new Start Screen and the Start Menu trashed is because Metro apps can only be launched from the Start Screen. They want a ready user base so developers will build for Metro. But they haven't thought about the consequences of making the desktop an also-ran effort.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011 5:54 PM
  • What you say about Tablets may be true of the iPad and it's Android clones, largely because their UI simply doesn't lend itself to anything different. For those of us who've been tablet users for significantly longer, all the way back to XP Tablet Edition, we've already become accustomed to how beneficial a tablet device that is capable of creating content can be. Since I can't accept the premise of your basic argument, I really can't agree with your conclusion.

    There's a lot of work to do, doesn't mean you give up and just stop doing it. There is a lot more vision to the Windows 8 experience that people are overlooking based on the limitations of a very early preview.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:24 PM
  • Sorry, I wasn't referring to older pre-iPad tablets.  Yes, Microsoft has been marketing tablets for a decade.  And yes, people used them for the creation of content.  But they never really caught on beyond a small nitch.

    I was referring to the new generation of tablets (such as iPad and Android) that Microsoft is trying to compete with.  The Metro UI in Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt compete with Apple and Google.  

    Most people don't use these new devices the same way they do desktops. 

    Thursday, October 20, 2011 3:43 PM
  • I would like to throw out a challenge. I have already accepted this same challenge and I'm having fun.

    Install Windows 8 Developer preview as your main OS and run it for a good amount of time. You will find that you learn and adapt really quickly. I've actually found that it works very well once you get over the fact that it's different.

    I don't want the old start menu back. The new metro start menu is really awesome! I do think it needs some work but it's a great start.

    Oh and don't forget this is a developer preview and all this could change!

    Bobby Cannon
    Thursday, October 20, 2011 9:04 PM
  • Sorry, I wasn't referring to older pre-iPad tablets.  Yes, Microsoft has been marketing tablets for a decade.  And yes, people used them for the creation of content.  But they never really caught on beyond a small nitch.

    I was referring to the new generation of tablets (such as iPad and Android) that Microsoft is trying to compete with.  The Metro UI in Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt compete with Apple and Google.  

    Most people don't use these new devices the same way they do desktops. 

    You're right, in a sense, they don't. Not because there is something inherently in the form factor that means they wouldn't but simply because the latest tablet device OS's like iOS and Android simply aren't very good at that sort of scenario. I've spoken to a lot of people whose main complaint about the iPad is that they'd love to have the ability to use some apps side-by-side because it would make content creation/aggregation a whole lot easier than constantly having to flip between applications, instead they just fall back to using a laptop to instead do things the "traditional" way. The interface simply gets in the way of constructive use and pushes the device, somewhat unnecessarily, into a mostly consumption only tool.

    It doesn't have to be that way and the benefits of having a tablet device on which you can create just as easily as you consume are huge. Microsoft would be both crazy and very short sighted to not realize that and take advantage of the Windows ecosystem to provide for more universal usage.

    Friday, October 21, 2011 12:14 AM
  • But there is something inherent in the form factor that makes tablets different. There's no physical keyboard.  Sure, I can type out a quick e-mail on a virtual keyboard, but I wouldn't want to write a term paper on one.  For those types of tasks, I want a physical keyboard.

    And including a physical keyboard with a tablet isn't a realistic option.  Consumers prefer their devices to be thin and light.  There's no way include a physical keyboard with a tablet without making it thicker and heavier.

    Here's a nice blog post about this:


    • Edited by I-DotNET Friday, October 21, 2011 3:40 PM Tweak.
    Friday, October 21, 2011 3:39 PM
  • I've seen a number of people in coffee shops using iPads docked vertically together with a keyboard. You'd think they'd suffer from the same "gorilla arm" that gets bandied about as the last word on the value of touch screens in non-slate form factors, but they seem to still happily use them, I guess nobody told them they're doing something wrong =)
    Friday, October 21, 2011 10:18 PM
  • I assume that these people who use iPads docked with a keyboard use a setup where their iPad touches the desk. In other words, the iPad is small, close to the desk, and these people can rest their forearms on the desk when they use it. This is a completely different scenario from the "gorilla arm" concept, where people reach up to touch a screen that is more in front of their face than below it. In order to touch the top of my monitor's screen, for example, I have to either rest my elbows on the desk, requiring me to lean forward awkwardly, or lift my arm up. Of course, I don't have a touchscreen, so this is purely testing to see where my arm might be if I did have one. The results of the test aren't encouraging.
    Saturday, October 22, 2011 1:22 AM
  • 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' is a widely recognized problem that touchscreen researchers have known about for decades:


    This is why - prior to the iPad - touchscreens never really took off.  Apple solved the problem with the iPad by creating a device that allows you to move the screen into a horizontal position which feels more comfortable.

    For desktops, there is another potential solution to this problem: Use a monitor that allows it to be titled.  HP already makes a number of all-in-one computers that employ this concept:


    Unfortunately, this basically means replacing your existing monitors with brand news ones.  I doubt very many consumers or businesses can afford to buy brand new monitors.  But this is probably a realistic solution in the long run.

    • Edited by I-DotNET Sunday, October 23, 2011 4:26 PM Spelling.
    Sunday, October 23, 2011 4:09 PM
  • echo that WindowsVista567, using my W500 in it's dock I use the touch screen a lot, so much so that I find myself trying to touch my work laptop (non-touch) screen - because it's close and my elbow is still on the desk, I have never made the same mistake while the laptop is plugged into my main monitor - it's too high and far away. I'm sure Sinofsky said we'd be putting finger prints on our monitors in one of the keynotes, I doubt this (except for laptops / dockable tablets) as reaching up and out just doesn't feel natural.
    Acer W500 tablet & dock, New 'works' Lenovo laptop Too much apple stuff. Remember: A Developer Preview is just that, a preview for developers - not everything will work 'just right' on day 1.
    Sunday, October 23, 2011 7:34 PM