My e-mail to Steven Sinofsky RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • A couple weeks ago, I sent the following e-mail to Steven Sinofsky.  Since I haven't received an answer, I'm posting it here.


    Hi Steven,

    First, let me assuage you of any fears that I am adverse to change.  I am an early adopter.  For example, ten years ago, I switched from VB6 to .NET when .NET 1.0 was still in beta.  Flash forward to something more recent, I switched from Windows Mobile to the iPhone as soon as I could, waited in line to get an iPad and PS3, and bought a Windows Phone 7 the day it came out.  If anyone would have told me ten years ago (or even 5 years ago) that I would be waiting in line to buy an Apple product, I would have told them they were crazy.  In any case, I can handle change just fine.  That's not the issue.

    Second, it's not that I don't like Metro.  I've been using my Samsung Focus for a year now and think Metro works great on a phone.  Microsoft could have come out with a smart phone UI that simply copied Apple's iOS the way Google did with Android, but they didn't.  The Live Tiles are a great idea and Microsoft should be applauded for coming out with UI that sets itself apart from its competitors.

    Third, it's not that I don't like Metro on a tablet.  When I first saw the video by Jensen Harris back in June, I was blown away.  I said to myself that my iPad was going to be the last Apple product I would buy, and proudly e-mailed links to the video to my friends, family and colleagues. 

    For months, I waited in eager anticipation for the BUILD conference.  I couldn't wait to get a hold of the development tools so I could start writing Win8 apps.  But I'm not writing any.  And I've stopped bragging to everyone about how great Windows 8 is.

    What happened?

    After the start of BUILD, it took about a week or so for reality to set in.  Win8's Metro UI isn't just for tablets.  Microsoft (whether they've said this directly or not) sees Metro as the future of Windows on the desktop.

    This is a mistake and please allow me to explain why. 

    I use my iPad for casual computing: surfing the web, checking my Facebook news feed, watching movies, etc.  Touch screen UIs excel at the consumption of content.   But whenever I want to do any real work, I put down my iPad and use a desktop computer.  Virtual keyboards are great for typing a short e-mail, but I wouldn't want to write a term paper on it.  For that, I want a real keyboard and mouse.

    You don't have to take my word for it.  Here's a pretty nice article on the difference between the consumption of content versus the creation of content.  Steven, do you think you can take a few minutes to read it, please?


    I think that Microsoft has misunderstood the tablet market and why the touch-screen UI has been so successful. Touch-screen UIs are not the next generation of UI the way that GUIs and the mouse replaced the command line.  Instead, what we're seeing here is the creation of a brand new category of device, a device that is used differently for different purposes and often by different people.  The touch screen UI is simply the UI best suited for this category.  No more.  No less.

    For years, Microsoft made the mistake of selling tablets that used a UI optimized for desktop.  They sold poorly and it wasn't until the iPad came out that tablets finally started selling. 

    Today, Microsoft is making the same mistake again but only in reverse.  Instead of forcing a desktop UI onto a tablet, they're forcing a tablet UI onto a desktop.  

    UIs optimized for touchscreens don't replace UIs optimized for the keyboard/mouse any more than airplanes replaced automobiles. They both have their place.

    This is why so many of your customers are complaining.  It's not that we don't like change.  It's because you're putting a tablet UI where it doesn't belong.

    Fortunately, what many of us are asking for shouldn't be too difficult to implement from a technical standpoint.  It's really more of a question of will on the part of Microsoft.

    Yes, 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.  



    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 4:12 PM

All replies

  • I agree with you... in genearal. But also i think that Windows 8 is far best "concept" of one OS for both tablet/touch and standard desktop/professional use, far from perfect, even far from "good" but best we have today on market. What i do not like is that Microsoft pulled strict line between standard desktop UI and Metro UI. I don't know do they want to keep them like this or it's just transiton period that should end in next Windows incarnation with kicking out standard Windows UI. If so Microsoft is falling hard. I just bought mechanical keyboard and can't imagine switch back to standard keyboards, even less on screen typing. 
    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 5:44 PM
  • From the desktop perspective, Microsoft does think about mouse and keyboard. They aren't going anywhere. Touch just add one more dimension that may be useful in specific scenarios:

    The mouse (and GUI) didn't make the keyboard (and Command Prompt) go away. I still use the command prompt in scenarios where it make sense. The same way, you will use touch where it make sense.

    Pierre Henri Kuate.
    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 9:30 PM
  • From the desktop perspective, Microsoft does think about mouse and keyboard. They aren't going anywhere.


    No, but Aero is. Oh sure, it will be kept around for backwards compatability, but Microsoft is apparently expecting everyone to switch to Metro. 

    I really don't see how it's possible to create a single UI that works well for 7" tablets and desktops with 30" monitors.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 10:01 PM
  • @I-DotNET

    Did you ever read this? http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/windowsdeveloperpreviewgeneral/thread/6333894b-ecd5-4320-ab9c-7ef0e57072d3

    It is one of the first things I ever posted here, and you can tell by reading it. My display name at the time of the post was "mt325000." As time has gone on, I think that now I like the Metro UI less than I did then, but my comments about converting something for one device from another are still valid.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 9:06 PM
  • If we're strictly considering screen sizes, then it's gotta be easier than creating one UI for phones with 3.5" screens and tablets with 10" screens (Android ICS and iOS)

    Creating one UI for keyboards and mice, that's trickier (although I've used a mouse on Honeycomb - not too bad an experience. Especially for a full fledged desktop. But I think Microsoft has the right idea, overall.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 11:24 PM