The sad thing about Windows 8

The thing I find the most worrying about windows 8 and surface is the way that this project is taking technology backwards rather than forwards.


The iPad has been an opportunity for developers and designers to redefine how we communicate with computers. The lack of keyboard and mechanical toggles, switches, mice etc... Has meant that new input methods have had to be developed. Software designers have had to rethink how games are made without a joypad or how we edit video without a mouse.

Some methods have been terrible but some have been genius (rewind gesture in the Color app or pull to refresh in Twitter for example). More importantly children are learning how to use these machines without the baggage of the old input methods we have had for over a hundred years.

Apple have gone 100% in this new direction and embraced it by NOT leaning back on old methods like the mouse and keyboard or the joypads. I feel that the best innovation comes from when you don't have the choice to go back.

If the keyboard and touch pad were 1st class input methods with the iPad from day 1 would we have the Color app? Would garage band have smart chords or SnapSeed have its touch based editing? Would we even have pinch to zoom or many of the gestures and techniques we use daily if the keyboard and mouse were 1st class citizens for the iPad and iPhone?

My guess is no. For example, look what happened when RIM released the Blackberry Storm. Their first attempt was to say people needed feedback from a keyboard so they put in SureTouch technology. That totally failed. Then they made the storm with the keyboard and touch screen which has 2 ways to do everything. This still wasn't great because not only is it confusing it actually stops innovation. RIM were doing this to protect their existing market. They thought that a merger of the two worlds of fixed keyboard and touch was going to allow them to succeed. It was a compromise, and in my opinion compromise breeds failure in the long run.

I see parallels between Microsoft and RIM's approach to the innovators dilemma. They are both creating products that by definition are compromised. They can't give the user the best experience because any innovation is held back by the existence of the old system that still has a 1st class existence.

For example Windows 8 apps have to allow you to navigate them with a keyboard or they won't get in the store. This is a hinderance when designing software because you have to factor that in to any touch based design. If part of your app requires you to make a figure 8 gesture how do you deal with that for keyboard users?

MS are going to find that just like RIM they will lose their customers rather than gain them with a compromised approach. Apple and Google will continue to move forward developing input methods that do not involve keyboards and mice and MS will continue to peddle the line that keyboards are a necessity for real productivity. Same thing RIM said and look what happened!

The only difference between MS and RIM is that MS have more money and can dig their heels in for longer. But the inevitable will happen as a whole new set of users will reject the keyboard and mouse and MS will be left being second best at everything.

For computing to evolve projects like Windows 8 can't be successful. They set computing back rather than creating the future. I don't see how the future of computing can be tied into a system that still considers the 40 yr old mouse and keyboard to be 1st class input methods.

That is not the future. That is not progress.