Windows 8 isn't even in final form yet, but a former Microsoft employee who is chief executive and co-founder of the Valve game publisher and platform, says that when released, it will be a "catastrophe." And that's from someone whose company's primary platform is Windows.
Gabe Newell, who left Microsoft in 1996 to start Valve, had that to say and more when interviewed by VentureBeat at the Casual Connect game conference. He was asked the most softball of questions -- "What are some of the projects you're working on?" He began by describing some of his projects, and by lauding Microsoft, saying, for example:
Valve wouldn't exist if it weren’t for the PC. Id Software, Epic, Zynga, Facebook, and Google wouldn't have existed without the openness of the platform.
Later on, though, he laces into Microsoft and Windows 8, saying:
"I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we're going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They'll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people."
He doesn't go into details about why he believes Windows 8 will be a catastrophe. But part of it seems to be the closed nature of the Windows Store and Metro apps. In Windows 8, Microsoft is becoming more closed, like Apple. You'll only be able to install Metro apps via the store, and Microsoft will control what's in the store and what's not.
On the desktop, you can install whatever you want. Not on RT-based tablets, though. On those, the only way to install software is via the Windows Store.
He complains in the interview that:
"If people look at what they can accomplish when they can limit competitors' access to their platform, they say, 'Wow, that's really exciting.' Even some of the people who have open platforms, like Microsoft, get really excited by the idea that Netflix has to pay them rent in order to be on the Internet."
He's worried enough about the closed nature of Windows 8 that he spent most of the interview lauding Linux for its openness.
It's not the first time he's laced into Microsoft and lauded Linux. Michael Larabel of the site Phoronix had this to say back in April:
"Listening to Gabe Newell talk about Linux for hours made me wonder whether he was a former ex-Microsoft employee (where he actually did work in his pre-Valve days in the 90's) or the director of the Linux Foundation. His level of Linux interest and commitment was incredible while his negativity for Windows 8 and the future of Microsoft was stunning. In fact, as soon as I return to my office this weekend I plan to try out Windows 8 simply to see if it's as bad as Gabe states."
Keep in mind that as Ars Technica points out, Newell has a lot to lose from Windows 8 being a closed system. Steam is a game distribution platform, and Windows 8 would cut him out of the loop. As Peter Bright writes:
"Newell is not a disinterested third party. Valve makes money from the commission it takes on Steam sales. Windows 8, with its built-in Windows Store, challenges that revenue source. Features such as Xbox LIVE integration could make the Windows Store and Windows 8 a more appealing platform for gamers and developers alike than Steam."
Still, Newell's comments seem to be heart-felt. I can't say that I agree that Windows 8 will be a catastrophe, although I think that designing it primarily for tablets rather than traditional PCs is a mistake. I do agree with his unhappiness about the close nature of the Windows Store and Metro apps. Making things worse is that in all likelihood, in a later Windows version, the desktop will go away, and the only apps you'll be able to download will be via the Windows Store.