Windows 8's complexity tax shackles Microsoft
The new OS was meant to bring simpler times, but the dual-mode beast can't compete as computing changes, say analysts
Computerworld - Complexity may be Windows' downfall, and Microsoft has not only failed to address the problem, but exacerbated it by shipping the dual-threat, two-UI Windows 8, analysts contended.
"Windows 8 is massively more complex [than its predecessors]," Ben Thompson, an independent analyst who covers technology from his Stratechery.com website, said in an interview. "It's mentally taxing to use, and a classic example of something borne of strategic need as opposed to an understanding of user needs."
Thompson's take on complexity, and Windows 8's place on the spectrum, started last week when he pondered why Google's Chrome OS, and the Chromebooks it spawned, had gained a small victory in the battle against still-dominant Windows-powered notebooks.
Although he acknowledged that Chromebooks' lower prices contributed to their rise, he also contended that simplicity played a part.
"The problem comes when you overshoot your customer's needs," Thompson wrote on Jan. 6 in a piece on his site. "In that case, it's not simply that the additional performance is not valued by your customers; rather, the bigger problem is that the additional complexity that necessarily accompanies said performance is actively harmful to your customer's user experience. Your product is not only becoming more expensive, but it's actually becoming worse from your customer's point-of-view."
Chromebooks dial back complexity
Enter Chromebooks, which were not only less expensive than an average Windows notebook, but relied on an operating system that was essentially just a browser.
"The new entrant may not have all of the required performance, but along with that missing performance comes additional simplicity," Thompson argued, talking about Chromebooks and iPads. "Paradoxically, the fact the new entrant has less-than-desired performance makes it even better from a user experience standpoint. And, when the performance gets close enough, that user experience advantage makes it an obvious choice over a higher-end product that does more, in every sense of the word."
Windows, because of its long life and Microsoft's dedication to supporting legacy software, has an inherent complexity that puts the OS at a disadvantage when pitted against less powerful, less capable rivals, including Chrome OS and Apple's iOS -- especially as users discovered that alternative devices like tablets met many of their computing needs with simpler solutions. As a result, sales of all-powerful, do-anything personal computers powered by Windows slowed.
"Windows is suffering from 'second-system syndrome,'" said Wes Miller of the research firm Directions on Microsoft, describing the tendency of successive iterations of any system -- in this case, an operating system -- to grow larger and more feature-laden to appeal to an ever-widening audience.
The term "software bloat" is sometimes used to describe the same phenomenon.
"That applies to [Apple's] OS X as well," said Miller.
Apple's choice in the war against complexity was to recognize that OS X should not be shoehorned into other devices; instead, it crafted the touch-based iOS as its standard bearer on first, iPhones, then iPads.
- Microsoft plans to patch critical under-attack IE bug next week
- Microsoft reaches RTM milestone for Windows 8.1 update
- OS upgrades: Cheap is better than pricey, free is better than cheap
- No special treatment for China on XP, patches end April 8 in the PRC, too
- Microsoft ships Office 2013 SP1 the old-fashioned way
- Microsoft's 'go-low' play puts Windows revenue on the line
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Windows 7 lives!
- Users mock Microsoft for asking their help on XP-to-Windows 8.1 upgrades
- Microsoft concedes Windows 8.1 needs more for mouse, keyboard customers
- Microsoft tries to jumpstart cheap Windows devices with license price cut
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Taking Windows Mobile on Any Device Taking Windows applications mobile has many advantages, but the process of identifying a solution is complex. Learn how to solve this complex problem...
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Streamline Data Protection with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) has been an industry-standard data protection solution for two decades. But, where most competitors focus exclusively on Backup...
- Simplify and Consolidate Data Protection for Better Business Results Learn about IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager Operations Center, which provides advanced visualization, built-in analytics and integrated workflow automation features that leapfrog traditional backup...
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Windows White Papers | Webcasts