something new...something radical
with it's introduction of windows 8, it appears that microsoft has frustrated many of its fans. there is no doubt that it breaks away from the desktop experience that has defined the brand for so long, i'm sure that there was likely some expectation of push back. this is because windows 8 changed the day-to-day workflow for many users. i'll admit that even for myself, a developer and tech enthusiast, i was taken back at first. but then, after giving it some time and allowing myself to be open to the change, i got it. i began to understand the "reason" behind the change...i think.
it's a desktop...on steroids
if you are anything like me and prefer a clean desktop, then the tiles can be annoying at times. however, for many users, the desktop is an extended file folder. we've all seen it before...
the desktop acts as a launchpad for a user's most commonly used files and applications. so the driving thought behind live tiles may have been, let's give them the same "launchpad", except on steroids because we will add live updates.
i'm not sure if this was poorly sold/communicated or if users simply were not ready to re-imagine the desktop, but all things considered, it is the same desktop at its core. users can pin pretty much whatever they like to the start screen, including web sites. users can even customize the order and size of the tiles, and create tile groups. also, with the 8.1 update, users can apply a background image. so still...what gives?
what's the big deal then?
the issue is not the live tiles, per se, the issue is launching applications in full-screen display. launching an application from the start screen hijacks the entire display, regardless if another window is open on the desktop. what's worse is that it takes a few clicks to get back. this was the deal-breaker as it increases mouse clicks. while the full-screen behavior may be okay for tablet computing which is primarily consumption-driven, it isn't feasible for desktop computing where a user may be working in multiple applications simultaneously. the split-screen was a good gesture, but trust me, it simply isn't the same. oftentimes, when i'm coding, i toggle between my "reference window" and my "working window". but both are maximized. the gestures work, but there are still a number of computers that are not touch screen and thus require more work to pull-off the gestures. all was not lost though, users could still simply launch the traditional desktop...but not really.
the traditional desktop option helps, but the start menu is not quite the start menu that users were expecting. i understand the push for the new innovative experience, and as a developer, i do know that there are times when you want to break away from old code and old frameworks all together so as to pave the way for the future. but with a footprint as large as that of microsoft windows in the desktop market, this is both risky and difficult. nonetheless, i believe that users will appreciate the innovation, even if they don't know it yet. so what does this mean for users today? in my opinion, a simple modification to the desktop could set the world back in balance.
stop hijacking my screen
with windows 8.1, the microsoft team eased some of the pain for users who are more comfortable with the older workflows. in addition, if any of the speculations about what will be in the next release is accurate, then maybe it will be something along the lines of a beautiful compromise. i found this deviant art image to be a pretty accurate depiction of my thoughts of the ideal next-generation windows desktop. here we see that the tiles have not been abandoned all together however, more control is given over the placement and number of tiles that are visible. then, the start menu actually does provide an "all programs" list. lastly, when new applications launch, they should open maximized, but not full screen.
this desktop is a beautiful blend of old and new. live tiles where i want them, not the pre-fabbed layout. some other gadgets may be acceptable, along with the start menu navigation. all things considered, windows 8.x+, is a welcomed paradigm shift for the ms team and while the adoption may be bleak today, the future is wide open.
+1 for innovation for the windows team!