Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Windows 8, Metro and Real Studio

Last week Microsoft released the first developer preview of Windows 8. At Real Software, we have done some preliminary testing of Real Studio on it and so far, so good.

There are a dozen or more reviews of the Windows 8 developer preview along with the new Metro user interface so I'm not going to write another one. But I will give you my overall view of it and where Microsoft stands at this point.

Metro shows that Microsoft understands the problem of taking the current Windows UI and putting it on tablet. Though Metro is a step in the right direction, Microsoft continues to display a no longer deserved arrogance. When it comes to smartphones and tablets, Microsoft is in a distant 3rd place yet they act as if they are the clear frontrunner. When they shipped Windows Phone 7, the team at Microsoft had a mock funeral for the iPhone. We all know how that turned out. I watched one of the Metro presentations. The presenter talked as if iOS, arguably the premier smartphone OS, had not already done most everything he was showing. And he talked about iOS and Android without mentioning them by name as if they were not worthy competitors. Professionally, that sounds silly. 

Like I said, Metro is a good start and there are minor improvements here and there over iOS as it is today. For example, they have made moving an app from one page to another much simpler by allowing you to hold the app and flip though screens with a second finger. The thing is, Metro is not competing with iOS 4 or even the soon to be released iOS 5. It will be competing with iOS 6 which will be shipping when Windows 8 and Metro, which Microsoft has spent the last two years developing, start shipping. There aren't even rumors about iOS 6 yet. And there are large areas of Metro where it's clear that Microsoft just doesn't get it. The simplicity and clean lines are great. But the animation on the Start screen, while it might make for a good demo, is REALLY distracting. The screen has a dozen visible tiles, each representing an app, some of which are changing their content every few seconds. I was instantly reminded of the scene in the movie Idiocracy where this guy in the future is sitting in his living room watching nine TV screens all at the same time. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE animation. But it should be used sparingly in a user interface or it can become counterproductive.

Microsoft is really behind the eight-ball. They probably felt they needed to show Windows 8, what is likely to be more than a year before its release, to keep Windows developers focused on Windows development. I get that. But what Microsoft needs more than anything is a change of attitude. They continue to act with arrogance when they have been humbled by Apple and Google in the smartphone and tablet market. Microsoft's stock price hasn't really changed in almost ten years!

Microsoft is still the dominate player on the desktop. But even there, PC sales are flat or in decline (while Mac sales are on the rise) because a portion of the market is shifting to smartphones and tablets. Microsoft is not at all positioned to keep customers, let alone gain new ones in this market shift. Of course, they are keeping customers to some degree because the cost of switching is high but if Microsoft is going to have any chance of beating the competition, they need to feel hungry and they need to act humble. Shouting "We're number one!" should be reserved for those that actually are number one.


Jason said...

It was strange to me, watching the Keynote. It was like watching a bunch of kids make a mock Apple video. It was another Steve, wearing casual clothing, with a simplistic (although not nearly as well pulled off) set. The presentation seemed less organized, Sinofsky interjected too much with useless comments, and there were just too many "And it should do... Er, well, this is a developer's release."

I agree, though. It'd be nice to see Microsoft say, "We're really reconsidering Windows 8 because, well, we at Microsoft know when we've fallen behind, but feel we can still competitively move forward." Rather than, "We revamped Windows 8 because we're awesome. We're the best, and, as the best of the best, we are the pioneers of this technology age."

As a long time Windows user, I've definitely been feeling my loyalty blur over the least five years.

Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff,
seeing the title I thought the posting should be something related to how we as developers could use REAL Studio in Windows 8. Instead I read a rant about Windows 8 and Microsoft in general.

I hope that you have gotten that out of your system and can focus on the two major worries I see as a developer coming in Windows 8 - WinRT and the AppStore! Will RS be able to deliver something here for us developers, much in the same way you have delivered Cocoa and made adjustments for Mac OS build to fit Apple AppStore?

The sorry lack of support for Windows 7's new features (TaskBar support that was implemented by MBS in an afternoon FB 7978). We also have major core-functionality bugs related to handling of Windows (the Class) on Windows (the OS) - FB 18039, 17173 and 16839 to name my own.

I'll be in Frankfurt for the MBS meeting and I see you will be on video from Austin. I'll ask you the same questions then to hear if REAL Studio is still a viable solution for us non-Cocoa, non-Web 3.0 developers.


Geoff Perlman said...


We generally implement features based on the popularity of the case. That's not universally true but it's most often the case.

Regarding WinRT, we are investigating that. Regarding the Microsoft App Store, I'm sure we will do whatever we need to do to allow developers to submit their apps to the Microsoft App Store just as we are doing for Apple's Mac App Store.