Sunday, December 23, 2012

Windows 8 - Scoring my Predictable Predictions

Some of you, okay, two of you, might remember that I posted a semi-quasi-kinda-sorta-prediction about Windows 8, back in March of 2012 (it's almost 2013, so I didn't want to say "of this year" as it might confuse even myself).  (see "Windows 8 - What I Think About It").  I ended the post by promising to follow-up when Windows 8 was "closer to final release".

Well, I'm following up on it now:
  1. I still stand behind what I posted.  That sounds bold, but it's really an easy thing to say, since I'm really standing (ok, sitting) "behind" miles of Internet circuitry, bazillions of electrons, a bunch of ISP connections, wireless signals, a million smartphones and mobile devices, and a glass of milk with some half-eaten cookies.  At least my trusty, and sleeping Beagle will protect me.
  2. Today's news has been reporting that holiday sales of Windows 8 have been "disappointing".
  3. Enterprise customers are still Microsoft's bread-and-butter
  4. Even with some signs of hope, the Consumer market continues elude Microsoft (as compared with Google's Android eco-system, and Apple's iOS juggernaut)
  5. The volume of high-profile Windows 8 migration projects appears to be non-existent.  Compared with Windows 7 (remember the impressive list of big customers announcing early adoption?  Yeah.  Not quite there with Windows 8)
  6. Lastly, my statement about the "marketing stupidity" is still as valid.  The ads are still aimed at consumers, not the enterprise.  Until they can coerce the market forces to be aligned otherwise, ignoring the enterprise customer base is shooting themselves in the foot.
I'm not Mini-Microsoft, and I don't have any "inside" knowledge of what goes on out in Redmond like some other folks do.  But as an IT consultant, I see a decent cross-section of municipal, education, and business environments, at least for the scale of our local region (the largest city by population in Virginia).  And what I see doesn't look promising for Windows 8.  As bleak as that may sound, I haven't heard a peep about Office 2013, which is even bleaker.  Customers just aren't asking about it.  When Windows 7 was rolling out, all I heard was one of three things:

[A] "I like it a lot more than Windows XP!"
[B] "I've heard Windows 7 is better than Windows XP.  Should I/we upgrade?"
[C] "I/we didn't like Windows Vista, is Windows 7 really worth skipping Vista for?"

I've heard none of these comments about Windows 8 from any of my customers, and from my discussions with other local consultants and IT workers, they're not hearing it either.  It's a shame too, in some respects.  The parallels/similarities between Windows 8 and Windows Vista are almost uncanny:
  • Most of the UX changes feel unnecessary from a functional aspect.  Some aspects are nice, like the "metro" theme motif itself, but the tiled UI on a desktop or laptop is just not happening for most users.  Even if you happen to disagree with that, it's hard to argue that there shouldn't be at least the option to continue using the traditional Start Menu design.  The astounding number of downloads of third-party add-ons to do just that should be enough to warrant a second consideration.
  • Some features seem more difficult to access (shutdown, restart, Windows Update, etc.) as compared to the previous version.  With Vista it was that whole Network Neighborhood shuffle.
  • The "classic" UI fallback is either crippled or non-existent, opening the door for third-party solutions (Stardock, ClassicShell, etc.) which is a concern for managing a taller "stack" for enterprise deployments.  Many (actually most) enterprise environments I've seen skipped Vista entirely, instead focusing on migrating from XP to Windows 7.  That incurred hardware upgrades, and at least some targeted education of their users, officially (intranet how-to's, e-mails, etc.), or otherwise (ad hoc, over-the-shoulder training).
The solutions to these challenges are already posted to death across the Internet, so I 'm not about to regurgitate yet another spin on all that.  Just read Paul Thurrott's thoughts on it, he's pretty much spot on (I recommend reading the other related "Fixing Windows 8" posts on his site as well).

So, getting more to the point: How would I score my hit-list of predicted fixes for Windows 8?  Let me enumerate thy ways:

  1. A "Windows 7 Classic" theme, that looks EXACTLY like Windows 7.  For businesses to roll-out onto their already shell-chocked XP-to-7 users.  Then we can shift to Metro later when the Xanax runs out.  
    Score: A+ / Start8 by Stardock, ClassicShell, and other add-ons appear to be flying off the virtual shelves as users look for ways to restore their Start Menu comfort zone.
  2. A native App-V client included in the base product.  App-V is cool, but I'm really sick of how hamstrung it is within MDOP and EA/SELECT and it's really holding back a lot of potential.  Sick isn't the word.  Disgusted is more like it.  Score: C- / The XAML (Metro/Tile) application model is a half-way solution to the portability aspect of App-Virtualization models. Nothing has really opened up as far as the App-V/MDOP licensing constraints are concerned, but XAML shows promise for future cross-(Microsoft-based)-platform development.
  3. A native MED-V feature as an option.  My feeling is the same as described for App-V.  
    Score: B / While Embedded XP has kind of been forgotten, at least Microsoft took the rather bold move to offer Hyper-V 3.0 for client devices.  It still lags behind VMware for desktop 
    Virtualization in some respects, but it's still a good move.  Competition is good for the customer (hence VMware Workstation 9's somewhat hurried release).
  4. A better approach to COM activation than DCOMconfig.  
    Score: F / No change.
  5. A better solution to keep the Registry clean.
    Score: F / No (significant) change.

Personally, I feel Microsoft has an easy "out" right now.  They can accept credit for what customers end up favoring, while assigning blame on Stephen Sinofsky for whatever they dislike.  Either way, it's what a Politician would call a "win-win" situation.  Maybe they can repeat the lesson's learned from Windows Vista when pushing ahead with Windows 7:  Mop up the challenges in Windows 9.  Maybe.  There is no crystal ball, so no one really knows.

If Microsoft had a crystal ball, they would name it "Microsoft System Center Crystal Spheroidal Prediction Device 2012 Ultimate Enterprise Edition".  Geez.  I crack myself up. How pathetic.

And there you have it: Another dose of my completely useless, mind-numbing stupidity, shrink-wrapped and stamped with a scratch-n-sniff label that says "Check this out!".

Merry Christmas!
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