Yes, it turns out Windows 8 is relevant

Meeker 2012 p24Here in Seattle among small tech companies (or start-up), and among pundits worldwide, people like to say that Windows is irrelevant. They point that slide (#24) in Mary Meaker’s State of the Internet last year (or slide #109 in this year’s deck, although it looks like that’s missing the Apple segement) that shows that Microsoft dominated computing platforms for 20 years and is being replaced with iOS and Android. They say that Windows 8 isn’t important and the Windows Phone 8 will never gain the market share that Apple and Android have.

I’m sure that there is lots of research to backup these claims (Gartner and IDC chimed in after all), but flat design is pervasive. The big news this week out of WWDC is that Apple’s iOS 7 has moved to flat design. Android 4 dropped skeuomorphic elements 18 months ago, even changing the text box to a single line. The latest Gmail for Android looks like Windows Phone 7, with quartered avatars that are incredibly reminiscent of the Metro tiles.

Zune 2007All that started at Microsoft. The elements that Microsoft built on for Metro were hatched in the Zune “chromeless” interface Method designed in 2007, carried into Windows Phone 7 and then Windows 8. The Metro interface has gotten tons of not-very-friendly press, but it’s clearly made an impact on the world.

So when the entire world of design is changed based on ideas coming out of Windows and Microsoft, I find it disingenuous to claim that they are not relevant. I couldn’t say whether Windows 8 is selling well enough for Microsoft, but it’s certainly making it’s mark.

Microsoft Office for Mac: How not to design your installation experience

I needed PowerPoint to change files for a project so I went to grab a copy of Office. Not only did I have to download the entire 900MB package of Office (instead of just the PowerPoint app I wanted) it had a terrible first experience. Each time I try a Microsoft product these days, it just feels so clunky. Where’s the aesthetic and pleasing design? I know they can do this.

It’s simple things like the email they sent me from “OFFIE.OESD.WW.00.EN.SIT.BAG.CS.T01.RTG.00.EM@css.one.microsoft.com” (which of course is what you see your email software first) rather than adding a name like “Microsoft Office”.

Or the installation itself. I downloaded a copy of the software (which, for what it’s worth, “2011” makes it feel old by now when everyone else is updating software o 6-week schedules) and installed it. Then it immediately required a critical update. And another one. And a third one. During the course of which I wasn’t allows to have any browsers open. If I just downloaded your software why doesn’t it have all the critical updates?

I think the final frustation of bad user experience was when all the updates where done. The updater presented a dialog that made me feel like having no updates is a bad thing. Apple does the same thing with their automatic updates (incidentally, Apple “fixed” this in Mountain Lion by running updates through App Store which has it’s own problems). Why not just close the updater if there are no more updates? Really, I’m not that emotionally attached to my software updater that I need a modal dialog to tell me it’s all fresh. Oh, and when I clicked “OK”? It still didn’t close; I had to quit the updater app.