With enterprise adoption of Windows 7 unofficially estimated at around 60%, it might seem a bit premature to be discussing Windows 9 or the mysterious Windows Blue, but a recent leak of Windows “Blue” screenshots, makes this topic all that more interesting.
While Windows 8 is only just entering the consumer market with 2.2 percent market share, its adoption in the enterprise is nascent and so many IT managers and CIOs will be looking to these announcements as a sign that they should skip Windows 8 and migrate to whatever-comes-next.
From the limited information available it seems that Microsoft is continuing to divide its Windows development teams into those working on 3-year platform cycles, and those who do incremental improvements to the most recently released platform – previously Service Packs. This would suggest that “Blue” is the first of a yearly wave of incremental updates to everything from Windows Phone 8, Surface RT and Surface Pro, to Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. With this wave we should see the benefits of Microsoft’s brave decision to move everything onto one technology platform, since updates to the core should transfer to all devices! It will probably also include updates to the supporting applications that integrate with the Windows core: Office 2013, Internet Explorer 9, SkyDrive and so on.
Meanwhile, the current verdict seems to be that the Microsoft’s platform team will be working on a Windows 9 release towards mid-2015. Don’t expect to hear much news from Microsoft on this since they will not want to distract Windows 8 buyers and the perception of “yearly updates” is very helpful in the war against Apple.
I’ve been using Windows 8 exclusively (yes, on Apple hardware but, seriously, it’s just a pretty PC) since November and there are things I like and things that I’m hoping to see improved. So, what would I most like to see from Windows Blue?
First, the stuff I like about Windows 8:
Battery life – I only install the software I need, dim the display, and turn off keyboard backlights unless I need them which in turn gets about 5+ hours from a standard battery.
Windows Explorer – Especially the improved file copy UI and resume/cancel. My first impression of SMB 3.0 is that it’s QUICK! Still not so sure how I feel about ribbon controls in every part of Windows though.
Remote Display Protocol (RDP) 8 – We’ve come a long way since RDP 5.1 in Windows XP. For many, many users RDP 8 will finally be good enough.
Multiple display support, smart app and screen resizing – These features are significantly better in Windows 8, especially when there is a need to continuously switch between multiple displays and projectors.
Bluetooth support – This feature comes in handy. Today I added a new headset and was using it for a GoToMeeting in about 4 seconds. Stunning!
What still remains to be done, and what we can hope for in Windows Blue?
- First, can we get a better name for what used to be called “Metro” and is now a mix of the “Start Screen” and “Windows Store apps”? “Modern” was the internal development codename that is still doing the rounds, but we need something with more excitement than that! And, to the management vendors, can we please have an API for programmatically managing that whole Start page?
- Please bring back the start menu, even if it’s optional. The average user finds it hard enough to switch to a new version of Windows without the most useful part of the task bar disappearing.
- Why do “charm bars” creep in from the sides of the screen when I want to connect a network, or type in the replacement for the “Run” box, or connect some devices (but not all)? And why is the font a little funky and different from the rest of my Windows UI? The “tablet-friendly” look-and-feel doesn’t feel so friendly if you’re not on a tablet.
- Sometimes less isn’t more. In the quest to make the” look and feel” simpler, Office 2013 lost some key functions, especially in Outlook. But sometimes, too much simplicity can hurt productivity- In particular: preview of only unread messages, a delete button on the new message alert panel, and listing the first place to save documents as SkyDrive seems a bit presumptuous.
Perhaps these all sound like minor niggles, but if we’ve learned one thing from Apple’s success it’s that “the user is king”. User joy is paramount and with a few adjustments Windows 8 could gain a lot more fans and be much more compelling in the enterprise.
What are your experiences with Windows 8 and what do you most want to see in Windows Blue?