I have a problem with Microsoft and it begins with Windows 8. I have been a loyal user of Microsoft products from my first little desktop that ran Windows 3.0 all the way through to the Windows 7 OS and Microsoft Word that this blog is written on. I have scoffed at the hipsters and their Macs and snickered at the Tech Gods with their command line Linux boxes all while hiding my face in shame during the Vista period. I love the Blue Screen of Death, the Start button, the ever-growing systems files, the constant virus threat, daily security patches, and all the bloatware you can stuff into a startup queue. I loved all of Microsoft's high points and failures alike because I was comfortable with the system and the mostly incremental changes that were made to key core systems. Until Windows 8 and everything that has come after.
With the birth of Windows 8, Microsoft decided to start copying it's competitors in nearly every way. So you say Apple has an awesome tablet that runs a proprietary OS and uses applications only sold through it's own heavily controlled marketplace? Microsoft tried to copy that. So did you hear that Apple can make sweeping changes to it's core products without fear of reprisal because their customer base is fanatic about Apple products? Microsoft thought they could do that too. Welcome to Applesoft iWindows. Microsoft decided that the wave of the future is touch and since that works so well on phones and tablets for the other companies, let's just make all of our operating systems optimized for touch interfaces and just force the world into our pretty little dream.
Core Users Simply Ignored
The problem is that Microsoft forgot about it's core users in both the home PC and enterprise solutions markets. Sure, touch systems are specular on phone screens and tablets where the product is on your lap or in your hand but not when the screen is vertical on a desk or also doubles as a television. Now consider trying to upgrade an entire business network with technology that supports a touchscreen-centric operating system. Upgrading a single screen to touch might be financially feasible, but one thousand screens and the training for an entire company to understand how to use the touch screen? What is the benefit to businesses?
All Windows 8 did was add pretty colors and a touchscreen interface while taking away the one place even the most novice user knew to go: the Start button. Now Microsoft is releasing an update to the Windows 8 operating systems: Microsoft Windows 8.1, code name, Blue. The entire update is nothing more than a few bug fixes, code optimization, and the return of basic functionality by allowing the operating system to boot directly to the desktop along with the return of the Start button. That's right, the very things that Microsoft took away and told you that you did not need are the same things that Microsoft is giving back to you with much fanfare and applause. Ridiculous.
The Microsoft God Complex
In the last few weeks, Microsoft has continued it's god complex with the announcement of the new XBOX system that is now closer to a DVR with an onboard security camera than it is a game system. The people over at Microsoft decided that gamers who play on the XBOX cared more for Netflix than they did for games and designed the system around that. Even better, Microsoft added insanely restrictive DRM (which as of now, has been rescinded) that made the purchase of used games nearly impossible without paying, not only for the used game, but also the right to play it yourself at the same cost as buying a new one. What a great idea. That was an excellent way to make sure you alienate the XBOX community just as much as you alienated the Windows users.
In the end...
The issue has come down to this: Microsoft wants to dictate the direction of it's technology against the wishes of a majority of their customer base. I get it, companies have to try and be one step ahead of the competition and, yes, new technology has to be implemented sooner or later. However, there are times and there are places for this sort of "ground-breaking" paradigm shifts. A smart company recognizes the needs of its customers and then provides first what the customer needs and then secondly, the opportunity to try the newer technology. When Microsoft decides to innovate along with supporting it customer base, things like Windows 8 might actually be well received.