The Windows 8.1 preview has been out for over a week now. One of the bigger changes in this version is the return of the Start button. However, most of the exciting newer features in this version are meant for touchscreen devices. As Microsoft moves forward, it seems as though the traditional Desktop PC is becoming an afterthought. Is Microsoft moving in the direction of the industry or are they ignoring a large customer base by focusing too much on touch screen devices?
Desktop is an “Afterthought”
For business users, Microsoft has added new security features to Windows 8.1 that help the Desktop version. However, most critics argue that some of the more interesting tools are primarily for touch screen devices and do not involve the desktop at all. Most of the newer features are available as apps. For example, Xbox Music that now contains a new radio mode, only exists as a Metro-style app. The same holds true for hands-free mode, SkyDrive, the improved Mail app, and even Internet Explorer 11 which is only updated in the touch-based form. Also, all of the new features for multi-screen setups are for users running Windows 8 apps.
Some critics even argue that using Windows 8.1 on a desktop feels like a tablet version forced to fit into a desktop version. Frederic Lardinois from techcrunch.com states, “Windows 8 finally feels like a full-blown tablet operating system that, with the right apps, could rival what we’re seeing from Apple and Google.” However he goes on to say that the desktop version seems to be an afterthought for Microsoft.
“Every now and then, though, you end up on the desktop and you remember that this is now really a legacy mode. It feels like an afterthought for Microsoft, which is betting that we’ll all use touch screens within the next few years. Except for the Start button, it has remained virtually untouched in Windows 8.1. Even the Settings menu, which previously condemned you to a desktop session to do anything meaningful, is now a Windows 8 app. Microsoft has to support it for the foreseeable future, but more and more, it seems like we’re not dealing with an operating system that has a split personality, but one that has a very dominant side while the other one is allowed to tag along for the ride.”
While Lardinois goes on to state that this is the correct direction for Microsoft and that this operating system seems to run more smoothly, he also seems concerned about the desktop version being an afterthought.
Comments on the blog suggest that business users are angry about Windows 8.1 primarily catering to touch-screen devices. One comment reads
“The ergonomic challenges of a touchscreen on a desktop computer don’t work well for me. In my palm or lap, a touch screen is OK… but in front of my face, at arm’s length? Not so good. I would look (and feel) like a zombie using the thing… my shoulders would be killing me after only a few minutes.”
Other posters seem to be irritated at the switch and claim to liking “the old school mouse much better”. Moving to a more tablet based operating system seems to be because of the competition with Apple. Microsoft’s Surface holds very little market share with touch screen devices. While the company is gaining market share, it is at a very slow pace. While Microsoft continues to improve its software for touch-screen devices, will the Desktop PC become obsolete? Microsoft seems to be moving in that direction. However, there are still plenty of businesses that count on Desktops on a daily basis.
Companies Moving Too Fast?
Companies like Adobe and Microsoft have been in the headlines often lately due to their changing software and licensing campaigns. Adobe has switched from perpetual licenses for their software applications, to monthly subscriptions. Microsoft has released Windows 8.1 which is more tablet friendly than desktop friendly. Both of these moves have been highly criticized in blogs and forums due to the boldness of these changes. Are both companies moving faster than customers can keep up? Or are they simply responding to changing markets, stiff competition, and changing technologies?
What do you think? Should software companies keep improving innovation? Or should they move at a slower pace to accommodate the laggards and slower users? Tell us in the comments!