My pals at InfoWorld — a publication I worked at back when Windows 3.11 was the current version — are unhappy with Windows 8. They call it “horribly awkward” and “unworkable.” But rather than just complaining, they’ve helpfully provided Microsoft with a game plan for future updates of its operating system, complete with mocked-up screen shots.
InfoWorld calls its proposed version Windows Red, and it’s actually three products:
- Windows Red Pro: Essentially an upgrade to Windows 7, designed for conventional PCs driven by a keyboard and mouse. It restores the conventional Windows desktop as the primary interface, but lets you run windowed Metro-style apps and view Live Tiles as widgets
- Windows Red Mobile: A straightforward update to Windows RT
- Windows Red Duo: A version for hybrid machines such as Sony’s VAIO Duo 13. It dual-boots between Red Pro (when you’re in laptop mode) and Red Mobile (tablet mode).
As InfoWorld acknowledges, some aspects of its design makeover actually exist today in products from Stardock, a utility company which specializes in Windows customization. Its ModernMix, for example, lets you run Metro apps in windows on the desktop right now.
Will Microsoft do any of this? There’s one aspect of InfoWorld’s proposal I assume is in the works: a fully Metro-ized version of Microsoft Office. I’m looking forward to it, and think that Windows 8 and RT might have gotten off to a better start if it had existed from the get-go.
It seems highly unlikely, however, that Microsoft will buy into Windows Red’s overarching design principle: disentangling the desktop and the Metro Start screen so that nobody’s shoved into a radically new interface against his or her will.
While Windows 8.1 addresses multiple complaints about Windows 8, it still leaves the old and new interfaces intertwined. Microsoft’s vision of the future presumably involves smoothing out the integration and making the new interface more powerful over time until even most of today’s doubters feel comfortable in it. That’s not going to happen in Windows 8.1, but it may happen eventually.
Me, I don’t think Microsoft has to embrace Windows Red to make Windows 8 less jarring: All it needs to do is to bring back the Start menu in something close to its old-school form. (Stardock has a program that does that, too.) Even so, Windows Red provides food for thought — and if it did exist, I might be a fan.