Technologizer

InfoWorld Reboots Windows 8

Introducing Windows Red, a next-generation Windows concept designed to please Windows 8 naysayers.

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Ben Barbante / InfoWorld

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.

14 comments
robertmclaws
robertmclaws

When did InfoWorld get in the business of making concept shots that no one cares about and Microsoft will never do? I thought that was the realm of DeviantArt...

Kaldaien
Kaldaien

As much as I hated the start screen initially and wanted the simple start menu back, eventually I gave in. Now I just hit Windows + X (as hideous as this menu is, it gets the job done) to do most of the stuff I used to do through the start menu, and ctrl+alt+delete to shutdown. There are a couple of ways to shut down without a start menu, but the ctrl+alt+delete screen is definitely the keyboard-friendly way.

I actually find the new interface requires fewer clicks to do things, but because Microsoft really didn't include a tutorial or any sort of user training with the new interface, it is a royal pain in the butt to learn initially. It is definitely awkward at first, but so was the thumbstick when it became standard issue with the N64; now D-Pads are awkward. I think blocky user interfaces that are tablet-friendly and somewhat clumsy for mouse/keyboard are going to become the norm in the coming years -- we will just have to learn to live with them.

Really, Microsoft just needs to add more Windows key + ... hotkeys and I would be happy. Might as well give keyboard users some novel new features, since everything else was designed to make life easier on tablets. Microsoft's Windows key on the mouse idea is just plain ridiculous -- that button is only really useful in combination with other keys, putting it on the mouse is absurd.

murray
murray

every expert I asked about Win 8  except for touch screen says it is essentially Win 7! am not crazy about touch screen either. not close to iPad sophistication. I like IE 10. otherwise its the apps that really count. will stick with 7.

Kaldaien
Kaldaien

@murray It's basically a re-skinned Windows 7. Which was just a re-skinned Windows Vista. Under the hood, very little has changed. Incremental driver model changes, some enhancements to task scheduling, secure boot loader, a new user interface and integrated app store. It's definitely more of an update than Apple ever gives with its OS X point releases, but it's still just a point release.

To use Windows 3.x as an analogy, Windows Vista would have been Windows 6.0, Windows 7 would have been Windows 6.1 and Windows 8 would have been "Windows 6.1 for Tablets [and Masochists]" :)

RichardEng
RichardEng

I like the Modern UI...on a tablet. The Modern UI has no business being on the desktop. The two are **completely** different usage scenarios. Tablets, being handheld devices without a mouse or keyboard, need a touch interface. Desktops, which typically have large displays, do not benefit from a touch interface. Why would a stationary user want to lift his arm reaching for the screen?? Why would the same user want to soil his screen with fingerprint smudges making it all greasy? Aside from tired arms and dirty displays, there's also the matter of screen real estate. The Modern UI, which was designed specifically to manage small touchscreens, wastes said real estate in large displays with large tiles surrounded by oodles of "white space." And why force all apps to run fullscreen?? Some apps just don't need to utilize the entire screen. What a waste of space!

Moreover, if you choose not to use the touch interface, Modern UI is very clunky with only the mouse and keyboard. I cringe at the thought of having to use "hot corners"--so inelegant. And scrolling through the tiles with a mouse is awkward at best.

Finally, if you run both Metro apps and conventional desktop apps, launching from one mode to the other, you find yourself bouncing between Modern UI and the desktop. So even if you wanted to avoid the Modern UI, you can't. Microsoft effectively shoves Modern UI down your throat.

yajash
yajash

How come your Pals are working in a tech mag company? It is ridiculously fashion enough to mock at Windows 8. This is the best OS which came from MS. Your pals should retire from Tech world.

aelfwyne
aelfwyne

I don't get this fetish about the old start menu! It was a cluttered and unorganized mess. It was almost impossible to find anything because programs frequently did stupid things like use the name of the DEVELOPER instead of the PROGRAM name for folder names, they would dump a dozen icons for a single program, etc etc... The start screen is 100x better, if you just spray some wd-40 on your rusty brain and adapt.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator

I agree that the Start menu was very, very far from perfect. And I'm not a Windows 8 hater myself. But I think that if Microsoft's goal is to get people excited about moving to Windows 8 -- and it presumably is -- the company would have been better off retaining something which looked more like that imperfect-but-utterly-familiar Start menu, at least for now.

dahayden
dahayden

I'm excited, but I'm not a core Windows user. I left the platform in 2004. (Sadly tech support for my family went on but never to Windows 7.) So I have no loyalty to the way things were.

I do agree that a better transition was needed for existing users. The 8.1 start tip should have been there from the ... um ... start. Maybe an ad campaign pointing out to people that the new start screen was just the start menu visualized. I think much of 8.1 needed to be there from the beginning and I think people will become used to it quickly. I think by 8.2 Windows will be in a very good position.

And with Intel teasing fan less full Windows tablets, the future could be bright for Microsoft after a lot of worry.

dahayden
dahayden like.author.displayName 1 Like

I agree. The old start menu was garbage. Once I switched to OS X, I couldn't imagine going back to it. Now with Windows 8 I'm contemplating a return to Windows world. This is the first time in decades that someone has rethought PC interface. And really, the start screen is just a pretty, visual start menu.

Besides, I think average users are far more happy with it than stuck in their ways tech journalists. People are just updating PCs more slowly in the new mobile world. 8.1 will make a lot of folks happy. Microsoft should've smoothed the transition more, but I like it.

BrianVistaunet
BrianVistaunet

@dahayden I began to hate the Start Menu after purchasing an Apple product. My iPod Touch---just SO much easier to get to my stuff and launch it--I don't have to make multiple taps to get to my stuff, automatically piled in with a bunch of stuff I don't ever use---instead it's right there when I unlock---what I want, in the order I want it. To me, even if I NEVER used any Modern Windows 8 apps, the Start Screen is a much better launcher for my Desktop apps than the Start Menu ever could be. It was an improvement to Windows I desperately wanted and it's a little surprising to me to see everyone so set on the older, slower version.