Weekend SoundOff: What Should Microsoft Do Next For Windows That Lives Up To Ballmer’s Risky Comment

Like him, love him or hate him, Steve Ballmer is a lightning rod at times. According to a variety of reports, at a Gartner Symposium he was asked what Microsoft’s “riskiest product bet” was, and he answered the next version of Windows.

Well, that’s all well and good. It could be just hype, it could be paranoia, it could be a number of things. We’ve heard some, but not much about what’s being planned for Windows 8 and at the same symposium, Ballmer also left some tantalizing morsels on the table that some are construing as hints about a possible Windows Phone 7 Tablet. Whether or not that is true is open to speculation and that would certainly be classified as a risk. But who really knows at this point.

That’s where you come in, GBM Readers. What are your thoughts about where Microsoft should take Windows next? Think big, think small. But think. What does Microsoft need to do to move forward? You can focus on Tablets and mobile, or you can focus on the larger picture, but let’s hope we can see what your thoughts are here in the comments.

  

Comments

  1. savagemike says

    I don’t see anything in the underpinnings that a tablet or any portable device might require which would not also work well on a desktop.

    On the interaction front – windows is a huge mess. Controls which you think you’d find together are in different places and implemented different ways.
    They seem to completely refuse to implement some simple additions to make it touch friendly. You have to try to make precise little taps to select stuff – not least of which are the window control buttons (mas, min, close). That absolutely MUST change.

    The whole thing needs complete control brought more to the surface with simple direct controls.
    Windows always seems to be doing something behind your back using controls which you are only allowed to see shadows of unless you get right down into its ugly guts.
    Getting windows to do what you want is often like trying to walk a drunken friend home through thick mud – while it should be like commanding an attentive and crack subordinate.

    • LeeN says

      For the min and max buttons at least, you can ignore in Windows 7, since you can maximize an application by dragging its title bar to the top of the desktop, and for minimizing you can just click it in the task bar and it toggle the app between being minimized.I like most of the multitouch improvements they have made in Windows 7, I like the right clicking by tapping down a second finger, I like how many applications automatically work with momentum scrolling.I don’t like the pinch zoom feature, at least I don’t like how most applications respond to the pinch zoom. I don’t like the response time to certain events, like rotating the display.I especially don’t like it when windows will automatically download and install updates while I am working on my PC. Many times over this could cause you to download a lot of data and if you were connected to 3g/4g could ring up your bill.And also you can be playing a game and then in the background windows would be slowing down your PC by indexing the hard drive, doing virus scans, doing updates and even restarting your PC while you were playing :P. Not to mention that these background tasks drain your battery.

  2. ChrisRS says

    Regarding touch, improvements in the next version will be too late. IF Microsoft wants to be a player in the Tablet scene, they need to look at and encance usibility now. I use an older Tablet PC with pen bu not touch. I can see the problem with small bottens and scroll bars on a small screen. MS should address this and get some sort of update out for Win 7 that addresses it. Usibility can certainly be addressed in IE 8 and MS Office. THESE USIBILITY IMPROVEMNTS SHOULD NOT BE AN ENTICEMENT TO PURCHASE UPGRADES.

    There are existing Tablet and Touch devices and users that would benefit from Usibility Improvements. If the UI were made availabe to current users, MS would get good publicity.

    This of course would require a major change to MS’s attitude toword their customers. This is not likely to happen. Rather than make some quick improvments and be a strong competitor in teh Tablet market, MS will stay the course, promse fututre improvemetns ad then scratch their head in confusion at low Tablet sales numbers.

  3. Tim says

    Since it’s pretty much given that most of the planet access the full web through Windows, and Windows 7 is a blockbuster- 250 million sold so far, it should leverage that visibility in a more unified way. Not to bundle them, that got it in trouble, but attract customers through compelling products.

    Microsoft should keep on translating its desktop tools, the Office Suite, to the cloud; keep up its advertising efforts with Bing; and extend its hardware offerings from Xbox to other devices- use the pressure of competition to be credible in mobile. It shouldn’t get complacent, wherever it’s making alot of money, it should already think how to replace them with even better products.

  4. Anonymous says

    Here are my general suggestions:
    - Make Operating System modules more tangible to the end user, allow us control how much resources it should take from system.
    - Follow and visualize our Network Connections to the Local Resources. For example, I want to see all Internet connections that are currently active (through TCP/UDP Ports, etc) to my local files. (Imagine some pipes connecting files to ports showing current activities and also history of activities.) This way we would have a chance to see that a connection is uploading our personal files or trying to open some other files, etc.
    - Stop following Apple and be creative.
    - Don’t allow any developer to design user interface, most of them are not good on this.
    - Concentrate on quality of existing modules and functionality.
    - use your operating system.
    - make it more easy to customize the OS and save the customizations as user profiles.
    - enhance existing Open/Save dialog boxes and make them more easier for people to add shortcuts to folders and also have their own macro links.

  5. quillaja says

    I’d like to see a few things:1) the death of the traditional file system. I don’t know if WinFS or something new would answer this. ALL file types should have (at least) tags and some basic user-editable metadata. I’m sure MS’s engineers can think of some other cool things too like they did back in their longhorn demo. See #5 for some examples.2) cloud and local data and files should live side by side transparently. whatever protocols MS uses to do this should be simply (by secure) and available to other companies to implement with their services. MS should approach google and apple to make this happen. I hate/would hate being locked into MS’s “windows live” services to use cool features. It should be easy to make connections to your data.3) I’ve said this many times before, but i’d like a UI which dynamically changes based on your input method. in “desktop mode”, you’d get more traditional UI for keyboard & mouse input. in some other mode(s) (eg “tablet mode”), the UI would change dramatically to be optimized for touch & pen input. Programmers could be able to choose which or both of these UIs their app is compatible with…. and no, not bump top. while i applaud their efforts, and they’ve made many great UI improvements, I want the system to organize and manage my files for me. that’s why i’m using a computer instead of papers.4) improvements to speech-to-text and text-to-speech. I’d love, in addition to other NUIs (pen & touch) to be able to do a lot of navigation and commands by speaking. 5) More natural language queries in every application, not just MS ones. leverage the new “WinFS” or whatever. make APIs for programmers to use. Using speech from #4, i want to simply tell my computer: “computer, play the playlist “favorite tunes””; “computer, show me pictures of John”, “computer, check wikipedia for .” “computer, tea, earl grey, hot.”6) Win 7 certainly has a much smoother UI, but there are still many rough places that need improvement. other than numerous dialog boxes that are old or are missing functionality (eg: power plans), there are places like when the screen changes orientation which need polish.7) globalization features (ie language packs) should NOT be “ultimate” features.8) stop support for 32-bit windows. stop support for BIOS in favor of newer EFI, make manufacturers use it.9) a windows app store, not just for craplets but REAL applications (office, photoshop, etc), could actually be pretty nice if done right.10) make windows live movie maker better. improve geotagging in photo gallery. don’t wait till windows 8 to do this.11) please call windows 8 “Windows 8″ and not something hokey. ignore the marketing department. a simple numeric system showing the order of versions is the best.

    • savagemike says

      No.
      This is half the problem with windows now. Always trying to hold your hand and be ‘transparent’ about things.
      I am not a child.
      I want to know exactly what is going on and how to control it.
      Give me a single pane showing all my local and cloud files – great. But it should clearly indicate which is which and I should have clear controls to make changes to that world as I see fit.

  6. Synergi says

    No question, windows needs to become quick booting, instant on, and most important of all, touch friendly. If they don’t they will be left behind. They didn’t take Linux on net books overly much as a threat because few consumers use Linux and they were right. Soon the companies went back to adding windows to net books.

    Sorry Microsoft, that isn’t going to happen this time. People are now familiar with iOS and love them. Apps to my surprise are starting to get better and more functional. True you need to look through a lot of crap to get to the gems but they are a few there.

    • heatlesssun says

      Once again I agree with your assessment. Microsoft needs to improve the touch experience of the Windows 8 shell and get developers on board. But if Ballmer really means what he says and Microsoft executes well they could have a truly revolutionary product that successfully runs on traditional form factors as well as slates, and to some extent they have that today, but clearly Windows needs to improve in UI and battery life greatly to be a successful slate OS and they are going to need help from Intel.

      There are a number of Windows 7 users like myself that find the touch experience adequate enough to be able to navigate and launch programs and there’s a sufficient number of activities that work well enough to be useful I believe, it’s not perfect by any stretch but very usable. Web surfing on my tm2 and W100 is pleasant experience as well Office, a few games and good number of other things. I simply think there’s a certain amount of subjectiveness involved, either you like touch in Windows 7 or you don’t. So overall Windows 7 touch works well for me but even I admit that it needs to be better, I’m just saying that its far from unusable even today.

      I think Microsoft would love to be able to Windows Desktop in some shape to work well on touch slates and not have to deploy Windows Phone for slates simply because I think that having a desktop OS that can run well on slates presents a lot value, there’s just more overall functionality in desktops. But once again you have to do more than just fix Windows, you need a whole slew of new apps and current apps retrofitted and rebuilt for touch.

      So I don’t think that Ballmer is blowing smoke. He’s just as aware as anyone about Microsoft’s challenges and I think that at least have the tools for the job and it’s not like Microsoft doesn’t have interesting tech of it’s own. I think things like Surface Computing on tables and walls has a future. Think of a Windows 10 Media Center where you had a like a projected interface and/or virtual interface were you gesture, like the stuff in Iron Man. Yeah that’s a ways out but without doubt I still think that larger devices are also going to be a big part of the natural interface revolution that will change not only what we do with computers but also how we use them.

      The stakes are big and right now it could go either way, Microsoft might be able to get Windows 8 to run well on portable slates of they might not if you look at it objectively. If Ballmer has any amount of savvy, he must have seen what happened to Windows Mobile and not see a potential repeat of history occurring were Windows dies on the vine for lack of some major changes and risks.

      So its up to Microsoft to make their destiny, they have the tools know it’s seeing they really have what it takes. It’ll be hard and not everything that Microsoft touches turns to gold but this is a BIG deal to them and I think they’re going to make a very serious effort to come up with a very compelling product in Windows 8. Looking at Windows 7 and how they overcame Vista I think it can be done, but I think all of this is a lot bigger challenge they overcoming the PR distorter Vista.

    • heatlesssun says

      Once again I agree with your assessment. Microsoft needs to improve the touch experience of the Windows 8 shell and get developers on board. But if Ballmer really means what he says and Microsoft executes well they could have a truly revolutionary product that successfully runs on traditional form factors as well as slates, and to some extent they have that today, but clearly Windows needs to improve in UI and battery life greatly to be a successful slate OS and they are going to need help from Intel.

      There are a number of Windows 7 users like myself that find the touch experience adequate enough to be able to navigate and launch programs and there’s a sufficient number of activities that work well enough to be useful I believe, it’s not perfect by any stretch but very usable. Web surfing on my tm2 and W100 is pleasant experience as well Office, a few games and good number of other things. I simply think there’s a certain amount of subjectiveness involved, either you like touch in Windows 7 or you don’t. So overall Windows 7 touch works well for me but even I admit that it needs to be better, I’m just saying that its far from unusable even today.

      I think Microsoft would love to be able to Windows Desktop in some shape to work well on touch slates and not have to deploy Windows Phone for slates simply because I think that having a desktop OS that can run well on slates presents a lot value, there’s just more overall functionality in desktops. But once again you have to do more than just fix Windows, you need a whole slew of new apps and current apps retrofitted and rebuilt for touch.

      So I don’t think that Ballmer is blowing smoke. He’s just as aware as anyone about Microsoft’s challenges and I think that at least have the tools for the job and it’s not like Microsoft doesn’t have interesting tech of it’s own. I think things like Surface Computing on tables and walls has a future. Think of a Windows 10 Media Center where you had a like a projected interface and/or virtual interface were you gesture, like the stuff in Iron Man. Yeah that’s a ways out but without doubt I still think that larger devices are also going to be a big part of the natural interface revolution that will change not only what we do with computers but also how we use them.

      The stakes are big and right now it could go either way, Microsoft might be able to get Windows 8 to run well on portable slates of they might not if you look at it objectively. If Ballmer has any amount of savvy, he must have seen what happened to Windows Mobile and not see a potential repeat of history occurring were Windows dies on the vine for lack of some major changes and risks.

      So its up to Microsoft to make their destiny, they have the tools know it’s seeing they really have what it takes. It’ll be hard and not everything that Microsoft touches turns to gold but this is a BIG deal to them and I think they’re going to make a very serious effort to come up with a very compelling product in Windows 8. Looking at Windows 7 and how they overcame Vista I think it can be done, but I think all of this is a lot bigger challenge they overcoming the PR distorter Vista.

  7. Jonathan Alligood says

    Windows 8 I should have;

    Kinect support.
    -Facial recognition log-in.
    -Hand gestures manipulate the UI Metaphor
    -Speech recognition to a greater degree. require better mics for cancellation

    Optimized for SSD

    ALL RAID DRIVERS COME ON THE WINDOWS DISK!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO MORE FLOPPY DRIVE! kill it already.

    Better touch support Via advanced research into MOUSE 2.0

    Make a separate lighter weight OS for tablet market. that meets those requirements. think 3-screens-and-the-cloud.

    Desktop as Command-center.
    using SYNC in the cloud to manage a users Devices. ie. Phone, tablet, laptop,and other portables. Linking them to the home PC. When a device comes into range of home network initiate back up, or sync.

    Notifications should be handled more like mobile phones with a new API.

    TRUE MULTI-MONITOR SUPPORT!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel better.

    NO 25 thousand versions, starter home premium, home premium +, home professional business man. ultimate, uber, etc lol seriously on or, two versions of “Windows.”

    quillaja had some good ones.

    Kill the 32-bit. Just do it.
    A windows app market could work right. truly I’ve had to buy software on some less then questinable websites… And sense most retail stores are starting to phase out the space for PC Software iIthink it’s time to look to internetz.

    Windows’ bundled apps, like movie maker and photo viewer could be better. ( especially after seeing iLifes suite.)

    The audio API is still funky. When I want to record through my guitar interface i have to unplug my webcam? seriously fix this!

    also someone said something about the file system, it’s diffidently gotten better… but were not quite “there” yet. it has been a painful journey. “where in the hell did windows but that file?”

  8. Scott says

    Great comments.

    All I really want is a “Fat Finger” cursor: when in touch mode, a magnifier window about 2cm in diameter should appear when near buttons/window scroll bars to make them easier to hit…perhaps in other areas too.

    That would alleviate my frustration when trying to grab the TIP when it’s on the very edge of my screen or those dang window min/max/close buttons (and other “small” menu items).

  9. savagemike says

    It is not exactly ‘risky’ behavior. Just the opposite really.
    But they should begin from the ground up assuming people are running in a normal user mode and not that everyone will be running as admins.
    That is just idiocy from a security standpoint to run cowboy like that (as admin all the time).
    But the truth is that windows expects it and all kinds of stuff acts all kinds of weird if you try to do it otherwise.
    The upshot is that when you are trying to set up computers for people unfamiliar (or just not that good with them) then you either have to leave them running as admin to end confusion or do the proper security thing and have them running as a regular user – with all the added confusion of how windows is acting and how a lot of software does not function properly or as you’d expect.

    So – yeah – my vote is to make a paradigm where it is expected people are running as users and the computer does not behave in confusing manner when this is done.
    It is how things should be.

  10. Ayue0626 says

    The upshot is that when you are trying to set up computers for people unfamiliar (or just not that good with them) then you either have to leave them running as admin to end confusion or do the proper security thing and have them running as a regular user – with all the added confusion of how windows is acting and how a lot of software does not function properly or as you’d expect. http://www.zakupedhardy.com/ed-hardy-m/ed-hardy-m-4.html

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