On Windows 8 and that ‘No Compromises’ Mantra

Steve Ballmer, at CES last night:

There’s nothing more important at Microsoft than Windows. You saw Metro in the phone, you saw Metro in Xbox. It’s everywhere. And you’ll experience more and more natural user interface in Metro. Together, all of us in this industry, in thousands of new ways, will use the software and services to invent new things. Metro will drive the new magic across all of our experiences.

Our math is that 1+1 really does equal 3. So what’s next? Metro Metro Metro! And Windows, Windows, Windows!

Microsoft keeps using the phrase “No compromises” when talking about Windows 8. Thing is, Windows 8 seems full of compromises. Let’s look at the big one: the user interface itself.

In short, Windows 8 promises to bring the Metro UI to the desktop, as well as notebooks and tablets.

In the current beta builds, Windows 8 boots in to the Metro environment by default. The “classic” Windows interface lives in a layer below the one filled with little apps living in little rectangles.

Now, I like Metro. I think Windows Phone 7 is pretty decent, and I can’t wait to see it on tablets, where I bet it will be better received (and easier to use) than the “classic” Windows environment we’re all used to now. That said, Microsoft will still have the classic UI under Metro on tablets[1], while notebooks and desktop users will be stuck with Metro.

Can you imagine running Lion on an iPad, or booting a MacBook Air and seeing Launchpad instead of the Finder? Apple allows its hardware to help dictate what software is best suited for it. The company is willing to compromise on software features for a better user experience.

In short, Microsoft doesn’t seem willing to compromise on its vision for Windows 8. Metro is hard to use with a mouse, and Windows is hard to use on a tablet. Microsoft is compromising where it matters the most — the user experience.

Apple is willing to compromise with what features it offers on what platform, for the good of its users.

To Microsoft, the product comes first. Apple puts the customer first.

I prefer Apple’s philosophy.

  1. Rumor has it ARM-based tablets will just be Metro, but Microsoft hasn’t said anything yet.  ↩