It was bound to happen some day. It's finally happened. Microsoft Windows as I loved it is dead. Let me perform its funeral and give a eulogy. Microsoft killed the Windows I loved. What remains is a system that you must use only in the way Microsoft wants you to use it. As XP is killed, Microsoft has forgotten long ago what the company was all about. It has turned into a battle with Apple and Google to control over digital lives, how we should use our PCs will be dictated at every step. Every system after XP has been retarded at usability. They changed a perfectly good, consistent UI into something gimmicky, non-customizable and unproductive. Apple-envy has made Windows end up as a convoluted contraption that is neither simple nor logical and powerful. You have to constantly fight against the OS to do what you want and in the end, you still can't do what you want because Microsoft removed the feature. Windows XP is the last OS for power users, developers, IT pros. All later Windows systems are so consumer-oriented that you must struggle to work the way you want, features are just lacking. And yet this scam of eliminating features is openly continuing.
It started with this:
Features removed in Windows Vista
Features removed in Windows 7
and ended with this:
Features removed in Windows 8
Windows 8 is definitely far worse than Windows Vista. The vision behind Windows Vista was good but the execution flawed. The vision behind Windows 7 was the same as Vista, and slightly better execution (+some blackmail about XP getting unsupported) resulted in Windows 7 succeed despite it being not as good as Windows XP. Now it's not that I completely overlook the important innovations in security, graphics, networking, audio, management, deployment - just about every core improvement Vista/7 brought over XP so as soon as my UX issues were resolved, I upgraded, even though I am not really pleased with the Windows 7 desktop UX at all. It's far from my idea, it pisses me off many times but I still use it.
Windows 8 on the other hand is a horribly flawed vision. So it doesn't matter how they execute it. It won't be accepted.
It is neither my idea of customizable, powerful and backward compatible desktop computing, nor productive and usable mobile computing. I just don't like it because it is dumbed down, it removes what I liked and what it is ugly. Liking an interface, liking a design, liking its features, liking its compatibility - all these are very important to enjoy its UX. Windows 8 is engineered on the fundamentally incorrect decision that Microsoft took to merge their mobile platform with the desktop when they should have been separate or merged without any compromises. Microsoft has lost the value it once had for backward compatibility of design, UI and features. This is similar to the rant that Jim Allchin made around the Windows Vista timeframe. They have lost their way, they do not understand how important current ecosystem and current features are. For power users who expect a little more customization, Windows is not what it used to be. Form, over-simplification and bad design have completely taken over the User Experience at Microsoft so function, usability, compatibility of software are all harmed.
It's not like I would have rejected the new Windows 8 interface completely. Touch and mobility are two important factors why Steven Sinofsky said a new kind of Apps model with touch-friendly UI and battery life awareness was required. I completely agree with that. I was actually enjoying the interface (despite the terrible Metro design) until the Start Menu and other desktop features were removed. The desktop should be there unharmed. The moment, they harm even one bit of the desktop, they lose credibility and trust. The new Apps model doesn't make sense for serious productivity, it lacks a number of must-have features. Two core elements lacking are an efficient way to switch between Apps and extremely low data density on-screen due to oversimplification or an incomplete job on the Apps and controls being larger to accommodate touch.
The Windows UX/Shell team is so incompetent that I would like to offer my services to Microsoft to help them. I have focus and direction, I have a very clear direction and vision of what needs to be done to compete with Apple, I am not lost like Microsoft is. They just build new experiences without maintaining any continuity. I have been helping to fix Windows 7 and Windows Vista as well since 2009 with Classic Shell and it's time Microsoft sorted out their UI and design issues or risk getting increasingly irrelevant. The day when the foolish Windows Shell/UX team stops damaging existing features to promote new ones is when Windows will return to its former level of backward compatibility and users will start upgrading their systems as fast as they can. It has become an issue of trust. We can't trust Microsoft any more, they will randomly yank something. By the time you like it and start using it, it will be removed citing some stupid reason and you will be told to use something less capable in its place. Microsoft's basic thinking and outlook regarding how they should design for customers needs to change. They need to go back to their roots and understand why it is super-important to fix regressions with the highest priority, why the user is intelligent enough to make choices when given different options and why there should be more openness in the entire design/development process of such a widely-used operating system.
What's happened to Microsoft today is that they have lost touch with their customer base. They're removing Windows features based on telemetry which their users are telling them to retain! In fact, that's the only user expectation. We users love what Microsoft does, what we don't like is innovation getting killed in the next release. What Windows users want Microsoft to do is to preserve all the innovation that came in earlier releases by doing incremental changes, and adopting once again a backward compatible design strategy like they did in the 90s. That's exactly what Microsoft is refusing to do!
Okay so another question people ask me is why is Windows 7 not my idea. Windows 8 is not getting universally accepted they understand, but why not Windows 7? It's a perfect OS, right? Wrong. Windows 7 and Windows Vista, the shell team made some pretty unacceptable regressions and oversimplified it. I will not accept a dumbed down file manager or use a third party one, none of them have a pleasant UX. The Shell team needs to create hotfixes for the Explorer to fix some major usability flaws. Things like auto sorting make it UNUSABLE, it just makes folders UNUSABLE. After making these design changes with hotfixes or in a Service Pack, Windows 7 will be my idea. Well, that too only till 2020 because Microsoft thinks Windows 8 should replace Windows 7 and everyone should be happy about it. So, XP users upgrading to Windows 7 is pointless because Windows 8 awaits you with its "simplifying" agenda. At what point, will I switch to Apple? I don't know but I have started exploring Apple products definitely, while still on Windows. It is not an overnight switch for me, but a very gradual one when at some point, when the alternatives allow me to do all the things I do with Windows XP and Windows 7.
How does Microsoft fix the mess that is Windows 8? The answer to that is simple, the trouble is whether Microsoft is willing to bend backwards to understand how important backward compatible design is. They just have to restore all desktop features of Windows 7. Restoring only the Start Menu isn't going to help fix Windows 8. They must keep the two worlds entirely separate where the user's scenario doesn't involve switching between them unless he's done with his "Work" and "Play". Above all, don't sacrifice or make drastic changes to previously shipped Windows features for any reason - that makes users mad with rage. If Microsoft need help how to seamlessly integrate new features with the old stuff, my consultation services are available. I have comprehensive knowledge of end user-level Windows features that add value along with how to make the OS more likeable, more usable.
Another sad thing in these platform wars is that Microsoft has abandoned their originality. In their fight to copy Apple's success, they forgot what they were good at - what their own strengths were vs Apple, why their loyal customers chose Microsoft over Apple, what was absolutely special and unique about Microsoft products, why their innovation used to be so good that they didn't need to copy Apple in every single area, giving up their core strength of backward compatible design and consistent UI. They were the only company that could beat Apple in the 90s. It was because of the superior backward compatible UX of Windows, which protected the user's investment in time, money and effort. If Microsoft continues with what Windows 8 introduced, Windows is no longer my idea. Apple was the greedy conscience-less demon from which Microsoft saved us all and now it's become just like them. So if both companies are the same now, I might as well go for Apple as it has superior design and a desktop OS less crippled than Windows 8.
I have decided to try OS X and Linux Mint (a usability focused Linux distro!). Both are decent representations of what a modern, uncrippled pure desktop OS is, with high battery life as an advantage over Windows. Microsoft knows where to contact me for helping them if they want to bring Windows again on the right track.