25 October 2012

Windows 8 Tile Interface – Will It Be Used?

Tomorrow Microsoft will release the gold version of Windows 8, an operating system with a totally new user interface that is great for touch screens – if you have one. But I wonder how much it will be used with today's laptops and desktop computers? Even though the new tile interface is the first thing you see in Windows 8 it is probably not the most important change.
Win 8 screen

Compatibility issues
For many years Microsoft has used a desktop inspired interface that we have all grown accustomed to. In version 8 we see a radical change that some will have difficulties to get used to. The Microsoft designers of course knew that, so they gave us two user interfaces instead of one in Windows 8 – the new tiles and the old desktop interface.

But the new look is not the only problem with the tiles. A more serious one, at least for now, is the compatibility with the applications we are already using.

Windows 8 logotypeAll the products are compatible with Windows 8 – but you have to use the desktop interface. Most other products also require the desktop style user interface, so it seems that Windows 8 users will have to either use only the desktop interface or switch between the two interfaces. I wondered how people will like that, so I read some articles and made a poll within the team.

Analyst advice – use Windows 7
In a Gartner Webinar 26th of September the two analysts Steve Kleynhans and Michael Silver argued that organizations who are still on Windows XP should upgrade to Windows 7 – not to Windows 8. They meant that the tile user interface is too different and does not bring enough added values, and they predicted that Windows 8 will never be commonly used within the corporate world but rather be a parenthesis in the Microsoft development, like Windows Vista.

Even Win 8 fans prefer Win 7
A survey made by the Windows 8 help and support forum showed that even among these early Windows 8 users 53 % preferred Windows 7 and 20 % preferred Windows XP. Windows 8 only got 25 % of the votes.

In this case the new user interface does not seem to be the biggest problem, though. Instead the participants pointed out the high upgrade price, difficult systems requirements, incompatibility issues and freequent freezing and crashing in the Preview version of Windows 8.

Only 18% of the 50 000 participants mention the tile interface as a problem, but of course these are people with a positive attitude towards Windows 8 from the start. They knew they would be confronted with something totally new and were eager to try it. Square LogoBoth UIs in the team
I asked my colleagues about their use of Windows 8 and what user interface they prefer, and it seems that this group of highly skilled computer users have a more positive view on Windows 8 than we see in the webinar and survey mentioned above.

Most of the team members use Windows 8, but for development there is no tile interface so for that they mostly use Windows server 2008. Some team members like the colorful tile interface, while others say it is only suited for touch screens and is difficult to navigate when you have many applications open.

None of the managers are using the tile interface ‒ including me. I always need to have many programs open at the same time, and I like to have the small icons for them on the right hand of the screen, which I can get with the Windows 8 desktop interface. tile development
Kanban Task Manager logotypeIn spite of all doubts we also see that some products can be easier to use with a tile based user interface, and the developers have some ideas for such applications. Even if there is no development tool with a tiles interface today, they can very well build a tiles solution.

Kanban Task Manager, especially, would greatly benefit from a touch-based user interface, and the team has done some prototyping towards that goal already. This will be a third Kanban Task Manager version, and as it can cooperate with the two others we will really give something for all tastes!

Other benefits
The team members who prefer Windows 8 mostly do that because of other features than the tile interface. They like the Hyper-V, the picture log-in, the Explorer interface that resembles the Office 2010 ribbon and the newTask Manager.
Windows 8 Explorer
The Windows 8 speed was also commented on, both by my work mates and in the Forumswindows8 survey. The fast boot and shut down was the enhancement that most of the participants (56 %) in the poll liked best in Windows 8. Compare that to the tiles user interface, which was best liked by only 22 %.

The discussion on this topic has just begun, and I am really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Windows. Will the tile interface become the next beloved tool, like the desktop style  has been for so long? Or will we hang on to the desktop interface? Or  maybe will we soon have something totally new?

My earlier blog posts about Windows 8:

September 2011:
 The first pre-Beta is launched
Comments on Win 8 from the team

29 February 2012
Release of the Preview version, presentation of features