Why is Windows 8 taking so long?

I wrote previously about Windows 8 as Microsoft’s similarity to IBM’s OS/2. Then I read a Forbes article which nicely summaries why Windows 8 adoption is so slow. Reading the article took me back to something I wrote in 2012 about my move from a Nokia feature phone to a Nokia Lumia running Windows Phone.

What became clear to me when I moved to the Nokia Lumia interface was not just that I had to learn new things, but also had to unlearn old things. So when the Forbes article refers to the issue of  the new touch-centric ‘Modern’ (previously ‘Metro-style’) user interface, it’s not just the huge training to acquire new skills, but also the support burden needed to help people with the process of changing from old ways to new ways.

According to the article, to make proper use of the Windows 8 user interface, a computer needs to have a  touch input device. This may be true, but I’ve just seen someone give a presentation on a Windows 8 machine without using a touch interface, and look quite comfortable doing it. So I don’t think the lack of a touch interface should be as big a problem as the Forbes article makes out.

However, I agree when the article notes that Windows 8 is an “all or nothing upgrade”; unlike the upgrade from Windows XP, or even Windows 2000, to Windows 7. In other words, moving to Windows 8 is similar to the move from DOS to Windows, which was over 20 years ago.

I don’t recall hearing much in the early 1990s about the big issue of moving to the first Windows versions. I think that is probably because computers in the workplace were not as ubiquitous in those days; only a relatively few people had a PC on their desk. Also, people were happier to upgrade to Windows because DOS was not considered very user friendly. That also shows how familiar people have become to a standard user interface with Windows, and that Microsoft should have considered that.

The Windows 8 upgrade experience is a salutary reminder that the world of work has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop created for them one of the dilemma’s of an incumbent during discontinuous change (as described by the Disruptive Innovation theory). Namely, how do you change to a new disruptive environment but keep your current hold on the old environment. In years to come, we may see the Windows 8 introduction as one of the case studies of how an existing leader tried to cope with disruptive innovation.

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My big upgrade and review – Windows Phone

I have recently upgraded my mobile phone – I used to have a feature phone, Nokia E51, but upgraded to a smart phone, Nokia Lumia 710. The big upgrade though is the operating system; the E51 ran Symbian, the Lumia runs Windows Phone 7 (actually it’s 7.5, Mango). Getting used to the physical phone, from one with real keys to one with a keyboard display, wasn’t the biggest adjustment, but getting used to the new operating system with its new way of doing things, actually doing everything, was an enormous challenge.

This change in the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) was enormous. I think the last time I had to adjust to such a significant UI and UX was when I changed from a PC running DOS to one that ran Windows. You get to learn to do things a certain way, and then with the new operating system you discover that in order to learn  about the new things you have to unlearn the old ones.

It probably took me a week to get used to the new UI (keyboard etc), but longer to become familiar with the UX (e.g. how the keyboard works in different situations). However, after I got used to doing things differently, I began to appreciate the new things that I couldn’t do before. Microsoft’s integration of Windows Phone with its Internet services and Office web applications is amazing. I am referring to how you can use SkyDrive to store not only pictures you take with the phone, but also notes and reminders you can create using the web version of Windows OneNote. You can also upload Word and Excel files to SkyDrive and read them on the phone.

As a phone, Nokia have done a great design and engineering job on the Lumia. Combine that with the capabilities of Office and other Microsoft software, and the Windows Phone is the best business-oriented phone I have seen. The iPhone is great for individuals, but if you work in a business environment where Microsoft predominates, Windows Phone is far better suited for your needs.

From a social point of view, Windows Phone allows you to share photos to Facebook very easily (Microsoft’s purchase of Facebook shares probably helped that) as well as other social networks like Twitter. There is also a very useful feature in contact management – Windows Phone allows you to combine your standard contact details with other details that the same person may logged via your phone elsewhere. For example, I could combine people’s Outlook contact details with their Google email address and Twitter handle. The only major weakness though is that there is no way to easily send someone’s contact card via an SMS (text message).

Windows Phone also allows you to combine calendars; so I can see my work-related Outlook Calendar and my personal Google Calendar appointments in one phone calendar view.

There is an app store, the Market Place, where you can download free and paid-for apps. The apps I really needed – e.g. for TwitterEvernote, RememberTheMilk – I could find on the Market Place. I also found that Amazon provide a free Kindle app for the Windows Phone, so for the first time I have started considering Kindle books.

If I was interested in games, I might be able to say something about the Xbox features on the Lumia Windows Phone, but as I am not, I won’t. The music apps – Microsoft’s Zune, and Nokia Music – work well together and I found it very easy to use. But you do have to download Zune to your PC to in order to sync the music between your PC and the phone.

In sumary, I like the Nokia Lumia and am very glad I got it. I also think Microsoft have done a great job with Windows Phone in terms of its look-and-feel and general usability.

Anyone else got some comments?

Kinect: the next business user interface?

I am not a gamer so the technology in that area is not something I follow, but I’ve been seeing lots of comments about Microsoft’s Kinect appliance so I looked it up on the Microsoft website. What astounded me was the user experience the Kinect provides, both physical and vocal.

In the past, computer technology came into the business world first, then was adapted into the personal world. With the Kinect though, I reckon the process will be reversed, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that the Kinect introduces will move into the business world.

Let’s face it, the UI of business computing hasn’t changed much since the 1980s with the advent of the graphical user interface (e.g., Windows). In the ERP implementations I’ve seen over the years, it’s learning and adjusting to the UI that the average user can often find difficult. But if they had a UI that just required voice commands, or hand gestures and movements, wouldn’t that make using the system easier?

A story out yesterday announces that open source interfaces for the Kinect have been given approval by Microsoft, who probably recognise the potential the device has.

I’m sitting here frustrated that I might have come across a possible ‘big thing’ in business software but don’t have the technical expertise to execute on it.

How do you make A/P sexy?

So I am late into the debate that started some time ago – should enterprise software be sexy, like consumer software? There’s a nice summary of all the blog arguments here.

My comment is how do you make a tedious but essential process like Accounts Payable (A/P) sexy? What about the designing of a Bill of Materials structure?

MS Office as new ERP GUI

Analysts and bloggers have commented on the Duet project between SAP and Microsoft to make Microsoft’s Office the graphical user interface (GUI) for SAP’s ERP apps.

The move to make Office the new GUI for ERP apps has been given a further impetus by SYSPRO who have announced SYSPRO Office Integration.

Below are two screen shots, showing how you can call up the ERP in Windows Vista, and insert a field or a table.

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