A rare opinion piece.
Not one to shy away from stating the obvious, but Malcom Gladwell recently stated that history will remember Bill Gates for charity work, but forget Steve Jobs. I happened to agree with this, with the proviso that this will only be true if Bill Gates’ charity work is successful. I don’t think that history has forgotten John D. Rockefeller, who was arguably the Jobs/Gates of his day.
However, in the short term Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive are going to be remembered for driving product design for the best part of two decades.
Microsoft need their own Jobs and Ive. If you’ve read Jobs’ biography, you’ll know that whilst he made all the important decisions, in his own strange way he did ‘listen’ to advice and change decisions where change was warranted. Apple’s share price and market capitalization demonstrate how successful the company was.
Why do Microsoft need their own version of Jobs and Ive? Windows 8.
They don’t need a Jobs clone, but they need someone who can cut away, let’s be blunt, all the marketing crap that seems to come from Microsoft these days. They need an Ive who is prepared to say when design doesn’t work, and the Jobs-clone to agree.
It seems that Windows 8 is just Windows 9 Beta. In the release candidate, the tablet/phone OS styling, ‘Metro’, has been pushed into the Windows desktop, forming a difficult to use mess.
Someone at Microsoft should have stopped this. This is exactly what Jobs and Ive would have stopped.
The Metro design is arguably one of the biggest IT design changes in decades, and on a phone and tablet it works well.
Windows 7, in my opinion is the best and most usable version of Windows ever.
Together the desktop + Metro in Windows 8 seems to be a major step back from Windows 7 (and yes, I have installed it on hardware, and not a VM, and tried to use it as my main desktop). Will Windows 8 be successful? Given the usual OEM installs that follow Windows 8, there will definitely be sales. As far as businesses are concerned, I can see them skipping this version altogether (just like Vista). It is a shame from a technology point of view because there have been major changes that are going to make Windows development much more interesting and enjoyable (WinRT). If businesses don’t adopt it, sales for new Windows 8 software will suffer, and the Windows-based sofware industry suffers. There are already tens of thousands of developers out there that do not own a PC or any Microsoft product to do their day to day work, something unthinkable just 10 years ago. This could just exacerbate that.
The other problem that Microsoft have is, unbelievably, sales and marketing. They seem to eschew plain English for current buzzwords (e.g. Lightswitch – that tells me nothing about the product, and I’m not going to search to find out what it does either). A sensible descriptive name makes your product discoverable.
They also seem to think that having multiple versions of products is the way forwards (I recall a link to price vs. product, but can’t find it). This might be software versus hardware, but Jobs took the opposite view: reduce product lines. He reduced the product line by 70% and ultimately produced only 4 products. Apple are now the biggest tech firm in history.
Apple give away XCode for development at all levels, but until the other week Microsoft weren’t going to give away the basic VS 2012 Express C++. Whatever happened to ‘Developers! Developers! Developers!’? Your platform lives and dies by the apps on your platform. The cheaper your development tools, the more people use them to produce applications.
If Microsoft are prepared to make a radical overhaul of Windows by adding the Metro interface, they should make a radical overhaul of the company itself. It is looking increasingly like Windows 8 will be Microsoft’s jumping the shark moment.