Joined: 28 Feb 2006
|Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:49 pm Post subject: 10 Ways Microsoft Can Make Windows 7 Lucky
1. Windows 7 has to be a whole lot better than Windows Vista. Better doesn't mean tons more features. CDs replaced vinyl records because of perceived better audio quality, small disc size and greater convenience. The older analog technology actually delivered better fidelity because it captured the full sound wave; the digital successor samples and compresses the sound wave. DVDs rapidly replaced VHS tapes for similar reasons. The experience was much better.
Microsoft's first priority should be reducing complexity. There, the Zune Marketplace UI has shown one way. The software/service is highly functional and fun, yet sharply streamlined compared with iTunes or Windows Media Player. Windows 7 should emphasize simplicity while hiding complexity. For example, must there really be 50 icons in Control Panel?
Any process requiring more than two mouse clicks is too complicated. Every Wizard is unnecessary. Windows 7 must wring the complexity out of the user interface. Microsoft can make Windows 7 more compelling by radically—and I mean RADICALLY—changing the UI. The old motif has got to go, and its replacement shouldn't be one motif but several. I'll explain more in No. 5 and 6.
2. Windows 7 must generate a compelling hardware refresh cycle. DVDs and CDs share one important similarity: They delivered such a good experience that people willingly repurchased the music and movies they already owned, but in the new formats. People squawked about Vista's hefty hardware requirements, but that's only because there weren't obvious upgrade benefits. If Vista delivered a better experience, hardware requirements wouldn't have impeded sales.
The starting place for Windows 7 must be development for different hardware, not just PCs. The operating system must be streamlined enough to run on smart phones and powerful enough for entertainment centers. Hardware choice will drive sales. Successfully executed, the approach would more rapidly move the Windows ecosystem to Version 7 rather than repeat the situation where XP dragged down Vista sales.
Microsoft's fundamental development philosophy should be: one operating system to rule them all. If Apple can put Mac OS X derivatives on other hardware, such as iPhone, surely Microsoft can do something similar with Windows 7 (I'm not referring to a separate, embedded product). Apple takes a streamlined feature approach. The emphasis is on the right features rather than more of them. Microsoft must do likewise, appropriately for each device category. I'll explain more in #4.
3. Windows 7 should go back to basics. The browser has got to come out of the operating system. Internet Explorer has caused usability and security problems for far too long. Instead, Microsoft should improve the IP layer and how Windows communicates across corporate and home networks and the Internet. It's the networking stack, rather than the browser, that will provide the compelling development platform for future devices and services. It's through the IP stack that Windows 7 could deliver on Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's convoluted "mesh" vision.
4. Call it Windows 7 Core. Nos. 1-3 are predicated on Microsoft stripping Windows 7 down to the kernel and building it back up in modular fashion. Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 share common code heritage. Microsoft must bring the role concept from Windows Server 2008 to Windows 7. I'll discuss that more in No. 6.
The starting point must be the core, the kernel. Supposedly, Microsoft has made a fresh start with the Windows 7 kernel. From a usability and security perspective, that's exactly what Microsoft should do. But Windows 7 has to be more by being less: It has to be the kernel, and to developers and other partners almost nothing more. Microsoft should even consider separately branding the Windows 7 kernel.
The kernel's importance is too often overlooked in Microsoft communications to customers and partners. The open-source community understands. Look, for example, at the importance placed on the Linux kernel. Linux UI projects come and go, but the kernel remains core, whether from pragmatic architectural or operating system brand identities.
5. Windows 7 should be familiar. Windows Vista was too much like the disastrous Windows Me II. Windows 7 must remind people of something else, something better. Successful products share several attributes; one of the most important: They take a familiar motif, extend it and allow people to do something they wished they could do but couldn't before. Photo editing/management software is a great example. The motif is similar to the familiar photo album, but people can resize photos, crop them and change them. The starting point is familiarity.
Microsoft's Windows 7 challenge will be adopting several familiar motifs and applying them to the user interface. The UI motifs would have to transcend devices, too. I would encourage Microsoft to start small. From the kernel, build out Windows 7 first for a mobile device and there refine UI approaches. Apple has shown the way with iPhone. Some suggested familiar starting points:
Touch. Human beings are tool users. People should be able to manipulate any content with their fingers—no mouse required. Multitouch works for iPhone and Surface.
Sound. Microsoft already is investing in voice command technologies, for mobile phones and Ford Sync. Voice needs to be an essential component of the new user interface. Can you say "Star Trek"?
Command Line. Web search is the (now familiar) command line for the Internet. I'd like to see a command line option that acts as a shell for IP networking capabilities requested in No. 3. The command line, whether input by voice or text, would visually represent content or connections against the otherwise blank backdrop.
Microsoft might be concerned that enterprises would balk at such dramatic changes. But IT organizations embraced the Office 2007 UI. Besides, the new motifs would transcend devices. Once people get used to voice commands in one place, they expect them everywhere else. That's the point of those great Ford Sync TV commercials.
6. One Windows 7 version is enough. From the Windows 7 Core, OEMs should be able to customize the operating system for specific hardware and usage roles. I envision kind of a cross between Windows Server 2008 usage roles and Windows Embedded hardware roles. Microsoft can charge partners based on the role(s) and the associated Windows 7 features built up around the kernel. Businesses would pay for the hardware-and-software combination plus a client access license fee for connecting the IP stack to another device or service.
I would strongly discourage letting consumers and even some enterprises choose roles during Windows 7 installation, with perhaps the exception of some services running on the IP stack (like Windows Live).
The roles should be more hardware dependent. For example, handheld readers for FedEx or UPS would have a much different price than desktop PCs or thin clients.
7. Put the user experience before bean-counter, monetary considerations. Microsoft won't fess up, so I'll do it for the company. Vista's SKU strategy was solely for the benefit of the company. It's the only sense I can make of the convoluted SKU strategy. Three objectives I see:
Shift the sales mix to Pro SKUs.
Increase the Windows selling price.
Move more businesses to acquire a client OS through volume licensing.
From a bottom-line business perspective, the strategy worked. But at a greater cost: ticked-off customers and a damaged Windows brand. Microsoft can get there by adopting Nos. 1-6, particularly No. 6. One version is more than enough.
8. Windows 7 must give much, through sync. Synchronization is the other killer UI, and it's essential to fulfilling Ozzie's mesh vision. Windows 7 needs a synchronization engine bound to the IP stack. This sync platform would become the hub for data exchange regardless of format or service. It's a tough challenge and maybe even beyond Microsoft resources for Windows 7.
9. Windows Vista Capable means backward compatibility. I've suggested some radical changes to Windows that simply are unworkable because of backward compatibility considerations. It's time Microsoft put all that virtualization technology to good use. The company should radically rearchitect the operating system, while using virtualization to provide backward compatibility to Windows Vista and XP. Then the company can put all those Windows Vista Capable stickers to good use, on Windows 7 PCs.
10. Windows 7 security features must increase usability by decreasing complexity. Microsoft's approach to security is fundamentally flawed. Should I repeat that? Microsoft puts too much responsibility on end users. Cars don't warn drivers about looking for oncoming traffic when they flip the left turn signal. That's the automotive equivalent of a Windows Vista UAC (User Account Control) popup. Instead, the cars are engineered to protect the drivers in the event of a crash or to set off airbags.
Microsoft must reduce the security complexity through good software development—and not just writing good code, but in approach to UIs and security motifs. Windows Live OneCare is on the right path with the stoplight motif. Green is good. Red means possible trouble.
Think! Microsoft developers, think! How can end users enjoy Windows when they're constantly warned about possible dangers? UAC and IE 7 popups are real downers, man.