Windows 8 Metro: Microsoft Faces Old IBM OS/2 GUI Problem

Windows 8 media attacks seem to be intensifying -- with some bloggers and journalists suggesting the Windows 8 Metro user interface will be too confusing for many customers to learn. But here's the big, ironic problem: Many members of the press have never used Windows 8 or have never even seen the operating system, which won't arrive on PCs until October. Ironically, IBM faced the same struggle with its old OS/2 operating system roughly 20 years ago...

In the 1990s, IBM over and over again tried to convince the media that OS/2's object oriented user interface was better than Windows 3.1's graphical user interface and Windows 95's Explorer interface. But IBM failed miserably, at least partly because the media -- including many members of the trade press -- had never actually used OS/2.

Today's Challenge

Fast forward to the present. Most bloggers have seen and used Google Android and Apple iOS. The user interfaces are familiar and therefore seem extremely intuitive. In stark contrast, many bloggers have never used existing Windows Phone devices and are poorly prepared for the Windows 8 Metro user interface. (Yes, Microsoft has stopped using the Metro term amid a potential legal tussle. But for the sake of this article, let's stick with Metro.)

Further complicating matters, negative Windows 8 user videos are going viral, such as this one:

How Microsoft Should Respond

What should Microsoft do?
  • Get Windows 8 Surface tablets out to top SMB channel experts as soon as possible. Folks like Harry Bbb (SMB Nation), Karl Palachuk and Arlin Sorensen (HTG Peer Groups) come to mind.
  • Actually, another wise step would be to engage all of HTG to make sure Windows 8 tablets and the Metro interface is fully understood in that group.
  • Make sure those who love Windows 8 within the SMB channel are cross-linking and socializing their experiences across blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Heck, somebody get Jay McBain from Channel Eyes on this. He knows how to whip up a social media storm.
  • Get Windows 8 ultrabooks out to those same market influencers. Here, folks like Eric Townsend of Intel can be critical toward shaping public perception of Windows 8 in the channel and in small business.
  • Publish some defendable, reliable Windows 8 usability studies -- fast. Please, no pretend praise. Real thoughts from real design experts.
  • Plus, show Windows 8 Metro applications in action in vertical markets.
Ironically, time is not on Microsoft's side. Windows 8 and the Metro interface will arrive in October. In the meantime, Microsoft is taking some heat from many outspoken journalists and bloggers. In some cases, those folks are repeating the same complaints over and over again without really exploring what's "right" with Windows 8.

The VAR Guy isn't taking sides. But Microsoft, at a minimum, needs a strategy to more forcefully combat the naysayers. The software giant can't silence negative voices. But Microsoft should empower more positive voices to be heard, in an authentic way. Otherwise, Windows 8 Metro could suffer the pains of OS/2 -- experiencing "user complaints" before those "users' have actually given the new operating system an extended test drive.
TAGS: Technology
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