Archive for the ‘Crash Test Dummy’ Category


Before you read this, I want you to know I really have been interested in Windows 8 and thought Microsoft was showing some serious chutzpah by messing with the Windows bread and butter revenue generator. I find it an interesting exercise to bring one OS to the three major computing platforms. In general I don’t think the Metro UI really works for business desktops. I also believe the tablet and phone OS are used differently than a desktop and laptop machine so they should be different. Still I do not want to discount it completely without trying it. I went into this with a completely open mind, and even after venting some complaints below, I feel Windows 8 has some interesting aspects.

I recently installed Windows 8 on a spare netbook computer. Nothing fancy, but up until a couple of months ago this was my wife’s primary computer running Windows 7 Ultimate (upgraded from the initial Starter edition). I am mostly interested in seeing if some legacy apps still run on the Windows 8, but it is a good opportunity to kick the tires on the new operating system.

I have already run into my first problem. It apparently is not a problem most of the world is going to hit, but the small percentage of people it might bother the most are important nonetheless.

The spare netbook runs at 1024×600 resolution. Not a great form factor for an 8 hour day, but it worked well as a Windows 7 machine for my wife. Also a perfect travel machine for trips where you might want to connect to email or an occasional Web search. The process of upgrading from Win 7 Ultimate to the Win 8 Consumer Preview was a little slow, but a painless experience. I blame the slowness on the Atom processor and low memory config, not the update process.

The first thing I did was click on a Metro tile and get presented with the message of not being able to run in this low resolution. In fact every tile specific to Windows 8 gives me the same message. During the install it warned about not being able to run the Windows Store, but I figured I could live without the experience on this box for this pass at testing the OS.

Just to let you know, the OS is working fine on the netbook. It runs Office on the desktop just peachy. IE10 works too in classic mode. I can read all the tiles on the Start screen. I can work with the OS through the charms and settings. So the Metro UI partially works. But when I click on things like Weather and People and just about everything else on the Start screen I get the message that the resolution is just too small to run the app.

Metro requires 1024×768 or higher. This wipes out the netbook form factor or platform for Windows 8. Maybe Microsoft thinks it is dead, and this might be true. I am not sure this is the case, but it definitely wipes out any potential upgrade revenue, and if people install it and get the experience I am getting they are going to be support trouble for the Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS).

But it got me thinking. I have developed apps for 800×600 for some of our customers because of visually handicapped people. I know one person who has a family member that has macular degeneration and runs to a 24” or 30” monitor at 800×600 to see the screen. It is ugly, ugly for you and me. He literally will not be able to run Windows 8 Metro UI and see it. That seems bizarre to me considering the UI works on something as small as a Windows 7 Phone.

I don’t see the point where Microsoft cannot make the tiles scroll or adjust to the 800×600 screen. Windows 7 Phone scrolls. Scrolling is not hard and for visually impaired people, it is an acceptable tradeoff to run the latest and greatest. I am sure the engineers have considered this, but I am just not grasping why this would be a design decision and limitation.

Another question I have is the tablet market. Obviously Apple upped the ante with the Retina display, but there is still room for 7” tablet platform. If my netbook is a 10” what is the 7” platform going to run at resolution wise.

One other question I have is the colors of the tiles. I have not spent a lot of time poking around, but can the tile colors be customized? I saw the theme selection, but I thought that was just the background color. Again, I played with the OS for about an hour on Sunday so I am not sure. Red tiles are going to be a problem for 10% of the male population with red/green color blindness.

Note: If you want to understand Microsoft’s side of this discussion, check out their Building Windows 8 Blog on this topic. This blog entry is well written and well thought out and covers a lot of interesting material. However, I point to one particular reason sited several times:

“We chose a minimum screen resolution of 1024×768 in order to make it as simple as possible for developers to create great apps that work on all the different screens that are available now and in the future.”

This is hogwash. Developers can easily build metro apps that run on scrollable screens. Don’t put this on the developers. Developers don’t need “easy”, users need usable, regardless of the computer or their physical ability to use the computer.

And don’t even get me started on scrapping the Start button. Argh. This easily will slow the adoption of Windows 8 in businesses. Change the core way people access shortcuts to their apps. Especially after introducing the search box on the start button in recent versions of Windows. This is easily the  biggest bad design decision of Windows 8. I am hoping people will scream loudly and this gets added back in before release.

One of these days I will be invited to the usability labs at Microsoft, but until then I will be happy to provide feedback through my contacts at Microsoft (some of whom actually listen), via the Windows 8 blog in the comments, and this blog.

Anyone else enjoying the Windows 8 experience so far?