Posey's Tips & Tricks
What We Need from Windows 9: A Wish List
If Microsoft wants its next OS to be a success, it should look to what made Windows XP so popular.
A few short months from now, Microsoft is expected to announce Windows 9 at the Build conference. Many analysts are saying that Windows 9 is going to be a make or break release for Microsoft. While I cannot disagree with this idea, I do have a few thoughts on what Microsoft needs to do to make Windows 9 a successful release.
As a freelance technical writer, I tend to spend a lot of time reading technology related message boards. Based on my own personal observations, it seems that Windows XP is widely regarded as the best operating system that Microsoft ever made. In a way, that really strikes me as odd. Windows XP was plagued with security problems. I cannot even begin to tell you how many nights I have spent manually removing malware infections for friends and family members who were running Windows XP.
In spite of all of the security problems, there are three main things that people tend to point to when asked why Windows XP is so great. I think that Microsoft would be wise to strongly consider these three things as they prepare to bring Windows 9 to market.
First, Windows XP was easy to use. The user interface with simple to figure out. Unlike Windows 8, users weren't forced to switch back and forth between modes just to be able to perform basic tasks. Similarly, users were not forced to deal with challenges such as hidden icons or minimalistic menus. Everything in Windows XP was well organized and easy to find.
I have no doubt that Microsoft will take a long, hard look at the user interface in Windows 9. While I think it might be too late to completely abandon modern apps, Microsoft is going to have to come up with a way of allowing users to run modern apps and legacy applications through a common interface that does not require users to constantly switch back and forth between modes.
The second thing that people often point to with regard to why Windows XP was so great, was that security did not get in the way of doing things. Back in the day, users had full unrestricted access to their PCs and there was no User Access Control feature to get in the way of performing administrative tasks.
However, as I said in the beginning, Windows XP was a security nightmare. I think that in order for Windows 9 to be successful, Microsoft is going to have to make security work behind the scenes. In other words, good security is essential but the security features must not get in the user's way. Ideally, a casual user should not even realize that security features exist.
The third thing that people often point to when boasting about Windows XP's merits is that Windows XP is very fast and responsive, especially on modern hardware. I think that for Windows 9 to be successful, Microsoft will need to design it to be extremely responsive. Microsoft actually did a pretty good job of this in Windows 8. My Windows 8 laptop, for example, cold boots to the logon screen in less than ten seconds.
I think that in Windows 9, Microsoft needs to build a very minimalistic core operating system. Ideally, users should be able to use a simple interface (perhaps the Windows store) to turn features on and off on an as-needed basis. Today you can do this in Windows 8 through the Control Panel, but there are too many features that are enabled by default (thereby decreasing responsiveness) and the Control Panel option is difficult for novice users to find.
I think that if Microsoft does these three things then there is a good chance that Windows 9 will be remembered as a good operating system. However, there is at least one more thing that Microsoft needs to do.
When Windows 9 is eventually released, it must work flawlessly. Microsoft has got to get away from the game of releasing buggy software and fixing it later. Windows 9 has to work properly. The operating system must be solid when it is released, even if that means pushing back the release schedule.
I sincerely hope that the folks in Redmond will read this column and take it to heart. If Windows 9 is to be successful, it must be simple, intuitive, nonintrusive, responsive and, above all, it must be functional.
Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.