Hmm, there’s a song playing from this Xbox Music app — but how do you pause it?

Before my family started using our new Microsoft Surface tablet, we spent a little time going over the navigation techniques — basically, if you’re lost or wondering what to do, swipe in from one of the edges and something helpful should happen.

Swipe from the top or bottom to bring up the controls.

But one experience this week illustrated the learning curve that the new device requires users to climb.

As many of you know, this whole thing started when I convinced my wife to divert our iPad budget to one of the new Microsoft Surface tablets running Windows 8 (technically, Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 for ARM processors). In large part I’m treating it as a test, to see whether the Microsoft device can satisfy our needs for a tablet around the house, and live up to our expectations for the iPad.

The outcome of this experiment has been delayed somewhat by the fact that I’ve been taking the Surface to work (more on that in a future post), but I did leave the device with my wife for one full day earlier this week. When I got home, I asked how it went.  There was a long pause, because she knew why I was asking. (She has been reading these posts.)

Here’s what happened. My wife had been listening to songs in the Xbox Music app — a very cool service similar to Spotify that comes free with Windows 8 machines. She got a call on her phone, and went to Xbox Music to pause what was playing.

But there are exactly zero visual cues on the screen indicating how to control the track — until you remember to swipe from the top or bottom of the screen. (For keyboard and mouse users, it’s a right-click.) In the moment, with the call coming in, she wasn’t able to remember how to activate the controls. To put it in technical terms, the user interface was non-obvious.

Yes, this becomes more natural over time, but the situation speaks to the adjustment that new Windows 8 users will have to make as they use the new operating system — not just in Xbox Music on the Surface, but across all new apps on Windows 8 machines. The bootup experience offers a brief animated tutorial, but after that you’re pretty much on your own.

Here’s my question: Why not just put the controls on the screen by default?

Previously on GeekWire

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  • MNF83

    Well, we could compare this situation to anything iOS. Who would know instinctively to double click the home button to pull up the play controls?

    • SilverSee

      Agree 100%. But this is the penalty Microsoft is paying for being late to the market with something that is distinctively different. Microsoft has a different perspective on what a tablet should be (which I find compelling), but they will fight an uphill battle in a category that has been defined in a particular way.

    • toddysm

      Actually iPod shows the controls when you tap on the screen. In defence of Surface it is an app issue and not an OS one. If it was me I would replicate the iPod behavior which is more natural.

  • Kudakwashe Nyangoni

    Microsoft may have took the “content before chrome” theory a bit too far.

    • james

      on a 10″ screen their is no such thing ^^;;;

  • Guest

    On the touch cover, you’ll find a key with a right-pointing equilateral triangle and a pair of vertical rectangles. This is your “play/pause button.” Pressing it once pauses audio. Pressing it again will resume audio.

    • Todd Bishop

      Funny. Thanks for the “insight.” We’ve been using it around the house without the touch cover, as a pure tablet.

      • Chris Pirillo

        Silly rabbit. You need the “optional” $100 accessory to turn a poor user experience into a less-poor user experience. Duh.

        • Guest

          I tested the Surface for the first time last night. It’s apparent that this is not meant as a pure tablet. The keyboard is a must, ESPECIALLY once you enter Excel or Word. I found myself getting stuck and resorting to the keyboard again and again. And even then it was just a “less-poor user experience”, as you say. Very confusing overall. And one thing I noticed is that the scrolling and two-finger zooming was sluggish on many occasions; in direct comparison to the iPad there was a noticeable difference. And touch in Word or Excel was hardly usable, the keyboard and mouse pad again were the savior, but even then not quite en par with a real laptop.

          • uxo22

            @Guest – I don’t understand, how is the keyboard and mouse a must in a touch environment? Were you actually caught in a situation where you were stuck and had to use the physical keyboard or mousepad because the onscreen keyboard was not viable?

            Also, what was confusing about using excel that was caused by Surface? (your ipad) So you’re saying that using a word/excel equivalent on your ipad was seemless and you didn’t even need a keyboard or mouse? (never mind the mouse you can’t use one on the ipad, at least not that I know of)

            Perhaps it’s just me, but for some reason I have a feeling you’re just trolling.

          • Guest

            Why is reporting an honest but slightly disappointed impression considered trolling? I don’t own an iPad, so I can’t tell you what using word/excel equivalents is like there. I just tested the Surface with an open mind, some features were better than I expected, others were not so hot. I also had the chance to compare this to an iPad. The Surface is meant to be used with a keyboard, even the format gives that away, where panorama view just makes more sense. In word/excel many GUI items were so small that the OS often didn’t recognize the items that I attempted to press. Not only did I miss opening the right folders, but the response was sluggish. Try for yourself if you don’t believe me. So instead of forcing touch to do what I wanted, I resorted to using the attached keyboard and mouse pad. Without it the experience would have been somewhat frustrating. Also, try to zoom in and out on both iPad and Surface side-by-side and you WILL notice a difference. The iPad is just smoother in scrolling and two-finger zooming. So when I wanted to zoom into the Excel table I found myself using the mouse and slider again, to avoid a poor experience. Hence “less-poor”. Why is this considered trolling and “MS Surface is super awesome and will crush the competition” is generally approved? You guys seem to be unable of accepting any form of criticism.

          • GG002

            There’s an obvious reason why the Surface’s Touch Cover has been so touted. It’s meant for productivity use in Office, but for all the rest, you should be completely fine with only the touchscreen, because that’s what Modern UI was made for (Office less so). It’s funny though that you’re complaining about the need for a touch cover, while others are concerned about poor usability WITH keyboard and mouse.

          • Guest

            True, I’m just wondering if I wouldn’t prefer to use Office on a regular laptop. I just don’t see any advantage in using Office on a tablet. Office is a great product and I use it frequently. Using it on the Surface seemed like a step backwards in many ways. Office 2013 felt like a far inferior version of Office 2010 on a real computer. In both, appearance and usability (small screen etc). So why wouldn’t I get a traditional laptop for real work? And for most other tasks a much cheaper Android tablet would totally suffice. I don’t get what problem the Surface RT solves? It’s too weak to entirely replace a laptop or desktop, and for light media consumption it’s too expensive and slightly awkward.

          • uxo22

            As I said earlier, say what you want. You’re just a troll. The worst type of troll. (the type that logs in as a guest to hide his troll membership.)

            After your first comment, I had a co-worker to bring in his surface. I couldn’t duplicate anything that you said. I did notice a little lag in some games, but non in excel or word (nothing to be alarmed by) and also noticed that they both worked great if not flawlessly.

            But, unlike you, I used touch mode in office 2013.

            You do know surface RT is suppose to be the competitor for said Android/iPad tablet yet you’re comparing it to a laptop. Let me guess, because it has a keyboard and mousepad? That’s called an added benefit. This is my last comment to you Mr. Guest as I’ve learned from past experience not to feed the troll too much because they’ll never go away.
            I still don’t believe you’ve even tried Surface, you are rehashing things you’ve heard/read in troll class and now you’ve graduated, and are out practicing your craft. Have a good day.

          • Guest

            Just not eager to sign up everywhere, that’s all. But if I signed up as say uxo22 that would be so much less anonymous, right. Call me what you want, I stated my honest opinion about an honest 1 hour test at MS store in University Village. Then I walked over to the Apple store across the street and briefly compared my fresh impressions to the iPad for maybe 5 minutes (as I don’t own an iPad either). So if I even remotely disagree with a fanboy community I naturally must be a troll. Oh well, I’m nevertheless not impressed with the Surface RT, regardless of what you insult me with. Your inability to process criticism well is your loss, not mine. Now have a good day yourself sir.

          • skruis

            I would say that if you’re a heavy mobile typist that the laptop or at least a tablet with a keyboard dock instead of a flexible touch keyboard would be the better option regardless. Products like the iPad and even Surface are capable of fulfilling lots of roles well but not always as good or better than devices specifically focused on serving particular needs such as typing and using Office. It ‘can’ be done on Surface and done better than most other tablets but to try and compare that to using Office on a laptop isn’t really the intent of the device…despite what marketers might tell you.

          • SilverSee

            In fact, Office 2013 has a “touch mode” that makes it easier to drive when on a pure touch device; perhaps you did not enable this?

          • Guest

            I honestly don’t know, I used a Surface RT device at the MS store (black w/ pink keyboard). Maybe that would have made my impression more favorable.

        • Headski

          I find this a very strange argument, Chris. To purchase an iPad, with a cover ($39) and a keyboard ($69) it costs more and these things are also considered “optional”. Still even with these items you do not get Office on the iPad. In your video review (Locker Gnome) you said the Office experience was “horrible” but I have been using it for months without a keyboard and have found it very good indeed. (BTW, I teach Office to the faculty and staff at a University so I feel I have a decent experience level to make that observation) I have no stake in any of this because I have to use all of these devices and like them, and hate them all. NONE OF THEM are perfect. You like the iPad, we get that. I think it is a shame that someone of your stature in the tech world would stoop to criticize a new device. If I recall the first iPad had its rough edges and very few apps. Let the Surface grow, encourage innovation rather than stompping on it. Or are you becoming like the very people you criticize in your videos all the time that post negative comments because your view differs from theirs? I must confess I am surprised and disappointed by you.

          • Chris Pirillo

            You seem to value function over form. I value form along with function.
            We have different needs, expectations, and experiences. Had Surface not been a turd for me (as well as countless others), perhaps I would have sprung for an “optional” keyboard to help make sense of this RT mess.
            iOS has been a largely pleasant experience. I expect the iPad mini to meet expectations and am therefore willing to invest more to protect it.
            “Overpriced” is relative.

            But why am I justifying my purchases to YOU?!

          • Headski

            I don’t know? Why are you? I don’t care how you spend you money, never said I did. I value stuff that works for me and fills a need. You seem to value the same. Why not talk about that stuff rather than trashing something else to make your point?
            I never mentioned price as an issue. I did not mention a keyboard in my comment…I don’t have one. In addition, I think that your buying an iPad is great! I am glad you found someting you like. Why not talk about why you like it. I am just saying, can’t we all grow up a bit and quit slinging poop at everything that does not fit our view. Let us like what we like and we will let you like what you like.
            Look an entire comment where I did not trash even one product that you like! See, it can be done.

          • Chris Pirillo

            There you go. :) Different priorities.

            Case closed.

          • Headski

            Thanks bro. I knew you could do it. :)

          • Victor Hartmann

            Just to clarify, you are saying that you have been using Office for months on a Surface or on some other device?

          • Headski

            For real? Whay ask a question you know the answer to? Ofcourse, no…not on a surface. As you know the Surface was just released. I have been using it on an old EXOPC. Chris’ coments on his LOCKERGNOME site were that Office us “unuseable” without a keyboard. The EXOPC does not have a keyboard option and I find Office very usable. If you read my post you will find that my comments were not about the Surface but instead about his judgement of Office. The only office avaiable on Windoes 8 has been the Home and Studnet edition. Sorry for the confusion…if there really was any.

          • Victor Hartmann

            Ah, I see. I was supposed to know that you were using an EXOPC or whatever even though you never actually said what you were using and the whole discussion, including your comment, was focusing on the iPad and the Surface. Clearly my fault. I have now gotten real.

            “I think it is a shame that someone of your stature in the tech world would stoop to criticize a new device.”

            Meanwhile, no one can criticize the Surface. iPad, sure. And you can criticize people and be condescending. But the Surface can’t be criticized. By people who do critical analysis. Got it.

            Yup. Making great sense there. I’m sure the faculty and staff find you a joy to work with. Oops. I’m being critical and condescending. Sorry. Not allowed. Got it.

          • Headski

            I never said you can’t criticize the Surface. Feel free. Nor did I ever criticize the iPad. I happen to like the iPad. I was simply challenging the assertion that Office on the Surface is “unusable” without a keyboard. I feel that opinion is melodramitic, alarmist, and above Chris Prillo. It seems and emotional outburst rather than “critical analysis”.

            I am sorry that you feel I was being critical of Chris. I was not. I respect his opinion. However, I feel it is important to be less emtional when in the position of having the ear of thousands if not millions in the tech world as he does. My appeal is for jornalistic integritiy.

            You on the other hand, seems content to not contribute at all to the discussion and are more focused on personal attacks. If that floats you boat…have at it. I will live. :)

          • Victor Hartmann

            My good sir, it’s all there in your post. Spin it as you like, you said it: “I think it is a shame that someone of your stature in the tech world would stoop to criticize a new device.” Seems much more like you are attempting to smother criticism of the Surface

            In regards to “personal attacks”, I applied the the same manner of condescension towards you as you had applied to Chris and me. If that is a personal attack then that is what you have been doing to others. Cloaking yourself like a wounded Caesar with “My appeal is for journalistic integrity” doesn’t change that. If you consider condescension and criticism personal attacks, then don’t indulge in it yourself.

            In regards to my contribution, that should be obvious. I exposed your implication that according to you, your experience applied directly to the Surface: “I have been using it for months without a keyboard and have found it very good indeed. (BTW, I teach Office to the faculty and staff at a University so I feel I have a decent experience level to make that observation) ”

            When questioned, you were defensive and condescending because apparently, you were basing your assertions on a completely different device which you failed to name, thereby allowing readers to draw the conclusion that your judgement should be applied to the Surface.

            I’m sure it is discomforting to be caught out but doubling down with another attempt to misdirect doesn’t win you points.

            But if you would like a few things to think about specific to the the Surface, here they are:

            1. The kickstand is ridiculous. Point to a laptop which uses a kickstand. There aren’t any. Why? Because it’s a bad idea. Particularly in this unadjustable incarnation. Laptops use hinges because they are adjustable.

            2. Chris is quite right that the keyboard with it’s little track pad is necessary because many of the legacy parts of the OS and Office are more difficult to navigate by touch. Maybe not impossible but certainly more difficult. There shouldn’t even be a legacy version of Office on any tablet. There should be a fully touch capable version, otherwise, why bother putting it on a touch based device when Office works just fine on even tiny laptops? Well not really. Tiny screen sizes are quite limiting for moderate to larger projects.

            3. The keyboard. $100+ charged to the user but costs $18 for Microsoft to build. OK. They aren’t the first or last to overcharge for goods. Phone adapters cost nickels to build and $20-$30 to buy. So, they can charge whatever the buyer will tolerate. Unfortunately, a common complaint is that the keyboard doesn’t provide the support necessary to actually use it on your lap like you can with a laptop. So, the Surface is aptly named because it is limited to the surface of a piece of furniture.

            There is no need for me to cover the lag and bugs in the OS and apps as those have been well documented in every review by every major tech writer who discusses the software. The only reviews which were mostly favorable were the two that I read that avoided the software issues by saying (quoting loosely) “this is not an Windows RT review so we won’t discuss the OS or the applications installed.” Which I found rather silly considering the whole point of having the hardware is to use the software.

            Kind of like your article from tomshardware (who are these guys and why are they supposed to be more of an authority than anyone else?). Lots of fun and geeky little tests but little discussion about actually using it. They were willing to both praise and criticize the Surface so full credit to them for that but they happily brought up advantages (has 32 GB while same priced iPad sans keyboard has only 16!) without mentioning their limitations (but almost half of the Surface’s 32 GBs are taken up by preloaded OS and software). Or that it takes SD cards but fails to mention that (according to “Expandable storage is a wonderful thing, but its implementation can sometimes leave something to be desired. Take Windows 8, for instance — its photo, movie and music apps leverage Windows libraries to access users’media collections, but won’t allow users to include removable storage in the app-accessed party of indexed folders.” Perhaps they hadn’t had enough time with the Surface to discover these simple yet present limitations. Then again, they proudly state that they have one of the few apps in the Surface’s Microsoft store, so they may not be entirely objective and neutral in their observations.

            There, that gives you some contributions to ponder. Huzzah!

          • Headski

            NIce. :)

          • Victor Hartmann

            Still going for the misdirect. Three times in a row (actually there are others in your posts but we’re not discussing those right now).

            But since you seem to desire insight from someone important, a major player in the industry, how about the head of the PC business for one of Microsoft’s biggest, long standing partners: Todd Bradley from HP?

            From Business Insider:

            “What does the head of HP’s PC business, Todd Bradley, think about Microsoft’s first PC?

            So not impressed.

            He had some pretty sharp things to say about the Surface to Citeworld’s Matt Rosoff, insisting that the press has “made a bigger deal out of Surface” than it deserves.

            “I’d hardly call Surface competition,” Bradley told Rosoff. “One, very limited distribution. It tends to be slow and a little kludgy as you use it …. It’s expensive.”


            Granted, Microsoft has chosen to compete directly with their “partner” HP, so he may not be totally unbiased. But hopefully Microsoft and Apple are listening.

            And while they are listening, I will add that Microsoft competing with its “partners” instead of sticking with the much more profitable software sales was a needless, strategic mistake. A vanity project. Now Microsoft has to carry the burden of the lower margin hardware business while impairing the potential sales of their “partners”. For what? To see their own logo on the lid. They would have done far better giving the blueprints to their partners and let them improve it, build it, and sell it. Diving into hardware brings unnecessary risks for Microsoft. Somehow, Ballmer forgot the formula that had made Microsoft successful.

            But why read and respond to my comments? I’m just another guy on the internet. The only difference between me and the next guy is that many of my predictions (Zune and the failure of Plays for Sure, the XBox bringing about the end of the PC gaming era – thereby eliminating the demand for high end gaming PCs and hurting PC makers’ profits – MMOs never reached the previous levels of hardware demand, the failure of Web OS, the failure of the Nokia alliance, the popularity of the iPhone iPad and Android, the failure of Xoom and RIM’s Playbook, the decline of PCs, the rise of Apple – of course who couldn’t have figured that one out after observing the iPod and iPhone, the failure of Ping, the fall of RIM, the ravenous profit losses of Bing, the continued reign of Ballmer, etcetera) were proven correct over time. I’ve missed some. I really expected Microsoft’s share price to have reached higher ever since Windows 7 was released but sometimes Wall Street’s logic eludes me. And the loss of Sinofsky was a bolt out of the blue. I honestly thought he was the heir apparent and right man for the job. Apparently I didn’t take Ballmer’s determination to stay the course at the cost of his most successful and effective lieutenant fully into account.

            But sure, ignore me. Marginalize my comments. They’re still out there tacked onto long forgotten articles and the majority have proven correct over time. Unfortunately, playing stocks is not one of my strong points. I just hold onto a few major ones (including Apple and Microsoft, hence my constant reading). But a real stock guy could have made some good profits off those predictions.

          • Headski

            You are right I am a fool to have ever challenged you.

            You are so impressed with yourself that there is not room for anyone else. Clearly something is “ridiculous” because you say it is, and only you truely know what should and should not be on a tablet computer. Your hubris is the most outstanding thing I see in your comments. Here is the best question you asked in any of your posts: “But why read and respond to my comments?” Good point, I will stop now since there is nothing of substance in what you are saying, only shallow self adulation and emotional dribble.

            However, I guess this comment is me making some clever misdirect from the subject that we are actually talking about but only you truely understand. It has been nice sparring with you but I have grown tired of your dizzying logic.

            Your second best comment was: “But sure, ignore me.” OK, I will.

          • Victor Hartmann

            Misdirection yes, clever no. And what discussion? You asked for contributions on the subject and I gave you dozens on a variety of topics. To which you misdirect away from actually discussing technology (to which you have contributed nothing at all) towards little personal comments. If that’s what you prefer, then I’m sure there are dozens of articles, comments sections, and discussion boards to help you. This, however, being the comments section of an article about technology, should primarily deal with . . . technology.

            And on that subject, I will add earlier comments from FT Wang, chairman and chief executive of Acer pertaining to Microsoft’s (then) planned launch of the Surface tablet. Keep in mind that these comments were made back in early August.


            “JT Wang, chairman and chief executive of Acer, said Microsoft’s plans to launch its own “Surface” tablet in October – in direct competition with his company’s Iconia or Lenovo’s IdeaPad tablets would be “negative for the worldwide ecosystem” in computing.

            “We have said [to Microsoft] think it over,” he told the Financial Times. “Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice.”


            What is remarkable about these rather outspoken comments is less that they have any criticism of the Surface specifically and much more that they were spoken at all. Over the last two decades I cannot think of a PC partner who publicly spoke out against Microsoft. It just wasn’t done. Is there any clearer sign that Microsoft’s “partners” are unhappy with the direction Microsoft is taking than for two of its major partners (of which HP was the largest in the US and worldwide until very recently Lenovo knocked them down a peg globally according to reports) openly and publicly attacking Microsoft’s flagship hardware device? Or at least flagship until the Intel version of Surface arrives, about which they are likely to be even more unhappy about.

            So, yes, hopefully Microsoft is listening. It’s easy to brush off information which doesn’t agree with a predetermined mind set. But much more worth while to really dig in and try to understand it.

            Don’t worry though, I won’t take it personally if you do not respond, I wouldn’t want you to break your promise.

          • Headski

            If you would like to see what “critical analysis” looks like please look here:,3346.html
            Now that is a helpful, objective, rational, and balanced post.

            Take care, Victor.

      • uxo22

        “Here’s my question: Why not just put the controls on the screen by default?”
        Todd, I’m sure if the controls were on the screen, some poor fellow would be asking why are these controls always on the screen. Although I think it would have been nice had they given and option.
        Pretty soon, these things will be second nature for your wife.

  • Guest

    How do you know when to swipe from the left, right, bottom, or top?

    • Jason Farris

      play with it for 15 seconds?

      • Guest

        I played with it for an hour or so. I also watched others in the store. It’s really not that intuitive. On one occasion I even ended up in two different settings, one from swiping from right in metro, the other from within ‘desktop’ mode. It was like having two personalities in one device. After an hour I felt a little more comfortable using it, but I also felt a “Metro”-fatigue (the start menu, the app store, New York Times app and pretty much everything else looked just the same – tiles upon tiles).

        • SilverSee

          Most of the time, “intuitive” is what becomes familiar with use.

        • james

          I have a problem, I will agree its not intuitive at first. ITs is So different from normal Microsoft menu-ing its not intuitive, but having used if for a few months now it feels very very natural, and easy to use dare I say Microsoft’s wording “fast and fluid”. I now instinctually do command so much that I even try them on my non touch laptop, or other tablets …

    • GG002

      How do you know double tapping home screen button? How do you know long-pressing it? How do you know pinch-to-zoom? How do you know Alt+F4?
      Your argument is moot.

      • Guest

        Sensitive much?

      • dsp4

        You know Alt-F4 because it’s right there in every program’s system menu. The others are all Apple secret (and completely unintuitive) shortcuts.

    • Nathan O

      The first time you start your tablet it provides a 2 minute intro video that walks you through these gestures. I guess Todd’s wife wasn’t around when this video played

    • skruis

      Well, they all perform different functions so it’s not like they’re swapped out per app. From the left multitasks, from the right gives you static options with some contextual information, from the top all the way down to the bottom forcefully closes an app and from the bottom up triggers the app options.

  • er3s

    The ironic part: the YouTube app doesn’t hide the playback controls, I think they knew unless they were on the screen most new users would never find them

    • skruis

      Yep, it’s an app to app issue rather than a system issue.

  • Sally Ritter

    I have been a Mac user since 2004 and have an iPhone and iPad. I bought a Surface this weekend and it is by far superior to the Mac and my iPad. For starters it does both (i use Mac Office).
    I browse the web several hours a day reading news etc. The Surface is an order of magnitude better that the Mac browser or Ipad browser. Here are a few ways why:
    – I like to listen to music while I browse. On the iPad – as soon as I hit a web page with an embedded video with sound, the iPad turns off my music. What I nuisance, I have to go back into the player and restart the song. And if I want to read the web page then I have to read in silence. This has always been a drag with iPad. Not so in Surface. Surface will play both and I just find the mute on the web page I am reading and done. No need to go back into the music player and hit play.
    – The next big thing I like about the Surface is the ability to make a tile on the start page from my Favorites web sites. This is so nice. When I power up – I touch the tile with my web site I want to see. In iPad / Mac you have to Open the browser then click the favorite link ( and click a link to Favorites in iPad). This alone is a good enough reason to use a Surface.
    If you use an iPad now to surf the web then the Surface is a big improvement.

    • Karlos

      @7becdf66e62ac74507edd560e2af254c:disqus : I’m following this diary out of interest but sally’s idea that the surface is better than a mac is absolutely laughable.

      Also sally if you want to access your music controls on the ipad, swipe up to open the tray then swipe right to access media controls, it’s not rocket science.

      • uxo22

        I agree, I find it difficult to even consider Surface being better than a MAC, that’s being a little to ambitious…lol As a matter of fact those two products shouldn’t even be placed in the same sentence in terms of comparison.
        I also agree that none of this is rocket science and that includes bringing up controls on Surface. All it takes is using the products a few times. No one automatically knows how to use all features of a product instantly.

      • skruis

        Yep, not comparable but to each their own.

    • TishTash

      It’s painfully obvious Sally has never used either a Mac or any iOS device

  • jre8362

    One relatively easy way: hit the hardware volume rocker on the left side of the device at least once and a panel appears in the upper left onscreen that you can pause / play from.

    • skruis

      Yep, this. It’s actually the best method to recall as it works regardless of what app you’re currently using…so you don’t have to switch back to music in order to pull up the app bar and ‘pause’.

  • SilverSee

    Todd, once discovered, the “edge UI” in Windows 8 is simple and works universally across apps. But as most Windows Phone users can tell you, discoverability is not necessarily a strength of Metro; it’s not even a primary goal of the design language, in fact.

    But if you bought a Surface at a Microsoft Store, they will have offered to sit down with you one on one and go through the features, which perhaps she did not get to do? In any case, some form of orientation is helpful since Metro is so different from other mobile platforms.

    • skruis

      It’s not very discoverable but once you learn where things are and how they function, it is easily remembered: perhaps because ‘how’ you found it was so shocking :-)
      The problem a lot of times is that with anything Microsoft, there’s 20 different ways to do any one thing. Case in point, controlling music playback: You can go to the Music app, swipe up/down, bring up the app bar and pause/play your track or you can tick the volume rocker and control it through the centralized playback functions.

  • Eddie Yasi

    Because we’re using many more smaller displays than we used to (especially phones or tablets), Microsoft went with the approach of maximizing screen area for app content, and hiding the most common controls until needed. So, all the stuff common to most apps (search, settings, share, previous, next, exit, etc.) are all tucked away until needed, rather than one or more of them being shown and consuming too much valued real-estate.

    The price you pay for that clean look is the first few moments of “huh?!?!” if you try to dive in without an overview, but I think they’re also imagining that the learning curve is done in a handful of days and then you’ll have months and/or years of using it, and they’ve made design choices that are friendlier for the 99.99% of your time you’ll spend using the device as an experienced user rather than a novice.

  • Jason Farris

    How do you control it? Start with your finger. Thumbs are also pretty good especially near the edges. :)

  • JimmyFal

    Valid concern, she’ll get used to it. Microsoft has quite a few glitches to work out here but it is a winning product with a lot of winning features. With both platforms, when something goes wrong, ( and that happens on BOTH), turn it off and turn it on. Whereas in the “old days” you would call the computer guy.
    It’s a win win for consumers all the way, no matter how you slice it. Just because Apple has had more time to iron things out doesn’t mean that Surface sucks. It’s awesome and it needs to iron some things out, thats all.
    I really wish that MS was able to price it about $200 cheaper, but then Acer would not have been the only one to get really ticked off. MS needs to gently push the OEM’s right out of the way and off to the side, they can’t do it all at once.

  • Portico Lover

    Microsoft’s philosophy with Modern apps is that the interface should fade away and all the screen space should be dedicated to the actual content of the application so that you could be immersed in it. Form over function.

  • markmackay

    The first thing I learned in design school – don’t add clutter. If it doesn’t need to be there then put it somewhere else so it appears only when it’s needed.

  • Jonathan

    I heard that Microsoft are considering bringing Microsoft Bob (or possibly Clippy the dancing paperclip) out of retirement to help users with the confusing interface.

    “Hello. Looks like you need some help with Surface. What would you like to do”?
    . Return device for a refund
    . Help with writing a suicide note

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