Microsoft’s next CEO needs to consider these 10 changes

BY AL HILWA

BY AL HILWA

Steve Ballmer announcing his intent to leave Microsoft was unexpected and potentially a watershed moment for the company and also for the industry. The shift of a major tech company from founder-class management is a big deal any day, and it is a bigger deal when the company is of the scale of an $80 billion run-rate. Yes, Ballmer is not technically a founder, but as employee number 30, brought in by his founder best-friend at a very early stage, it is a technical distinction.

While Microsoft’s stature and overall industry relevance have been eroded by the shift to mobile, it is unfair to argue that Ballmer’s tenure has not been a success, at least by the numbers. An analysis using data from the Fortune 500 public website shows that, during the period he ran Microsoft, Ballmer is third only to Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and GE’s Jeff Immelt in the dollar-volume of company profits he has delivered.

chart2[Editor's Note: Chart corrected since original post]

But profits are not everything and many of Microsoft’s problems, like those of most for-profit businesses, can be attributed to decisions made to maximize profit at the expense of customer loyalty or adoration — a quality Microsoft now finds itself craving and coveting as it has entered the devices space in competition with its arch-rival Apple.

Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2013. (Microsoft Photo).

Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2013. (Microsoft Photo).

The Ballmer CEO era should be understood as a natural extension of the Bill Gates era and indeed it is hard to disentangle the impact of technology decisions made by the two CEOs. The famous delays in Vista — which Ballmer claims as his biggest failure — are fundamentally the result of decisions around Longhorn which represent the company’s grandest failed over-reach. Longhorn was decidedly Bill Gates’s technical vision, who was the Chief Software Architect at the time. Business books will analyze the Microsoft “founder era” for years to come, but to my thinking, the company has been caught in a classic Innovator’s Dilemma, where its success during one era precluded decisions that were essential for its success in a new era. In other words, there is an element of inevitability to some of its failures as no company can be at the top of the market forever.

This does not mean the company cannot make course changes and shift the trajectory of its relevance in the industry, and indeed potentially become the top mobile device maker in the world. In fact, Microsoft has made some significant changes over the last four years, setting itself on a trajectory of success if it can execute and adjust rapidly enough as it goes. In the spirit of looking mostly forward, while glancing occasionally at the rear-view mirror, I propose ten technology decisions that Microsoft’s next leader should consider.

1. Ship Office for iPad and Android tablets

office_ipad_daily-4f43cfe-intro

A past spy shot of an alleged beta of Office on the iPad.

This is a decision that has to be made soon. The Office franchise is exposed to erosion as non-Windows mobile devices take productivity work away from Windows PCs and mobile devices. Microsoft has always thought of integration of applications and platforms as a sacred right and fought for it hard in the DOJ case, but it has to rethink its vision of the dominance of Windows in the mobile world and adjust to the reality that it will be at best one of several major players in future devices and will never have the control it did in the pre-touch era. Supporting non-Windows tablets full bore will maximize Microsoft’s paths of eventual success.

2. Pick either Windows Phone 8 or Windows RT to fight the mobile ARM-chip OS battle

Microsoft is in a strange situation with its mobile strategy as this big proponent of focus, synergy and efficiency finds itself with two different operating systems in the mobile space being pitted against iOS and Android. True they now have a converged kernel, but they have two different application models and user interaction models that are not insignificant to converge. The Windows Phone team moved faster than the Windows team to adjust to a new mobile world, and that explains the situation to some degree, but Microsoft should have taken the opportunity with the Windows Phone 7.5 to Windows 8 transition to align with Windows RT. It is better late than never, and at the expense of another ecosystem disrupting transition, this has to be done soon.

3. Invest in evolving the Windows 8 Desktop application model to recognize that sit-down personal computing remains a sizeable and profitable long-term franchise

moviemaker

Microsoft ad promoting Movie Maker touch support in Windows 8

There is no doubt that future growth in devices will be around phone and tablet touch form-factors. It can be argued that PC sales of the last ten years were heavily bolstered by lack of alternative form-factors to the traditional clamshell PC for basic digital connectivity (e.g. Skype, YouTube, Photography, etc.) Today these workloads are dominated by $150 to $300 touch devices. Nevertheless, a sizeable market remains around sit-down professional computing which puts a premium on larger screens and a console-like productivity experience. This is basically what the Windows Desktop was designed to do and does well.

Microsoft’s recent focus on touch has come at the expense of too much doubt that the Desktop is about to go away, sending shudders of anxiety in its traditional user base and paralyzing them from potentially investing in replacing their PCs. More investment in desktop will provide a base of support for higher-priced PCs, which can be a sizeable and profitable market for a long time to come, even as cheaper devices dominate the growth of casual computing.

4. Ship a $99 ‘Xbox Light’ for entertainment, mobile casting and casual living-room gaming

Until recently, Microsoft’s experiment with Xbox could be seen as one of its best turn-around stories and a genuine success. However, traditional console gaming is giving way to casual gaming, and devices in the living room, including smarter TVs, are proliferating and growing. The current plan to compete at $499 will all but stifle any possibility of a mass market materializing for casual gaming built on Xbox technology. Microsoft needs to find ways of integrating its mobile technology and ecosystem with a broader presence in the living room. This can only be achieved by playing with the price elasticity curve.

surface5. Share the Surface brand serially with multiple OEMs to make exciting new hardware on a quarterly basis

“Devices and Services” sounds great on paper, but trying to follow Apple with a head-on confrontation may be too late and can hurt ($900 million of hurt in write-offs for unsold Surface RT machines). Just as importantly, there is no easy way to negotiate the OEM ecosystem, which was instrumental to Microsoft’s PC success, by competing with it half-heartedly. Most importantly, Microsoft needs to build credibility and know-how in devices slowly and deliberately. For this, a strategy of serially partnering to use its highly promoted Surface brand with other manufacturers may speed ideas to market and defray the self-hurt and the ecosystem hurt.

6.  Provide a Bing search engine which does not store personally traceable data

Microsoft has tried everything in Search and may be close to making some hard and difficult decisions on future investments. Bing is a solid alternative to Google Search but continues to play catch-up to Google’s well-monetized R&D agenda in the space. Out-of-the-box thinking is required here, and we are seeing signs of it with Bing by noting the recent offering to schools of advertising-free search. Given the developing anxiety users are feeling these days about surveillance, Microsoft should consider upping the ante and offering data-retention-free search services to consumers that are difficult for governmental bodies to surveil. This may compromise certain lines of advertising products, but might be a lead service to bring in users who might then opt to share more for added services.

Windows81PreviewSta_01_Page

Windows 8.1 is due on Oct. 17, just shy of a year from Windows 8′s debut.

7.  Move R&D in the company to a 12-month major release cycle and 6-month or 3-month minor release cycles

Changing how software R&D is done is hard and Microsoft indeed has begun to tackle this. Shipping Windows 8.1 with some significant changes in a one year cycle is an example. The reality is that software evolution needs to move faster still if the company is to catch up or keep up with its competitors. Big-wave software releases with multi-year R&D cycles are not just a sign of self-indulgent development processes, they are a symptom of software whose primary competitors are prior releases of the same software. In the more competitive world Microsoft finds itself in today, the harsh disciple of schedule-driven software update cycles, including for major new features, is essential for success. If there is not enough time to introduce innovation in this time-frame, a parallel team should to be dispatched to incur whatever time and cost needed to re-architect the software so that appropriate evolution can fit into the release-cycle schedule. The era of devices and services in today’s high-velocity business environment demands nothing less.

8. Embrace open source software (OSS) for big products, starting with key developer technologies such as Visual Studio.

Microsoft has been fearful of IP pollution and other considerations of OSS even as it has dabbled with it byreleasing small projects here and there. In fact, the extensive use of OSS inside of Microsoft products could help move the technology cycle-time faster. In various flavors and degrees, OSS has been proven as a business model and as an approach for continuously managing some of the largest software projects in the world (e.g. Linux). Microsoft’s battles with OSS over the years have precipitated considerable developer aversion and even hate which has not been helpful in the broader adoption of Microsoft technologies. Just as seriously, it has isolated Microsoft from great talent in the industry and stymied its ability to see new trends in the market and interpret them because of lack of such talent. Fostering the love of developers, especially those of other platform ecosystems, may be one of Microsoft’s key tools for future growth in relevance and consequently its own platform’s adoption. As open source software continues to grow, Microsoft’s leaders and legal team have to come to terms with better leveraging it to shift Microsoft’s image and its agility and effectiveness to compete in the new world. Moving technologies such as the IDE to an OSS model may be just the right injection of love into its developer ecosystem.

linuxtux9. Embrace Linux as a first-class citizen operating system

While similar in impact to broader OSS adoption, embracing Linux can potentially bring more than goodwill. When Windows NT was being put together in the 1990′s, server computing was dominated by expensive, big-iron Unix machines. Microsoft correctly saw the trajectory of x86 servers as the slam-dunk to future dominance of server computing with Windows NT. But Linux happened, and Microsoft spent a great deal of time and money, and executive hair-line, on fighting it in high profile marketing battles. Linux did not go away. While Microsoft has achieved a great deal of success on the server side, Linux dominates web workloads and remains a chronic threat to be managed for Microsoft. Linux powers large Internet companies and some of Microsoft’s most formidable competitors like Amazon and Google. Microsoft’s aversion to Linux has not only cost it enterprise adoption of technologies like SQL Server, but also complicated the infrastructure strategy and human-resource aspects of acquiring companies like Yahoo!. To be sure this is something that appears to be changing as Azure has embraced Linux distributions already. In the age of cloud computing, the SLA (Service-Level-Agreement) is an equalizer of underlying technologies. Still, supporting Linux will avail Microsoft of a considerable body of know-how in the industry and drive the company to work together with the industry, and not against it.  Embracing Linux more whole-heartedly by porting other server applications to it might translate into more enterprise adoption of such offerings.

… and, the 10th technology decision a new Microsoft leader should consider 

Windows_7

Ah, the good old days.

10. Bring back the traditional desktop Start menu so that Windows 8 feels like a comfortable transition from Windows 7

On an R&D complexity scale, this is a trivial move that can yield a great deal of Windows 8 new adoption bang for relatively little bucks. Aside from the many users who are befuddled by the lack of the original Start Menu, there is the problem of PC OEMs, such as most recently Lenovo, who are by-passing Microsoft’s user-experience vision by including a Start Menu substitute.

Many years of market dominance have created a sense of entitlement inside Microsoft, leading it to occasionally follow approaches to force adoption of new capabilities by removing the old ones cold-turkey. While this may be effective for a dominant player, this approach can backfire in a competitive market when there are alternatives. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft brings back a Start Button which will continue to throw the user in the tile-mode of Windows, requiring the learning a trick or two to get back out into the traditional Desktop. A more competitive Microsoft would view user comfort and stability of user experience across software releases as a marketing and positioning value-proposition to be leveraged, instead of a strategic obstacle to the direction of its vision.

Al Hilwa is an industry analyst at research firm IDC specializing in application development research. Mr. Hilwa has written columns for various tech publications and is widely quoted in the media, including the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio. Mr. Hilwa joined IDC in 2007 after seven years at Microsoft where he held various positions as product manager and strategist in the Server & Tools division. Prior to Microsoft, Mr. Hilwa was an industry analyst at Gartner and, prior to that worked in various IT roles in various industries. Mr. Hilwa holds an MS degree in Computer Science and a BA degree in Mathematics and Computer Studies.

  • Tyler Zoom

    agreed

  • http://www.joshuamaher.com/ Joshua Maher

    Just an FYI… Office is available on iOS & Android. I’m also not sure I’ve ever heard of an R&D department “shipping” anything – they are R&D not product teams.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Hi Josh —

      Key on the first point is iOS and Android *tablets*. Microsoft ships Office for iOS and Android smartphones, but not iPad or Android tablets.

      Microsoft actually defines R&D broadly, and most of that budget (which totaled >$10B in FY13) is development, the people who do ship things.

      • http://www.joshuamaher.com/ Joshua Maher

        Good points Todd!
        Definitely agree on the tablet vs. phone issue.
        I also agree if you are speaking of R&D as it is accounted for in GAAP – although when looking at it from that standpoint shipping does seem to be happening very rapidly (looking at cloud offerings such as Azure, Office 365, CRM, etc.)

  • guest

    xbox light was part of the plan internally, but so far has not seen the light of day. not entirely clear what happened w/ this. perhaps some of you mgs folks can shed some light on this?

  • skunky pete

    Okay so #9 was clearly a joke – so what’s the real 10th item?

  • Guest

    #1-3 are things they’re already doing or widely reported to be working on. #4 seems like a great way to lose even more money on the hardware end of gaming. And not sure why you consider an investment with a negative return over thirteen years a “genuine success”? #5 doesn’t seem very workable, at least with traditional OEMs. Most can’t compete in the price points being driven by Google and Amazon, and for those who still think they can, most are opting for Android to try and benefit from its momentum. #6 At best a tactic, not a strategy or particularly “out of the box” idea. #7 I guess you really mean product groups, not R&D per se, and they’re already moving to that, as evidenced by W8.1 #8 Don’t disagree, except perhaps the part about OSS proving its business model. #9 This seems like a personal agenda more than an actual point. They’re supporting it on the Server, which for now is where it makes most sense to do so. If you’d said make Android a first class OS, that would have made more sense to me. But hard to do when they believe – not w/o good reason – that it’s a patent infringement nightmare. #10 Agree with the first part. Disagree strongly with the second. MS has generally erred on the side of supporting backward compatibility to their detriment. Apple would have been a much better example of someone who tends to cut things off and say “too bad, move forward”. Removal of the start menu was a relatively rare exception of MS trying to force a change. In fact one of the reasons it probably backfired so badly is because Windows customers are so used to relying on that compatibility commitment.

  • BG

    If they added the start menu back, the Modern UI wouldn’t be used and it wouldn’t be a transition at all.

    • Brett Turner

      So the only way to get people use Metro is to force them?

    • Katarina G. Carpenter

      You’re saying it as thought it were a bad thing.

      • Guest

        In many ways it is. If Windows doesn’t evolve to handle modern apps that are fully sandboxed, touch enabled, easy to install and update, light on batteries, etc, then the platform is eventually a dead end. The current implementation leaves a lot to be desired, and there’s been a death of apps which take any real advantage of it and showcase what’s possible. But those can be addressed, whereas sticking with W32 and ignoring mobile/touch reality wasn’t much of a long term option.

        • Guest

          death > dearth

        • Katarina G. Carpenter

          The thing is on a desktop PC, considreations like touch and battery life are irrelevant. In fact, they are not considerations at all.
          My problem with the modern interface (if it’s still called that), is that it’s terrible for a desktop PC, regardless of whteher you have a touch screen or not. In fact, I’m willing to say it’s worse if you have a touch screen, as you’d have your arm(s) raised and moving for considerable periods. If that doesn’t give you massive muscle and tendon pains, you’re lucky to have inherited an unusual genome.
          And yes, I’ve tried the Win8.1 preview on a desktop PC. And yes, for several days. The only way I can use it for more than a few minutes without getting an overpowering feeling to throw the PC out the window, is to use a start menu replacement, and to disable all the hot corners.
          If MS decides not to develop the desktop, or desktop software, any more, I’ll have to switch to an OS which does. I’m eyeing Linux.

          • bartdog

            Somebody call a waaaaahmbulance

          • Katarina G. Carpenter

            Why? Did you miss your ride?

          • bartdog

            Ni, to put your broken arms in a cast. Seriously, if workers switch en masse to full size touch screens for desktop computing, the whole workstation would be reengineered to accomodate the change.

          • Michael Destefanis

            The problem is it actually is not ergonomically sound or faster in terms of productivity to reach out to your screen which if you’re using proper ergonomics, you will be extending your arm to near full extension just to touch the screen. With tablets and phones, this is not the case and why they are generally just fine when it comes to a touch interface. The desktop really is a different beast and to be blunt, I love new technology to bits but there are things that just flat out do not need drastic changes to. Now it’s absolutely fine to provide it as an option and not the sole one, but by your own argument you are suggesting that the majority submit to the minority because they like the shiny tiles on the screen.

            See the things, the industry doesn’t need touch screens for desktop computing. Kiosks and mobile computing? Yup..they benefit greatly from it. But in overall desktop use? No real practical need for it. I mean take your network admins for example. You know how much work they STILL do in command prompt because it’s just..flat out faster than navigating the gui? As a matter of fact, some critical tasks flat out require you to use the command prompt as well. It’s just the way it works out.

            What’s actually amusing to see is the number of people that get so passionate about someone dare suggesting that their start tiles are not the only options to the point where they seem to freak out as if we’re suggesting that MS do away with them entirely. But then those in favor of it tend to admit that the technology likely won’t be adopted if it’s not forced. The irony is… that would just prove there is no real need for the change and all it is… is just a prettier, fancy way of accessing the programs on your system while trying to crop full desktop programs into dumbed down apps. Anyone with experience developing on Windows should be able to develop the program to take advantage of both UIs. This is part of growing in a world that demands options.

          • Katarina G. Carpenter

            The modern interface it’s inherently unproductive, given the way I work at least. That’s why I will dump Windows if MS chooses not to develop the desktop any longer (I’m eying Linux). Add touch to the mix and it gets worse.

            But yes, it all comes down to Microsoft trying to force everyone into the new interface, which is a consequence of the mistaken premise that PCs and tablets are the same thing.

          • Michael Destefanis

            Exactly. Then you get these people who use it at home and are praising it to no end including how it’s forced. I mean it’s fine if they are okay with the metro interface are clearly more into it for the bells and whistles aspect rather than the productivity aspect. I love bells and whistles myself but a full screen menu of “tiles” should be optional on a desktop system, not mandatory. The frustrating part is that providing that option is not exactly rocket science. They know that if given a normal start menu, like Kinect, Metro won’t be widely adopted given there are far more desktops than Windows based tablets out there. But yeah as it stands I’ll grind with Windows 7 for as long as possible for my Windows needs while I’ll follow suit with my former employer, Amazon, and start switching everything to Linux. Apparently (not confirmed info because I didn’t get much time with our IT guy on the subject) the license we had would have required us to upgrade our systems to Windows 8 so that was a big.. no.. as well as saving around 10 million a year in licensing, particularly with Linux being free.

          • Katarina G. Carpenter

            When I first learned there’d be no start menu in Windows 8, my first thought was “no one in their right mind would remove it.”

            Anyway, I’ve been working with Start8 in the preview for a few days and it’s mostly ok. It’s finest virtue is that it lets you do everything you want without having ever to see any part of modern.

            Seriously, Microsoft could easily put the start menu back, with or without improvements, and leave the modern interface as an alternative for those, few, users who want compatibility with their Windows tablets.

            Today I tried using a Surface demo machine at the local office supply store. It works reasonably well as a tablet, albeit a very expensive one. I tried the desktop, too, and it as a nightmare.

            So, dear Microsoft: Tablets are not PCs and PCs are not tablets. Each needs a different OS. Keep them combined if you must (for some inscrutable reason), but separate them for use.

          • Michael Destefanis

            Oh snap! That was a good comeback!

    • Michael Destefanis

      Problem is when you’re talking about a user base of millions upon millions of PC users, you generally don’t want to force on a start menu that’s nothing but a bunch of tiles. ;) In all actually, they aren’t practical for desktop use beyond eye candy on desktop systems. Especially ones without a touch interface of sorts.

      The thing is, you do what your customers need, not what you want to do. That’s how business works. You find a customer need and you fill it. That’s it. The tiles can be coded in as an option quite easily and give the power to the customer to decide what he/she wants as far as their shell experience goes. Yes the end result will likely show that most people are just fine with the original start menu and do not need the new tiles based one for their desktops, but like me who strongly oppose it the only option in Windows 8 period… I’ll be the first one to praise it on a tablet computer, particularly ones where a stylus is not really being used all that much. It’s also beneficial for the smaller 10″ screen compared to what most use on their desktops. So there is a definite place and use for it, just not on my desktop system.

      Also, a modern UI is dark with light text instead of white background on black text. Much easier on the eyes, especially when using computers all day. I suspect this is why they put the option in Visual Studio 2012. But why not Windows 8…who knows. On top of their “modern” UI, they’ve turned everything flat and very much 2 dimensional and annoyingly bright. Office 2013 is just yeah not very fun to sit down and work in all day, that’s for sure.

  • MaritaT

    My 2 cents. Please don’t change Skype too much. I heard about another product just yesterday that my friends overseas are using instead.

  • Alexander D.

    Haha! You shouldn’t have to list 9 things to ask for the Start button to come back. Aspecially Bing and R&D are the monkeys on the back. Microsoft needs to get rid of these asap. The new CEO has to think radically – and I mean it. The new guy has to be able to look into the cyrstall ball and see the next 10-15 years, change everything accordingly. Even “Services & Devices” company is just a dull reaction to the defacto failures as of TODAY not the possible future.
    Acknowledge the mistakes, execute radical changes and move on. I wanna know about Windows10 not 8.2.

    • Guest

      He didn’t. Get rid of R&D? Are you actually serious? Bing I can see. MSR maybe. R&D entirely? Not even remotely plausible. See the next 10-15 years? Again, are you serious? Even the most visionary ppl in the industry have a hard time getting past 3-5.

      • Alexander D.

        Sorry my bad; meant to say MSR not R&D in general. It was 1977 or so when Bill Gates dreamed about computers for every desk – how farsighted was that? Now it evolved into a “a computer for every pocket” and we have Google Glass, soon Samsung and Apple watches will be floating around. For some they are just technology masturbation on the wallet maybe true in some degree but these are also early products of the future human machine interaction – other than fingers touching, typing, rolling, swiping, ckicking etc. Kinect is greatly positioned to blow away things in a different direction but where outside of Xbox? Where is Microsoft’s speech recognition? We all joke around Siri but it does a fairly good Job compared what Windows Phone 8 can do today. when I say “see into next 10-15 years” I mean someone to define the future and drive the industry with innovative products. But not just with colorful slides and shiny buzzwords; something people can really relate to speculate about and use (with hands, eyes, voice etc).

        • Guest

          MSR is about 1/10 of the overall. So even if you kill it the saving is relatively minor. And you lose some pretty smart people who just might be the ones to come up with that brilliant next thing given the chance. Only now they’ll be doing that for your competitors. Remember, MSR doesn’t currently have a mandate to ship product. So in fairness to them, maybe they haven’t been able to show us what they’re capable of. Yes, a PC on every desk and in every home was an unbelievable farsighted vision. Can you name five others that were similarly broad, long dated, and ended up being correct? I didn’t think so. Neither can I. It’s exceedingly hard. And the industry is moving much faster today, which makes it tougher still. Any decent analysis of MS over the past thirteen years would reveal that the main issue isn’t lack of vision but execution. Vision in great, but if you can’t deliver against it then it ultimately doesn’t matter. Similarly, you don’t necessarily have to have the vision if you execute brilliantly. You can enter the portable music player, smartphone, and tablets market years after others and still win big, for example.

  • Kee

    oh come one! Really?! R&D changing will totally ruin how research is done. It will only be focused on applied research, whereas no fundamental one will be present. IBM does fundamental, that contributes awesomely to the whole electronics and physics. Same with MS. If we move R&D into fast-paced cycled (while Research means hypothesis => experiment => hypothesis is wrong / theory is created. Meaning there could be no results at all, except some stats.

    • Guest

      Why should struggling companies like IBM, or more recently MS, continue to do the heavy lifting on theoretical research while competitors who are eating their lunch take advantage of that output and only invest in applied R&D? Seems like what economists call a free-rider problem. And since it’s entirely discretionary for IBM or MS, it doesn’t seem like a particular wise investment to continue making.

  • Michael Destefanis

    Agreed. When I was working at Amazon they actually begun removing Windows from our workstations there and switched to Linux. Since at the time transition was still a new thing for the company, each team had access to 1 Windows 7 based workstation with MS Office since the Office alternative didn’t work out so well for certain projects. Apparently the move from Windows alone, not counting office, is saving the company something like 10 million a year. Plus the license agreement apparently requires that the systems are upgraded to Windows 8 and that I think was the last straw on that one.

    They do need to bring back a traditional start menu. The tile mode is great on a tablet or someone who doesn’t mind smudging up their touchscreen monitor with fingerprints. It’s like their Kinect…. instead of providing options, they’ll just force a requirement on you with the next version if it’s not adopted. I mean with the start menu, we’re talking about mere software; something this company built it’s roots and reputation on. It should have been zero issue to simply provide an option for the person to choose which default start system they want such as tiles or classic and then simply program a hotkey such as ALT+START to use the other one in a pinch.The tiles are fun, totally. But I keep a lot of things open on my system and I do not waste space on the taskbar for the list of programs I pin down to my start menu. Plus the search bar built in it has come in handy more than once and it’s just.. all there and relatively fast.

    That being said, I was surprised they even took away the start button in the first place given it’s focus is for touchscreens. When I tried out Windows 8 it was a bit of a pain to tap the proper part of the screen to bring up the start menu. I resorted to the button instead. The touch area for the start menu on the screen was just flat out too small. The normal start orb found on Windows 7 would have made more sense to keep around. You would think with 8.1 they would have included the option for a normal start menu.

    Also, MS’s visual design has gone flat; literally. GUI elements are just bright and boring and has not caught up with the modern UI which is a dark gray with light text. They implemented this in Visual Studio 2012 so coding you aren’t starting at a ton of actual white space for hours on end. Much easier on the eyes. I was surprised they did not do this for Office products though. Word and Excel would greatly benefit from a dark UI with light text in my opinion. And it’s just options they would need to provide, not one or the other. That’s the frustrating part about all this.

  • clibou

    11. Provide ISV developers with same tools as Microsoft’s internal Office 360 developers.

    Despite great work from Scott Guthrie the ASP.NET stack is fading due to a Gates/ Ballmer era corporate strategy of pulling Windows stack licence sales through at the cost of equipping ISV developers of modern business apps with ability to scale horizontally (as well as vertically). As an example the Office 360 tools used internally to reduce latency in inherent in iframes geared for Windows development are not available to external developers. Resulting in startups and now increasingly corporate developers adopting other stacks for browser or mobile as a first class experience.