Originally Posted by jragosta
I think that the entire industry is facing a major problem - there's no longer the impetus to upgrade anything (either hardware or software) that there was a decade or two ago.
Hardware has become blazingly fast. For the average user (leaving out a very tiny number of scientists, graphics professionals, etc), even the cheapest hardware you can buy today is more than fast enough. More to the point, your 3 year old computer is probably still more than fast enough. I remember back in the 90s when after a year or two of software upgrades, you NEEDED a faster computer just to get your work done. That's no longer the case. My 6 year old MacBook Pro does everything I want it to with only modest delays.
On the OS side, there's no compelling reason, either. Windows 3.1 sucked and millions of people stood in line for Window 95. Windows 95 sucked (but not as badly as 3.1), so people were eager to upgrade to Windows 97. Then XP, and so on. But the fact that almost half of the users are still using XP supports my thesis - they have a system that's good enough and don't see any compelling reason to upgrade. (this is, of course, combined with the fact that upgrades on Windows computers can often be problematic).
Non-OS software? There have been very few innovations in the past decade. It's all about adding more features and more bloat (and, fortunately, the computers are more than fast enough to handle it, so it doesn't hurt much). Be honest-when was the last time you used a feature in Word or Excel that wasn't present in Office 97?
In the end, purchase cycles are going to drag out. People will buy new computers when they absolutely need to (old computer broke or kids going away to college and need a computer) rather than feeling compelled by their needs exceeding the capability of their old computer. Until someone creates a new paradigm, that doesn't change.
There is some hope:
1. Apple's market share has been increasing rapidly. That suggests that if people see a reason to spend money on computers, they will do so. Apple has managed to create the message in people's minds that their life will be better if they add an Apple computer to their life. if someone can create a compelling vision, the market will respond.
2. Microsoft apparently recognizes that simply 'more features, more bloat, etc) won't cut it any more. Whether Windows 8 will catch on or not, Microsoft took a chance. They have apparently decided that the entire UI needs to change to create a compelling need for people to buy. I think the premise is correct - they need to create a compelling need for change. I do not think Metro is the right way to go, but I could be wrong.
3. As computers have gotten faster and more powerful and software more bloated, we're still left with a significant number of people who are baffled by computers. If you had asked me 15 years ago, I would have predicted that by this time, almost everyone would be comfortable with computers, but that's not the case. My mother wouldn't let us buy her a new computer because she was afraid that something would change and it had taken her years to learn how to simply do email and writing books on the computer. She's not a stupid lady - it's just that some people adapt to change faster than others. I know people in their 40s and 50s who are still scared to death of computers - even though they've had them almost their entire career. One person in particular is hopeless-I'm constantly being asked to help with even the simplest things. it is entirely possible that Microsoft is right and that a Fisher-Price interface will appeal to a significant number of people.
In the end, it's all about creating a compelling need for people to upgrade and I'm just not seeing it. I don't think it's a coincidence that PC sales are falling. While the iPad might account for some of that, I think the above reasons are at least as important.
I believe the feature-creep bloat applies to others in addition to Microsoft -- Adobe comes to mind. I never used any Autodesk or Avid desktop applications. But, Adobe, Avid and Autodesk, at least, have attempted to release subset apps for iPad and iPhone -- testing the waters or keeping some skin in the game.
If the primary goals of the post-pc era are:
- instant on availability
- low hardware requirements -- power/battery, RAM, SSD, GPU, CPU...
Secondary goals might be:
- interoperability with full legacy documents
- accessibility to those documents (cloud)
- portability of changes to documents from the pc era and the post-pc era devices
It appears to me that we should be more concerned with the documents and data that we create and maintain -- than with the applications and apps we use to do so.
Using Office and iWork as an example, the applications/apps can be used to create simple documents that are quite compatible and can be moved with ease among OS platforms and pc-era and post-pc devices.
Where we seem to get into trouble, is when we create more [overly?] complex documents that depend on features only present in this application (pc-era) or app (post-pc era). When we add this complexity we ale defeating the goals, and limiting the portability of our documents.
Microsoft has already proven that Full Office/Full Windows is unworkable on the tablet form factor... and I suspect they will reinforce this proof [in spades] in the 2012-2013 timeframe -- with release of Windows 8, Windows RT, Surface RT, Surface Pro, Office 2013 RT, Office 2013 Pro.
What's the answer?
It certainly won't be found by dragging all the warts [pun intended] and legacy baggage from the pc-era computers into the post-pc era devices... Though that would suit Microsoft just fine -- hence that's what they are trying to perpetuate.
Lat's take a different perspective -- let's look at the documents -- the work-product of the pc-era applications. Consider MS Word on Windows 7 -- a known entity. If you [could] analyze the documents that are created with Word, they, likely, could be classified as (these are my arbitraries * -- you define whatever suits you):
- Simple -- letters, notes, lists, etc
- Intermediate -- brocheres, outlines, charts, tables
- Complex -- formal letters, forms, simple publications
- Specialty -- books, theses, papers, business forms, markup, bids
Now (since this my post) I will assign some arbitrary * percentages to the types of documents created by Word users:
- 45% Simple -- letters, notes, lists, etc
- 30% Intermeduate -- brocheres, pictures outlines, charts, tables
- 15% Complex -- formal letters, forms, reports, simple publications
- 10% Specialty -- books, magazines, theses, papers, business forms, markup, bids
* Likely, MS has this information or could survey Word users to gather it
Now that we have this information, we could make some useful observations, like:
- 75% of Word documents are Simple or Intermediate
- 25% of Word documents are Complex or Specialty
Knowing this, we could analyze the components/features in Word and assign them to the various groupings:
- 75% Simple or Intermediate
- 25% Complex or Specialty
- 45% Simple
- 30% Intermeduate
- 15% Complex
- 10% Specialty
Similarly, we could go through the Word UI, menu by menu, drop-down by drop-down, control by control... and assign them to various groupings... we certainly know where markup and bibliographies fit.
OK, having done all that, it would seem to be a valid approach to take a machete and start hacking away at the Office code and UI elements to deliver a product that satisfies both the advantages and limitations of post-pc devices and will handle 75% of the Word documents.
"deliver a product that satisfies both the advantages and limitations of post-pc devices and will handle 75% of the Word documents."
A worthwhile goal? Microsoft isn't [couldn't or wouldn't] going to do that... likely for reasons: political, financial, difficulty, propriety, practicality...
We can all understand the reasons why not:
- it will reduce the importance of my product/division vis-a-vis other products/divisions
- satisfying 75% of the documents is not satisfying 75% of the users (maybe more or less)
- if one important customer needs a feature...
- having birthed a feature, it's like killing or disowning your own child
- it will cost too much
- it will reduce the perceived value of the product
- it will reduce income
- it wil help the competition
So what's to be done?
Here's what I'd do:
- Build an end-all mondo document that uses all the features in Word (a pretty big undertaking, in itself)
- Assign all the various components of the mondo document to one or more groups (Mmm... Word or other Office applications may be great tools for this)
- Rather than take a machete to hack up the Word code and UI -- use a surgeons scalpel, instead -- separating components (code and UI) but keeping them intact as self-contained modules
- Define the mondo Word document and circumscribe/encapsulate each component (outline, chart, bibliography, etc.)
- Identify which components you want to [realistically can] provide on post-pc devices through 2013-2014
Now here's the interesting part -- set some rules.
- A Word application or app should not be a single core (RAM-load Menu Display)
- Rather it should be a grouping of modularized [code and UI] components that are designed to specialize in various word features (charts, outlines, etc.)
- Word, whether on the desktop or a tablet/phone must recognize every mondo Word document component.
- The New Word (application and app, alike) need not be capable of handling every mondo Word document component.
- New Word will identify, to the user, components of documents it cannot handle -- with, say, a gray box instead of the content
- New Word will do no harm to components of documents it cannot handle -- it will ignore them and/or pass them through untouched
So, we have the possibility of a post-pc device being able to handle any New Word document -- it is just limited in what components can be displayed in detail and changed.
As needed, and as post-pc devices evolve (more power, RAM, SSD, etc.) additional modules can be added -- but they will be loaded as used... You probably don't need to see a bibliography while you are working on a chart...
On the desktop, with adequate resources, the various modules will be loaded as used or preloaded by user settings or defaults... Kind of a RAM disk. New Word will have all the power at your fingertips -- it will just be easier to use, as menus features that apply to what you are currently doing will come to the forefront.
That's what I'd do!
Can Microsoft do it? Will they?