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Why Windows 8 Does The Right Thing The Wrong Way
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 00:05

Originally posted on my blog


Yesterday, I saw a superb presentation called "When The Consoles Die, What Comes Next?" by Ben Cousins. It demonstrates that mobile gaming is behaving as a disruptive technology, and is causing the same market decline in consoles that consoles themselves did to arcades in the 1990s. He also demonstrates how TV crushed cinema in a similar manner - we just don't think of it like that because we don't remember back when almost 60% of the population was going to the movie theaters on a weekly basis. Today, most people tend to go to the movie theater as a special occasion, so the theaters didn't completely die out, they just lost their market dominance. The role the movie theater played changed as new technology was introduced.

The game industry, and in fact the software industry as a whole, is in a similar situation. Due to the mass adoption of iPads and other tablets, we now have a mobile computing experience that is distinct from that of say, a console, or even a PC. Consequently, the role of consoles and PCs will shift in response to this new technology. However, while many people are eager to jump on the bandwagon (and it's a very lucrative bandwagon), we are already losing sight of what will happen to stabilize the market.

People who want to sound futuristic and smart are talking about the "Post-PC Era", which is a very inaccurate thing to say. PCs are clearly very useful for some tasks, and its unlikely that they will be entirely replaced by mobile computing, especially when screen real-estate is so important to development and productivity, and the difficulty of replicating an ergonomic keyboard. The underlying concept of a PC, in that you sit down at it, have a keyboard and mouse and a large screen to work at, is unlikely to change significantly. The mouse will probably be replaced by adaptive touch solutions and possibly gestures, and the screen might very well turn into a giant glass slab with OLEDs on it, or perhaps simply exist as the wall, but the underlying idea is not going anywhere. It will simply evolve.

Windows 8 is both a surprisingly prescient move on part of Microsoft, and also (not surprisingly) a horrible train wreck of an OS. The key concept that Microsoft correctly anticipated was the unification of operating systems. It is foolish to think that we will continue on with this brick wall separating tablet devices and PCs. The difference between tablets and PCs is simply one of both user interface and user experience. These are both managed by the highest layers of complexity in an operating system, such that it can simply adapt its presentation to suit whatever device it is currently on. It will have to once we introduce monitors the size of walls and OLED cards with embedded microchips. There will be such a ridiculous number of possible presentation mediums, that the idea of a presentation medium must be generalized such that a single operating system can operate on a stupendous range of devices.

This has important consequences for the future of software. Currently we seem to think that there should be "tablet versions" of software. This is silly and inconvenient. If you buy a piece of software, it should just work, no matter what you put it on. If it finds itself on a PC, it will analyze the screen size and behave appropriately. If its on a tablet, it will enable touch controls and reorganize the UI appropriately. More importantly, you shouldn't have to buy a version for each of your devices, because eventually there won't be anything other than a computer we carry around with us that plugs into terminals or interacts with small central servers at a company.

If someone buys a game I make, they own a copy of that game. That means they need to be able to get a copy of that game on all their devices without having to buy it 2 or 3 times. The act of buying the game should make it available to install on any interactive medium they want, and my game should simply adapt itself to whatever medium is being used to play it. The difference between PC and tablet will become blurred as they are reduced to simply being different modes of interaction, with the same underlying functionality.

This is what Microsoft is attempting to anticipate, by building an operating system that can work on both a normal computer and a tablet. They even introduce a Windows App Store, which is a crucial step towards allowing you to buy a program for both your PC and your tablet in a single purchase. Unfortunately, the train-wreck analogy is all too appropriate for describing the state of Windows 8. Rather than presenting an elegant, unified tablet and PC experience, they smash together two completely incompatible interfaces in an incoherent disaster. The transition is about as smooth as your head smashing against a brick wall. It does the right thing, the wrong way.

The game industry has yet to catch on to this, since one designs either a "PC game" or a "mobile game". When a game is released on a tablet, it's a special "mobile version". FL Studio has a special mobile version. There is no unification anywhere, and the two are treated as separate walled gardens. While this is currently an advantage during a time where tablets don't have the kind of power a PC does, it will quickly become a disadvantage. The convenience of having familiar interfaces on all your devices, with all of the same programs, will trump isolated functionality. There will always be games and programs more suited to consoles, or to PCs, or to tablets, but unless we stop thinking of these as separate devices, and instead one of many possible user experiences that we must adapt our creations to, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of history.

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These may be awesome ideas, but will they make the supply side any money?
Posted by MMOnologueguy March 15, 2012 0:16 - 5.5 years ago
| [#01]

There are better ways to make money than gauging your customers. Like say, reducing the cost of building a game by a factor of 10, giving you such an insane profit margin by any modern standard you can get away with whatever you want and still make a good profit.
Posted by blackhole March 15, 2012 0:23 - 5.5 years ago
| [#02]

I think they should fix some problems you've mentioned, but also make it optional to store applications in the background (like mobile devices).

I dont think consoles are dying though, I think they just went through an explosion of customers and now the popularity is just slowing. But I do think that developers better start getting their act together with some of their recent games >_>

But since consoles are built differently by different companies for different kinds of developing games is what they are at a "console war" over.
Posted by Alert Games March 15, 2012 1:25 - 5.5 years ago
| [#03]

I like that windows 8 starts up 50% faster (computers take awhile to turn on when you have 400GB filled with Porn Games
Posted by theattacka March 15, 2012 5:03 - 5.5 years ago
| [#04]

The title of this blog was shortened to "Why Windows 8 Does The Right Thing..." And I was about to be angry.
Posted by Extravisual March 15, 2012 5:46 - 5.5 years ago
| [#05]

EV: That's exactly what I saw, and I did get angry. XD

Rather than presenting an elegant, unified tablet and PC experience, they smash together two completely incompatible interfaces in an incoherent disaster. The transition is about as smooth as your head smashing against a brick wall. It does the right thing, the wrong way.

That's almost exactly what I thought too, when I saw some videos for Windows 8. I was so angry about it. >_<
I agree with most stuff in the post (and I had realized most of this on my own, and you summarized it nicely), and I think it's important that the OS and applications adapt to the screen, rather than behaving a single way.
Like the W8 "start" button launches a full screen application. That's friggin' retarded. I have a large resolution so that I can fit more on it, not so that I can only fit one thing on it. When I'm on my PC, I want my OS to operate like I'm on a desktop, not a tablet.
Posted by firestormx March 15, 2012 9:54 - 5.5 years ago
| [#06]

I hate the new Start menu with a passion.
Posted by Aistarin March 15, 2012 9:57 - 5.5 years ago
| [#07]

We should all "W8" for W9 to come out. lolol
Posted by firestormx March 15, 2012 9:59 - 5.5 years ago
| [#08]

I think what you're saying about Windows 8 being a trainwreck is totally dead-on, but don't listen to me because I haven't updated my computer since forever.

It would be great if we could have tablets and consoles communicate as one, so that we could just transfer our information and files (and games!) accordingly. But asking for this to happen is like asking for our fast food corporations to all merge together so that you can order a Big Mac and a Wendy's Frosty in one meal. Why it's an accurate analogy? The people creating this software and the game makers (I mean of Angry Birds and such) are all in control of their own small market, just as the Fast Food Industry is in charge of theirs. It'll take eons for their pride to dwindle down to something small enough that makes them realize that they need to change.

Take my home for example. We have a big old Dell home computer. We all own Sanza brand mp3s, my dad has an Android tablet and my mom has an iPad. That's 4 different companies, 4 different big men at chairs counting their money, 4 different mindsets. Asking for any of these to merge wont happen, at least not for a very long time.

edit: oh fsx, you so punny.
Posted by pounce4evur March 15, 2012 10:10 - 5.5 years ago
| [#09]

hi pounce.

*squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak *
Posted by Aistarin March 15, 2012 10:15 - 5.5 years ago
| [#10]

Ohai :D
Posted by pounce4evur March 15, 2012 10:16 - 5.5 years ago
| [#11]

*squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak *
Posted by Aistarin March 15, 2012 10:16 - 5.5 years ago
| [#12]

I tested out the consumer preview, it works okay- but....
I just got Windows 7 to work the way I want it to, I'm not changing unless I have to.
Posted by JuurianChi March 15, 2012 10:23 - 5.5 years ago
| [#13]

The real question you should be asking is whether or not the big men with money can stop me from making my programs work and synchronize on everything whether they like it or not.
Posted by blackhole March 15, 2012 14:02 - 5.5 years ago
| [#14]

I dunno, like if I can pirate it as well as I can pirate W7 then I might check it out.
Posted by Toast March 15, 2012 14:21 - 5.5 years ago
| [#15]

Quote: theattacka
I like that windows 8 starts up 50% faster (computers take awhile to turn on when you have 400GB filled with Porn

I fail to see how that slows down the loading of the OS significantly. Although you can of course educate me about this if you want. Do you store your porn in C:/WINDOWS/? Do you have your porn configured to start up when Windows loads?

Oh, and of course:

Not having your OS on a boot SSD and your porn on another HDD

Posted by Rob March 16, 2012 4:21 - 5.5 years ago
| [#16]

What I want to see is Microsoft releasing the source code for the Windows System Kernel, which will allow the Linux developers to add potentially native support/mappings for Win32/64 executables. Of course, Microsoft won't do it, because they're Microsoft.

*throws a bucket of black paint on the inside of the window*
What now?
Posted by Mega March 16, 2012 10:58 - 5.5 years ago
| [#17]

FSX, leave the puns to DesertFox.

And we all foresaw this. Seriously. Canadonian posted that image that went GOODBADGOODBADGOODBAD and Windows 8 was due for "BAD".

In other words, old news.
Posted by Kilin March 16, 2012 11:07 - 5.5 years ago
| [#18]

GOODSHITGOODSHITGOODSHIT and Windows 8 was due for "SHIT".

Posted by Mega March 16, 2012 11:08 - 5.5 years ago
| [#19]

*walks inside*

*squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak *
Posted by Aistarin March 16, 2012 13:56 - 5.5 years ago
| [#20]

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