Windows 7, a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes


Popular blogger’s Long Zheng and Jeff Atwood have disquisitions on inconsistencies in the user interface of Windows Vista which are quite frankly nothing but an embarrassment to whoever was responsible for the user interface for the operating system. I would hate to be the one in charge and have to look as this plethora of user interface inconsistencies. This is in stark contrast to the Office 2007 release, which is also a huge engineering feat and a huge chunk revenue stream-wise into MSFT so much so, you really wonder if Jensen Harris would not be better in charge of Windows 7.

The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a new operating system as far as Windows is concerned, only the old version with some additional features. It is this that’s the most disappointing thing about Vista, insofar as it taking so long to procure, but retaining profusely ostensible relics from XP and Windows 2000. This makes the assertion that “The WOW starts now” in Vista seem like a betrayal. Long and Jeff are fastidious – it’s part of their craft – but a great deal of users feel exactly the same. They may not be able to communicate their thoughts and dismay with such written eloquence, suffice to say their derision is just as effective.

If you are going to release a new version of Windows, especially one focused on differentiated UI, then you need to practice what you preach! I for one expect pretty much all that is in Vista, plus new things like touch-screen and device oriented features to be in Windows 7, but Microsoft need to do a complete overhaul of their legacy dialogue boxes. The sad thing is it’s not a major engineering feat and does not require too many resources, just attention to detail that’s all.

Even in Office 2007, the minute you go into the tools Options in Outlook,

OutlookOptions

you face what will be a ten year old dialogue box, by the time the next version of Office comes out. It surely cannot be that difficult to ensure that all the icons used here are consistent with the rest of the user interface. And the ugly gray form, why not improve it and use the same skinning as the main application? These are the final touches needed to give an application a feeling of newness, and something Microsoft proudly almost always get wrong. Look at the treeview in office

OldOutlookTreeView

and now compare it to the one in Vista

NewTreeView

If only the Windows, Office and Visual Studio teams could have communicated and say “hey, tree navigation structure is important in all these applications, lets unify them”.

The long-and-the-short-of-it is that you are lumbered with the old MFC treeview that must at least be a decade old. This is why a lot of people are reluctant to move to Vista, because a lot of the applications they use for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, are exactly the same on XP as they are on Vista. It makes no sense for a business to upgrade to Vista, especially as the nuts-and-bolts of their operations, usually lie in Office and proprietary software. No room for “The WOW starts now”, and absolutely no return on investment for retraining your IT department to support something that is the equivalent of The Emperors New Clothes.

2 thoughts on “Windows 7, a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes

  1. Pingback: The Death of Windows Forms - Part 2 « Castalian

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