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Windows Client Migration

Migrating Your Users to a Radically Different UI


As Aero gives way to Metro, it's time to figure out ways to familiarize end-users with new interface paradigms.

    I ran into Bill Gates back in 1984, coming out of a session at IBM’s introduction of its first 80386-based desktop computer, the IBM AT Model 339. 

    That session was about TopView, a character-based menu system from which users could launch applications without having to use the command-line “C-prompt” in DOS.  I asked Gates what he thought of this and how it compared to his soon-to-be-released “Windows” user interface (UI).

    Bill said that he and Microsoft weren’t concerned about TopView competing with Windows, because it was simply a character-based menu, whereas Windows was a completely graphical environment.  As he continued speaking for 45 minutes (glad we weren’t talking about something he WAS concerned about…), hundreds of other attendees gathered around us to listen.

    Introducing Windows

    When Windows was first introduced, it was a welcome and hotly anticipated change from the command-line prompt.  Most users were confused by the command-line and seldom knew exactly what to type into it, so being able to point and click at what you wanted was a huge leap, just as it had been at the introduction of the Apple Macintosh earlier in 1984, and its predecessor, the Apple LISA.

    Windows – chapter 2

    Windows, it its many incarnations from Windows 3.31 to Windows NT, became the standard user interface for a decade until the introduction of Windows 95.  With its new “Start” button and accompanying menus and taskbars, Windows 95 was greeted by most people as the most radical change in the Windows interface since version 1.  By this time, many people were frustrated with some of the clumsiness of the folder architecture in Windows, and they were ready for a change. The “new” Windows 95 was welcomed warmly.

    And now, here comes chapter 3

    Windows 8 will bring the third major incarnation of the Windows UI.  We’ve already reported in this blog on the “reset” or “refresh” upgrade capabilities, but in this post, we’re going to focus on the user migration.

    Many analysts have observed that Windows 8 does not seem to be designed for desktop computers, or even laptops, for that matter.  They see it as being ideal for use on a touch-screen tablet.  Users, of course, will likely reverse-engineer this by obtaining a Windows 8 tablet and then adding an after-market keyboard, as many iPad users have done.

    It may be that the iPad and its competitors will end up having paved the way for users to become comfortable with Windows 8 touch-tablets very quickly.  But for many users, not having a desktop is inconceivable.

     

    The Metro User Interface

    Anyone who attends Microsoft events will have noticed by now that every PowerPoint presentation is produced using a “Metro-motif.”  Everything comes up in tiles.  Just as “drop-down menus,” “mouse-pointer,” and the enigmatic “icons” were all new to users in 1984, tiles and screen-swipes will be the new round of conventions for us to master.

    Microsoft often points to the Metro interface on the Windows Phone 7, and clearly, this is a strategy that will help to unify the two platforms.  But what is now called the “Metro” interface began life as the interface for the ill-fated and basically unsuccessful “Zune” portable entertainment device. 

    On a touch screen, the user will be able to pinch, squeeze, slide, rotate, swipe, and otherwise manipulate tiles to show information.  Tiles will give display some initial data, like widgets. It has been reported that the design specification for devices planning to use the Metro interface must provide at least five finger-points of contact, so expect some pretty esoteric gestures to be available.

    Planning your user migration

    Windows 8 is scheduled for beta release this month, so you should consider how to prepare users for the migration to this radically new user interface.  You may want to let users experiment with Windows Phone 7 or perhaps even Zunes.  Larger shops may be able to obtain and implement the Windows 8 beta for select pilot users. 

    No matter what your strategy, the time to start planning is now.

     



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