Microsoft, Power Users, Longhorn, and WinHEC
Now, I’ve been commenting a lot on Neowin, Scoble’s Blog comments, and other places about how this is a hardware engineering conference, and how the build of Longhorn that was distributed is meant only to provide those hardware engineers with what they need to start building drivers for Longhorn. A lot of people who have seen the screenshots of this build have complained that it “looks like Windows XP with a different theme.” To them I’ve said, things like “This build wasn’t meant to impress you.”
I stand by those comments, but Chris hit on another important issue. He’s not upset that WinHEC isn’t for users. He’s upset that there IS NO WinHEC for users (or Power Users, or users enthusiastic enough to care that they’re being ignored).
I think he’s right.
And what’s more, I think Microsoft made a mistake at WinHEC. The build they handed out to hardware engineers was everything it needed to be, so that’s not the problem. No, the problem is the build they showed up on the screen. The problem is that the on-screen demonstrations had little or nothing to do with hardware engineering and driver development. They showed what the Start menu looks like in the current build. They showed how Desktop Search is implemented in the pre-beta. They showed some interface enhancements for Windows Explorer and a few neat ideas like the shortcut lists – and also some hints at a very good tag-based Virtual Folder system for organizing your stuff. They even showed off some fairly lame transparency/transition effects.
But none of that had anything to do with hardware engineering. And when Windows enthusiasts everywhere (including, of all people, Paul Thurrott) express disappointment with the demonstration, you can’t say “Well it’s a Hardware Engineering Conference,” or “Well that’s not what it’s really going to look like when it’s done, that’s just what we have working right now.”
My response to that reasoning is simple: If this was really just for hardware engineers, don’t show us User Experience demonstrations. More importantly, if this isn’t what you expect it to look like when I actually get to use it, don’t even bother.
So what’s the answer to this problem?
Make a third Windows conference. Put it somewhere between WinHEC and PDC. Make this the place where you show off Windows to your fans and to the press, kind of like what happens at E3. Don’t put a demo up on a huge screen of the current build. Put up a well-made demo of what you currently expect the final version to look like. Hell it could be a Flash demo for all I care; it doesn’t even have to be interactive. Although, the more realistic the better. But include some real “Wow” factor. This would be the Windows team’s chance to be rock stars for a day (you know, like Steve Jobs is at every Apple event ever). I bet they’d have a blast.
Oh, and do yourselves a favor: Bring back that sick Alt+Tab animation you had in last year’s build of Longhorn. That alone impressed people more than anything you showed at WinHEC.