What if Microsoft Opened the Interface Environment for Windows 8?

by Sam Dean - Sep. 08, 2011Comments (11)

In recent years, Microsoft has steadily become friendlier toward open source and more open standards, although the company still draws criticism for not going far enough in the open direction. This fall, the company is expected to start beta testing Windows 8 - the next major release of its operating system. Could the company benefit from opening up the desktop interface for Windows? There are calls for that to happen, and it could make a lot of sense for Microsoft.

Many OStatic readers are Linux users, and are very familiar with using various desktop environments that don't necessarily come standard with this or that Linux distribution. This is a form of freedom that many Linux users embrace, but it has never been Microsoft's way to encourage use of desktop interfaces that differ from the standardized ones it delivers in its versions of the Windows operating system.

Ironically, in the early days of Windows, when there were countless companies making what was dubbed "utility software," you could easily and fluidly run other environments on top of Windows. Slowly but surely, though, Microsoft incorporated the utilities that these companies made into Windows itself, and most of these companies went away.

With Windows 7, Microsoft pursued a much wider and more open beta testing cycle than it ever had before. Part of the reason for that was the disaster that Windows Vista was, and Vista was not as thoroughly and openly beta tested as Windows 7.

There are those calling for a much higher level of desktop interface openness for Windows 8. For example, PCMag's John Dvorak writes:

"With Windows 8, apparently you will be offered two options. The system will boot to the Windows 8 new GUI or you can go back and operate under a Windows 7 shell. How about this: You can do both and/or you can boot under a third party GUI. Heck, some people may design their own. Applying a modified license that would let Microsoft use any of the third party features in a future release could easily be done,  adding incredible versatility to the interface."

Indeed, a healthy ecosystem of third-party desktop interfaces and environments for Windows might introduce a new level of flexibility that enterprises and consumers alike would embrace. Developers of interfaces and environments might work as the open source community does, introducing new desktop concepts that could benefit Microsoft as well as users.

On this front, Dvorak adds this: "Microsoft’s terrible not-invented-here policy regarding ideas like this may affect the interface and thus affect the way the OS works. Its old-fashioned attitude will kill the company in the long run. By embracing alien ideas—developed for free, mind you—actual new ideas can emerge. Users would enjoy the ability to jump from interface to interface the way you can jump from desktop to desktop."

Don't expect Microsoft to immediately embrace this idea. It does run counter to how the company has approached user interaction with the Windows OS. But Microsoft could look to Linux, and the flexibility with which Linux distress distros allow users to choose their interface environments, for guidance. It would be a new chapter for the folks in Redmond - a much more open one.

Khürt Williams uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


"and the flexibility with which Linux distress allow users to choose their interface environments, for guidance."

Linux Distros perhaps?? I suppose some people are distressed by the outlandish variety of choice in the free software world.

0 Votes

Corrected, thanks.

0 Votes

The opportunities that arise, when there is choice under the hood, allow specialized distributors to customize the user interface to particular user needs and requirements. It is not something the average users will necessarily exploit by themselves without expert help, but it is still beneficial to them.

Of course, if one does not differentiate communication to specialized distributors and service providers, on the one side, from communication to average users on the other side -- like is often the case in the linux world -- average users may become "distressed" by the "outlandish variety of choice" that there is, in the options under the hood.

Therefore, the average user is not necessarily against choice, but he will tend to look for someone to mold the choices available, into a "concept" that suits his particular needs.

0 Votes

I think the "Linux Distress" guy has the right reason explaining why this is a dumb idea.

Normal users don't want choice, choice just means nothing ever works right, with each new choice, the combination of possible errors just increases beyond all control until nothing works properly and it's all a complete mess of intertwining configurations, dependencies, etc. They just want something that looks good, allows them to configure the basics and it'll run with all the software they want.

Geeks on the other hand want to touch and twiddle with every value, change the colours, the fonts, the spacing between elements, the animations, button icons, EV-ERY-THING!!

Thats why the linux desktop is an absolute shambles. I use linux all the time, so I'm not a mac fanboi or windows fanatic, I love how linux gives me all the software I could ever want built in and by the people who love to build this kind of stuff.

But I have to admit, there are a few parts of linux which make me want to put them all in a big room and beat them with sticks...This "customisation" nonsense is one of them.

0 Votes

Or, Microsoft could go the way of Linux (only not as open) and simply provide the kernel upon which everything is built. They could still have their canned Windows system, but open development for the all kinds of software utilities. They could choose the best of the bunch, bundle them together, and offer it as Windows x (x being the next number in line).

0 Votes

microsoft allowing third party gui is plain stupid you will gain linux segmentation hell and not so many benefits i would bet people will be using default crap like always.The only thing that would make sense to me is using linux with aero interface on top and native direct3d support in linux they can reduce cost basing their os on linux and still sticking to the all model (aka what apple do ).Will they do this ....mmmmm no i don't think so.

0 Votes

When pig fly. Microsoft will never open up their system (virus) to the public. Those days are over. Can't wait for Microsoft be be over!

0 Votes

Sure, would love to see Gnome 2.x, XFCE or KDE as native shells on Windows.

0 Votes

The sad thing is a lot of Linux desktop GUI's are going to a tablet/phone type interface instead of a desktop one. They aren't opening separate projects for different design paradigms they're actually pushing desktop users towards mobile interfaces. Microsoft is starting to do this but at least they're offering a full version of the Windows 7 interface with it unlike Gnome, or Unity.

I hate touch screens, they get a cruddy as a mouse/keyboard and cost more to replace when they get too gunked up.

0 Votes

I wish these various bloggers would quit helping/advising MS in what they should do. I'm torn on this subject myself. If MS opens up, then what's the point of developing Linux or BSD? It's asta-la-byebye for free software. Yes, I would like to see MS go the way of the Dodo bird and the leaders on unemployment, but... if people keep on whining about MS, incompatibility and their NIH, consume and devour tactics and MS catches on, then good free software development will go extinct. I'd rather keep my Linux, spend my extra cash on actually buying FOSS software and make more cash on the side fixing messed-up windows machines.

The Linux desktop already surpasses Windows in almost every way and getting better everyday. There is no reason to use Windows now. Let the people who are stuck on stupid continue wasting their money on PC repairs and expensive software as FOSS needs the competition as the drive to do better!

0 Votes

>>>The Linux desktop already surpasses Windows in almost every way and getting better everyday.

hahaha funny

0 Votes
Share Your Comments

If you are a member, to have your comment attributed to you. If you are not yet a member, Join OStatic and help the Open Source community by sharing your thoughts, answering user questions and providing reviews and alternatives for projects.

Promote Open Source Knowledge by sharing your thoughts, listing Alternatives and Answering Questions!