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An open letter to Microsoft's next CEO: 12 wishes from the Windows faithful

Woody Leonhard | Jan. 28, 2014
We billion-plus customers would like the next head honcho in Redmond to address these dozen action items.

If you really believe that, let me introduce you to a new feature in Windows 8 called Smart Search. Smart Search allows Win8 users to search both their computers and Bing for terms typed into the Windows search bar. Smart Search, enabled by default, also ensures that Microsoft tracks every single search conducted on a Windows 8 or 8.1 desktop.

You can't have it both ways. If you're going to beat your chest about protection of customers' privacy — a worthy goal —stop sneaking around with these little gotchas. Take a real stand, not an advertising posture.

Microsoft action item No. 4: Fix Windows
Windows 8 is broken. You know that. We all know that.

Steve Sinofsky got away with rejiggering the interface in Office 2007, blowing away menus and bringing in the Ribbon. Office went on to generate incalculable amounts of money, in spite of the screams. Fast-forward five years, and Sinofsky did the same with Windows, this time using tiles and touch. It didn't work. Microsoft stuck to its guns. It still didn't work.

Now it looks like Terry Myerson has come up with a plan to build three different versions of Windows. I think of them as Windows Mobile, Windows Personal, and Windows Pro. (There's that branding thing again.) Give him all the help he needs, please.

Microsoft action item No. 5: Lead, don't force
There are so many problems with Windows 8/8.1, it's hard to know where to begin. But of this much I'm sure: Ramming a massive, unpopular user interface change down customers' throats worked five years ago with Office. It won't work again. Customers these days — both consumer and enterprise — have too many options.

Instead of using a big stick, dangle digital carrots. If Microsoft had introduced WinRT-based "Metro" programs as a replacement for security-mangling Windows 7 Desktop Gadgets, you would've had a lot of people trying them without being forced. If developers could build Windows Phone apps that also lived in fixed-dimension boxes on the Windows desktop, the reaction to WinRT would've been completely different.

In the not-so-good old days, just about everybody put up with Windows' foibles. Times have changed.

Microsoft action item No. 6: Don't forget developers, developers, developers
Please! Find the person who decided to withhold the final Windows 8.1 bits from the developer community, and publicly flog them. Find the person who discontinued TechNet, and have them wield the whip.

Those are two of the most developer-antagonistic actions any major software company has instituted since I started programming, and writing about programming, many years ago.

Microsoft needs all the developers it can get. If that means you have to raise the bar for the unwashed coding masses to qualify for TechNet or release RTM code to people who need it to test, so be it. You need developers who are happy and developing, not moaning about switching to Apple or Google or Linux.

 

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