Four years ago, Microsoft made a bold bet by introducing a new version of Windows which was much different from the well-received Windows 7. Indeed, Windows 8 had ditched the classic Start Menu, and it mixed the classic Windows 7 desktop experience with a new touch-optimized experience in what turned out to be an awkward way.
While the new operating system enabled Microsoft and its hardware partners to introduce many 2-in-1 devices to the market, it soon became clear that Microsoft’s bet wasn’t going to pay off: Windows 8 was poorly received by both consumers and businesses and computer sales continued to decrease in the following quarters. Steven Sinofsky, the man who led the development and marketing of Windows 8 and other Microsoft products even left the company a few weeks after the release of the new operating system.
Microsoft was pretty quick to react though, and the Windows 8.1 update released in Fall 2013 brought many usability improvements to the desktop OS including the return of a more functional start menu. However, the company soon started to work on the next major version of Windows, called Windows 10, though the Redmond giant didn’t completely left the past behind. Chuck Friedman, a Microsoft Corporate VP in charge of the Windows Shell, just gave an interesting interview to Business Insider to reveal how the company leveraged the Windows 8 legacy to develop its latest operating system.
Friedman, who used to have an executive role in Microsoft’s smartphone division only took over his current role in July 2014, a full year before the public release of Windows 10. The exec considers this past episode as “a fascinating entrepreneurial moment,” as his main job at the time consisted at carefully evaluating what people loved and hated in Windows 8.
While the company was ready to embrace change, it’s true that some Windows 8 features were received quite well by some users such as Live Tiles, the tablet experience and more. “Instead of blame the past, it’s embrace the past,” explained the exec, and the company indeed iterated on several Windows 8 features to bring them back in Windows 10 in a more thoughtful way.
What Microsoft wanted to avoid though was just combining the Windows 7 desktop experience with the Windows 8 touch-friendly experience. “It’s not good enough if you’re just bringing the world together,” shared Friedman. Instead, the company gave a lot of thought into the design of the Windows 10 Start Menu.
Speaking about the compromised experience provided by the Windows 8.1 Start Menu, Friedman said that “It turns out you don’t get credit for having a Start menu. You need create a reason for people to buy.” In the end, the Windows 10 Start Menu was designed to provide some familiarity to Windows 7 users, but the Windows 8 Live Tiles and the Cortana digital assistant were also carefully integrated to provide more functionality (both can still be completely hidden by users).
Lastly, the exec admitted that Microsoft took inspiration from the “super snappy” performance on Apple’s iPad to design the Windows 10 “tablet mode.” You may disagree with him, but Friedman thinks that the touchscreen experience in Windows 10 is more responsive than the Windows 8 experience, even though the company didn’t carry over all the previous swipe gestures that were clearly refreshing back in 2012 (do you remember all the different the edge gestures?).
Overall, it’s clear that Windows 10 is a much better operating system than Windows 8 was, but we’ll let you judge if Microsoft managed to thoughtfully embrace the Windows 8 past in its new OS. Do you think other Windows 8 features should be brought to Windows 10? Let us know below!