As if the upcoming Windows 8 didn't have enough problems competing with the iPad and facing delays of tablets running on Intel's Clover Trail chips, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has delivered a wishy-washy review of the OS on his personal blog.
The review starts out on a positive note by calling Windows 8 "bold and innovative" and praising the bimodal interface that supports tablet and desktop use. By "bimodal", Allen is referring to the tile-based Start Screen (formerly called "Metro") which works best with touch-screen functionality on a tablet, and the other realm, the desktop or "Classic" interface, which looks like Windows 7 just without the trusty Start button in the lower left corner.
But Allen quickly switches gears, calling the same bimodal user experience "puzzling" and one that "can introduce confusion, especially when two versions of the same application -- such as Internet Explorer -- can be opened and run simultaneously."
Allen gets points for candor. He could have just stuck to the company script and gushed about the magical Windows 8. His review certainly isn't a pan of Windows 8, it was just … tepid.
Allen never forgets to mention how "promising," elegant" and "innovative" Windows 8 is. Yet the review is littered with criticisms and complex instructions that make Windows 8 seem even more confusing than it already is. He even has a section of the post entitled "Puzzling Aspects of the Windows 8 UI" where he blasts drawbacks such as the difficulty of using the Start screen and the "Charms" bar with multiple monitors, the difficulty scrolling in Desktop view on a tablet and an unpredictable onscreen keyboard.
By design, Windows 8 is a complex operating system with a diverse UI; it's neither all good nor all bad. But Allen's jumping back between praise and criticism sounds like a man talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Perhaps Allen's carps about WIndows 8 are also by design, as in, it's personal.
Microsoft gave Allen his fortune, or most of it, but there is still bad blood with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who were not so nice to Allen when he left the company in 1983 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease as Allen outlines in his memoir "Idea Man." Could his candor about Windows 8's shortcomings be a jab at his old pals? After all, he could have easily written a short "It's awesome, go buy it" puff piece or just kept his feelings to himself.
In any case, the blog post eventually transitions from mini-review to extremely detailed and helpful Windows 8 instructional guide and ends on a high note, predicting a bright future for the OS after users adjust to it.
We'll see about that. But whatever you think of Windows 8, Allen deserves credit for not sugar-coating his views.