Microsoft and Windows 8: An interview with Stephen Chapman

Recently, I read a very comprehensive blog post on ZDNET by Stephen Chapman that cleverly laid out some elements of Windows 8 and Office 15 he had found on the web.

It was very impressive – If you start putting the pieces together (as I have on this blog), a clearer picture of Windows 8 begins to emerge.

Anyway, I reached out to Stephen to pick his brain a little about Microsoft and Windows 8 and the following is the transcript.

My thanks again to Stephen for his time.

ONUORA: So, how did you get started with blogging and writing about Microsoft products?

STEPHEN: My journey as a Microsoft blogger began with a passion for Windows. I still remember the day I first saw screen shots of “Windows Longhorn” build 3663 and I thought to myself, “what is this?” From there, it was a long and winding journey through collecting beta builds, meeting people who had unleaked content, starting communities, and eventually becoming a source in the Microsoft community as a whole as my Google searching skills enhanced.

I would post things I found on forums I participated in and eventually, I thought to myself, “why don’t I just start my own blog and post all of this stuff I find on it?” Thus began, which eventually morphed into as my focus became less about user experience/user interface and more about Microsoft as a whole. Now, as a ZDNet blogger, I relish bringing the best-of-the-best of my Microsoft content to a much larger audience!

ONUORA: Out of all the features you have come across that might make it into windows 8, which ones do you think are the most exciting?

STEPHEN: Personally, I’m the most interested in how they plan on integrating motion into the UI — be it via Kinect, Web cam or otherwise. I’ve always loved the look of the shell, so just that in and of itself always gets me excited. As for touch-based endeavors, I couldn’t care less at the moment. I’ve tried much of the touch functionality of Windows 7 and I just don’t have a real need for it per my everyday computing habits.

I know Microsoft is really trying to ultimately get away from the keyboard/mouse paradigm, but I love it. I’m not one to push change away, but I’ll be pretty reluctant to give up my mouse and keyboard in place of a UI that requires I speak to it and physically interact with it — even if just for the privacy factor alone. But I digress.

ONUORA: I personally love windows 7, what do you think were the deficiencies if any that windows 7 had? What do you think needed to be addressed in windows 8?

STEPHEN: My answer for this question is based solely on being a Windows user and nothing else. Personally, I’m in the same camp. I love Windows 7. For me, it’s a great OS that does everything I want/need it to do. It gives me no reason to look elsewhere. With that said, the only thing I absolutely abhor about it (and Vista) is that it won’t remember your views for certain folders. I cannot tell you how much that ANNOYS me! If they don’t fix that in Windows 8, I swear I’m going to flip out. hahaha.

I’ve ranted about that a few times on MSFTKitchen, HOPING it would nab the attention of the Windows team, but to no avail… unless they fixed it in SP1. I haven’t even installed it yet, so I haven’t a clue.

ONUORA: What do you think about the potential for Cloud Computing integration in Windows 8? Where do you think that could go?

STEPHEN: I’m indifferent about it. My personal perception of cloud computing is that I’m not yet resolved to the idea of storing my files “in the cloud.” Naturally, all you’re doing is storing your files remotely on some server you have no control over. I don’t like that idea and I’ve implemented personal solutions that make files I would like to have available, ready for me should I ever need them. I would rather go buy a 2TB external drive and offload files onto it as a back-up solution.

Of course, I’m an “advanced” user, so I’m never doing things with photos as you’ve seen in the Windows Live commercials, etc. Anyway, I think Microsoft will continue pushing the heck out of cloud computing in Windows 8 and the sky’s the limit (no pun intended), but I have limited insight on projecting where it could go since I really have no reason to make use of it myself. SaaS, though… that’s a different story. There are a vast number of online services I utilize quite frequently and I love them. Some of them retain certain files created within them or settings, so the notion of SaaS applications utilizing the cloud… I love that.

ONUORA: Do you think that the Kinect will play a major role in Windows 8?

STEPHEN: I’m not quite sure yet about this. I’ve done some thinking and I’m just not sure how much they’re going to try to integrate Kinect. Granted, with all the Kinect hacks that are out there these days, the potential of the Kinect seems truly untapped when only taking it for what it was initially created for. As such, to say they could use it for some major user experience changes is an understatement. Do I think it will play a role in Windows 8? Sure. Do I think it will play a *major* role in Windows 8? Eh, I’m doubtful at the moment.

ONUORA: What’s your take on the amount of time between OS refreshes from Microsoft? Do you think 2012/2013 is about right or early?

STEPHEN: So, I think the amount of time between each OS is a good approach. Late 2012 or early 2013 seems approachable to me in relation to Windows 8 hitting the market. With that said, I think Microsoft’s time to market is a different number altogether from Microsoft’s time to adoption. Enthusiasts and new computer buyers will pick up Windows 8 within that first 3-6 month period after RTM.

On an enterprise level, though… well, I’ll address that in your next question.

ONUORA: From an enterprise perspective, what do you think Microsoft need to do with windows 8 to compel weary IT managers and execs to (once again) open up their wallets for an os refresh?

STEPHEN: If Microsoft could make Windows 8 such that it makes IT managers and executives breakfast and coffee every morning, that would probably do it. =) Seriously, I think Microsoft could put the stars and the moon into Windows 8 and it wouldn’t be enough to pry open the wallets of IT folks who just shelled out big bucks to adopt Windows 7.

At that, I think Microsoft hit a home run with Windows 7 much like they did with XP, so… it’s almost like Microsoft shoots themselves in the foot for doing a great job! Not really, though. It’s just going to take time. The product will speak for itself if it’s good enough. I just don’t think those who invested in Windows 7 will turn right around and do the same with Windows 8.

It just doesn’t make sense to the bottom line for many businesses when Windows 7 is — and will be — more than they will need for a very long time!

ONUORA: What mistakes do you think Microsoft have to avoid with Windows 8?

STEPHEN: With Windows 8, Microsoft should look to avoid things like having Windows 8 cause people’s computers to explode if they say key words like “Apple,” “Linux,” or “Steve Jobs.” Likewise, I would say they should avoid changing the “Start” button to the “Sinofsky” button, creating a 3D UI which would require the user to wear a pair of those old blue and red glasses, and perhaps the addition of features like “Windows 3.1 Mode.”

Seriously, though, if Windows 7 is of any indicator, I trust Microsoft will make many more good decisions than mistakes. Having said that, I would say the one mistake they should avoid is to not alienate their users with a user interface that’s too drastically different such that it forces them to change computing habits they would rather not.

But much like they’ve done in showing patience with phasing out 32-bit, I think the implementation of a drastically new UI would be something they phase in and not immediately force upon the user.

ONUORA: What are the top 3 things you would like to see in Windows 8?


  1. A UI that excites me as much as the Longhorn demos way back when did.
  3. Continuation of the usefulness of the taskbar ala Windows 7.

ONUORA: What’s your take on Steven Sinofsky’s project management style?

STEPHEN: Say what you will about Mr. Sinofsky, but he obviously gets things DONE.

I’m all for that. As a blogger, it’s frustrating to have him create the cone of silence he has with regards to Windows speak in the wild, but it has simply forced me to better-hone my research skills, so… once again, Sinofsky’s management style helps to create a useful product. Windows 7 is fantastic and so do I think will be Windows 8. Plus, his last name is just fun to say.

ONUORA: Your Windows 8 blog post had some pretty contentious responses by some of the readers. What are some of the most common misconceptions/ignorant comments about Microsoft that piss you off?

STEPHEN: Oh, man. I’ll tell you, I don’t get as worked up anymore *personally* by bone-headed comments as I used to, but they are still frustrating at times. Though I can’t think of any specific examples at the moment, the types of comments I find the most brazenly ignorant are the ones that come from people who have obviously never used Windows a day in their life.

You know, the people who supposedly know Microsoft’s true motives and call Windows 7 a Windows Vista service pack? Good times. Overall, though, those people are obviously ignorant and have an axe to grind for no apparent reason. I relish when those people end up as commenters on my posts, because I really enjoy hashing it out with them and exposing their ignorance/stupidity. I mean, I don’t use OSX or Linux (I do at work, but not as a home user).

I’ve played with both, I think they’re both neat, but other than trying them out, I have no reason to personally use either. Now, why on this earth would I go around on OSX/Linux sites and rant about OS feature and usability woes that I’ve read on some forum or site? It’s the people who use these things every day who have the true insight, you know? OS wars are so fruitless, but I digress.

ONUORA: Thanks for your time..

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