drink the sweet feeling of the colour zero

Stepping back a bit…

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I’ve talked before on these pages about the tech support issues imposed by Windows 8’s new UI, as well as the licensing issues that make truly managing a mobile Windows 8 experience prohibitively expensive.  I want to dive into how this affects the wider Windows 8 experience and the ecosystem that surrounds it.

And we back this all up how?

Beyond the user interface issues, Microsoft’s vision of the future has another item that really bothers me: how exactly are we supposed to back this all up?  One of the reasons I like the VDI model is that it allows me to invest once in an expensive infrastructure designed to be resilient and reliable.  My home system has a RAID; it backs up to a NAS, that NAS synchronizes to a mirror counterpart at the office for off-site recovery.

In my vision of the world the endpoint is irrelevant; it is a disposable commodity designed for ease of use relative to the individual environment you happen to be in.  Kiosk, phone, tablet, notebook, desktop; where you are determines the best form factor to use and you simply log in and access your environment from there.

Any applications local to the machine should be cheap or free.  They should have a very similar interface across all devices and become a part of the “background” of using the device.  If you lose the endpoint – or the hard drive dies – it doesn’t matter; the critical stuff is centrally provisioned.  If you want to do this in Microsoft’s world, you have to pay; far more than individuals or most SMBs will ever be able to afford to.

In Microsoft’s vision we all use applications installed on physical devices to get things done.  We all buy a copy of each app for each physical device.  We have personal customized environments that synchronize with Microsoft’s cloud.  Our data synchronizes with the cloud using Microsoft’s <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyDrive”>Skydrive</a>.

Applications bought through the Windows Store will sync their settings too, so the obvious implication is that we should buy all of our applications there if we want our environment to be portable between devices.  Even Windows 8’s inbuilt repair options treat non-Windows-Store apps as irrelevant second-class software.

Microsoft is at the center of this universe.  Microsoft’s operating system, Microsoft’s applications, Microsoft’s store, Microsoft’s devices, Microsoft’s cloud services and Microsoft’s enterprise support applications.  Try to break out of this Microsoft on Microsoft on Microsoft synchronized to Microsoft and supported by Microsoft universe and your experience becomes decidedly second rate.

Utilizing a dominant position in one market…

Everything about the new Microsoft endpoint experience – including the very design of the user interface – is designed to lock you in to their ecosystem and keep you there.  Power users and SMBs who can’t afford the complete stack pay the price for Microsoft’s vertically integrated ambitions.

Similarly those companies and individuals with privacy concerns or who are subject to laws restricting where we can synchronize personally identifiable information are out of luck.  We are told we “aren’t the majority” (I beg to differ) and that “alternatives are available.”

Microsoft is very careful here.  They know vertical integration is a legal minefield for a company convicted of antitrust violations.  You can work around every issue mentioned here if you want to.  The workarounds range from frustrating to ruinously expensive.  The only way to get a relatively smooth experience is if your entire world is Microsoft, top to bottom.

I doubt this is illegal, not quite.  Microsoft aren’t preventing competition here, they are merely making competing offerings obviously less appealing by designing every individual product they make for maximum integration.  The morality of this is basically determined by if you believe the rights of the corporation to protect its profits outweigh the rights of consumers.

We’ve been fighting that ideological battle for so long I am not sure there is a middle ground to be had.  I sincerely hope there is.  Microsoft make great products; it would be a shame if they simply decided that the chunk of their market me and mine occupy was simply not worth supporting or listening to.

Bad for us; Microsoft makes great tech that we want to use.  Bad for them; we’re noisy, irritating types that tend to head on out and create alternative solutions when none are provided for us.  It’s generally pretty expensive to do so…but right now, so’s the alternative.

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