The Macalope Daily: C:\NGRTLNS.W8

First off, another in a continuing series of Macalope disclaimers (the Macalope’s promise to you is that no article will be printed until it’s thoroughly disclaimed): The title of this piece is a joke. We’re dismissive Apple fans. Jabbing Windows is just a thing we have to do, whether it’s right or wrong. (If it’s wrong, why does it feel so right?)

Anyway, Microsoft gave a first look at Windows 8 the other day, its first kind-of-tablet-optimized-plays-for-sure version of Windows. While some of it does look snazzy, the Macalope agrees with John Gruber and Jason Snell about its shortcomings (there’s a shocker). The skin of Windows 8’s tablet experience looks terrific. It’s in declining to rethink the app experience where it fails.

Snell:

The company that spent a decade trying to push Windows tablets on a market that just didn’t want them is still convinced that it’s a selling point that Windows 8 tablets will run Microsoft Excel for Windows and if you hook up a keyboard and mouse to them, you can get an arrow cursor and click to your heart’s content.

Awesome! Well, not so awesome that Microsoft’s going to show how well that interaction goes in its demo video. Excel is launched and the file open dialog is shown, but the user declines to try to actually use the application, because that would require either tapping those little menu-bar icons or hauling out a mouse. You’ll probably be using your tablet someplace where there’s a flat surface, anyway, right? Well, you will if you use a Windows 8-based tablet.

Surface?

Slate?

Sheesh, what kind of company goes through so many names for the same thing?

But while it would be so easy to just write Microsoft off as a completely clueless company that’s just living off its former glory, the fact is that there’s some very interesting work going on at Microsoft.

It’s true. It’s just the CEO who’s clueless and living off the company’s former glory.

It just seems to be stuck inside a company that can’t let go of the past in order to embrace its own promising future.

And this is the problem with Microsoft’s success, or at least how the company chooses to deal with its success. Except for a couple of isolated examples, it doesn’t know how to turn the aircraft carrier. That’s why some investors are calling for the sweaty head of Steve Ballmer.

On the latest edition of the Talk Show, John Gruber noted that the right way to play the game is to be the one to replace your own products. If you sit on something too long, you run the risk that someone else is going to do the job for you. Microsoft tried to do it right with Windows Phone 7, it just got a late start.

The company often seems to have a problem telling people “no”—an issue that Apple has never had. Apple tells lots of people “no.” No, you’re not getting a floppy drive. No, you’re not getting a physical keyboard on our cell phone. No, we’re not crapping up our mobile devices with Flash. No, for that last time, we’re not porting HyperCard to OS X, it’s been 11 years, will you just drop it already, UGH, JEEZ?!

If you want a ride to the future, there are two ways to get there. One is to catch a ride in the race car Apple’s driving and accept the fact that, for the pleasure of a nice ride, you’re going to have to pay the tolls along the road. Otherwise, you can catch the Microsoft bus. They don’t make you pay the tolls but the bus stops everywhere.

It’ll be interesting to see if any silly pundits bite on this being an “iPad killer.” The Macalope suspects those people have now been burned too many times, but you never know. Dumb springs eternal. The Macalope’s so old he remembers being told Windows Mobile 7 would totally destroy the iPhone. Of course that was only three years ago, but he is at least that old.

And that was not Windows Phone 7, mind you, but Windows Mobile 7. Which never shipped. That Windows Mobile 7. Admittedly, it’s hard to keep track with the horrible names that Microsoft uses.

The Macalope actually does wish Windows Phone 7 success (well, within reason, anyway), because it’s original and a complete rethinking of what they were doing before. It’s good for Microsoft and it’s good for the market. As it stands, though, he can’t completely say that about Windows 8.

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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