New Windows Chief Talks Sinofsky, Windows 8, Surface
December 14, 2012 2:28 PM
Julie Larson-Green is working to fill Sinofsky's shoes
When Microsoft's Windows Chief Steven
Sinofsky hit the road
last month, Julie Larson-Green stepped in as the new sheriff in town (as far as Windows 8 goes, anyway). Larson-Green didn't inherit an easy role, so it's fair to ask: Can she fill Sinofsky's shoes?
Larson-Green, who has worked for Microsoft for 20 years and led the introduction of huge ideas like the ribbon interface for Microsoft Office, recently interviewed with Tom Simonite at
MIT Technology Review
in an attempt to offer insight on what it's like to grab hold of Windows' biggest redesign and attempt to bring everyone on board with the new look and feel.
According to Larson-Green, so far, so good. While Sinofsky was a strong force in the Windows environment with a brilliant mind and explosive personality, Larson-Green insists that "not much" has changed since she took over his position.
"I've worked directly with Steven for seven years but known him for the whole 20 years I've been at Microsoft," said Larson-Green. "We think a lot the same about what the role of Windows is in society, what computing looks like, and getting people on board with that point of view."
Getting everyone on board hasn't been easy. Windows has had a solid user interface design since Windows 95, which was the start of a more object oriented interface. Users had become accustomed to this for nearly two decades, and
Windows 8 flipped that entire concept
on its head.
Julie Larson-Green [Image Source: Microsoft]
Windows 8 features what was once called the Metro style user interface, with colorful live tiles and a repositioned Start button. The new design was mainly for touch purposes in mobile products like Microsoft's Surface and Windows Phone 8, but some have had a hard time digesting this new look for desktop use. So why the radical change?
"When Windows was first created 25 years ago, the assumptions about the world and what computing could do and how people were going to use it were completely different," said Latson-Green. "It was at a desk, with a monitor. Before Windows 8 the goal was to launch into a window, and then you put that window away and you got another one. But with Windows 8, all the different things that you might want to do are there at a glance with the Live Tiles. "
She added the importance of touch on desktops as well as mobile devices to enhance the experience of using Windows 8, while still giving users the option to have a keyboard and mouse. She said it takes people anywhere from two days to two weeks to get adjusted to all the changes in Windows 8, depending on how invested they were in the traditional versions.
This brings us to the Surface tablet, which is Microsoft's first homemade hardware running Windows. Larson-Green addressed the new product briefly (nothing about sales numbers or demand, which have been in speculation lately).
"It was a way to test our hypothesis of a new way of working," said Larson-Green. "It takes time for individuals to adjust, but it also takes time for the industry to adjust to new things—all the complicated things about the supply chain and issues like what sizes of glass gets cut. Surface is our vision of what a stage for Windows 8 should look like, to help show consumers and the industry our point of view on what near perfect hardware would look like."
Sinofsky, former president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, announced that he was
leaving the company
last month after a little over 23 years with the tech giant. It was reported as a "sudden" move that no one expected, but details about the departure show that the decision was contemplated for a while and even
backed by Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates
While Sinofsky was seen as a brilliant figure at Microsoft, his downfall was that he didn't get along with others within the company. He was notorious for picking fights with other executives, including current CEO Steve Ballmer, and even pushed former executives like chief software architect Ray Ozzie to quit.
MIT Technology Review
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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