Microsoft’s new Windows 8 chief: ‘I can’t imagine a computer without touch anymore’

by David Needle

December 14 2012

"I only saw the iPad after we had the design of Windows 8 ready to go," said Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green.
"I only saw the iPad after we had the design of Windows 8 ready to go," said Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green.

Talk about being on the hot seat. The abrupt departure last month of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky elevated Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green to the position. Larson-Green has some definite opinions on Surface tablets and Windows 8. 

In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Larson-Green made a point of clearing up any perception that Windows 8 was a response to the popularity of Apple’s iPad. It should also be noted that, while it’s products didn’t gain broad appeal, Microsoft actually pioneered the tablet PC category over ten years ago.

“We started planning Windows 8 in June of 2009, before we shipped Windows 7, and the iPad was only a rumor at that point,” said Larson-Green. “I only saw the iPad after we had this design ready to go. We were excited. A lot of things they were doing about mobile and touch were similar to what we’d been thinking.”

She went on to point out some of the clear differences in design objectives: “We wanted not just static icons on the desktop but Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life; we wanted you to be able to do things in context and share across apps; we believed that multitasking is important and that people can do two things at one time.”

On another point, the impact Microsoft’s Surface tablet has had on its own hardware partners, Larson-Green elaborated on Microsoft’s strategy.

“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. We believe in Surface as a long-term product, but we know that partners will have other innovations and ideas.”

Touch the future

Perhaps more than any other company, Microsoft has broad insight into which PCs are selling well and which ones aren’t. According to Larson-Green, computers with touch screens are selling the fastest. “I can’t imagine a computer without touch anymore,” she said.

She also said computers that while computers will continute to ship with mice and keyboards, touch is the future.

“If you get a laptop with a touch screen, your brain clicks in and you just start touching what makes it faster for you,” she said.

“You’ll use the mouse and keyboard, but even on the regular desktop you’ll find yourself reaching up doing the things that are faster than moving the mouse and moving the mouse around. It’s not like using the mouse, which is more like puppeteering than direct manipulation.” 

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  • Wicked1
    1 year 11 months ago

    For a desktop PC, I believe she is absolutely wrong. If you are using a desktop to surf, perhaps send e-mails and read books or magazines, a touch screen may be quite useful. However, for word processing, spreadsheets, cadd and graphics programs, a touch screen would be next to useless.

    I have an HP Workstation with a 27 inch pro monitor I use for all of those purposes and there is no occasion where a touch screen could beat the keyboard or mouse.

    Last time I looked, HP doesn't offer any of their workstations with Win 8 and I can't see any reason why they would in the future.

    I've owned two tablets - the Xoom and Asus Transformer Prime. I returned both within a month of purchasing them because they were useless for my needs. Again, for the purpose of surfing, e-mail, etc., they could be useful. However, I got tired of having to install countless apps to go from one web site to another.

    Windows 8 may solve some of those issues if it can natively open ANY web site without having to install an app. That alone could shift many users to Win 8 from iOS or Android. Then all the claims about how many apps run on any specific tablet OS would largely be nullified.

    Until then, I'm sticking with my Workstation and laptop.

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