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.”