Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system – more specifically its Metro interface – has been lauded by some as the perfect embrace of hardware agnostic computing. Jen Hsun Huang, the smooth talking silicon scion that presides over NVIDIA, is an outspoken proponent of Windows 8, telling the crowd at the Emerging Companies Summit at May’s GPU Technology Conference that he thinks Microsoft’s strategy is “right”.
But for every Jen Hsun Huang, there is an equally prominent detractor of Microsoft’s vision for the new school of computing ecosystems that is manifested in Windows 8.
Take Gabe Newell for instance. At a Wednesday night reception at the Casual Connect game conference, Mr. Newell said that Valve is actively hedging its bets against Windows 8 in favour of Linux as it believes Windows 8 will be a ‘catastrophe’.
“I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers],” said Mr. Newell.
He didn’t elaborate on why he believes leading OEMs would be lost, or where they would go, only mentioning that margins for the market are going to be “destroyed for a bunch of people” in his opinion.
For Mr. Newell, the touch-screen paradigm of computing is merely a fad and the crux of Windows 8’s problems is that it relies too heavily on touch.
“We think touch is short term. If you look at the mouse and keyboard, it was stable for about 25 years. I think touch will be stable for about 10 years. I think post-touch, and we’ll be stable for a really long time — for another 25 years. I think touch will be this intermediate.”
While Valve has embraced the Mac, porting Steam to the platform in 2010, Valve’s man at the top is critical of Apple’s less than enthusiastic attitude towards system openness and cautions that Windows 8 – specifically Windows RT and the idea of the Microsoft App Store – are a step towards a closed ecosystem.
“There’s a strong temptation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say, ‘That’s really exciting,’” Mr. Newell said. “We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’”
Mr. Newell isn’t alone in his assessment. Writing in Kotaku, Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, criticized Windows 8’s hardware agnosticism calling it “schizophrenic” — unable to decide if it’s a tablet or desktop OS.
“The Windows 8 experience involves jumping back and forth between the tablet environment (Metro) and the desktop. They have nothing in common,” he opined on Kotaku. “Metro’s task list won’t list desktop apps and the desktop won’t list recently active Metro apps. They’re separate and yet you have to use both.”
Also joining this list of defectors is Gartner. On Monday the Gunnar Berger, research director at the consulting firm, had a rather frank assessment of the potential of the OS on desktop: “Bad” *.
*This was later retracted, as the analyst claimed he was taken out of context by the press.