Why Has Microsoft Abandoned the Power User?

by Preston Gralla

The upcoming final releases of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7 make one thing exceedingly clear: Microsoft has abandoned the power user, allowing fewer and fewer customizations and tweaks. By doing this, they're leaving behind a very loyal audience.

24 Comments

William
2006-10-18 13:10:58
This makes sense to me for a couple of reasons: more features and customizations represent more tests and more failure modes, and Vista is already so late it has become a punchline; the power user has already abandoned Windows in favour of other operating systems that provide monstrous leverage for their customizations due to their openness, such as the BSDi descendents and Linux. Many, myself included, long ago decided that we'd rather effect systemic changes on our work environment than be able to make small, limited adjustments to an OS that doesn't provide enough rope.
Taylor Venable
2006-10-18 14:05:43
I'd posit that it's probably an economically sensical solution, because not enough people (as a proportion of the whole) use these advanced features, so there's no sense in putting an unwarranted amount of money into developing and maintaining them. It's part of an annoying trend found many places in today's global economy: large players forsake the hobbyist and hacker, whilst niche players rise up to receive them. In this view, Microsoft is the big guy and those less bound by the rules of the free market, viz Linux distributions and the BSDs, are the niche players. I love tweaking every part of the system I can get my hands on (sometimes to my own detriment); I switched to Linux & BSD two years ago and haven't looked back.
Bryan
2006-10-18 14:57:23
Microsoft has obviously realized that all of the power users have already switched to Opera and Firefox.
Vladimir
2006-10-18 17:39:18
Maybe it is an attempt to stabilise the OS by allowing less customizing, along the lines of benefit many at the expense of the few.
Douglas W. Goodall
2006-10-18 17:57:25
I have noticed from the first look at Vista and the new Office suite that I must completely relearn everything. I consider myself to be a very knowledgeable user of XP and Office. But I am completely lost in the new version of Word. I can't find any of the controls I want and I am very frustrated. There is changing the features so they will be easier to use, and there is changing everything for the purpose of making everybody learn it all again, which I guess sells lots of books and training. I have decided to Ignore Microsoft's new operating systems and office suite. I am focusing instead on Unix/Linux/Mac OS X solutions and using Open Office, which complies with the CUA guidlines and is intuitive to use (see www.openoffice.org). I am waiting to see how well the world accepts all this change Microsoft is ramming down our collective throats.
GSY
2006-10-18 18:18:13
I think MS is trying to copy Apple even further by trying to simplify and streamline their OS and make it easier to use and more like Mac OS X. I say this as a Windows and Linux user both, and someone that used Mac OS X for about 6 months. What they seem to not get is that underneath the sleak and shiny, easy to use interface of Mac OS X are a wealth of customization options for power users too. It's a remarkable balance of ease of use and simplicity, with lots of buttons and knobs for the more adventurous to play with too.


Then again, maybe Microsoft figures that all the power users have already left or are leaving Windows for Linux or Mac.

Spork
2006-10-18 18:35:59
Oh, come on - all of these properties are being set within the application(s) already... just not exposed to the user in a read/write interface! The only thing that is being "saved" here is the application's QA footprint - by surpressing these features, Microsoft is saving themselves some testing time, since its easier to test a "canned" set of values as opposed to doing boundary, etc, testing on user-supplied inputs. There is really no good prosumer upside to this, since all of these features will undoubtably be "hacked" by somebody and next thing you know we'll be unwittingly exercising untested MS code...


To be honest, I'll confess that I'm a steadfast Firefox user, so the IE 7 changes don't have much direct impact for me. However, from an OS perspective, I haven't been able to justify giving up Windows just yet - it just has too much "compatability" to walk away from. Plus, I am using a Tablet PC laptop, so I have limited options... I am dismayed that the core MS desktop OS is being crippled in this fashion. Moving backwards in terms of advanced user functionality is not a good way to allow the Windows platform to progress as a whole.


Speaking of progress, check out this YouTube video for an interesting "retrospective" on OS innovation... based on this, I've been meaning to do a gap analysis between NeXT in 1992 and MS Vista! (or even against the Mac!) Lots of stuff still missing... :-(




Nicolas
2006-10-18 18:47:52
They want people to get in touch with a real OS: Linux...
Ryan Smyth
2006-10-18 18:50:40
While it may be an annoyance, things like this open up doors for developers to step in and fill those spaces with new products.


There's nothing stopping anyone from using shdocvw or MSHTML to create a customizable browser. It's obviously not economically feasible for IE, but it's still there as a possibility.


The file association problem reeks of opportunity. It wouldn't be very difficult to write an application to fill that space. (Sounds like a 1 day job to get running & another week to make it nice & super-sexy so that it actually sells.)


As long as MS keeps the APIs open for developers, I'm fine with them limiting functionality wherever they like. That just creates more opportunities for developers.

Siggi
2006-10-19 02:24:20
I think Microsoft tries to get the private users to buy Vista, because a lot of powerusers are changeing ther OS to Linux and their Office to OpenOffice or StarOffice. So I did. I don't like the new behaviour of Vista and the new Office is really not what I expected. My daughter, with less Computer experience likes the new Office.
At least after a while of soving problems my work is more efficient using Linux ;-)
techieBird
2006-10-19 02:57:05
That is too bad for Abby and MS.
The power user has been notoriously tenacious in face of being buttonholed with dumb computing experiance. The growing Open Source and Web2.0 is direct result of it.
Just look at how IE7 is faring against firefox and you would know what I mean.
MS should realize is that Abby soon shifts into a Power User mode leaving MS in limbo with bland tasteless stuff which few (fast becoming fewer) consume.
Penguin Pete
2006-10-19 08:09:04
Gee, dumbing down was a given back with Win 95. Heck, it's all we can pray for to keep our power tools from slipping away on the hardest of hard-core FOSS distros. I'm running grml Linux right now, and it's Candy-Land is at the barely-tolerable level.


I give it five more years, and from there on out I will simply have to build my own computer starting with raw materials and a soldering iron then make my own operating system using the last existing copy of an assembly compiler (which I will have to cat-burgle from the Smithsonian museum), before I'll have a computer that actually computes again.


It's lonely being me.


As for Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7, I'm disappointed, but what did I expect? IE7 will be more co-operative with modern Victorian-era notions like PNG transparency and a CSS box that actually stays where you put it, so of bloody course Microsoft made it painful and nobody's going to upgrade to it. A mass upgrade to Windows Vista would mean more free hardware from all the Windows users to use to add a shiny new branch to the server farm in my basement, so of course Microsoft's going to spoil my fun and put off the Windows users who now won't upgrade.

Alun Jones
2006-10-19 08:47:17
The feature is there.
Maybe Abby could teach you how to use your computer?
Preston Gralla
2006-10-19 09:00:40
If you're talking about using the GUI to customize how file associations works with applications, such as having one application open a file, another edit a file, and adding many commands and switches...it's not in Vista. You can only change associations, but nothing beyond that. If anthing beyond that is in the GUI, please let me know, because I haven't found it, and no one else I know has, either.
AK
2006-10-19 11:02:06
I echo the comments by Preston. In IE7, it has a default search bar which i dont want because i have a Google toolbar. But there is no option to remove it. Also Microsoft has made it increasingly difficult to access the options and even if you make it there, you wont find all the options that was in IE6.


Answer to this problem - SWITCH TO FIREFOX!

bystander
2006-10-19 11:06:31
this is a significant step to get to control the final user. In the future MS World, only MS-controlled (they'll say certified) application will work. The user won't customize anything. Everything will be standardized. I foresee also the end of the lifetime license due to the feature of "switching off" or "mutilate" the OS remotely. Windows will be targeted at the dumb user and at the few companies that would like to be enslaved this way: all other sensible IT users will switch to open OS like Linux. That's all.
windoze
2006-10-19 16:16:32
Because everyone has switched power OS's?


That's funny.


I could have sworn in this very email alert is an announcement that IIS has finally overtaken Apache in Fortune 100 corporate server market share. And if you think they're running IIS on anything but a windows platform, well, you've never run IIS on anything but a windows platform. It's like talking microsoft on an o'reilly blog. It can be done, but that's about it.


Vista is/never was a power os. It is, how do you say... a 'client.' It's for mom. At least mine.

gotrootdude
2006-10-19 18:39:03
I think the true power users will continue to tweak their machines. So what if the gui is missing the shortcuts. The registry is still editable.

2006-11-14 23:28:10
Power users has long thrown themselves to linux.
XP and Vista for the abby....
Ian
2006-11-27 12:37:54
I think that Microsoft has been on a bit of a bell curve in the past few years when it comes to custimization and usability.I believe this is because of the changes in the common computer user.
As Preston has said they seem to have their target 'Abby' and don't care about anyone else. They started out with a rather inflexible operating system that became more and more flexible as its complexity increased.
This was all well and good because when they were making these changes, mostly only technically savvy people were using their product and they were the ones requesting the change. But as their market grew to involve more and more Joe users who knew nothing about what their computers or the operating system on them were doing, they must have been flooded with correspondence about the complexity of what the Joes were trying to do.
Sadly Microsoft found that the Joes or Abby's of the world have more money to spend then the tech crowd and are therefore more likely to cater to the needs of the less knowledgeable of their customers.
I don't blame Microsoft for wanting to make money but I do think they are doing an injustice to those of us that like to customize our experience rather than having our hand held for fear of getting to involved and ultimately confused.


Brian
2006-12-02 11:44:32
Not just power users that have been shorted....
How could it take so long to get it so wrong.
I work in IT and got a call from my cousins, a couple in their early 60s who use their computer for one thing only, browsing the Internet and using web mail. They were confused and frustrated as to why their browser had totally changed and they couldn't find their way around. Not to worry I told them we'll just put it back the way it was. Uh....don't think so. After a frustrating few minutes I realized I needed to pay them a visit and just fix things myself. Upon arrival I quickly realized the problem, they had been inflicted with....IE7!
Still no problem, I'll just rearrage the toolbars the way they wanted them. Uh....don't think so. Tabs, well that wasn't all bad, not as good as Opera or Firefox but they hadn't tried those so they kind of liked them. As for the rest of the changes, no thanks. And although I liked IE6, primarily because it was so customizable, I had to agree.
Five years to produce a version that is counter intuitive and non-customizable! The interface is a big step backward. People want more choice not less. Thankfully I haven't installed it on my machine and won't.
Bottom line, they're now using Firefox and happy again.
Tom
2006-12-05 08:43:04
Microsoft really blows! Boy do I wish my required apps ran on Linux!!
Alex
2007-03-14 08:33:25
Remember what Bill Gates had said Windows to look good. Thats it, also in another interview Bill Gates said the users in the future should be only be able to turn on, and turn off the computer. They are doing what they wont to dumb it down as much as possible, who needs these Power Users? Microsoft sure doesnt, they dont like Power Users they rather have these Joe's


http://apcmag.com/5049/10_reasons_not_to_get_vista


This is what im gona move my laptop too


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJIlP-leaM4&mode=related&search=


Developers should support other's OS's not just Windows,but obviouslly they wont support any one else Mac and Windows mostlly

WHITY
2007-12-18 19:13:29
WHERE ARE THE HORDS OF EAGER HACKERS AND COLLEGE COMPUTER SCIENCE STUDENTS ..


WHERE ARE THE THIRD PARTY DRIVER MANIFACTURES?.


WHO IS GOING TO FILL THE DEMAND FOR THE MISSING DRIVERS NEEDED TO MAKE VISTA /PRE MANIFACTURED / READY COMPUTERS WORK ON GOOD OLD XP !!


IS THERE NOT A GREAT ENOUGH DEMAND ??


SHOULD WE ALL UNIT AND STRIKE ??HAVE A RALLY AND PICKET LINE IN FRONT OF THE LOCAL COMPUTERS STORES SAYING DOWN WITH VISTS??.


LETS HAVE A PUBLIC DEMNOSTRATION AGAINST VISTA ???.


WHERE ARE THE BUMPER STICKERS ..


I ALSO WANT TO MAKE T SHIRTS WITH THE 7 ELEVEN LOGO SUPERIMPOSED WITH A SLOGAN SUCH AS COMPUTERS FIXE HERE !!!!. GET MY DRIFT!!



WHERE ARE ALL THE TEN YEAR OLD COMPUTER WIZESES FIXING MY VISTA TO WORK ON XP???YOU KNOW ALL THOSE THUMP FIGHTERS ~~