Microsoft-Centered Design

And you wonder why Microsoft gets on people’s nerves…

So I’m perusing the various blog posts that have streamed out of the MIX 08 conference and some interesting talks are available online. So I head on over to the MIX 08 site to view some sessions and I run into this:

getsilver

Yep, I need to download Real Player, I mean Silverlight to watch these videos. Silverlight, for the less enlightened, is Microsoft’s foray into streaming video, rich media and rich apps on the Web (aka Microsoft’s Flash).

Putting aside general observations about industry trends and such, the move is just downright selfish. Here’s why: Flash video works well and Flash is installed. I can respect Microsoft’s desire to compete, but don’t do it at the expense of end users. Silverlight is bringing nothing new to the table here except distraction, disruption and what amounts to a dead end on a web page.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, I’d offer this to the Silverlight team: sit in a room with a whiteboard and think up some actual things that will compel users to install Silverlight with a fevered passion. In other words: invent something we don’t already have. We all know what user-centered design is all about. This is Microsoft-centered design. The users? They’re taken by the ear and forced to follow along. We’re force-fed Microsoft’s strategy.

I for one, am convinced that if Microsoft re-channeled their energy to delivering new and creative inventions that we don’t already have, we’d be pleasantly surprised.

This post shouldn’t be read as a wholesale condemnation of Microsoft. Microsoft’s sphere of influence is vast, and many good things have come from them. Office 2007/2008 is a beautifully designed experience in my opinion, and the features in the new Internet Explorer 8 show some out-of-the-box thinking. Such examples further emphasize my point.

C’mon Redmond, you can do better than this.

3 Comments Microsoft-Centered Design

  1. P.J. Oori

    Thank you! This is standard Microsoft trying to push their technologies into the playing ground that give us absolutely nothing new.
    The SWF has become the de-facto standard format for rich media. Additionally, it is increasingly moving towards open-source. Silverlight represents nothing new for the user and pushes a myriad of proprietary technologies down our throats which may or may not continue to be improved.

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  2. barry.b

    “The SWF has become the de-facto standard format for rich media”
    note: de-facto standard.
    until recently, if you ran a Linux-based desktop that meant Flash fell into this category too. And what does Apple (with Quicktime) think of Flash as this “de-facto standard”? Not much I’d think.
    but that’s the best thing about standards, there’s so many to choose from. The only “standard” is the one controlled by the W3C. All the rest is jockeying for marketshare.
    Adobe are doing smart things by open-sourcing the Flex SDK and providing FlexBuilder3 free for education/students.
    Richard, you are right. Now that Scott Barnes has been promoted to Silverlight Product Manager, he’s going to have to lift his game, get his backside into gear and give the industry something new. “Mee-Too” isn’t going to cut it, I’ve ignored a bunch of video on Silverlight because it’s obviously some wierd-ar$e Microsoft format that my Mac doesn’t appreciate.
    but Barnes’ first battle is having a decent install base. and it sounds like by any means necessary.

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  3. Rich Ziade

    Yeh, it’s trick – can you get a foot in the door by being a nuisance? Think Internet Explorer showing up after Netscape Navigator.
    Then again…Navigator 4.x really sucked. IE won because it was better. Flash – for now – is really good – or at least good enough.
    Microsoft isn’t known for dropping an atomic bomb of innovation on you. It’s more a like a war of attrition.

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