A recent (and now edited) job ad published by Microsoft implies that the company is planning a major UI overhaul this year. The now-altered job listing originally stated, as spotted by Windows Latest:
On this team, you’ll work with our key platform, Surface, and OEM partners to orchestrate and deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to our customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers.”
The new text backs off these claims, but notes that one of the job’s assignments is: “working directly with our customers to understand their needs and deliver magical software that exceeds their expectations!” Hope you’ve got a copy of “Conjuring With XAML” handy.
How Can I Miss You, If You Won’t Go Away?
It’s just as well that Microsoft replaced the text in the original ad because the previous framing leaves us with nothing but questions. Among them:
When did Windows leave?
Where did it go? Was this a “Windows is BACK” in the sense of a drunk yell-slurring an announcement as they stumble through the door at 2 AM, or is this meant to come off like the second diner scene in Superman II? If the latter, who exactly is the abusive trucker in this scenario? Google? Apple? IBM’s OS/2? (It’s probably not OS/2.)
Aforementioned scene included above, as it’s rude to reference 38-year-old superhero movies without a bit of footage.
Microsoft wants to “ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers.” That’s a great goal. But again — who is the competition, here? The only two possibilities are Chromebooks and Apple’s macOS. There’s definitely an argument that Windows could use a stronger position against those competitors, but it’s not going to come from a UI overhaul.
As far as practical UI changes that I’d like to see:
It would be nice if Microsoft could migrate back to having one Control Panel / Settings panel, but not if it requires dumbing down the existing Control Panel, or burying settings under a lot more clicks. The current system of “Sometimes you adjust things in Control Panel, sometimes in Settings,” has been garbage since it debuted nine years ago with Windows 8.
An overhaul to media playback. The small vertical rectangle for adjusting the volume up and down is nice; the giant carve-out that refreshes itself if you inadvertently mouse over it on your way to something else, isn’t. An option to kill this behavior would be nice.
Here are another two UI changes I’d like: Allow me to organize installed applications by the date they were installed. Bring back the use of color gradients in menus to make it easier to distinguish from various options.
Finally, while it’s not a UI request, maybe fix the whole “We don’t scale above 64 threads without using processor groups” problem. Not a huge issue now, but probably going to be bigger in the future, given how core counts tend to waterfall into lower product markets over time.
Chances are, the improvements Microsoft actually has in mind will be things like icon updates, along with tweaks to the File Explorer, Action Center, and Start Menu. It’s important to have an important and clearly communicated visual language, so I’m not dismissing any effort to improve them. At the same time, I’m not sure any such overhaul will meaningfully change the Windows experience unless Microsoft launches a new set of dark patterns to hide the method of creating a local Windows account, or to trick you into believing it isn’t possible.
The number one reason to use Windows is that the software you want to use runs well on Windows. That’s the exact same reason to use macOS or a Chromebook. If Microsoft has come up with a way to improve battery life or performance by overhauling its OS, that’d be very interesting. A standard UI overhaul will probably contain a few cleaned-up bits that we’ve wanted, but not much that will change the underlying experience, “magical” software notwithstanding.
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