Home » Cloud client SW platforms » Microsoft on five key technology areas and Windows 8 –UPDATED [Dec 15, 2012] with full content up to delivery and change of command

Microsoft on five key technology areas and Windows 8 –UPDATED [Dec 15, 2012] with full content up to delivery and change of command

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After this update there are three detailed sections in the post:

  1. Julie Larson-Green’s and her team journey to build the new Windows 8 and Windows Live experience and getting to the top of the whole product group
  2. The follow-up posts to the original May 2011 one
  3. The original May 2011 post, which described the five key technology areas for the Windows 8 journey which Microsoft earlier (in H2 CY2009]
    – identified to transform the industry over the next few years, and
    – was committed to investing and innovating and leading

    These were:

    1. Natural user interface
    2. Natural language
    3. HTML and JavaScript
    4. Chip and form factors
    5. The cloud

As the end-result of that effort we had delivery shown in Microsoft Windows 8 – Launch Event Keynote Highlights [HD] [BuildingWindows YouTube channel, Oct 28, 2012]

Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows from [0:01] to [1:42]; Julie Larson Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Program Management and Michael Angiulo, Corporate Vice President, Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem [1:49] to [4:28]; Steve Ballmer, CEO from [4:30] to [6:43].

Then came:
Steven Sinofsky, ex Microsoft: The victim of an extremely complex web of the “western world” high-tech interests [this same ‘Experiencing the Cloud’ blog, Nov 13-20, 2012]
resulting also in Julie Larson Green’s promotion to the top job of leading all Windows software and hardware engineering, and in her membership in the Senior Leadership Team of Microsoft.

All this during quite a turbulent year at Microsoft, with quite a lot at stake, as shown in:
2012: A Year of Microsoft Milestones [Microsoft YouTube channel, Dec 12, 2012]

From Windows 8 to Surface to ‘Halo 4,’ 2012 was a momentous year for Microsoft. See how Microsoft is building its devices and services foundation for the year to come.

Going into the detailed sections below (including the linked posts in the second section) you will be able to judge for yourself how much Microsoft would be able to transform the ICT industry over the next few years. All this is, certainly, in addition to your own experience with Windows 8 on a proper touch device. Your own experience should also last as long as from two days to two weeks depending on how deep you are involved in the old way of doing things with mouse and keyboard, as well your degree of resistance to change.

1. Julie Larson-Green’s and her team journey
to build the new Windows 8 and Windows Live experience
and getting to the top of the whole product group

Update: When she started the journey:
Interview with Julie Larson-Green about Office 2007 and Windows 7 [BryZad YouTube channel, Nov 21, 2009]

Her Microsoft Office achievement is well described in the description of her 2008 Outstanding Technical Leadership award:

In revamping the interface of Microsoft Office 2007, Larson-Green effected a paradigm shift in one of the company’s most successful products.
“At first, no one wanted to change Office dramatically,” says Julie Larson-Green, who was tasked with overseeing a reimagining of the product’s end-user interaction and overall experience in the fall of 2003. Larson-Green’s leadership of Microsoft Office 2007’s redesign, the most radical revamp in the product’s history, required immense courage and conviction, to which this award attests.
A specialist in user-interface design, Larson-Green began working with Office in 1997, when she program-managed FrontPage. She subsequently helmed UI design for Office XP and Office 2003, which had evolved into a large organization of carefully negotiated compromises among the application suite’s various programs. Although Office’s great success was based on customer familiarity, the Customer Experience Improvement Program was indicating that users, while basically happy with the product, were increasingly either unaware of (possibly redundant) functions among Office’s different programs or frustrated by the amount of training necessary to use an astonishingly complex set of commands, dialogs, and interaction modes.
After deciding that Office needed to be made easier to use, Larson-Green’s team arrived at the elegant solution of the browsable Ribbon (or Office Fluent user interface) and its contextual cousins that united the product’s common capabilities and ease of experimentation. “The breakthrough,” Larson-Green says, “arrived with contextualizing the user interface and realizing that all of the product’s features didn’t have to be present all the time.”
As development of Office 2007 proceeded, Larson-Green was confronted with the equally formidable task of selling the redesign across Office’s various programs. “Our biggest challenge,” she says, “was convincing people that we had an idea that would work.” Heavily invested in the earlier version, the Word, Excel, Outlook, and other organizations were initially reluctant to relegate control to an umbrella design team. Even more significant, Larson-Green had decided not to compromise the integrity of Office 2007 with the safety net of a “classic mode.”
It’s difficult to change the direction of a large organization at the best of times. It’s even more difficult when the goal is still incomplete. Larson-Green’s ability to argue her vision without necessarily being able to address myriad objections in detail is a remarkable trait in a data-driven culture such as Microsoft’s. One by one, however, the suite’s principals bought into the design as it was being tested and fleshed out.
Office 2007 shipped to nearly universal critical acclaim in January 2007, and Larson-Green was promoted to corporate vice president of program management for the Windows Experience. As with Office 2007, she plans to identify and solve customer problems, which will in turn drive a new design and its subsequent engineering. “In the old world,” she notes, “coding would start and design would kind of evolve with the coding.”
Flattered by her nomination for the Outstanding Technical Leadership Award, Larson-Green admits to shock at winning. “I was very pleased,” she says, “but also kind of embarrassed. I may have been the ringleader, but I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from a lot of people.” She cites principal Office User Experience Team Program Manager Jensen Harris, Product Design Manager Brad Weed, General Manager Dave Barthol, and Test Manager Sean Adridge as key collaborators.
As for the prize, Larson-Green will treat its dispensation as a family affair. “Unless we all agree on one, we’re going to split the award and each pick a charity,” she says. “My seven-year-old son has already decided he wants to do something with animals. My fifteen-year-old daughter wants to do something with children. And my economist husband is doing all the research on how much money goes to programs versus administration.”
View Larson-Green’s official press profile.

Update: When she delivered:
Windows 8 Launch Live Event Part 1 – 25/10/2012 [LiveSports TechNews YouTube channel, Oct 25, 2012]

Windows 8 Launch Live Event Part 2 – 25/10/2012 [LiveSports TechNews YouTube channel, Oct 25, 2012]

After that an Interview with Microsoft’s Windows Program head, Julie Larson-Green [VentureBeat YouTube channel, Oct 25, 2012]


Update: before the promotion on Nov 12, 2012 to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering, and becoming member of the Senior Leadership Team of Microsoft, her official corporate biography [Microsoft, Oct 25, 2012] was as follows:

As corporate vice president of program management for Windows at Microsoft Corp., Julie Larson-Green oversees the design and delivery of the Windows operating system. Leading a team of technical engineers, her responsibilities include program management, design research and development of all international releases for Windows 8.
Larson-Green joined Microsoft in 1993 and has focused on technical design and development throughout her career. As a program manager in Development Tools and Languages, she was instrumental in several releases of Visual C++ for 32-bit operating systems and led the development of Microsoft’s first customizable integrated development environment for Windows. Moving to the Windows team, she was responsible for the Internet Explorer 3.0 and Internet Explorer 4.0 user experiences, including features related to the Web-integrated Windows desktop.
Continuing her focus on end-user software, Larson-Green joined the Office team in 1997 and led program management for Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft FrontPage, including the early work in information worker servers. More recently, she has been responsible for leading the user interface design for Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003 and the 2007 Microsoft Office system, which was lauded for its innovative reinvention of the user experience for productivity software. Before Windows 8, Larson-Green served as corporate vice president of Windows Experience for Windows 7, charged with leading the design and development of the Windows 7 OS.
Before joining Microsoft, Larson-Green was a senior development engineer at a Seattle-based company that created leading desktop publishing software. She has a master’s degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Washington University. A native of Washington state, she lives there with her husband, who is a university professor, and her two children.

This time she had her earlier key collaborator, Jensen Harris again to lead the program management of the user experience. Watch Harris’ presentation about The Story of Windows 8 [keynote on the UX Week, Aug 21, 2012, published on vimeo on Oct 25, 2012] as it is extremely important to the whole story:

UX Week 2012 | Jensen Harris | The Story of Windows 8 from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

… [26:04] David Pierce said [in The Verge that] the Start Screen [of Windows 8] feels like a house made out of the Internet

The 5 Microsoft (previously Metro) design [style] principles he is talking about

  1. Do more with less, i.e. “fierce reductionism for every piece of UI”
  2. Authentically digital, i.e. “skeumorphism … removing decoration, ornamentation in a ‘Bauhaus‘ style … content over chrome … as in the [3d party] my History Digest application … icons reimagined as tiles”
  3. Pride in craftsmanship, i.e. “caring about every detail … getting details perfect … typographic grid underlying everything on the screen”
  4. Be fast and fluid, i.e. “… feel broadcast TV quality … as in the [3d party] Cocktail Flow application …”

  5. Win as one, i.e. “… have a product feel as designed by one person …”

With the goal of having one device for consumption and productivity

“New Microsoft led by principled design” as the result of all that 


Jensen Harris is Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team.

He has worked at Microsoft since 1998. Prior to his current job, he was the Group Program Manager of the Microsoft Office User Experience Team, where his team redesigned the user interface for Office 2007 and Office 2010, adding the Ribbon, Live Preview, Backstage View, and other innovations.

Jensen attended Yale University and Interlochen Arts Academy, graduating with degrees in music composition.

For completeness some additional information from Jason Harris:
Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Product Demo [WindowsVideos YouTube channel, Feb 28, 2012]
Creating the Windows 8 user experience [Building Windows 8, May 19, 2012], highly recommended reading as gives all the background information, from Windows 1 released in 1985 upto Windows 8.
Windows 8 UI vision mockups from 2010 [a 3d party report from the UX Week video]
Jensen Harris: Windows 8′s lockscreen photos are design easter eggs [a 3d party report from the UX Week video]
8 traits of great Metro style apps [Channel 9 video of Jansen Harris’ Build2011 session, Sept 13, 2011]
Notes from BUILD – Day 1 – Big Picture Session 1 – Jensen Harris on 8 Traits of Great Metro Style Apps [Oct 6, 2011]
bldwin – 8 traits of great Metro style apps (notes in German about Jansen Harris’ Build2011 session) [Sept 13, 2011]
– regarding his earlier achievements see The Story of the Ribbon [Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog, March 12, 2008] with video and slides embedded

And Jensen Harris had a team behind him as well. From that team Bonny Lau, Senior Program Manager, Windows User Experience Team had been the most active member. Here she is briefly talking (click to the link which follows) in a concise way about the same subject what Harris was talking about in great detail a year earlier:
8 traits of great Windows Store apps [Channel 9 video, Oct 18, 2012]

The 8 traits she is talking about:

  1. Microsoft design style
  2. Be fast and fluid (the Cocktail Fow 3d party app is shown again)
  3. Snap and scale beautifully
  4. Use the right contracts
  5. Invest in a great tile
  6. Feel connected and alive
  7. Roam to the cloud
  8. Embrace Microsoft design style principles

Her related materials:
Creating Metro style apps that stand out from the crowd [Windows 8 app developer blog, July 12, 2012] using the “Food with friends” application shown for Microsoft design style (in Jason Harris’ UX Week keynote as well to illustrate by him the Do more with less design style principle) as an example for development
Make great Windows Store apps (Windows) as her contribution to “Getting started” MSDN materials for developers
Designing UX for apps as contribution from her team to MSDN documentation with everything including samples to learn from
– earlier she was with Microsoft Project 2010 Scheduling Engine Project 2010: Bonny Lau [MSFTProject YouTube channel, Oct 28, 2009]

Finally here is a light talk of Bonny Lau about Windows 8 User Experience [MSUserCommunity YouTube channel, Sept 18, 2012]

Do design principles hinder innovation? Bonny Lau explains the reasoning behind theWindows 8user experience and urges developers to leverage design templates as a starting point (not an end point) for design, to push the envelope and build great looking apps.Learn how to make your app the best experience for your users at Generation App. Ready to Get Started? 1.Visit the Windows Developer Center for a myriad of sample, docs and guidelines: http://bit.ly/PwV3sE 2.Join the Generation App program and get a jumpstart building your Windows Store app. http://bit.ly/PwVi6R

Update: The Woman Charged With Making Windows 8 Succeed [MIT Technology Review, Dec 13, 2012]

In a Q&A, Julie Larson-Green explains why Microsoft felt it was necessary to rethink an operating system used by 1.2 billion people.

imageAs the head of Windows product development at Microsoft, Julie Larson-Green is responsible for a piece of software used by some 1.3 billion people worldwide. She’s also the person leading the campaign to introduce as many of those people as possible to Windows 8, the dramatic redesign of the iconic operating system that must succeed if Microsoft is to keep pace with a computing industry now shaped more by phones and tablets than desktop PCs.

Windows 8 throws out design features familiar to Windows users since 1995, swapping in simpler, bolder interfaces designed to be operated using a touch screen. The release of the Surface, a device somewhere between a tablet and laptop, also sees Microsoft break its tradition of leaving the building of hardware to other companies.

Larson-Green took over the role a few weeks ago, after Microsoft veteran Steven Sinofsky left amid rumors of personal disputes with other Microsoft executives. However, Larson-Green has long been a senior figure inside the Windows division and even took the lead on drawing up the first design brief for Windows 8. An expert in technical design, she also led the introduction of the novel, much copied “ribbon” interface for Microsoft Office, widely acknowledged as a major improvement in usability.

Larson-Green met last week with Tom Simonite at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington.

Why was it necessary to make such broad changes in Windows 8?

When Windows was first created 25 years ago, the assumptions about the world and what computing could do and how people were going to use it were completely different. It was at a desk, with a monitor. Before Windows 8 the goal was to launch into a window, and then you put that window away and you got another one. But with Windows 8, all the different things that you might want to do are there at a glance with the Live Tiles. Instead of having to find many little rocks to look underneath, you see a kind of dashboard of everything that’s going on and everything you care about all at once. It puts you closer to what you’re trying to get done.

Windows 8 is clearly designed with touch in mind, and many new Windows 8 PCs have touch screens. Why is touch so important?

It’s a very natural way to interact. If you get a laptop with a touch screen, your brain clicks in and you just start touching what makes it faster for you. 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.

In the future, are all PCs going to have touch screens?

For cost considerations there might always be some computers without touch, but I believe that the vast majority will. We’re seeing that the computers with touch are the fastest-selling right now. I can’t imagine a computer without touch anymore. Once you’ve experienced it, it’s really hard to go back.

Did you take that approach in Windows 8 as a response to the popularity of mobile devices running iOS and Android?

We started planning Windows 8 in June of 2009, before we shipped Windows 7, and the iPad was only a rumor at that point.

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. We [also] had differences. 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.

Can touch coexist with a keyboard and mouse interface? Some people have said it doesn’t feel right to have both the newer, touch-centric elements and the old-style desktop in Windows 8.

It was a very definite choice to have both environments. A finger’s never going to replace the precision of a mouse. It’s always going to be easier to type on a keyboard than it is on glass. We didn’t want you to have to make a choice. Some people have said that it’s jarring, but over time we don’t hear that. It’s just getting used to something that’s different. Nothing was homogenous to start with, when you were in the browser it looked different than when you were in Excel.

I wonder if you’re experiencing a little déjà vu, after previously leading a radical change to the interface for Office that initially met with complaints.

Yes! A lot of it is familiar. Some people who review it for a shorter period of time may not feel how rich it really is. We’re going for the over time impression rather than the first 20 minutes out of the box. We’ve found that the more invested you were in the old way, the more difficult the transition is, which is unfortunate because we first hear about everything in the tech press. Those are the ones that we knew up front are going to have the most challenge.

How long does it take people to adjust?

Two days to two weeks is what we used to say in Office, and it’s similar in Windows 8. We do a “living with Windows” program where we watched people over a series of months in their household. A lot of people don’t have trouble upfront.

What data do you have on how people buying Windows 8 are reacting?

When you sign into your Windows PC, one of the things you get asked is whether you’ll be part of our customer experience improvement program, and if you will, then you’re sending some data to us. Everyone gets asked that. We get terabytes and terabytes of data every day, and we can’t possibly use it all. So far we’re seeing very encouraging things. Over 90 percent of customers, from our data, use the charms and find the start screen all in the first session. Even if you’re a desktop user, over time there’s a cutover point around six weeks where you start using the new things more than the things you’re familiar with.

Microsoft has chosen to make its own hardware for Windows 8 with the Surface tablets. Why not leave that to the equipment manufacturers, as you’ve done in the past?

It was a way to test our hypothesis of a new way of working. It takes time for individuals to adjust, but it also takes time for the industry to adjust to new things—all the complicated things about the supply chain and issues like what sizes of glass gets cut. 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. One of the things that’s always been nice about Windows is choice—you’re not locked into one size, one shape, one color, one version.

Your predecessor, Steven Sinofsky, was widely credited with driving Microsoft to create Windows 8 through sheer force of will. Is that true?

Steven is an amazing leader and an amazing brain and an amazing person, but one person can’t do everything. It’s really about the team that we created and the culture that we created for innovation.

What changes now that you’re in charge?

Not a whole lot. I’ve worked directly with Steven for seven years but known him for the whole 20 years I’ve been at Microsoft. We think a lot the same about what the role of Windows is in society, what computing looks like, and getting people on board with that point of view.

Now that Windows 8 has been released, what are you and your team doing now?

We didn’t really slow down. There are always new technologies to think about that can be helpful to people.

Read more about Microsoft’s efforts to track users’ reaction to Windows 8: Microsoft Has Been Watching and It Says You’re Getting Used to Windows 8.

2. The follow-up posts to the original May 2011 one

3. The original May 2011 post

Windows 8 on ARM expected to appear by the end of 2011 [DIGITIMES, May 24, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

Tablet PCs that adopt Windows 8 and ARM-based processor are expected to appear by the end of 2011, but due to the platform lack of system performance, the platform will be mainly used for targeting the tablet PC market, according to sources from notebook players.

However, due to the combination still have several issues need to be resolved, most notebook players are taking a conservative attitude toward the new platform and will not rush to open up new projects for the related products.

Due to the Windows 8/ARM platform initially only testing in the tablet PC market, the sources believe the platform is unlikely to affect Intel’s position in the traditional PC segment, while the operating system is also unlikely to impact Google’s Android in the next one year.

Steve Ballmer: Microsoft Developer Forum [Microsoft, May 23, 2011] (emphasis is mine)

There is so much in the way of exciting innovations to look forward to over the next few years. At Microsoft, we’ve identified five things that we think will transform the industry over the next few years, and five areas where Microsoft, as a company, is committed to investing and innovating and leading. We think there will be other companies working in these areas. There are going to be opportunities for developers. Certainly we’re going to see a lot of competition. But these five key technology areas are the ones that I think more than anything else will make people look back and say, wow, computing is fundamentally simpler and easier to use, whether it’s on my phone, my PC, or my TV, than ever before.

The first one I’ll highlight for you is natural user interface. This is the notion that we really want to speak, wave and gesture, touch and mark on our computing devices. We want smart devices to work the way we work, to recognize us and our actions. Speech recognition, vision, handwriting recognition, touch interfaces, these are all part of the theme. And certainly whether it’s in phones, or what we’ve done with Kinect for large room, and living room type environments, for vision, and visual recognition are all emblems of the move in this direction.

The second big area of innovation will come in natural language. And the distinction is important. With natural user interface, we’re talking about voice, and vision, and touch. With natural language, we’re really asking ourselves the question, can we let you control your computing environment by expressing intent instead of specific commands. Today on a PC, it’s file open, blah, blah, blah, respond, reply, forward. I can’t just say to my device, get me ready for my trip to Tokyo.

The third area that I think will be increasingly important is HTML and JavaScript. We’ve made a big investment, obviously, in Windows and IE9 in our HTML and JavaScript support, but more and more of the world’s programmers will be fluent in these technologies in addition to whatever skills people have in C++ and C# and a variety of other important skills. But we have to recognize that more and more of the world’s talent will know these techniques. And whether it’s writing a website or a client application, or a server application, we want to build and develop the range of things that you can do not only using .NET, but also in using HTML and JavaScript. And, in fact, even how you can weave these things together into sensible programs in the future.

No. 4 is chip and form factors. Just think back three or four years ago and how quickly performance and size, and miniaturization and the move to ARM processors has happened. We’ve announced with Windows that we’re going to support system-on-a-chip architectures, not only from Intel and AMD, but also from a set of ARM vendors.

The form factor of the devices that we all use will continue to change. I think there will be a day in the future where it will be hard to distinguish a phone from a slate, from a PC. You literally will have displays that become paper thin and very easy to fold out form your phone. And at the same time, you’re going to get more and more PC-like capabilities in smaller form factor devices.

Last, but certainly not least is the cloud. And with both Azure, Windows Azure and SQL Azure, as well as Office 365, we’ve made a major step into the cloud. I’m sure I’ll get a few questions about Skype. Skype is just another representation of what we think is the importance of enabling a broad range of scenarios in the cloud. If those are the technologies, the flipside is to ask what can we do with them? They’re all great, but what will we, Microsoft, do and what do we expect the developers that we work with here in Japan, and across the world to do?

We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech. And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.

The browser is an area where we’ve been very active. Internet Explorer 9 is the fastest browser around because of the way that we’ve married it to Windows systems and allow essentially full exploitation of the hardware to have the fastest and most beautiful Web on the planet run on Windows systems.

We’ve integrated the browser into Windows more fully, so that you can put jumplists, and pin those to the taskbar on Windows. We’ve improved JavaScript performance. We’re running on downloads that are about five times the rate of customer acceptance that we saw on IE8, and when it comes to HTML and JavaScript, and the browser, there will be simply no one who pushes that, not Google, not Firefox, nobody will push that faster and harder than we push with IE.

Microsoft’s Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012 [ZDNet, May 23, 2011]

During remarks at a developers conference in Japan on May 23, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer referred to the next version of Windows as “Windows 8.” He also said the next generation of Windows systems will be out next year.

To those not following Microsoft’s Windows saga closely, this may seem like a “so what” moment. But Microsoft execs have been studiously avoiding any references to the timing or naming of the next version of Windows to try to keep the specifics of the product as quiet as possible. Microsoft’s top brass has been avoiding calling the next version of Windows “Windows 8″ publicly, preferring instead to call it “Windows Next.” (Internally, a number of  Microsoft job postings and leaked slides have referenced “Windows 8,” however.”

Update: OK, believe it or not, the “official” response is Ballmer’s statement isn’t what it seems to be… Sent from a Microsoft spokesman earlier tonight:

““It appears there was a misstatement. We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year.  To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.”

And, as usual, there are many ways to interpret these remarks. Is the next-generation Windows release nothing but Windows 7 with new paint? Windows 8 not the final name for the next version of Windows? (The final name possibly being something other than Windows 8 is something that I’ve heard from my tipsters…) You be the judge….



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