Microsoft and Windows 8: An Interview with Debra Shinder
DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. These include Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook, published by Syngress, and Computer Networking Essentials,published by Cisco Press. She is co-author, with her husband, Dr. Thomas Shinder, of Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP, the best-selling Configuring ISA Server 2000, ISA Server and Beyond, and Configuring ISA Server 2004. She also co-authored Windows XP: Ask the Experts with Jim Boyce.
Onuora: Deb, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. How did you get started with blogging and writing about Microsoft products?
Deb: I was a computer hobbyist and Microsoft fan in the 1980s and early 90s. In the mid-90s, I met my husband online; at the time, he was a practicing neurologist and I was teaching criminal justice at the police academy and community college. He was also an avid computer hobbyist. We set up an elaborate home network.
In 1997, we decided to do a “mid-life career change” and studied and obtained our MCSEs, opened a consulting business doing network setup and troubleshooting for small businesses, and started teaching and writing about computers and networking, mostly Microsoft products. We published ten books together for Syngress Publishing and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. I published two of my own, for Synress and Cisco Press, and co-authored over 20 with other authors for various publishers. He focused on firewall technologies and particularly ISA Server, and I covered more general network security issues and products. We were both awarded the MVPeight years ago.
I was recruited by Mike Jackman to write for TechRepublic in 2000, before they were acquired by CNET and then CBS Interactive. In 2003, I started writing WXPnews for Sunbelt Software, and then added VistaNews and later Win7News. Along about the same time, Tom was recruited by TechGenix to write for ISAServer.org and they asked me to write for Windowsecurity.com. At that point, we were noticed by Microsoft and started doing many whitepapers, presentations, marketing materials, TechNet how-to articles and other projects for them. Microsoft attempted to recruit us both in 2004 but we did not want to move to Washington. In 2009, Tom was again offered a job with them, in which he could work remotely from home. He accepted, and I took over his work on ISAServer.org.
So I have been deeply immersed in Microsoft technology for more than a decade. I’ve worked with other platforms (Mac, Linux) but I prefer Windows, and have also become intimately familiar with products such as Exchange, SharePoint, ISA/TMG/UAG, and various other Microsoft server systems.
Onuora: Out of all the features you have come across (or heard of) that might make it into windows 8, which ones do you think are the most exciting?
Deb: I think a touch-centric UI that will be tablet-friendly is a must for the next generation of Windows if Microsoft doesn’t choose to create a separate tablet OS. The fact that Windows 8 will run on ARM processors is terribly exciting because it opens up the compact portable form factors that are so hot today, with the potential to create a truly integrated user experience across the “three screens” that have been mentioned so often. I love the Windows Phone 7 interface (Metro) and want to see the same sort of fresh, functional UI in the desktop OS – without losing any functionality.
Onuora: I personally love windows 7, what do you think were the deficiencies if any that windows 7 had? What do you think needed to be addressed in windows 8?
Deb: I love Windows 7, too; I think it’s by far the best desktop operating system to date, from any vendor. But even though it’s more touch-friendly than previous versions, it’s still lacking in that department. I’d also like to see faster startup. One of the great things about tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab is the almost instantaneous resumption when you turn it on. Power usage is also a big deal for portable devices that will run Windows 8. I’d love to have a Windows 7 tablet but when most offer only 3 or 4 hours of battery life, compared to 10 to 12 for the iPad and Tab, it’s a deal breaker.
Onuora: What do you think about the potential for Cloud Computing integration in Windows 8? Where do you think that could go?
Deb: The cloud is already here; many users are “in the cloud” without even knowing it. They use web-based email, IM, Windows Live services, their blogs are hosted online, etc. But many consumers and businesses are afraid of the whole idea of “cloud.” They see in it a lack of reliability (and incidents such as the recent Amazon outage exacerbate those fears) and a loss of control over their data and applications. They don’t trust the cloud, and in order to gain that trust and show users the benefits that cloud computing has to offer, Microsoft needs to do it right. I believe cloud integration, if it’s done right, could be a transformational technology for the desktop OS. The key is to make it seamless for the user. For example, my cloud storage (such as SkyDrive) should automatically be accessible through Windows Explorer just like a local drive.
Onuora: Do you think that the Kinect will play a major role in Windows 8?
Deb: I think Kinect technology will eventually play a major role in the desktop OS. I don’t know whether that will happen with Windows 8 or a little later down the line. I think there is a lot of potential for the kind of natural interface that Kinect uses to become an integral part of the computing experience, and I can envision the Xbox avatars, for example, becoming a visual representation of users beyond the gaming boundary, in business and social networking environments.
Onuora: What’s your take on the amount of time between OS refreshes from Microsoft? Do you think 2012/2013 is about right or early?
Deb: I think the five and a half year interval between XP and Vista was too long. Two years is a bit short, although in the case of Windows 7 I think it was justified in response to public dissatisfaction with Vista. In the 90s, Microsoft released a new version approximately every three years and I think that’s about right. It gives them time to properly develop and test (and beta test) the new OS without letting the previous version get too “long in the tooth.” So I think mid to late 2012 would be an appropriate time for the next generation.
From an enterprise perspective, what do you think Microsoft need to do with windows 8 to compel weary IT managers and execs to (once again) open up their wallets for an OS refresh?
Here again, cloud integration might be the “killer feature” that will lure businesses to upgrade, if it’s handled properly.
Onuora: What mistakes do you think Microsoft have to avoid with Windows 8?
Deb: I think the biggest mistake they made with Windows Phone 7 (which I generally like a lot) was too much copying of Apple, e.g. the “walled garden” approach rather than adopting a more open approach emulating Android. I know many people like me, who like the new phone OS but use a Droid because we want to be able to swap out microSD cards, we want a removable battery, we don’t want to have to sync through iTunes/Zune, and so forth. So I think once again, Microsoft needs to be careful not to follow Apple’s lead in the OS space (for example, there has been talk of an app store for Windows 8, which could be a good thing – but not if that’s the only place you can buy applications for the system).
Onuora: Thanks for your time:
Deb: You’re welcome
More about Deb
Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam and TruSecure’s ICSA certification. She formerly edited the Brainbuzz A+ Hardware News and currently edits Sunbelt Software’s WinXPNews and VistaNews, with over a million subscribers, and writes a weekly column on Voice over IP technologies for TechRepublic/CNET. Her articles on various technology issues are regularly published on the CNET Web sites and Windowsecurity.com, and have appeared in print magazines such as Windows IT Pro (formerly Windows & .NET) Magazine and Law & Order Magazine.
She has authored training material, corporate whitepapers, marketing material, and product documentation for Microsoft Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, GFI Software, Sunbelt Software, Sony and other technology companies and written courseware for Powered, Inc and DigitalThink.
Deb currently specializes in security issues and Microsoft products; she has been awarded Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status in Windows Server Security for the last eight years. A former police officer and police academy instructor, she lives and works with her husband, Tom, on a beautiful lake just outside Dallas, Texas and teaches computer networking and security and occasional criminal justice courses at Eastfield College (Mesquite, TX). You can read her tech blog at http://deb-tech.spaces.live.com.