What’s with the Woes about Windows 8?

Notch seems to be worried about Windows 8. Should you be, too?

A couple of big names in the gaming industry have recently spoken out against Windows 8. Specifically the creator of the independent hit Minecraft, Markus “Notch” Persson and Valve Software’s Gabe Newell. Both have said that the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 could be a threat to the game development community. But why is that?

They’re worried about Windows 8 becoming a completely closed platform.

Ok, so what exactly is a closed platform, and why is it so bad?

If you’re any type of modern gamer, you’ve probably purchased games and applications from closed platform systems. Do you purchase content from the Xbox Live Marketplace or Apple’s App Store? If so, congrats! You’ve purchased software on a closed platform.

A closed platform essentially means that in order to develop an application or game for that platform, one needs to get the permission and approval from the platform’s “host” to do so. Anybody can create a product, but there are certain rules and procedures that need to be to be met for that software to be available to the public.

You’ve likely read complaints from some developers, typically indie developers, about the lengthy certification process to get their games on the Xbox Live Marketplace. This is particularly cumbersome if developers have a limited number of resources, or money, to be able to meet these various requirements. Some of the necessities of certification ensure that the new games coming into the Xbox Live Marketplace do not somehow threaten the security of the Xbox Live network. Other certification requirements are there to make a game more accessible to a typical gamer.

Having to conform to these rules and limitations is a scary thought, especially for independent developers like Notch, and for somebody like Gabe Newell, whose Steam platform has been quite a successful marketplace for PC gaming.

For the longest time, it’s been easy for developers to release their programs on the Windows platform without Microsoft’s involvement. If you look at Apple’s App Store and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace, the certification process can take awhile, and there’s the chance that an application will completely fail certification.

To not be able to release a game or application for Windows, simply because Microsoft didn’t give it’s approval, is an understandable fear.

But is it a realistic fear?

I’m not quite so sure what all the fuss is really about. I’ve been using Windows 8, exclusively, on a daily basis for over a month, and I have only come across a handful of programs that don’t run quite as well as they did on Windows 7.

I think there’s a common misunderstanding that Windows 8 is COMPLETELY different from Windows 7, and that’s not true at all. The biggest difference is that the “Start Button” is now a tablet-friendly looking start screen.

While it may have been designed with a nod to tablet computing, Windows 8 still has the traditional desktop mode that everybody’s come to love (or hate). It still works and operates very closely to Windows 7. Instead of clicking the little Windows icon, or the Start button, in the lower-left to pull up your list of applications and settings, you simply push the Windows key, and you’re transported to a more visualized version.

For the record, Minecraft and Steam both work fine in Windows 8.

I’m not seeing this closed platform that Notch is up in arms over, and I honestly don’t think it’s going to get to that point, at least not in Windows 8′s lifetime.

You see, one of Window’s biggest problems is its legacy software and hardware. The operating system has been around for so long that Microsoft cannot just release a brand new operating system that won’t, in some way, allow software based on previous operating systems to run. It’s been an open platform for decades, and limiting a program’s ability to run on a Windows operating system without first being certified by Microsoft would be an issue with businesses, universities, and government, too. So why aren’t we hearing fears and outcries from other types of industries over the fears of a closed platform?

Notch not being able to release Minecraft 2, without first going along with Microsoft’s “song and dance,” is probably one of the least important complaints that could be leveled against Microsoft over a closed platform.

And even if these change to a closed platform was to occur, this is a perfect example of where “the fans” complain about something, and once that something is fixed, they want it changed back to the way it was before.

Windows 8's 'Windows Store' - is it really all that scary?

A closed platform is actually something that Microsoft has needed for years, because it could help solve the security woes that threaten its operating system. If software had to be inspected and certified before it was brought on board, viruses and malware would have to work a whole helluva lot harder to infect a system. It’s one of the best ways for Microsoft to address all of these security concerns but apparently doing something like that will make it harder for game developers to release their games.

Boo hoo. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, apparently.

But I’ve droned on long enough here. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest difference from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is the “metro” style Start Menu, and not this hoopla over a closed platform.

I’ve been able to load all sorts of software, the same way I’ve always done with a Windows OS. It works. I’ve also been able to download some programs through the Windows Store “closed platform” marketplace.

Much like downloading a game or application via the Apple App Store or Xbox Live Marketplace, the applications installation through Windows Store is practically an automated process. You’re not prompted for a location to install or needing to endlessly click “next” at every step. The Windows Store will let you know when updates are available, and a simple click will install the update. And best of all, uninstalling a program is as easy as installing it. You want it gone? It’s gone!

So far, the Microsoft Store mostly consists of games and programs that will appeal to casual Windows 8 users. More advanced users can still download and install and application the same way we have for a long, long time.

I’m not seeing this looming threat over a closed platform, and I can’t imagine that Microsoft is going to get everybody onboard for Windows 8 and then go, “Aha! Gotcha! Closed platform for everybody!” and then throw a switch that makes it impossible to install a game or application without Microsoft’s approving nod. I believe that the Microsoft Store will exist, but will do so in-tandem with traditional software installation.

While I can certainly see how Windows 8 users could really benefit from a cleaner, easier-to-use, closed-platform, a true closed-platform is not going to happen — at least not with normal Windows 8 home and business systems. The world’s not ready, I don’t think Microsoft is willing to take that leap yet, and as far as I can tell Windows Store isn’t your enemy, developers.

Care to share your thoughts on this discussion? Leave us a comment!

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Troy is the Features Editor at Brutal Gamer. When he's not writing about or playing video games, he's enjoying life with his wife and children. He also loves coffee. And lots of it.
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  • chrisboers

    If you’ve checked the prices on xbox/psn compared to Steam, you know why closed platform systems are bad for customers. when the market is big enough, and dependent enough, prices will remain xtremely high.
    Same with iOS attempts to keep the prices of ebooks up, they actually blocked (or tried to block) Amazon to offer mainstream books at very low prices.
    Further, do you REALLY want some company (Apple, MS or other) dictating what type of game/content is good for you? Apple blocked all content that showed any nudity at all. Of course with the exception of Playboy, because they payed big bucks to Apple for the privilege of being able to seel their products in iOS.
    I don’t want an OS or hardware manufacturer to dictate what’s good for me or not, or what suits them best to have on offer or not.
    THAT’s the real threat of a closed platform system, and that;s why I am very wary of iOS, AND consoles, when it’s about choice of content.

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  • demosthenes

    It sounds like payed PR article. Locking out indies is just plain wrong move. And with certified Apps comes the end of cracks and pirated movies you all love so much.

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  • Troy

    As much as I would love to have some “Microsoft Money” I can assure you we were not paid to promote Windows 8 apps.

    I will say this about the Windows 8 Apps, having played around with a Microsoft Surface for the last month. There is no need to use or install a Windows 8 application, unless you are using a computer running Windows RT. If you are running Windows 8 on a laptop, tablet, or desktop system you should be able to install any Windows 7 application.

    Unless you’re gaming on a Windows RT, which at the moment is typically tablet/phone games like Cut the Rope, this threat to indie developers is a total non-issue. The press made a big deal about it when they heard the term “closed platform” because Notch and Gabe Newell made some bold statements, but nobody really followed up with the actual facts about the closed platform. It’s optional. You can still install your normal Windows apps in Windows 8, like Steam and Minecraft, and they’re run without issue.

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