The Myth Of The Windows Server 2012 Interface

The Myth Of The Windows Server 2012 Interface

Windows Server: The Windows 8 interface redesign is controversial, so it’s not surprising that some people are complaining about its appearance on Windows Server 2012 as well. There are arguments for and against that interface, but in a server context, those criticisms almost entirely miss the mark for a more fundamental reason.

I was chatting with a geek friend prior to heading up to TechEd Australia 2012 this week, and mentioned that Windows Server 2012 was going to be a major focus. “No-one’s going to like that much, because it has the new Windows interface,” he commented. I’ve heard similar remarks from other journalists as well, pushing the idea that there’s no way experienced server administrators are going to be happy with the ‘modern’, touch-screen centric look.

The Myth Of The Windows Server 2012 Interface

My big issue with this argument isn’t whether or not server administrators (or anyone else) will like the interface. It’s that there’s a mistaken assumption that every single element of Windows Server 2012 has seen the UI upgraded. That simply isn’t the case.

Yes, the Start screen has been updated with the new look, and the basic Server Manager interface also takes on the new style. But as soon as you dive any deeper, you’ll end up doing one of two things:

  • Changing properties in a traditional Windows-style interface;
  • Hitting the command line to enter a command or run a script.


The latter is particularly important. A recurring theme through this event has been the usefulness of PowerShell for automating server administration tasks. It’s a theme our guest bloggers have touched on several times. In an administrator context, those features (and others like improvements to Hyper-V) matter far more than whether there have been changes to the first screen you see.

The Myth Of The Windows Server 2012 Interface

It’s also worth remembering that the new elements aren’t compulsory. If you choose a Server Core installation, you’ll have nothing but a command line to work with. The choice is yours.

No doubt those parts of the Windows Server 2012 interface which have been modernised will attract comment, favourable or otherwise. But to assume that there’s no other way of interacting with the software is just plain ignorant.

Visit Lifehacker’s TechEd 2012 Newsroom for all the news from the show.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman is attending TechEd 2012 as a guest of Microsoft.


  • So…the new interface isn’t bad, because it isn’t everywhere?

    Or, are you saying that the new interface isn’t bad…because there are other new features that are good?

    Either way, it sounds like you are side-stepping the actual issue- having what is essentially a touch-screen optimised interface on a server operating system.

    I don’t think many people are assuming that there is ‘no other way’ to interact with it (as you put it). Most people I’ve spoken to about this are more interested in what thought-process was followed when deciding that the new interface belonged on a server operating system at all.

    • Heres a hot tip for all those reading this that dont know what they’re talking about – If you had’ve followed Angus’ coverage of TechEd or were in attendance, you DONT even NEED to install the GUI at all.

      Server Core 2012 installation. Totally CLI based. Then you could customise even further beyond that.

  • Microsoft has been gradually pushing people towards command line and web interfaces since 2008. I’m a CLI guy, so I’ve been loving the transition.

    This new interface feels like part of that. A lot of windows admins just feel comfortable with how the past interfaces looked and worked. By drastically changing things, they’re pushing more people over to running things by powershell.

  • Tom i couldn’t have put it better myself. i also think there is no place for the interface on a business desktop. you should be able to opt for a more functional ‘traditional’ style start menu.

  • I think the Interface would be great for server. Granted i havent managed a server since i transitioned to full time developer but having live tiles provide server status info, quick click access to management apps seems useful to me.

    I’ve been running Win 8 since it RTMd from MSDN, and i love it, i use Metro (screw those tradmark wankers, ill call it what i want to) all the time, mainly as a launcher, sometimes i need a regular start menu (for that i have Start8), and yeah its annoying when i install an app that has 100 icons in the start menu cause i have to unpin them all, but that doesn’t happen often. I like it so much it tempts me to jump ship from iPhone to Lumia for WP8.

    It seems that some people are just resistant to change for the sake of being resistant to change. If you don’t like it you hardly have to use it so it doesnt really matter either way.

  • While the option of a touch-screen optimized interface could be useful in some instances, the “out-of-the-box” experience does feel awkward and slow. And for those of us who support dozens of different customers, customization is not necessarily an option; we simply want a quick and easy interface that will essentially be identical on all machines.

    While most of us look forward to the new features available with a new OS release, changes to the UI are the least interesting aspect of a new release, and are more tolerated than anticipated.

  • Well, reading about pros and cons of redesigned server GUI my opinion is straight: server GUI should not be for kids! It should be intuitive, helper, to help things done quickly. Also GUI should help in overview in what’s happening with server right now, what’s wrong etc.
    For example, new Task Manager – I like. It’s a candy for kids, but hey, it’s descriptive and does it’s job.
    On the other hand, new Management Console is the the worst half-product MS ever made! Bunch of boxes, you click on them, you get description with NO links, telling you to look for solution elsewhere, but that’s all – just TELLING you to look under some other section, which might even be renamed or named diferently.
    What’s new and Learn more takes up 15% of console height. Did ANY sys admin in the world ever click on that??
    Ok, see I got red box, service cannot be started. I follow links in Management Console, I get to Services, where I see: “At least one of the services could not be started”. Ok, I know that…but WHICH ONE???! Show me the problematic one in RED or something, if you want to help me, dear Bill. Ajajai…

    Put back old GUI, fill it with new features and it will be one of the BEST servers on the market. Who buys servers because of GUI design? Noone! But if you push forward Powershell, people will start buying Linux. Licence is free there, remember, Bill?

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