Computers vs. TVs: Why mess with a good thing?

Through no fault of my own, I recently purchased a new PC. Through no fault of my own, this new PC came equipped with Windows 8. Through no fault of my own, this has sent my life into paroxysms of pain, agony and just plain confusion as things that were there are no longer where they should be and years of learned lessons on how to do my job have vanished into the merry minds of the Microsoft masterminds.

My initial experience with Windows 8 has led me to question why it was necessary to mess with what everyone already knows how to do. Admittedly, Windows has never been the most congenial program with which to work but, after 20 years of messing with essentially the same thing in different packages, it became workable--unwieldy, but workable.

Windows 8 is a new beast altogether and, while the people at the store where I bought this PC and had it configured assure me I'll eventually understand and appreciate it, out of the box I have to say I don't.

What concerns me more than the mess I'm facing and the extra work I'll need to do to correct things and restore sanity is the fact that there is an ever-closing gap between the "lean forward" experience--as personified by Microsoft and Windows--and the "lean back" way of enjoying television.

For years, Microsoft has tried to worm its way into the entertainment television space. For years, and for whatever reason (although Windows 8 does provide a pretty good example) it's never made any real inroads. Today that could be changing. With the introduction of tablets, smartphones and other portable devices, the ways of watching TV have changed. With the growth of online video, consumers have become more accustomed to the computer way of doing things when watching video. Store employees, incidentally, credited tablets for the changes that make Windows 8 so endearing--unless, of course, you want to accomplish anything of worth.

I'm willing to bet that the majority of viewers--young and old--are quite comfortable turning on that 58-inch plasma, tuning to a selected channel and leaning back to veg out with a bag of potato chips as the folks on The Biggest Loser sweat off extra tonnage. I'm also willing to bet that this same majority--people who pay hefty sums to their MVPD or their OTT provider or even via time consumed watching advertising--would be less than delighted if someone came along and changed the way this operation all takes place.

TV, at its foundation, has remained virtually the same viewing experience for more than 50 years because it works. Sure, you can add remotes and extra channels and interactivity and second screens, but, in the end, TV is TV. It's relatively simple, relatively intuitive and, at the end of a day struggling with the PC in the office, relatively easy to do.

People have, as Nielsen shows in its most recent Cross-Platform Report, changed the way they view television. They've embraced time-shifted viewing and second screen devices. In the end, though, they still do the same thing: push the on button, tune to the content they want to see and lean back to enjoy the experience.

It's a lesson that those who provide the content and charge increasingly large sums for it should understand before they lean farther in the direction of a computer-like experience. -Jim

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