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Windows 8 Review
Aegis IT’s Review of Windows 8
Microsoft released Windows 8 towards the end of October, 2012. Ever since the first preview, numerous review sources collectively asked out loud, “Is Microsoft really doing this?” The large debate stems from the bizarre (daring? innovative?) shift in the user interface. Instead of the classic and familiar desktop for running your programs, Microsoft developed a new interface with all the programs running from a series of tiles. Originally dubbed “Metro UI,” the new look signified a radical shift in design and intent for Microsoft.
The backlash was almost immediate. Microsoft released three preview versions in the year prior to Windows 8′s release, and the collective IT masses hoped reason would prevail and the interface would revert back to normal. Unfortunately, the only part of the interfaced dropped was the name, now referred to as “Modern UI.” Additionally, while sections of the interface can be adjusted – adding a “Start” button back, for example – the new interface relies heavily on components that cannot be disabled or adjusted.
Microsoft’s purported vision for Windows 8 is a unified experience among devices. Microsoft plans that the PC user, the tablet user, and the smartphone user will all have the exact same look and feel to their respective devices. While this seemingly noble vision might sound great on paper, the final product is less than stellar. The unification of software on such different devices must necessarily result in one device receiving greater favor than the other. In this case, Windows 8 heavily favors touchscreen capability primarily found in tablets and phones. Touchscreen PCs and laptops have an estimated market penetration of 1%, and are most likely found in Point-of-Sale devices in retail stores rather than the possession of regular consumers. My personal experience bears this out – since starting professional IT consulting in 2005, I have only had two requests (both in medical fields) for a laptop with a touchscreen. A few wealthy home users have purchased touchscreens in all-in-one devices primarily as a gimmicky feature rather than for any real purpose or need for touchscreen capability. This is not to denigrate touchscreen, but rather help explain why Windows 8 suffers in the PC and laptop environment.
This touchscreen-centric approach thoroughly confuses even the most experienced computer user. The new applications scroll to the right using the mouse. While this gesture is right and proper (even expected) on a tablet, it is completely foreign to desktop users trained on the traditional up-and-down motion. Even this article will be read by scrolling up and down the page, but in Windows 8, the motion is now left and right. Without discussing the miss-match of monitors that are wide-screen left to right when we consume information up and down, it is sufficiently more cumbersome to scroll left and right with the mouse on a PC than it is on a tablet with your finger. Windows 8 also does not make it obvious that the content is to the “right.”
The settings changes also cause further aggravation. For those who want or need to make critical changes to the system (change network address settings, update a device driver, etc), the Modern UI adds additional steps and screens to find the desired settings. For example, ever since Windows 95, you shut down your computer in two clicks: Start -> Shutdown. Not so with Windows 8! The power settings are further removed from easy user access. Microsoft continues to add difficulty for those of us who support Microsoft’s clients.
So, is there anything good about Windows 8? Yes. The redesigned task manager provides greater details about running system information than previous versions. The new file transfer graph that tracks your bandwidth over time was a thoroughly pleasant surprise. Windows 8 also runs more efficiently than Windows Vista or even Windows 7, so the operating system will “feel” snappier than Windows 7 did. There are also some new features for system administrators and power users that are welcome changes. Finally, Windows 8 is the easiest version of Windows to install.
Overall, the biggest competitor for Windows 8 is Windows 7. This is quite typical. The biggest competitor for Windows 7 was Windows XP, and it took several years for the install base of Windows 7 to surpass that of Windows XP. In fact, 13 years later, we still deploy Windows XP computers for certain clients under certain circumstances! In this case, Windows 7 looks familiar to users and runs great on even older computer hardware. Additionally, the new interface will be a significant hurdle for large enterprise deployments.
The bottom line: skip Windows 8 on the desktop and laptop platform. Save yourself the pain and continue with Windows 7. Maybe Microsoft will “see the light” for Windows 9.
UPDATE: Initial sales results found here.Tags: Metro UI, Reviews, Windows 8