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Windows 8

September 11, 2012

I am sat writing this post on my laptop with a freshly installed operating system. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a freshly installed O.S. along with the latest versions of all your apps. The O.S. is Microsoft’s finest and is an absolute joy to use.

I am of course talking about Windows 7.

No, that isn’t a typo.  That was definitely a “7” and not an “8”….

You see a couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and installed Windows 8 on my laptop.  Not as a VM, but as a bare metal install.  I wanted to fully experience the OS you see, I wanted “no easy way out” which I would get with a VM.

For about five minutes on day one I liked Windows 8.  The metro UI looks fresh, the live tiles especially bring some interest to the start screen.  Of course we can’t call it Metro any more, so lets just call it “The Interface Formally Known As Metro” or TIFKAM for short (you read it here first folks).

The problems began as soon as I started trying to use it.  Metro (or TIFKAM) really DOES NOT work with either a mouse or touchpad.  Sorry, but it doesn’t.  It is HORRENDOUS. So that means it is pretty useless on anything that isn’t a tablet then.

The Metro UI looks nice but when you have installed a few apps that aren’t “Windows 8 sexed up” it starts to look cluttered and ugly.  Trying to organise it the way you want also doesn’t seem to work (on my wide screen laptop anyway).

The live tiles start to annoy when you realise they are pulling info from only Microsoft sources (news/sport/finance).  So then you look  in the app store to try and find something better.  This is a mistake as the app store is as empty as a children’s party where Gary Glitter has been booked to do the entertainment.

Some of the apps in Metro are ok (or would be on a tablet) such as IE or Instant Messenger. Except that messenger is always on which is annoying and you have to dig deep in the settings to turn it off (and then this turns off Facebook login as well). Oh and Metro Instant Messenger doesn’t support file transfer (if someone tries this with you they just get a generic message and you see nothing…genius).

Moving between Metro and desktop is just not intuitive.  You constantly find you are ping-ponging between the two like a couple of Olympic table tennis players playing for match point.  Say you want to move some pictures around so you go to desktop, browse a few directories and then open a photo…boom…your back in Metro and your only way back it seems is the “Windows D” keyboard short-cut.

I went for a beer with a friend of mine the other week, he used to manage the UI of a well known workflow management product.  “Keyboard short-cuts…” he said “…are what you use to move more quickly around the interface once you have been using it for some time”.  Wise words, they are definitely not something you should have to memorise from day one just to use the bloody product.

And what in the name of God are Microsoft thinking with the removal of the Start menu in the desktop view.  According to Microsoft “focus groups” most people launch apps from the desktop.  Sorry, no they don’t.  They launch THE MOST COMMON APPS from the desktop and then use the start menu to organise all the crap they will never launch or perhaps launch once in a blue moon.  You should have seen my desktop after a couple of weeks of use, cluttered does not even begin to describe it.

Anyone for a final kick in the teeth?  Plug your laptop into a large wide screen TV and Metro looks rubbish.  And there is no media centre in Windows 8 (it will be an app you have to buy in the market and will be exactly the same code as is in Windows 7). So those hoping for a decent home theatre experience maybe with some nice Netflix, Lovefilm intregration usable with a remote better go look elsewhere..

So, in conclusion, here are my thoughts on Windows 8…

1. It will probably work well on a tablet PC, but it is a waste of time on anything else.

2. It will be nice when it is finished (I hope).

Many people have said that Windows 8 will be another “Vista”.  Vista was an OS that was resource hungry and ate your files when you weren’t looking. For this reason many home users and corporates ignored it and stuck with XP.  Over time though (and service packs) it became a nice little OS to run.

This, I think, will be the fate of Windows 8.  I would not recommend it to any home user or corporate on laptop/PC based hardware, but I think it is worth keeping your eye on over the next year or so.

Microsoft really do need this operating system to compete with the iPad and Android devices.  But making an operating system that works both in a simple “touch” mode (Metro) and a “desktop” mode is a big ask.  Microsoft may not have got it quite right yet but watch this space, I do think things are going to get interesting.

For now, at least, I am sticking with my Windows 7 laptop and my iPad2.

C

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