A friend of mine just asked me this question on Facebook:
What’s your take on Windows 8? I just read a story saying it had flopped and was pulling down global PC sales.
I wrote out a response to him using 500 words in one comment. Then I came back and added a few hundred more words in a second comment. After my third comment and a total of 1,000 words, I decided that perhaps my thoughts might be worthy of copying and pasting them into a blog post. So with very little revision, here are my shoot-from-the-hip thoughts on Windows 8. They may not make total sense, and might ramble off track, but hey… that’s me every day.
It’s an OS designed for tablets. Microsoft is banking on a very real possibility that consumer PCs will eventually be largely tabletized. They want to make an iPad killer without making an iPad. They’re designing their OS to turn PCs into tablets, even if they’re not. The “Metro Design”, the first vestiges of which was seen in Windows Phone 7, is purpose built for tactile interaction with fingers or styluses.
They also realize they need to get into the app store game, so they’re making the Microsoft app store which is a separate issue, but Windows 8 marks the app store’s debut into the desktop OS.
The UI changes a lot of what people have understood about the human operating system interaction for Windows. It’s like the big bridge-burning between Mac OS 9 and OS X. Things changed – drastically.
IMO I don’t see any killer features in Windows 8 that make it a must have. There’s lots of stick and no carrot. It is a huge shift in how one interacts with their Windows PC, and there’s not a lot of help. There’s a lot of floundering and misdirection that I’ve seen while interacting with it. It would take a few hours of video training to get any one person set up to know enough of the flicks, gestures, motions, and hotspots that would get the most out of the Windows 8 changes.
Sadly, that means that Grandma and Grandpa are screwed. Actually, no, *I’m* screwed because anyone not particularly computer savvy, or not interesting in the time investment to learn the new UI/UX (BTW, UI stands for User Interface and UX stands for User Experience) are going to be calling me up when I’m not really an end-user supporting person, so I’m mostly just Googling and clicking blindly to figure user support questions out.
IMO Windows 8 is good for the people that fit the Venn diagram of “Geeky” and “Tablet Users.” Get a Surface Pro (The price on those is absurd though) or some kind of purpose-build tablet PC, and then let Windows 8 happen all over you. Don’t argue, don’t whine – just let it have it’s way with you. Watch videos on YouTube, search for information, read a Windows 8 book, and just go with the flow. Then, yes, THEN you will become one with the PC and go all Borg-like with the human-computer relationship.
Or you’ll get mad and buy a Mac.
For example, my step-grandmother has a 6 year old Dell laptop. It had Vista on it (Note: I’m not a Vista basher and rather liked it. Most whining against Vista were for peripheral reasons, not the OS’s fault). She got a virus as a result of a cleverly disguised advertisement / popup that said “Oh noes you’re haxored! Buy this Super AntiMalrus 2000-and-late software to fixinate it!”
She had to ship the laptop to me from New Jersey to Arizona. Fortunately she’s just an email user that also uses websites to manage finances and prescriptions, so there was no heavy application dependency that tied her to Windows. She opined about maybe buying a Mac. I put the brakes on that idea and told her to save her money. Instead I dropped Ubuntu 8 on it (this was years ago).
Before I go further I should say I’m not a brand apologist. I don’t care about Windows this, Mac that, or Linux all up in yo’ grill. I use what works when it fits. I’d install CP/M on a crate of peaches if it worked right for the scenario. I installed Linux / Ubuntu for her because it fit for her scenario. And no, Linux isn’t virus proof, it’s just a smaller target at the moment. The instant it really does become the mythical “Year of the Linux” and market share shifts, it’ll get bombed and invaded like it had American oil within its sovereign borders.
Nevertheless, the point I’m getting at, is that Windows 8 is now such a burden of new interfaces and interactions that I’m going to avoid it for anyone that I don’t think can give the attention to it that it deserves. Also, for corporate installations, I’m going to have to consider my options. Things need to be up to date, and from a backend perspective (Active Directory, group policy, and other things that I’ll not mention for the sake of brevity) are all what matter most to me, but I can’t roll that out to business customers if it will drag their workday down.
It’s a tough choice – and in some cases a different OS altogether might make more sense. I think iPads are going to eat Windows 8’s lunch in many instances. I think Windows 7 will be the new XP and last will into Windows 9 and 10’s lifespans.
Oh, and let me prophesy for a bit: Windows will become a cloud-based OS on a subscription basis by version 10. Office is going that way and 2013 is likely to be the last “off the shelf” version.
Personally, I’m okay with Windows 8. I’ve ran the gamut of OSs from Macs pre-X to Windows to Linux to toying with OpenSolaris and the BSDs and now Mac OS X. I don’t have a Windows machine anymore except for a Windows 7 virtual machine I keep around for testing and a few apps that don’t exist for Mac. I’m used to change, and I think Windows 8 is… okay. From a certain perspective anyway.
However, I’m tired of keeping up and learning new things every day, and can’t fit Windows 8 into the learning rotation so I’m ignoring it. Most of my work these days is with 75 / 20 Linux Servers / Windows Servers. The last 5% is desktop support issues and my clients are still on XP and 7 and are likely to stay there. I’ve had all of two fleeting support cases with Windows 8 and it was basically “Will XYZ app work on Windows 8?” “I dunno, try it.” “Yeah it works.” “Cool.”
I would like a Surface Pro, but they’re too expensive for me, business write-off or not. I’m just not interested in learning it from the ground up – it’s not where my money is being made, or will be made in the near future.
TL;DR It’s not the steaming heap of filth that people think it is. It’s just different, which may be good or bad depending on your life and needs.