Windows 8 – The story so far

I have been deliberately stayed away from writing about Windows 8 for a reason. I had a fairly negative feeling about Windows 8 from the developer preview. I wanted to take the time and work with Windows 8 for a while to see if the much further develop operating system can won me over, just like Windows 7 did a couple of years ago.

Microsoft will let us believe that Windows 8 are a no compromise approach to the future of computing. The one thing I want to say upfront is that that is the biggest failure of Windows 8. After working with it for more than a month, one cannot but feel that Windows 8 is all about a compromise. Let me explain.

Getting around Windows 8 is not intuitive. It is not like an iPad after you have used an iPhone or iPod Touch. Someone has to show you how it works and they have to explain to you how things fit together. Unlike previous Windows versions, bring your existing knowledge of Windows into this is not much of a help.

There has been a lot of complaining about how Microsoft could release this as a consumer preview without explaining somehow how it works. Well, if you have taken the time to work through the preview site a bit, you would actually come across a video explaining how to navigate. Now chances are no one looked at the site and they will be lost without that introduction. If there is something to take from this is that Microsoft should build a first run tutorial unlike any other Windows version before it. Otherwise they are going to have a rocky launch.

Once you get going and you are use to it all a couple of things become very apparent. Firstly, Metro on desktop computers is just stupid. Sorry, but Windows 8 on the desktop with a keyboard and mouse are just feeling like a stupid unnecessary compromise. This new stuff is build geared to tablets and iPad like devices. After a month, I only see the start screen when I power up the computer, just before I click the desktop icon.

I have configured the desktop with all my icons lined up or pinned to the taskbar. Somewhere along the line however, Windows 8 decided to stop remembering my icon layout on the desktop. So now I have icons that no matter how many times I move it, it returns to the wrong spot upon reboot.

The desktop itself have had very little changed except the start button is gone. Now this in itself is not really an issue. I have found that I used it very seldom anyway. The start screen, when configured gives you access your programs anyway, but the way that it works is a little compromised as well. It used the old start menu structure to give you your program entries and we all know how application installers like to dump hundreds of useless shortcut in there. The old start menu gave you an option to explore and clean it up a bit and you will still need to do it with the new start screen.

Once you are through all of this you end up with a computer that looks and works for the most part like Windows 7. The only problem is that you have to learn stupid gestures to do with your mouse to access stuff that was normally just a click away. Microsoft has been shouting since Windows 95 the power of right click and how you need all the immediate commands right there where you are. Well this philosophy is dead in Metro. Right click does not work with touch.  For touch you need big areas and travel over the screen is never an issue. So right clicking in Metro will give you options, but instead, they are on the bottom on the screen in a big band, awesome for touch, terrible for mouse travel.

Another stupidity is the inability to close an application. To do that, drag the program down, wrestle with the right or left snap in Metro before it closes. Why not include a cross on the right click options? Why make this so complicated. The reason, Metro is build for touch devices, and not desktop computers. There is no appealing reason for Metro and if you think it is only because the big gun apps have not been released yet, then you are mistaken. Metro is for simple applications, applications that can run on a touch based tablet. That is not the stomping ground for serious productive applications and once you get that figured out, you starting to see the problems with Windows 8. It is great for touch devices, yet you are still saddled with the touch unfriendly desktop. The desktop pc is saddled with Metro that is just not designed for workhorse loads and multitasking. In the end, they would have been better off to build various versions of the same code base, with different user interfaces, but this is Microsoft, you think they do the obvious well? Come on.


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