There have been a lot of different opinions on Windows 8, but the bottom line seems clear, either you hate it, or you love it. And I keep thinking, why? Has the big scary unknown slapped us in the face so hard that we can’t make ourselves thoroughly think about the advantages AND disadvantages of this new OS?
Personally, I think Windows 8 is great by itself. It has a lot of under the hood improvements from Windows 7, the IFKaM (Interface Formerly Known as Metro) UI is very easy to use and doesn’t look bad either, and you still have a desktop for those ‘good old applications’ that need it.
I think they made a big mistake. The vast majority of people that will run Windows 8 don’t have a touchscreen! In fact, the vast majority of the Windows installations run on enterprise workstations, people are used to windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7, they are used to having a taskbar with a start button and will spend most of their time on the ‘classic’ desktop.
So you might think “Hey but Alex, the IFKaM interface is just a start button replacement, why would be such an issue? All people have to learn is that that fullscreen interface is where they find their stuff now!” This is true to an extent, but not entirely.
Windows 8’s main interface is IFKaM/Modern UI. It’s not just an extra interface; it’s a complete overhaul of the OS’s user interaction. They have an app store now, they have a completely new species of apps that run fullscreen, they now force-check every file you want to install with a cloud service, and the list goes on. They want to replace the desktop. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the new office:
Look, Microsoft. I know you want in on the tablet market, honestly, I can’t blame you, and Surface seems like an excellent tablet I’d really love to have. But know your roots! Forcing the same interface on every user despite the device they have the software on will cause giant friction with the adoption, even if you leave in the classic desktop as option. I know it’s a little late now but, why not make Microsoft Surface a set of things, Like “Surface OS” and “Surface Tablet” and so forth, then the people that really want that interface can install it anywhere they want, and the desktop users still get their desktop!
And for those that still think Windows 8 works fine on desktops, although I’m not going to force my opinion on you, think of it like this: What if you had a version of Windows 8 that had ALL the new awesome features Windows 8 has, but not IFKaM and such. You’d have Windows 7 ‘but better’. Wouldn’t you prefer that over what we’re getting forced on us now?
Personally, I think that there’s a place and time for all things. Just because I like the features and functions of one device, and another device has the same features, doesn’t mean one will replace the other. Example: I have a TomTom, an Android-powered Sony Ericsson with a good camera and music player, 2 Laptops both with GPS and 3G, one with a touchscreen and pen input, and a speedy watercooled desktop with 4 screens attached to it, an iPod Nano, and a Canon EOS 1000D camera. One could say that, because I have that smartphone, I could use Google maps for navigation, the music player for music, and the 8MP built-in camera for photos, and therefore have no use anymore for my TomTom, iPod and Canon. But it simply doesn’t work like that, there’s a device for every appliance, all round devices tend to be a bit schizophrenic in nature, and sacrifice functionality for flexibility. I think anyone out there will agree that my 1000D will outperform my smartphone in functionality by far. And while I really like Google Maps, my TomTom is just a tiny bit better tuned for use as (car) navigation. Likewise, Windows 8 is sacrificing functionality for flexibility. I want Windows on a desktop because of the main features it has in Windows XP and 7. It’s a fast desktop OS with good hardware support, very good developer support, and most importantly, I grew up with it, using it with a taskbar, start button and so forth just feels very natural to me.
Bottom line: I think Windows 8 is really good, but it would’ve been better if it was a separate product, and the desktop users at least had a choice in what UI they want to use. The lack of freedom is what’s causing the friction and complaints, not the UI itself, which is great, just, for different devices.