Thoughts on the controversy of Windows 8

on June 2nd, 2012 by Matt | 1 Comment »

Note: This is a topic that a group of people could go back-and-forth on forever, and not get anywhere. This post is not an attempt to sway anyone, but merely to make my stance on the subject more clear to those that are trying to make me think otherwise.

So the Windows 8 Release Preview (or Release Candidate, as it is usually called) came out overnight. When I got home from school, the first thing I did was download the installation wizard, followed the instructions and left it to download and install. After installation, it has the same simple ‘welcome’ wizard as the Consumer Preview (which I’ve been running for a couple months now) and then it sent me to the Start Screen.

The first thing I did, as I’m sure many others have and will, was open the Desktop. Why? Because I was curious about the changes to the UI, which a lot of technology news sites have been talking about recently. There are some that think that the new Start Screen is counter-productive, and that they want the old start menu back. This is what I have to say to you: give it a chance first. A week at least. We, as humans, are always allowed to try something different. We always try different flavours of ice-cream, or different Linux distros to see what works for us. So why can’t large companies like Microsoft do the same? In a world becoming dominated by Apple’s iPad, they want a shot at it too. They see where the future is, and they want to try their hand at the technology. This isn’t to say they’ll stick to it, and this isn’t to say they’re going to tread lightly.

When Windows 7 was being developed, everyone said that it was “what Vista should have been.” Sure, that may be true, but it took Microsoft extra work to make it. They realised some features in Vista needed revamping, that compatibility was important, and so they tried their best with the next version. They decided that the big gap in time between XP and Vista wasn’t a good move, so they don’t plan on doing the same. But though this means more operating system releases for us to play around with, it also means Microsoft get less time to plan and decide on what they believe could work, and trying different attempts at implementing the features. This makes Windows 8 hard enough for them.

Going back to the topic at hand though, my first thought when I went to the desktop of the Windows 8 Release Preview? It’s beautiful, it’s consistent! The only issue for me was my synchronised colour scheme made window headings look bad (black writing on dark red), but that was my fault. And many hours later, I still agree that it’s beautiful and consistent. Microsoft have been hard at work making the transition between Metro apps and the desktop more seamless.

I’m actually still running the Windows 8 Developer Preview on one of my computers at school, and I can tell you: THAT is what you call unusable, especially on a 1.8GHz desktop with 1GB of RAM. I can’t update the operating system there though, because of various reasons I see no reason in discussing, but it gives me a good feel for how much has changed in the short time between each Windows 8 Preview release we’ve had. Microsoft ARE working hard to bring us a better experience over time, and they’re doing a damn fine job of it too.

Back in the days of Windows 7’s development, I loved downloading new versions of the operating system. At the time I was on a 20GB internet cap, so I had to be careful when downloading new builds. I started with 6801, and moved up the line. Each time I upgraded, I loved the operating system more and more. The same goes for Windows 8. I have yet to feel any misgivings towards the Start Screen, the apps, or the upcoming tablets. I’m actually very excited. Even though I know I won’t be, I hope to be one of the first to buy/receive a Windows 8 tablet when they start shipping near the end of the year, or even for Christmas..

The only problem I can say I have with Windows 8 is because of a habit I have (and truthfully I should break it, there are much quicker and easier ways to do this). When I want to open My Computer, I tend to open the Start Menu (when on 7), and select My Computer. Yes, that is the ONLY issue I’ve had that is worth mentioning. Funny that so many others complain about the Start Screen being ugly, or in their way. To me, I feel their problem is smaller than mine, and mine’s tiny!

Those that want to bring back the old Start Menu are falling behind the times. A new age is upon us! Welcome it with open arms!

There are other minor problems I’ve heard people mention. For example, the fact that Microsoft plan to get rid of Aero in the final build.

That’s right, after people have complained about it so much over the years, now they don’t want to see it go! I have one thing to say to you: nothing. is. changing. What difference does a lack of Aero make that copying a visual style file can’t fix? I mean seriously, THIS is what you have to complain about?

I’m excited to see Microsoft’s method of implementing Metro’s design to the windows actually. I’m a big fan of their implementation of it in the Zune desktop client, and have quite frankly been wanting it to be expanded to the entire operating system. It’s clean, it’s simple, and lacks distractions. Sure, I will be sad to see Aero go, because I love setting my windows to be fully transparent, but again, you move with the times.

Next is the obvious complaint about Metro applications taking up too much room on large screens. Ok, I can see the reasoning behind it. No matter how big your monitor is, you can never have enough screen real estate. I get that, especially with my dual-monitor setup. But seriously? It’s extremely easy to completely avoid the Metro applications on a large desktop, and the apps aren’t designed for desktop use, truthfully. Although they are amazingly usable with a mouse, they are primarily touch-first, in the same way the rest of the operating system is. They’re designed with small, portable tablets as the main point of contact (see what I did there?). In the same way it’s literally a nightmare to stretch an iPhone app onto an iPad, Metro apps in Windows 8 are not as much of a good idea on large screens (although they continue to be very beautiful and very usable). Besides, desktop applications tend to have a lot more functions, and are designed with both small and large monitors, with the use of a mouse in mind.

Nothing is stopping you from using the same programs that you’ve used in the past. But there’s also nothing wrong with running a Metro app or two on a separate, possibly smaller screen. They’re really good for that too, because they’re designed to keep the most important things up the front, and keep them readable at a distance. I primarily use my 22″ widescreen monitor, but now with the Release Preview, I’ll probably run the Messaging app snapped to the left side of my 15″ laptop widescreen monitor, and a second app (could be Mail, could be Tweetro [such a sexy Twitter app for Windows 8], or a regular desktop program) while continuing the same way I always have on my larger screen.

My next important point that I really have to stress (which is kind of a continuation of an earlier point) is the fact that Windows 8 is the first version of Microsoft’s tablet operating system. As they work on Windows 9, they will obviously bring back features that couldn’t make it into Windows 8 for various reasons, and will continue to do so even after that. Nothing is perfect, there is always room for improvement. See Windows 8 as a v1.0 for tablets. Very few v1.0’s are similar to the v2.0 that comes quite soon after, so be patient!

I was originally planning on also ranting about my hate for Apple’s Mac OS, but I didn’t expect this post to become so long, so I’ll probably write it now, as a separate post, and release it another time. Thanks for reading my entire post, and if you have anything to add (on either end) write it in the comments! But remember, that if you do, you cannot sway me, and will probably get lengthy responses.