I wasn’t going to write a post about Windows 8 before launch because I felt that the fanboys (our audience) knew the truth about the next generation Microsoft operating system, but after reading some ridiculous articles in the past few days and listening to a horrible podcast yesterday – I’ve had enough. I know the name of this site is Microsoft Fanboys, but I’m about to get real with you.
Windows 8 is a fantastic operating system and a great successor to the extremely solid Windows 7. Windows 8 works well as a touch-centric operating system and more than holds it’s own as a powerful desktop OS (read mouse and keyboard). I’ll happily challenge anyone who says otherwise. I’ve been using Windows 8 in one form or another for over a year at this point, so I feel if anyone is qualified to have an opinion it, it should be me.
I originally installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview 13 months ago on a virtual machine, and from that point I’ve installed the Developer Preview, Consumer Preview and the RTM version on various devices. In November of last year I bought an Acer Iconia W500 tablet specifically to test the Windows 8 builds. I’ve had Windows 8 as my daily and primary OS since February of this year, and I currently have Windows 8 RTM installed on my work laptop, my high-power gaming desktop and my tablet.
Is Windows 8 a radical shift from Windows as a norm? Yes. Will it upset some users? Yes. Will hundreds of millions of users enjoy Windows 8 in the long run? Absolutely, no doubt about it. Some people just hate change, and Microsoft can’t worry about those people. There are still millions of users that swear by Windows XP, and the analytics of this site prove just that. I’ve worked in IT for 13 years in the enterprise, I’ve had users complain when an icon changes, so I’m well aware of those who dislike change. The fact is, the same sort of statements were said about the changes from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and it happened again with the update from Windows 9x/2000 to Windows XP.
As far as speed and stability goes the benchmarks on my gaming PC are about 12% faster on Windows 8 than Windows 7, and the installation is about 6GB smaller in size, which helps considering my gaming PC runs on a smaller solid state drive. Windows 8 is simply the fastest and most stable operating system Microsoft has ever released. I loved Windows 7, but even I had minor driver issues for the first few months, but that’s not the case with Windows 8. During my time with Windows 8 I have only had one frustration, and that was during the consumer preview when I’d receive random freezes. This was the same dreaded lockup that was a minor stumbling block during the Surface presentation. This was an issue that took place during the beta for a few weeks, and I haven’t had any sort of crash or freeze up in Windows 8 since early July, and I spend 12+ hours a day on my PCs.
I think the biggest problem critics of Windows 8 have is the new interface. For some reason they can’t comprehend the very simple, yet drastic changes in their heads. Sure, the start menu is gone but the functionality is still there and in two places no less. You can access the new start screen by mousing to the bottom left corner where it always ways or by mousing to the right of the screen. If all else fails, try hitting the Windows key. Once you do this a few times, you get the hang of it. The best part is you can pick which avenue you prefer to use. I’m personally a Windows key or mouse to the right and bring up the charm bar kind of guy. But I know of some people that prefer the bottom left hand corner.
The same can be said for managing open applications. You can use the classic taskbar on the desktop, or bring up the open modern programs via the left hand side, or you can use the tried and true ALT+TAB. You can even cycle through the open programs by mousing to the upper left hand corner and clicking through them. In the modern UI you can close programs by either using ALT+F4 or clicking on the title bar and dragging the program to close; or you could simply just leave the program open and it will go in to a suspend state saving your progress while also freeing the used memory. Leaving them in a suspended state means they’ll launch much quicker than restarting them.
If you have a laptop or desktop, and primarily use a mouse and keyboard of course you may not spend a ton of time in the metro modern interface, but you can if you want to. That’s the beauty, Windows 8 gives you the option to work within a familiar desktop setting or with this new and improved UI that is simple and intuitive. On my laptop and desktop I spend about 90% of my time working with the classic desktop which functions nearly identical to how it did in Windows 7. On my tablet that I use primarily when I travel or when I’m on the couch I spend about 90% of the time within the modern UI. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the other 10% in both of those scenarios.
When I’m using a mouse and keyboard I love many of the modern UI apps, like MetroTwit, Netflix, TED HD, Viewer for Khan Academy and of course the games. Wordament, Mahjong, the Microsoft Solitaire Collection and even Minesweeper. I spend a lot of time in every one of the modern UI apps, even with a mouse and keyboard. Everyone of those apps and games just functions better within the modern UI than a classic app or in a browser. With the tablet it is great to have the opportunity to access the desktop to use the classic browser, Office or take notes. Again, having the option to utilize both interfaces from both usage types is a huge selling point to me. After a few days you don’t even realize when you’re making the transitions, it becomes second nature.
There is simply nothing that can be done on Windows 7 that I can’t do on Windows 8, and most of the things can be done in more than one way now which increases productivity. Not to mention I have the perk of using the modern Start screen with it’s live tiles and well designed apps whenever I need to, it is like icing on the cake. From the touch perspective it is the same way. There is nothing you can’t do on a Windows 8 devices that an iPad or other competitor can, and you have the option of using that classic desktop whenever you may need or want it. Once you start switching back and forth between them, you might just ask yourself how you lived without either.
Do you see a trend here? I see Windows 8 as empowering it’s users in more ways than previous versions of Windows, or any operating system for that matter. Take for example all of the other great new additions to Windows 8, most importantly being the Windows Store for Apps. Users now have a direct avenue to thousands of safe and secure apps with the simple click of the mouse or the touch of a finger. The app store will greatly reduce the number of viruses and spyware spread globally while providing tens of thousands of free apps, and eventually hundreds of thousands of low cost apps for the common user.
That same app store also empowers tens of thousands of aspiring independent and small time developers to work on their dreams, where they can strive to build the applications and games that they want to. Within three years Windows 8 will be installed on upwards of 400 million devices worldwide, which gives the app developers building and working in their spare time the ability to reach an unprecedented audience at no up front cost. That kind of environment is a dream to developers who love what they do and just want to get their creations in front of the masses. Windows 8 and the Microsoft Store for Apps will allow tens of thousands of developers to leave their day jobs and pursue a career that they love.
I believe that Windows 8 is an extension of the idea brought forward by the release of Windows Phone. Windows Phone put people first, and I believe Windows 8 does the same. It gives the user the choice of how they best want to move about and utilize their devices. Windows 8 breaks the constraints put on by decades of the status quo. It puts the independent developers in direct competition with the powerhouses in the industry, which will drive innovation at an unprecedented pace while also increasing competition and lowering prices, all of which are huge wins for end users.
Other critics feel that the change is simply too radical for the common user. To that I say, “hog wash!” Did you ever expect grandparents and great grand parents to be cruising the web all day and posting pictures to Facebook? Did you ever imagine your parents being smart enough to operate a smart phone? Yeah, neither did I. Just think back to cell phones from the last 10-12 years and how they’ve changed from these simple devices that talk and texted to these complex behemoths with apps, music, movies and tools. The vast majority of society has adapted to these new phones, so trust me when I say the upgrade to Windows 8 isn’t beyond their grasps.
I also give the common consumer a little more credit when it comes to knowing the difference between Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro devices. I am fairly certain that those selling the devices will know to tell the consumer, that the RT devices are mobile devices meant to compete with other tablets on the market, while Pro devices are Windows as they know it, with the addition of the touch interface. Again, some people will be confused by this but those miniscule numbers cannot stop the innovation. Windows 8 RT is going to enable millions of people working on shoestring budgets to get in to the exciting technology space – again, Windows 8 empowers the user.
I could go on for hours, but no matter how many points I make Windows 8 is going to have it’s doubters and critics. I know from my extensive personal and professional usage that Windows 8 is going to be a tremendous success. Just as I knew with the first time I used Windows Phone, every single person I’ve ever shown my Windows Phones has appreciated the design and ingenuity, and I have no doubt that’ll be the case with Windows 8. It is a simple and elegant solution that will disrupt the marketplace while driving innovation and empowering the user, and I am personally happy to be around to see it.