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Okay, maybe Windows 8 isn’t THAT bad…

October 22, 2012

I spent some time this weekend about thinking about why I’m having this visceral reaction to Windows 8. And I think it has as much to do with me as it does with the product.

Windows 8 isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. It boots faster, is more stable, and gives better feedback when something goes wrong. It eliminates processor-hogging features such as the pretty Aero interface from Windows 7. And it includes server-side features that I love, such as Storage Spaces and Hyper-V. On the desktop side it is fairly compelling.

Windows 8 is a lot easier to learn. If you’ve never used a PC, this is the operating system for you. You’ll spend a lot of time in the tiles, downloading safe apps from the Microsoft Store, reading mail, posting to Facebook, etc. You’ll love the new, stripped-down IE — no confusing toolbars, easy to share links. However you’re probably going to be totally baffled when you hit a desktop app.

And even if you have used a PC before, if you didn’t enjoy the experience then Windows 8 is a chance to start again.

Windows 8 isn’t aimed at me. This is about me. I don’t like Windows 8 because the changes make my life more difficult / less productive. I don’t need / want a pretty “Modern” interface that turns my PC into an iPad. I already have an iPad and I don’t like it because it’s not a PC. I like having multiple windows on the screen — at work I use two monitors and typically have 3-6 windows open and visible at once. The overlapping windows metaphor works for me and allows me to switch faster. So a lot of the touch-friendly features of Windows 8 just get in the way and slow me down. Yes, I am learning all new keyboard shortcuts to get faster: X for admin tasks, C for charms, to switch between apps so that I don’t have to hover my mouse in a tiny corner.But it’s all annoying an unnecessary. When I am working (as opposed to playing) on my PC, I use ZERO Modern apps. None. Everything is a desktop app. I use the tiles as an annoying replacement for the Start button – to give me a menu of desktop apps.

Modern apps aren’t aimed at me. Features, functions and shortcuts have been stripped out in order to make these apps touch-friendly and ready for small tablet displays. So on my dual 20″ monitors they just look silly. I’ve yet to find a single app that is faster or has better features than its equivalent desktop app or web site. Granted it’s early; app developers are still wrapping their heads around what is needed to code great Windows 8 apps. But with Mail and People apps from Microsoft I think the writing’s on the wall: Modern apps will be stripped down, basic, VERY easy to use, and will only allow interactions via four common “charms”: Search, Share, Devices and Settings. For someone that’s used to using plug-ins to customize my browsing experience, this seems very restrictive. On the other hand, I’ll save a lot of time maintaining my family’s computers as I won’t have to uninstall the Bing, Yahoo, Google and Ask toolbars every month.

Windows 8 isn’t “my” Windows. From Windows NT 4 through Windows 7, I was a Microsoft employee and involved in some small way in the development of every release. Now I’m looking at a release that I had nothing to do with. That feels… odd. Even though I was one out of thousands, I had a proprietary sense of ownership in every release. This one isn’t mine.

In the end, Windows 8 has a lot going for it. And as apps improve I may find myself using a few of them. And when I get that Surface (that I’ll no doubt end up with sooner or later) then I’ll be using those apps a lot, and probably really enjoying them.

But it’s not MY Windows.

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