Windows 8 reviews are popping up everywhere and and is frequently criticized for being to “different” from its predecessors. Most tech savvy desktop users and journalists do not like the Modern UI (originally called metro) and don’t care to use it.
I on the other hand agree with other group who think Windows 8 is Microsoft’s best OS to date.
Windows 8 is faster than the last couple of windows editions in the vast majority of situations, it can run on a lower spec pc than Windows Vista, it incorporates a myriad of small to large tweaks and changes to better the user experience.
Personally I hate using the default Modern UI on my PC’s but that does not mean I don’t like Windows 8. Windows 8 essentially have 2 user interfaces.
- The Modern UI.
- The standard desktop without a Start button.
A large amount journalists claim that the dual Windows 8 interface (Modern UI and Desktop) is its downfall. I think its Widows 8’s saving grace.
This design allow users to pick the interface which works best for their needs and hardware. Microsoft badly needed a user interface which works on all devices, PC’s, notebooks, tablets and phones. The Windows 8 Modern UI provide just that. The developers of windows 8 also realized that the same interface will not work for all users and all devices and included the “old” windows desktop as well.
What some don’t seem to realize is you do not have to use both Windows 8 user interfaces. For some people switching between the two for different tasks makes sense, others will mainly use the Modern UI and rarely venture onto the desktop while some like myself will use the desktop almost exclusively.
The Modern UI is a “full screen” interface. There is no close or minimize buttons, applications don’t’ run a separate windows on your screen. It is design for “one tasks at a time computing”, like on smartphones and tablets where screen size limit the user to working with one application at a time. This user behaviour is not limited to smart phones. A large part of desktop computer users also focus on one task at a time. They use their computers to surf the web then switch to the next task such as sending an e-mail, viewing photos or writing a document. (If you connect a second monitor to your computer or notebook, you can simultaneously run secondary programs on the desktop on that monitor with windows 8 modern UI still running like normal on your primary monitor.)
If you take a look at the desktop of most of these type of users you will see it is scattered with program and document icons. These users hardly ever use the start menu. Shortcuts to their tasks and documents are placed right on the desktop and most of their activities are launched from there.
Finally these users have a user interface which was designed specifically for this usage pattern: The Windows 8 Modern UI.
On your screen there are tiles giving you updates on social activates such friends, Facebook and google+, environmental info such as local weather and “shortcut” tiles to your photos, documents and programs.
On the other side are Multitaskers like me.
At any given time I have between 15 to 30 task and programs open. I monitor some of these and actively work in the majority. Working with multiple tasks and programs is essential to getting through my workload.
As I’m writing this article I have my e-mail open in a windows on a secondary screen. This way I can monitor any important e-mails coming in which might require immediate action. I have a remote session to one of our servers where I’m installing software updates. Through a web interface I’m installing plugins on a client’s website. Just the task of writing this article requires web development software, a photo editing program, a browser windows for previews, and ftp client to upload images and more browsers windows for research.
This is exactly what the Modern UI was not designed for an why I use the Windows 8 Desktop interface with a 3rd party start menu.
Windows 8 offer the best of both worlds. Single tasks orientated users can use the Modern UI, normal multitask users can use the standard desktop and tech oriented heavy multitasks can use the standard desktop enchanted with a 3rd party start menu.
This bring us to the next hurdle for Windows 8. Resistance to change.
Most people don’t like change. They have been working in certain way and don’t want to or have the time to learn something new. We have seen this with every windows release.
In 1985 when Windows 1 was released is was described by many as “inefficient, cumbersome and hard to learn and use..
At that time mice was cutting edge and very few people had one.
Here are a couple of published expert opinions about whether the mouse would catch on:
“Mice are nice ideas, but of dubious value for business users” (George Vinall, PC Week, April 24, 1984)
“There is no evidence that people want to use these things.” (John C. Dvorak, San Francisco Examiner, February 19, 1984)
“I was having lots of fun, but in the back of my corporate mind, I couldn’t help but think about productivity.” (George Vinall, PC Week, April 24, 1984)
“Does the mouse make the computer more accessible, more friendly, to certain target audiences such as executives? The answer is no.” (Computerworld, October 31, 1983)
“There is no possibility that this device will feel more comfortable to the executive than the keyboard. Because of its ‘rollability,’ the mouse has the aura of a gimmick…” (Computerworld, October 31, 1983)
“The mouse and its friends are merely diversions in this process. What sounds revolutionary does not necessarily help anyone with anything, and therein lies the true test of commercial longevity.” (David A. Kay, Datamation, October 1983)
Through the years similar attitudes were common with every major windows release, but with time the larger share of users realized they were more productive with newer releases once they took the time to overcome the learning curve.
Microsoft knows this, and this is why by default Windows 8 boots straight to the Modern UI. By “forcing” the interface onto users Microsoft know most will give it a try and that a large number of users will find it better. The other users will simply switch to the desktop interface and some will even install a start menu.
What data from users are showing is that most users take less than a week to get used to the Modern UI and learn to use it effectively.
Once again Microsoft had the guts to take on resistance to change like with Windows 1, Windows 95, Windows XP and the Office ribbon interface. Those technologies users loved to hate but most are using happily today.
Touch screen is here to stay. The only currently holding the technology back is price. I don’t’ see that touch screens will replace the keyboard and mice any time soon if ever and neither does Microsoft. Windows 8 is designed to enable tablet and phone users to use touch screens and optionally keypads, notebook users with touch screens can use a combination of keyboard, screen and mouse while desktop users will largely keep use the keyboard and mouse almost exclusively.
To all those who stated Windows 8 is dead in the water. Microsoft has sold more than 60 million copies of Windows 8 to date. Admittedly a large number of those sales are to OEM partners who still need to sell the Windows 8 computers and to corporate volume licensing customers who won’t necessarily switch over to Windows 8 immediately. But 60 million copies in 3 months is not failure.
As with every version of windows, the vast majority of users don’t switch to a newer version until they buy a new PC. Windows sales have always been spread over a long period of time. The bulk of the 670 million computers running older versions of windows will never switch over to Windows 8, but will rather skip another version of two before upgrading.
I don’t’ understand why many see this as a bad thing for Microsoft or computer users. To me it shows that most Microsoft operating systems are still performing very well today, but that does not keep Microsoft from steadily developing and releasing newer versions of Windows. To the contrary they keep pushing forward, giving those who welcome change a constant upgrade path to new technology and better software.