Rudyard Kipling, in his Barrack-Room Ballads wrote – “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”, to describe the disconnect between two cultures – but, he might just as easily have been describing Microsoft’s attempt, with the development of Windows 8, to wed a Desktop/Laptop operating system and a Smartphone/Tablet operating system.
No doubt, Microsoft deserves a ton of credit for being adventuress and taking risks with the development of Windows 8. But, in re-imagining Windows “from the chipset to the user experience”, to quote Windows division president Steven Sinofsky – they have failed to meet their own target, which is, according to Microsoft – to give “users the same great experience whether they are on a tablet or on a desktop.” The experience, from my perspective is not so great.
Windows 8, developer preview (expires March 12, 2012) , was released yesterday for download and of course, I had to take the opportunity to test drive Microsoft’s latest OS offering. I’ve been running Windows 8 in a production environment for roughly 12 hours, so I’ve had an opportunity to develop some short term views.
The Windows 8 user interface is a radical departure from the traditional desktop UI and as such, it fails to satisfy my basic requirements. Since a desktop is my primary work unit, I have little interest in swiping features, keyboard shortcuts, slider menus and an OS navigation system designed with a Tablet PC, or a Smartphone, in mind. As one of my friends observed – “ If I wanted my desktop to have the look and feel of a Tablet, I’d buy a Tablet.
Installation on a test system running Windows 7 (on which I kept settings), was smooth and flawless, with little user interaction required – much like a Win 7 install.
Following startup and login, the surprises came in bunches – starting with the new Metro GUI. Super on a Tablet, I expect – but on my desktop – Yuck!
All application can be viewed as tiles, and are reachable with the click of a mouse, or accessed with the touch of a finger. The desktop, (shown on the far left tile in this screen capture), has been reconfigured as an application.
The desktop (which I setup like my old Win 7 desktop), can also be accessed by cursoring to the left edge of the GUI – and voila! However, this is not an instinctive move.
To take full advantage of Windows 8, users will need to develop a solid background of mouse gestures, and keyboard shortcuts.
Keyboard shortcuts include -
Alt-F4 – closes applications.
Windows key – switch between GUI and running application.
Windows key + R brings up the Run dialog box.
The Start menu has been replaced by the following virtually useless abomination – just look at what’s missing here. Including access to – shutdown. What were these guys thinking!
Shutdown – Restart can be reached by clicking on Devices, which brings up the following – click on the power button and you’re out. In theory that is. Despite repeated attempts, I could not shutdown the system. I had no choice but to put the system into sleep mode.
Truthfully, I had to Google search “Windows 8 shutdown” to get a grip on the shutdown command – and, I can assure you, I was not alone. How sad is that in a new operating system.
In my attempt to become familiar with Windows 8 as quickly as possible, I found myself relying on Windows Explorer more than normal – only to find THE RIBBON, has been incorporated into this venerable piece of Windows.
This would have been a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to improve Windows Explorer with the addition of dual panes (very handy for geeks), but instead – we get the ribbon.
There’s little doubt that back behind the GUI, Windows 8 advances computing technology in a number of very substantial ways. Especially in that most important of areas – system security. But, this hybrid just doesn’t work for me.
Given that this is a developer preview, and at least one of the reasons for its general release is the feedback necessary to fine tune the system, I’m hoping to see a final product that more adequately reflects the “real” needs of desktop users.
In the meantime, within a day or two, Windows 8 on my test system will be deep sixed in favor of Windows 7 – in my view, the best Windows system to come out of Redmond.
If you are interested in checking out Windows 8 developer preview – you can download it here.
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