Windows 8 Presents Opportunity

Brian Boyko, a freelance IT author, created this informational and rather entertaining video on Windows 8.

The video echos a lot of my experiences, albeit brief ones with Windows 8.  A few weeks ago I attempted to use a Windows 8 Surface tablet at a mall kiosk and left in frustration.  Last week while Christmas shopping I happened to venture into the computer section of a department store and played with a Windows 8 laptop.  After ten minutes of trying to make sense of the Metro interface, I again left in frustration.  I should mention I’m not a computer newbie. I’ve been using computers for over 30 years, and have worked with them in a professional capacity for over 20.  I used Linux before it was sexy and my first GUI based OS was Windows 3.1.  I’ve never owned a piece of Mac hardware (I have an iPad and an iPhone), but if you drop me in an Apple store and put me in front of a Mac, I can be web browsing, viewing pictures, and creating documents in moments.   I just can’t do it with Windows 8.

User interface changes are always stressful to end users.  The last major one Microsoft made was the ribbon bar in Microsoft Office replacing the venerable and admittedly long-in-the-tooth menu bar.  At first I hated it and customized all my Office applications to have the buttons I needed in the quick bar which sits up in the title bar.  Eventually I got used to the ribbon bar, but being a fan of minimalist interfaces I think the quick bar is much more efficient.  But, OK, I admit Microsoft was right with the ribbon bar and it’s a valid step in the evolution of user interfaces.

I won’t repeat everything in Boyko’s video, but he’s absolutely right on all points.  The Windows 8 Metro interface is a massive departure from the old interface.  The revolutionary change would be a good one if it was actually an improvement.  But similar to when Microsoft tried to put a desktop OS on a mobile device (Windows Mobile/CE), now they’re trying to shoehorn a mobile phone and tablet OS on to a PC, and it just doesn’t work.

This video goes into the desktop mode a bit more and shows the discontinuity between Metro and the desktop:

The changes in Windows 8 presents an opportunity for anyone who uses Windows, including amateur radio operators and software authors.  While Windows 8 has a compatibility mode that essentially lets you run legacy apps in a legacy pre-Windows 8 style desktop, it’s problematic.  If Microsoft doesn’t abandon Metro, they’re likely going to push application authors to the Metro interface, perhaps at some point even eliminating the legacy user interface.  With such a revolutionary change to this tool and its steep learning curve, it may be just as easy to migrate to Linux, Mac, or a Chromebook and learn something totally new that is actually going to be productive and useful.  With Windows 8, essentially Microsoft has increased the pain of upgrading to the point where it is equal or less pain to migrate to a different platform.  I suspect many people will horde old or bootleg copies of Windows 7 and XP, storing them away like a rare wine or expensive cigar, for use when getting a new piece of hardware.  It’s going to be interesting.

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