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.

9 Responses to “Windows 8 Presents Opportunity”

  • Tom, k5bm:

    I ran the SDK version in early Spring. It may be ok for a tablet, but all my machines are fast and have at least 16Gb of ram. Windows7 is good enough for me.

  • Brian Tucker WD4DX:

    Being an IT guy that deploys operating systems, I deal with Microsoft quite a bit in person. The Metro interface is designed to be “touch” friendly, but personally, I don’t like fingerprints on my monitor, so I’ve chosen (as has my company) to hold off on Windows 8. Realistically, there’s no business justification at my company to make the move. I’ve been running it at home for a few months, and have found that once I got used to it, it is really just an over-glorified start button, and everything goes back to the legacy interface, unless it’s specifically designed for the new UI. I, like you, hope they do abandon it, but with innovation comes motivation, so we’ll see…

  • Harry N4HG:

    Wow, tell us what you really think! This is far and away the most vitriolic review I have ever read about anything. I must be a genius as I have figured Windows 8 out and use it daily.

  • Harry, I don’t think there’s any vitriol in this article, and it’s rather well-reasoned. I’m sure you do use Windows 8 and many others do. I’m sure I could use it as well. But I certainly wouldn’t like it or get as much done, especially if and when apps like Microsoft Office are converted to native Metro interfaces. As the videos show, there are technical user interface issues that go beyond the realm of opinion and speculation.

    I can hammer nails with a broken hammer all day. I won’t hammer as many nails and it will be a major pain. That’s what we have with Windows 8. Other upgrades over the years I welcomed with open arms and was able to use immediately. Windows 95 was a significant change and it felt great to use right way. Not so with Windows 8. When guys like me with decades of IT work experience (in Microsoft products to boot) can’t intuitively figure out how to do a simple operation like close an application without a manual or instruction, something is terribly wrong. Windows 8 doesn’t pass the proverbial grandmother test. I’m not going to unleash it on my internal customers at work and I’m not going to jump through hoops to make it work in my shack. It’s a very simple benefits versus cost (time and money) decision, and Microsoft has seriously miscalculated this. Ultimately the market will decide, but you can bet Microsoft is going to use its power with the hardware vendors to push this through.

  • Walt WB5NFW:

    I found 1 good thing in 8… It boots alot faster. I find the metro apps mostly unusable. EBAY app is an example.. I would just as soon. Go to desktop. Then to chrome. Then to ebay and sign on there. Also the apps i have looked at seem crude and clumsy compared to their browser counterpart. I use 8 evey day but only in the desktop mode.

    The other great thing is that IT guys like me will have all the employment we want helping companies navigate through WINDOW. OUr users will have a bad day when we roll this out.

  • John N0EI:

    Harry, if you had really figured it out, then you would have moved to Linux, or even the Mac OS. I guess that means you are indeed a non-genius.

  • Tom, k5bm:

    Windows8 is idiot proof. I ran it for over a month. My point is I found it is not necessary for non touch screen machines.

  • Demetre SV1UY:

    Hi all,

    Microsoft produces a good and stable O/S at times but in between there have been some failures, such as Windows 95, Millenium, Vista and now Windows 8. But they have also produced Windows 98, Windows XP and Windows 7. These are the ones I have ever used, the others I wouldn’t even touch.

    I guess I’ll stick to Windows 7 for my Ham Radio stuff as much as possible, or until they realise that Windows 8 is crap! No wonder Windows haters call it Windoze 8.

    For the rest of my stuff, i.e. when I want to do serious computing I use Linux. Infact I have 2 desktop computers in my Radio Shack, one runs UBUNTU LINUX 12.10 while the other runs Windows 7.


    73 de Demetre SV1UY

    I also have another Desktop for

  • A few days ago I got a Samsung Galaxy Android tablet to test and get familiar with. I was able to immediate web browse, read my work and personal email, and personalize it. The difference between Android and Windows 8 is like night and day. I still like my iPad better, but I find a few Android user interface items I’d like to see in iOS. But if I had to use this Android tablet full time, I wouldn’t mind it and I could actually get some work done.

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