The war rages on between Microsoft and Apple, for who will be the king of the home computer. With Windows 8, Microsoft has taken their next big step and not surprisingly, there is a lot of advertising about it. Everywhere. It’s not as bad as the election, but since Microsoft is basically its own Super PAC they can afford the advertising.
I have done some basic testing with Windows 8’s Consumer Preview edition, and I would like to give my first impressions on it, to help you make a decision about whether or not this new operating system is for you. Thanks for joining me for another edition of the Modern Nerd.
The First Start Screen that Looks Like Windows
Windows 8 has two desktops. That is the first thing that anyone and everyone who is familiar with Windows 7 or Vista (my condolences by the way) will notice this immediate change. The start page combines your usual shortcuts with an updated look with what Microsoft is calling livetiles, Windows that update information constantly from RSS feeds to weather, to emails, and a fair amount of cool features.
Another thing that jumped out at me was the seamless integration with your email or Microsoft account, so if you have multiple computers running Windows 8 or a computer and a tablet, you can share your files and settings without too much hassle. Multiple computers combined with cloud syncing is where I believe that this new operating system has a chance to shine.
Designed for Touchscreens
Windows 8 was designed for touchscreens, and you can tell that from the beginning. Large boxes for buttons and settings in the Control Panel all are easily manipulated with a tablet or a touchscreen monitor. The one thing that may be a tad frustrating to desktop users and gamers is the interface. It seems like a lot of the space is wasted on screen, because the mouse is a precision selector and clicking a button 4 times larger than one you are used to feels clunky. There are ways to shrink down the new Start Screen to get a macro-view of everything, but that is not the default, so you may need some patience.
There are some cool features for splitting your desktop like in Windows 7, and there is a way to get back to a more familiar desktop if you want, but there is no option to keep it and run Windows 8 like it is Windows 7. There is a learning curve to the interface to be sure. It may be a departure from the Windows that I know, but I think that with the way that everything is connected to everything else, this will give us a lot of cool new tools, and you know by now that I am all about finding neat ways to make things work together. I have not decided to switch over to 8 exclusively yet, but I may take the plunge once I have my new desktop built. Come on Black Friday!
Surface and other Tablets
Microsoft is making hardware for the first time with their Surface, an attempt to get after iPad, and break into the tablet market. I have not tested or reviewed the Surface yet, so this will not be a review of this hardware. What I can say though is that the tablet version of Windows 8, RT, is seamless and smooth. Windows 8 has a complete version coming to Surface tablets but has not been released yet, so users looking for more features and more compatibility with existing PC programs can look to that for their software. I believe that there are a bunch of reasons why a tablet or touchscreen/laptop will be effective and intuitive with Windows 8.
Windows 8 seems to be going the direction of Apple. I don’t want to seem like I am bashing either platform with this rant, but this is the impression that I get from this. Apple’s operating systems have always been known for being more user friendly, get less viruses, and have less software errors. Windows 8 looks to be going the direction of mass appeal, making it available to everyone.
The hardcore gamers and users will not be as likely to switch over as quickly. For me at least, Windows has always been the superior operating system because of the functionality. The software did not limit you, and a higher understanding of how the computer operated translated into being able to do more with it.
That said, Windows 8 is very polished and has some cool and novel features. It might give Microsoft some pushback against the Apple revolution that is the iPad, iPhone, iPad mini, and iEverything. (Please don’t Google iEverything, that’s a joke.) If you are considering switching over, it is close to a slam-dunk for touchscreens. Tablets are intuitive and smooth. Desktops are not as close to sold for everyone yet, but time will tell if it adds the same level of smoothness for a keyboard and mouse interface.
This is just my opinion. I try to be objective from the point of view of the regular computer user, and if my perspective helped you at all, then that will satisfy me. Good luck making your decisions on it, and thanks for reading. Thanks to Wikipedia for the use of the start screen image. Check out their page for more spec’s on 8. Be sure to keep checking out the Modern Nerd for updates every week, at the Computer Fixer.