Hands On With Windows 8

Before I begin, I have to say that I have been a little absent this week. Normally I try to post twice a week, but I have been busy preparing to bring you this.

I must admit that I began downloading my copy of Windows 8 with a lot of skepticism. The trend has been laid for a long time, that you really only want to upgrade at every other version of Windows. Windows 95 was good, but 98 set the standard. Millennium Edition (ME) was a failure on many fronts, which drew a lot of criticism from users and probably helped Apple build it’s base on the (then) new i-branded hardware. XP stands as the single most well received version of Windows ever. I personally liked Vista, but the vast majority of people thought it was unstable and not friendly with older software.

Windows 7 took it up to where Vista should have been at the start. Most people really like the software, and the “compatibility mode” actually works with most things now. You would be hard pressed to find anything really annoying about it, and I haven’t experienced a “Blue Screen of Death” since I installed it for the first time during the preview period. I think Microsoft may be trying to break the cycle… Finally!

The first thing you see, after logging in, is the new Windows Phone style of environment. After the initial reaction (for most it’s either WOW, or UGH!) you will have to start actually trying to use the  system. While everything is very responsive and quick, navigation is tricky, and compatibility will be an issue once again. You can move the icons around however you like, and change the background color, along with many other options for personalizing the look. I chose purple, because I like purple.

Prepare yourselves, because you are going to have to teach your grand-parents a whole new way to use the computer again. Some of it will be easier for them, and some of it will be harder. Navigating between the app-screen and the desktop is easy enough, but takes a bit of getting used to. You will notice that there is no longer a start button in the lower left of the desktop, which has been replaced by a pop-out menu system that is the basis for navigating your operating system. If you move your mouse to the lower-left corner of the screen, you will be able to quick-swap between whatever app you have open and the main start/app-screen. This process is very quick, and seamless. In the lower-right you get the menu shown below. The “start” icon takes you to the app-screen which, for all intents and purposes, has replaced the old start-menu.

Moving to the upper left will show you whatever app you had open last, and if you had more than one open, you can move the mouse down a little bit and see the whole list of apps that are currently running. This leads me to the single most important change… Switching to another app will NOT close the process, so you will have to check this app-list and close out the ones you’re no longer using. While this step may seem like a no-brainer to people like me, most people never bother doing this on their iPhones, Androids, or Windows Phones… I would be willing to bet that that trend will carry right over to their computers running Windows 8. Be prepared for all kinds of apps claiming to optimize the speed of your computer by automatically closing unused apps.

Something else to keep close in mind is that there will often be two types of apps to deal with, even if it is the same program. Internet Explorer for instance. In app-mode it will be very quick, and bare-bones, but right-clicking will no longer display a menu. It will show you the navigation bar (located at the bottom of the screen now) and the tab bar (located at the top.) If you open Internet Explorer in Desktop-Mode, it will be exactly the same as you use now in Windows 7. Another very noticeable thing is that Facebook apps cannot be used in the app-mode version of IE. You can browse facebook just fine, but using any flash-based apps will not work, and navigation bars like the one that WordPress uses do not show up.

Overall, I like the new system, but I am not someone to be annoyed by learning a new way to do things. Most people will start off very frustrated with the seemingly alien environment, and unless they manage to integrate Adobe Flash Player into the app version of IE, they will be causing a lot of people to downgrade simply because of the Facebook app issue. Most people will (probably) never bother with Desktop mode, and will not even be aware of how much power they are signing away by doing so. To be honest, the desktop behaves like an app, in that you can close it like any other.

Make no mistake, this is a transitional OS, designed to help people prepare for a world where we have more powerful machines that do less, only because of software limitations. The days of having hundreds of programs installed, and buying a laptop for a DVD-burner are over. This is meant to make you ready to give all that up for a slick touch-based user interface installed on a glorified net-book which will be dubbed “ultra-book.”

The only place this will really really shine is on a tablet device, which is the only reason why I can’t wait for it to come out. I think the Windows Phone OS has a lot of potential to compete with iOS where Android has failed. Microsoft will keep things a little more open, so we should see some incredible apps come up for sale on Windows-based tablets.

If there is demand for it, I will post an in-depth review of specific aspects of Windows 8 once a week. Would that be something you want to see?

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10 thoughts on “Hands On With Windows 8

  1. First of all, I laughed at this: (for most it’s either WOW, or UGH!). Well done, that’s definitely most people’s reactions.
    Secondly, you hit on a really good point, “Prepare yourselves, because you are going to have to teach your grand-parents a whole new way to use the computer again.” Ugh! Indeed. I have XP on my grandmother’s computer and even though it’s fairly simple for her I still have to play tech support over the phone every so often. Since XP is nearing the end it’s extended support phase…I’m scared. I have no idea if my grandma will be able to handle this : / Bad form windows!
    Lastly, I really appreciate the thoroughness of your review.

    • My advice would be to upgrade her to Windows 7 before Microsoft stops selling it. The learning curve will be much less, unless she only does very basic stuff, in which case she’ll LOVE Windows 8. It really does give you the feeling of being all cuddled up in a safe place, which could cause a lot more business for Geek Squad… People will forget about ad-ware, malware, and viruses, because they won’t see the effects directly all the time.

      The surface of Windows 8’s “metro” style is all about making life simple for the average user who only really ever; uses Facebook, shares photos, and checks e-mail. Power-users, like myself, will see it as putting a curtain between us and more powerful software.

      Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you keep stopping in.

  2. I am a fossil sort of, still using Vista on my computer and laptop. From your review, now I think I better go buy a pc with Windows 7. I hate being the first adopter. Is Microsoft going to sell 7 and 8 simultaneously, or drop 7 once 8 is out?

    The Ugh and Wow comment are wonderful. I am sure I would be in the Ugh. I grew up using Basic, Fortran77, then SAS, then C, then Visual Basic, but then stopped as the brain got fried.

    Glad for the new material, worth the wait.

    • They usually pull the old version when they launch the new one, XP was only re-released for a short time because of the massive amounts of bad press Vista was generating at first… until the techies bothered to actually learn how to optimize and fix it.

      I would go buy a laptop right before 8 comes out (not sure on exact date, but the rumors are placing it in October) that way you should be able to get Windows 7 installed from the box, and a code to upgrade to Windows 8 for free. If you do it like I did with Vista and XP, then you can have both.

      • Thanx for the tip to be able to do both. Next September I will look around for a 7 machine that is up gradable for free to 8 and then do it on my terms.

  3. Pingback: Installing Windows On Mac? | EssayBoard

  4. “Make no mistake, this is a transitional OS, designed to help people prepare for a world where we have more powerful machines that do less, only because of software limitations. The days of having hundreds of programs installed, and buying a laptop for a DVD-burner are over. This is meant to make you ready to give all that up for a slick touch-based user interface installed on a glorified net-book which will be dubbed “ultra-book.”

    The only place this will really really shine is on a [tablet device], which is the only reason why I can’t wait for it to come out. I think the Windows Phone OS has a lot of potential to compete with iOS where Android has failed.”

    If you would look at other operating systems, they all have their special interface for each one. Mac OS X has their Launchpad, which they make it the main thing and is from their own mobile operating system or mainly from their tablet, and they make it for all their desktops and laptops. Ubuntu 10.10 and above has their own thing also; Unity, a dashboard similar to OS X, which came for mobile users/netbooks only, now made also for desktops and laptops. And lastly, just this version, Windows 8; with their Metro interface, from their mobile operating system. And everybody’s hating it, saying that it’s for tablets only.

    ~Sorry for the long comment
    -techenergize.com

    • Mac’s Launchpad has been around since at least OS9. It changed in OSX to what we know it is today, but it used to pop-out from either side of the screen and give you a less slick way of doing the same thing. This is not from their iOS platform, it’s quite the opposite really. Apple used the success of Launchpad to model the entire iOS user interface. This is why you have the slick icons and smooth transitions from page to page… All things Launchpad brought to OSX when it underwent it’s facelift.

      The reason everyone is saying the Metro interface is for tablets, is because it’s true. The entire purpose of Windows 8 is to have a competitive OS for the tablet market, period. Ultrabooks running ARM processors (you can see commercials already showing this new class of MacBook Air wannabes) also need something a lot more streamlined than Windows 7, which is why the desktop acts like an app rather than an environment. Everything has been stripped down and made much more efficient. The net result is that it all becomes a HUGE positive for everyone. If W8 can make such low-power devices run so smooth, imagine what it can do for an i7 with an nVidia graphics chip. The problem is, computer manufacturers won’t want to sell us the i7, they’ll want to sell us the Ultrabook that can’t be upgraded, and requires complete replacement if something breaks… The PC is going to model itself after Apple, which is why I made the comment about more powerful machines doing less.

      Steve Jobs was a visionary, who deserves most of the credit for modernizing the public perception of computers, music, and communications… However, he was also a dictator who restricted every aspect of anything he could, which translates into less options for the consumer. Sure, it may be a safer world, but it doesn’t have as many choices.

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