Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Brilliance and Stupidity of Windows 8 part 1

Metro UI =  Start Screen 

     So I have been on hiatus from blogging....Why you ask?  I installed Windows 8.  (insert bad words here)  This issue is so big I cannot address it in one post.  This is part one.   Part one is about what Windows 8 is as an operating system.

         I will not rant about my calamity with Windows 8. I will instead address first the mindset Microsoft seems to be working under. Followed by the brilliance of Windows 8 and the stupidity of Windows 8.    To be fair, there are many positives to Windows 8.  There are also many  poor design decisions.  Yeah, I can defend that.  Read on.

But first, Microsoft's basic assumptions as it seems now:  As gleaned from,  the MS building Windows 8 blog, and the user experiences (of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Release Preview) of myself and many other bloggers and journalists.

1. There is no such thing as market saturation.  People simply change devices. (If you have a smart-phone or tablet why do you need a laptop or desktop?)
2. Computing Convergence into other devices means the end of PC's
3. People will ditch PC's for tablets and smart-phones. (these are also PC's)
4. Touch screens mean Nobody will use a mouse anymore.   ( Because we will be using tablets and smart-phones right?)
5. One user interface will work for everyone and everything.  (Hey, it works  for apple. Because a tablet is just a large smartphone, right? )
6. Pretty is more important than functional.
7. Pretty means minimalism.
8. Minimalism is the best way to be functional.
9. Computers are used to mostly update Facebook and watch Netflix videos from the cloud.  Oh, and listen to Pandora.
10. All computing will be done from the cloud.
11. We now call the internet : "the cloud" (Because everyone understands the 90's corporate IT diagram reference) (Plus, clouds are pretty. See #6.)
12. If people do not buy Windows 8, its because they changed devices again. (Not because people already own Windows 7 PC's that still work fine. See #1.)

Is this satire? YES, but it is also true.   Just read the posts on the Building Windows 8 MSDN blog.   Are these assumptions correct?  It depends on what task you are performing and in what environment.  All together they are crazy.  Individually they could work in the right context.  There can be a happy medium, but the context and the details must be considered.  There is no magic bullet that works for everything

       Now,  To be fair, Microsoft is not the only company to embrace the assumptions above. Google has embraced at least some of these and so has Apple.  It is a flawed line of thinking that mostly comes from really bad analysis of sales figures and other empirical statistics.  Statistics being the most popular form of empirical data that can be made to support the opposite of what is true.  CEO's will then say the "data doesn't lie."  Which is true of the data, but not true of the statistical analysis. Politicians and Advertisers love statistics for that reason.  That, however, is another post.

And Now.. The upsides to Windows 8

1. Metro UI is a great Idea! The Metro UI is embodied the new Start Screen.  It goes like this:  The Start Menu is replaced by the Start Screen.  Icons and Widgets become one and the same in the form of tiles.  These tiles save space and allow for greater flexibility.  The tiles offer updated information and can be re-grouped and re-sized according to category or task.  Unfortunately this only applies to the Start Screen and not the desktop.  Also, there are very limited customization options.  So, if you don't like the retro pastel 60's colors, then...uhh.

2. Windows 8 boots over 50% faster than Windows 7 and is generally faster everywhere. It will run better on older and slower hardware than Windows 7 did and Windows 7 was faster than Vista.

3. It works great for tablets!  For those that already have a Windows tablet, it will help you do more with less. It will be the wonderland you hoped for.  If you already have a Windows tablet, Windows 8 is a must-have.

4. Windows 8 includes an new run time engine called Windows RunTime (WinRT) which is a great new type of program that will run on either x86 or ARM processors.  These types of programs are the heart of the new Windows Store which is an app store accessible only through Windows 8  Windows 32/64 programs still run great.  All the ease of installing apps on your android phone, but now on Windows!

5. With the new Intel processors AND the speed of Windows 8 it will be possible to run Windows 8 on a x86 phone!

6. IE10 is tightly integrated with Windows 8 and offers a metro style app version of the browser.  (Similar to Android and iOS)  This should mean a smoother experience.

7. Windows RT will come with MS Office for the Metro interface.

8. Most keyboard shortcuts still work.

9. Its Cheap !  Windows 8 pro upgrade will only cost $39!  Even from Windows XP!  If you just bought a computer with Windows 7, then it only costs $15!!!

The Devalued Desktop

Reality Check:  The Downsides

1. Microsoft is now telling you how you will compute. They are being rather closed about it.  This is a first.
2. The desktop is deprecated.  Therefore there are few if any concessions to the desktop user.
3. The color scheme is a retro take on the 60's (again)  So if you don't like pastels well...
4. Control panel does not control all, and there are now at least 2 other control panels. They are not interconnected, so you cannot get to one from the other. (that's crazy right there) Notice that in the desktop screenshot (above) that control panel is pinned to the taskbar.  That is not default. It was added by the MS employee who made the screenshot. That is an MS screenshot. Even they seem to be annoyed by the interface choices.

5. No DVD/Blueray support, (You have to pay extra for that....from someone else) Costs about $100
6. No start button and/or abbreviated desktop program list.  You must get to your programs through the Start screen.  No button for that. Either move the mouse to the lower left corner or hit the Windows key.

7.  The Start Screen does not quite have all of the functionality of the start menu, and it takes up the whole screen. This is really annoying if you are in desktop mode.  (This is totally fixable without detracting from the Metro experience, so at this point I will assume that this is intentional) Further, since more screen space is used, it would not be hard to include a search/run box pinned to the screen. (currently its hidden by default. As is every other functional menu in Windows 8, save for the Taskbar.)

8. No transparency/Aero

9. Media Center is now a download only for Pro and above. And you have to pay for it.  That interface is now redundant as Metro would have served that purpose easily IF Microsoft had bothered to port the rest of the Media Center functions to Metro, but they did not, so now there is a possibility of 3 UI interfaces on Windows.  4 if you include the command line.

10. Add to the mix Windows RT which is the ARM port of Windows NT from years ago with the Phone 7/Metro interface and a desktop which cannot run classic Windows programs.  To add to the confusion  Windows ARM tablets can only run Win RT programs.   WinRT programs have a desktop and a Metro mode that look identical to Windows 8 on x86 processors, but cannot run the same programs.

11. You will not be able to install Windows RT on your Asus Transformer, Acer, Samsung, or any other Android tablet.  You have to buy a new device. Same goes for Windows phone 7/8. So much for the software and hardware being separate.

12. Your new Windows 8 tablet or desktop is Locked to Windows.  You can only install Linux versions that have been approved by MS.  (Sounds similar to apple, so much for software and hardware being separate.  See #11)

13.  The many different versions of windows will still remain, but they have new names.  Home Premium is now just Windows 8,Windows 7 Pro becomes Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 7 Enterprise becomes Windows 8 Enterprise.  Plus Windows RT which is only for ARM tablets.  (Windows 7 starter and Windows 7 Ultimate are gone.)

14. The new logo for windows is um, not compelling......

15. Management of a desktop is now much harder and much less intuitive. (See #2)

Example 1:   Previously to get to Control Panel from the desktop you just clicked the Start Button and then clicked on control panel.  Now, you put the mouse in the lower right hand corner,  wait for the menu bar to slide out,  then click settings, then click control panel.  What was 2 steps is now 4.  (On android there are still just 2 steps to get to control panel.) Then, there are 2 other control panels as well.

Example 2:  The desktop has a lock screen that you have to swipe up with the mouse to get out of. Then you can input your password.  This makes sense for a phone or tablet, but not for a desktop.

Example 3:  If, for some reason you get a blue screen of death.   Information that was previously posted allowed you to track down the driver or application that crashed the system. That is gone.  It crashed, and windows will no longer tell you why.

Example 4:  Say Malware causes errors on your disk, so you run Chkdsk.  It used to tell you what it was doing, now it just tells you when it is done.  Who knows what it did?

16.  If you have to learn an entirely new operating system just to run Windows 8, then why not learn another operating system? Like Unix, Linux, OSX or dare I say Chrome OS?  Before Windows 8, no one would even ask that question.

17. Hard core Mac users love it, which is always a bad sign.  MS is now opening its own stores to compete with Apple.  (Cause we all wanna be like Apple, right?)

So, Windows 8 is a great idea, but like Vista, it is executed poorly.  So far, Microsoft has alienated its vendor partners (with the Surface tablet release) and power users.  If they do not make some concessions before release, they will alienate corporate users and their regular users as well.   (Except for boomer retirees who check Facebook and watch Netflix videos while listening to Pandora. they will love it.) Yes, I have a lingering suspicion that MS has been over taken by executives of Apple and Ikea.  Ikea builds the box and Apple shoves you into it...and MS ordered the hit.

Thats all for now.  until part 2......

Think I'm nuts?  Tried Windows 8?  Let it rain comments....