I took the leap into the relative unknown recently with an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro via Microsoft’s recent offer (now expired).
I’m using Windows 8 in a traditional keyboard and mouse environment, but in a nutshell, Microsoft’s approach is to fuse together both ‘touch’ elements of tablets and smartphones; while retaining (and catering) for the keyboard and mouse user. This direction is where they are going with their latest Operating System (Windows 8), as Microsoft knows the market is heading in that direction and Microsoft are keen to continue their dominance, while break into the emerging giants; tablets and smartphones*.
I remember being at a Microsoft seminar late last year on Windows 8 and Server 2012 and hearing that Microsoft are committed to Windows 8. This means that future versions of Windows may have enhanced version and/or be based off Windows 8. The Windows 8 User Interface (UI) & User Experience (UX); are not changing back to the traditional way of Windows navigation any time soon. *(Technically Windows Phone 8 runs on smartphones only, while Windows 8 runs on desktop and tablet).
So the question has to be asked; have Microsoft done it? Have they successfully blended ‘touch’ with traditional (keyboard & mouse) into the one Operating System? Technically the answer is yes, as I’m typing this article from a Windows 8 PC, but is the UI & UX with Joe Public catching on or failing?
I am a technically skilled person, and even I struggled to wrestle Windows 8 to the ground and make it submissive to how I want the user interface to be. I really did have to watch some videos to get my head around how to do things. With this in mind, I’d say Microsoft have failed but that statement is a little premature I believe.
I deal with computers and their users daily, and have learned to listen (a very under utilised skill in today’s society BTW), and I hear them say to me, that they’ve heard Windows 8 is no good for business, or, it simply sucks. Like anything new, it takes some training to familiarise oneself with the basics, once acquired; you’re up and running. This also applies to Microsoft Windows 8, a little training 2-3 minutes with keyboard & mouse, and you’re away. I have spent 1-3 minutes going over the basic navigation of Windows 8 with some people who have had their Windows 8 negativity turned up high. After this they come around to understanding Windows 8 a little better, with some even commenting that it’s not as hard as it seems. (usually these people have not touched Windows 8).
Now I’m not an Windows 8 lover, or hater, and I’m certainly not a fence sitter, but I do like it, and as you’ll see later in this article, there are some things I don’t like about Windows 8, and wish Microsoft would fix and implement. In general, I see it as the next progressive step from Microsoft… business as usual.
Problem for Microsoft is that Tablets and Smartphones have not really seen a decent version of MS Windows in the past and this sector is currently dominated by Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android. It’s been over 4 years since Steve Jobs and Apple revolutionised the mobile phone Navigational System Interface with the release of IOS on the iPhone in 2007. Only now is Microsoft catching up with their latest.
At the time of writing, Microsoft’s 128GB Surface Pro tablet has just been released and sold out. That tells me a few things, either Microsoft had little of them out in the stores for consumers to buy, or consumers really want a full-blown Windows Tablet that they can use all their old Windows programs (legacy apps), on. Think of it this way, I have seen iPad and to a lesser degree, Android tablets become hugely popular in recent times. I have also witnessed user frustration in them not being able to install their Microsoft applications on these devices, and incidentally, this is the single biggest reason why widespread adoption in the business and enterprise markets of IOS and Android has failed to make great inroads.
Most consumers of tablet products are doing just that with them; consuming. For real productivity, most are still using the desktop computer, (usually at work).
To produce = desktop computer. To consume = tablet, and/or smartphone.
Will Microsoft’s new Windows 8 bridge this divide? That remains to be seen. Certainly if Microsoft’s in-house created tablet, the Surface Pro’s “sold out” status suggests, then this may be an indicator of what’s to come. OEM’s are now concocting many mash-ups of hybrid, semi-hybrid, quasi, mis-match, of touch, tablet, laptop and ultrabook, in a desperate attempt to win buyers over in these lean economic times. It really seems like a, “lets throw everything at the market and see what sticks” approach. In reality, not much is sticking right now. Microsoft’s Surface is as much about a solid tablet to showcase the features of Windows 8 as it is a big lesson for the OEM’s to learn from. In other words; “we expect you to build products of at least this feature-set and quality”.
In the coming months will see what the Surface Pro does for the market, in particular, the business sector. I’m very interested to see how the Surface goes in this sector. I’ll be bold and predict it will do very well. I say this based on what I believe are keys reasons to why business is holding out on mass adoption of tablets computers for their mobile workforce.
- Security – BYOD devices offer little security of company data (IP), when users bring them to work and want to connect them to the company network and more.
- Productivity – How productive can one be on an IOS or Android tablet? Consume is the keyword on these devices.
- Applications – ties in closely with 2. Productivity. Can it run my favourite Windows programs? I hear a lot of “I can’t(s)” or “It won’t work”, when dealing with IOS and Android.
- Trust – how will these devices behave in my business/network? The Unknown.
- Domain connectivity.
Of cause there are exceptions to any rule and this is no different. So before I get a comments and emails coming in, please read the prior sentence again.
Time will tell if I’m on the money or not.
My personal experience with Windows 8 Pro
I do seem to be using the keyboard shortcuts a lot more now than I ever have done in the past. Not because I want too; but out of necessity. (Windows key + X)
I’ll admit, it took me a few videos to understand the basics, but after that… I really like it. Yes; there are some things that I don’t like:
- no clear or easy way to shut down your computer – at the moment; it’s Charms Bar > Settings > Power > Shutdown. 4 clicks on Windows 8 whereas it used to be 2 clicks on Windows 7.
- apps are not windowed making for closing of them impossible with keyboard and mouse (unless you know how to) Swipe from top to bottom, while holding the left mouse key down.
What I’d like to see is a Custom Jump List on the taskbar that contains shortcuts to:
- User Folder
- Devices & Printers
Yes I know… sounds like a Start Menu. Ha! 🙂
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