Dealing With Some Of Those Windows 8 “It’s Gonna Fail And Be Sucky” Questions
Just to clarify right from the top – I have only used Windows 8 in a virtual machine and that was when only the Release Candidate, or whatever they called it, was available; but I have read more than my fair share – both negative and positive – written by the likes of Paul Thurrott, Mary Jo Foley, and Alex Wilhelm so I think I have a pretty good grasp of what’s coming.
As well, I do think that Microsoft is doing a piss poor job of explaining the difference between Windows RT and Windows Pro when it comes to the tablets (but then so are the OEMs) and given their recent pricing information for the Surface; as well as a stupid ad for it, I don’t see that situation improving any time soon.
However, I also think that there is a lot of stuff being written about Windows 8 that is misleading or downright anti-Microsoft bullshit; and there will probably be a lot more written once the new operating system platform goes live to the general public. After spending some time thinking about the uproar that is almost sure to come our way I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about the new Windows ecosystem and maybe answer, or rebut, some of the nonsense being spouted in the tech blogosphere.
This New Start Screen Is Stupid, Give Me Back My Start Menu
So far the biggest amount of noise surrounding Windows 8 is Microsoft’s decision to do away with the old Start Menu button and taskbar and land you straight into what they call you Start Screen. To be honest, I just don’t get what all the whining is about when it comes to this.
If anything, this new Start Screen has actually simplified your life. To illustrate this, take any average user and ask them what they do once they start up their machine. Chances are they do one of the following three things:
- Click on some application on their taskbar
- Click on some application or file that they have pinned to their desktop as a “dead” icon
- Click the Start Menu button to scroll through menus to click on some application or file
Now look at the new Start Screen. Yup, you can do any of those three things from the very first screen you see, which in effect is either the same thing you would have done in the old Windows or it actually saved you a step. On top of that you also have a much smarter desktop to interact with.
But I Love My Dead Icons And Useless Desktop
One of the things that has always irritated me about Windows has been the non-utilization of that area we call the desktop. Since day one it has been nothing more than a giant launching pad for applications and where OEMs can stuff all the useless crapware that they make money from. There was an abortive moment when Microsoft tried to introduce the Active Desktop which was where you could embed stuff but due to the uproar that followed its introduction it was quickly deprecated.
Sure there have been ways to have “widgets” run from the desktop but that proved to be equally pointless unless you wanted any number of clock or weather widgets that ended up being covered over by your running applications.
The fact is that icons were useless for anything other than launching something and that always struck me as being a total waste of useful information sharing space.
As I wrote originally in the post “Desktop Icons Are Stupid” back in April 2007 (and then reposted in February 2011):
One would think that given the prime screen real estate that desktop icons occupy that at some point some-one would have realized that they could do much more than just sit there waiting to be clicked. After all, given that these icons can be displayed at sizes up to 128 pixels by 128 pixels that is really a lot of room to display graphical information.
Well, with Windows 8 all that has changed (thank God) and thanks to Live Tiles we actually have a desktop that is useful and can be a part of your workflow. Now at a single glance you can see any pending appointments, important emails, and any number of other bits of important information that you need to know. This is a new territory that developers are only now being able to utilize and turn your desktop into a prime information sharing source.
But How Do I Tweak Anything – Waaaaaaa
In just about any version prior to Windows 8 one of the first things that any serious Windows user did was to go hunting for all the new tweaks that they could use to change their desktop and applications to run the way they wanted them to. Tweaking programs were a dime a dozen (I even wrote one that got some good press) to make it easier to apply those tweaks, many of which were questionable as to whether they actually provided any real benefit.
Here’s the thing though. People who are fanatical tweakers are a very small minority of Windows users. I know that is a crushing blow to your computing ego but it’s true – you are a minority and Windows is meant for a majority, even more so now with the move into a unified Windows platform that is meant to include devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones.
In other words Windows is a mass market product and that mass of people that Microsoft wants to bring into the fold don’t care about applying endless tweaks – they just want to be able to turn on their device and have it work.
This doesn’t mean that there won’t be a whole new round of tweaks for Windows 8 or applications that will apply them for you but unlike the past Microsoft is now trying to promote a unified look and feel so that the user will be in familiar territory whether they are on a Windows Phone, a tablet, a laptop, or the desktop right from out of the box.
Oh, and if you don’t think that there won’t be tweaks, or tweaking programs, out there within a week of launch you’re wrong.
No Cheese For Me Please
Over the last four or five years we have started to see one of the biggest shifts in computing that since, well, the launch of the home PC. Smartphones are becoming a primary way consume content, tablets have proven to be yet another ever increase method of consuming content, as well as creating that content, desktops are still a major force with laptops providing a mobile playing field capable of both consuming and creating content.
Our perception of what a personal computing device is has changed and continues to change as does our use of them. This is a new world and Microsoft needs to do everything it can in order to continue to be a profitable company in this changing world. For Microsoft it means trying to create a complete user experience that can provide users with a sense of familiarity regardless of what device they are using, or where they are using it.
Yes Windows 8 is a major reimaging of a once stalwart operating system, but one that is facing serious competition just as is Microsoft as a company and I would rather it take the risks that it is instead of sticking with the old and tired ways of doing things. Time will tell if this is the right move for the company but at least they are trying to do something new and different to move us forward in a fast changing world of technology.