Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Microsoft is getting it right with Windows 8

As I threatened earlier, I'm about to start a series of posts about my (mis)adventures with Windows 8 while they are fresh in my mind. However, I wanted to start off with a short introduction.

I admit it! I bought into the press's feeding frenzy about how Windows 8 was terrible, how the user interface was confusing, how Win 8 was unsuitable for computers without touch screens, and so on. Oh, and how Microsoft (aka M$) is the great Satan. But, I had occasion to get a new computer to familiarize with Windows 8 and I like what I see.

It struck me that Windows 8, with its two interfaces (tiled and desktop), is what MS needs to remain viable. It used to be that the big war was between MS and Apple. Apple won a good chunk of the market, but MS pretty much ruled the roost. Linux has such a small percentage of the market that neither Apple nor MS had anything to fear from it. But, now there's Google's Android and a whole new pricing scheme dictated by the iPhone and Android. Tablets will soon be outselling laptops (if they haven't already) and MS is threatened with becoming another Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)--great in its day, but no longer relevant.

The dual nature of Windows 8 (tile an desktop) will insure its success.

In many ways, I'm a typical over 30 user who's gotten very used to Windows' desktop interface. Small tweaks are okay, but anything more than that would have me sticking with what I already know. Windows 8 with only a tiled interface would never fly. (Even if I were to consider a tiled Windows, I've got 4 tablets--two Android and two Kindles, which use Amazon's version of Android. What do I need with another tiled interface and having to buy my software all over again?) OTOH, anyone under 30 is going to look at a Win 7 type of interface with disdain.

It is often hoped that when two thing are merged, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. That's the hope. Windows 8 may be one of those rare instances where the hope is realized. A Windows 8 that can be run as either a modern tiled interface or a familiar desktop-styled interface means that anyone can use it effectively by using only the parts that work for him or her! Anyone who grew up with Smartphones is immediately using Win 8's tiled interface. I go to my desktop, which behaves very much like Win 7. However, the Win 8 tiled interface is there for me to play with as the mood strikes me.

Windows 8 is not a kludge of two interfaces but an integrated system to woo over younger users with its tile interface while allowing long time users to remain comfortable with their desktops.

Microsoft did make one huge mistake with Windows 8 when it removed the Start button from the desktop interface, but it is to be restored with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade due out in August.

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