Today I had the opportunity to play with Windows 8 at the local Sofmap for a full 30 minutes. Displays were set up in two locations for people to get a little hands-on time with Microsoft's newest operating system, one with tablets and the other with desktops. There are quite a few differences between Windows 8 and the previous versions as well as a lot of familiarity. That said, after half an hour with the heavily-marketed product I came away with a single conclusion: it's better with a mouse.
The tablets are, to be completely honest, a complete waste of money. I tested products from Fujitsu, Sony, Acer, and Toshiba. They all had the exact same specifications and the exact same shortfalls. The touches were not always registered1. The interactions were not always consistent2. Accessing the "charms" required two or more attempts. Typing required some patience3.
The desktops, however, did not have any of the downsides of Windows 8 RT … Windows RT 8 … Windows RT … fuck it: the slates. They were as quick and responsive as you would expect from a full-powered quad-core Core i5 with 8GB RAM and SSD. Applications loaded quickly. The mouse made all of the interactions with the new interface decent enough to get used to within a few minutes4. Would I be able to use this myself? Most certainly I could. Would I recommend this for my wife or my parents? Absolutely not. There are just too many "hidden" things that people will never find, and too many areas that are actually more confusing than previous versions of Windows.
One thing that I did like a lot about this whole experience is that it reminded me a great deal of Windows 98 in the era of IE4. The fourth version of Microsoft's web browser was poised to completely change the way we interacted with computers and with the Internet itself. It actually did, too … as most of our computers became horribly unstable after installing IE4 on the Windows 98 previews and even Windows 95. The Active Desktop concept required just way more power than most computers had available at the time, but a lot of it seems to be in play today with Windows 8. This alone would make me consider test-driving the operating system for a while on a nicely specked-out desktop computer.
But not a laptop, and never a slate.
There's just one little thing that I can't quite forgive Microsoft for: language support.
Once again, if you buy Windows 8, you have to choose which language you want. Japanese. English. Swahili. Canadian English. It's a freaking joke. Windows is the ONLY operating system in the world where people not only have to think about what version they want to install on their computer5, but what language or languages we need to use. There are language packs available for download, yes, but many of these simply tack on support, rather than fully integrating it.
Alas … it won't be my problem. A memo from IT has made it very clear that Windows 8 has been banned from the organization. It's not permitted on the corporate network. Period. This is the first time I've heard of such a thing considering how Linux and OS X are not used within the organization but are perfectly acceptable on personal devices.
I understand that this is the first release of the new operating system, and there are a lot of new things to get accustomed to. I also understand that I am not the target demographic for this new operating system. That said, as someone who has been a steadfast user of Windows for over 15 years, I think I can safely say that I am glad I left the Windows world behind. I don't understand what the big picture for Microsoft's applications should be, anymore. I don't see any consistency in Microsoft's own products to emulate or work into my own Windows programming projects. I don't even see the value of the Windows RT tablets … which are supposed to somehow change the way organizations do things6.
I am not the target market, anymore. I'm moving on.