In this third and final post in my Windows 8 experience series, I am thinking about the lack of compelling new features in the OS and some of the positive aspects of Microsoft’s latest flagship OS release. If you need to review, the first part addressed the Start menu, the second part the Tablet PC Input Panel and the general UI issues surrounding Windows 8.
Lack of Compelling New Features
Microsoft makes a strong case that your traditional Windows 7 applications still work on Windows 8. So they do, and that’s great. Of course, it does beg the question why someone with a traditional desktop or laptop should care about Windows 8. The quick answer is, they shouldn’t. I’ve discouraged colleagues and students from upgrading their PC or laptop without touch input to Windows 8.
While there are some new features, they are all minor and have little impact. To name just one, Live Tiles. It doesn’t do it for me. I don’t even see them in the desktop environment and when in tablet mode I still don’t see that Start Menu enough to really care. I can easily see how Live Tiles are great on a phone — I wish my iPhone would show the actual current temperature on the Weather app icon instead of the constant 73 Fahrenheit. But on a device used for productivity, rather than staying in touch (like a phone), I just don’t want to be bothered or distracted by the latest tweet, incoming e-mail or travel update from Prague.
This is certainly a very personal statement to make (others may feel that some new features are must-haves), but I feel this way because I still have several Windows 7 PCs or VMs and I don’t feel like I miss anything when I switch back to one of them. That hasn’t happened in a long time: usually I am so excited about new Windows OS features I use betas and previews long before the OS is released, and I feel robbed when I have to switch back for some reason. That’s been true all the way back to Windows 2000. But not this time. This time, I could leave Windows 8 behind and not miss a thing about it.
After all these complaints about Windows 8, you might wonder why I keep using it. Nobody’s forcing me for sure. However, as an IT professional, eventually Windows 8 will be inevitable. I know I will be confronted with it when colleagues, students or friends ask questions about it. And regardless of my complaints (and thousands of others), it’s not likely Microsoft is going to backtrack and provide an option to disable the Modern UI.
Of course, there are elements I like about Windows 8. First is the ability to have my preferences and settings roam with my Microsoft account. It’s a handy feature for someone like me who uses multiple operating system environments (some virtual, some physical). It’s also good that you have control over what settings actually roam to what Windows 8 instances. For example, a demo virtual machine should not be showing my pictures or contacts, but having my familiar desktop background and Windows Explorer settings is nice.
Another positive element is that when I use my X230 in tablet mode (for example, in a meeting or at a conference), the Modern UI really does make sense. Using touch input to quickly swipe from note taking with OneNote MX to shooting off a Twitter update with MetroTwit, it just works and it’s really intuitive once you get the concept of swiping.
Microsoft is also attempting to sell performance as an improvement over Windows 7. On my primary hardware (the Lenovo tablet), I can’t comment because I’ve got a very fast SSD, 8 GB of fast RAM and a 3rd generation Core i7 CPU. However, on the desktop, which has a HDD and not so fast CPU (but 16 GB of RAM), I might say that Windows 8 boots a little faster and runs a little smoother than Windows 7 did.