“As cool as a tree, as warm as the sun, as sweet as sugar.” The familiar Windows 8 jingle claims that the operating system encapsulates all of this—and quite a bit more—all “at once.” As promising as the song may sound, the Windows 8 experience has not delivered “all I wanna be” all the time.
Don’t get us wrong. Windows 8 does pack some feel-good factors. It’s far more secure than its predecessors. It seamlessly integrates offline and online computing with a clever use of cloud computing. It even opens up digital streaming by integrating Xbox music. The fact that Windows 8 supports legacy apps gives hope of seeing a laptop-tablet hybrid device in the market in the near future. The cohesive design strategy also means that the computing experience could be similar across tablets, mobiles, and PCs.
So, if Windows 8 is so good, what leaves some users “cold as ice?” For starters, the horizontal Start screen that appears on startup is not compatible with vertical applications. This prevents users who require vertical applications from upgrading to Windows 8. But again, the cost of an upgrade is, as the song says, “scary as the sea.” The cheapest upgrade to Windows 8 Pro costs $40 and a full version costs U$100 to U$200.
Even the staunchest Windows loyalists experience difficulty in switching to the radically different interface. The operating system boots to a tile-based interface; the popular desktop now appears on one side; the familiar folder-based Start screen gives way to the so-called modern user interface; and the task bar is now a band of assorted context-sensitive items. The users first must unlearn everything they knew about using a Windows operating system, and then learn a new way of doing the same things on Windows 8. Perhaps Microsoft can learn a thing or two from Apple. When Mac OS X Leopard was released with more than 300 changes over its predecessor, which included a significantly redesigned desktop, adapting to the new features was child’s play.
It is even a bit disappointing that the basic version lacks common applications like Windows Media Player, which were present by default in the previous Windows versions. Windows 8 could also do better when it comes to apps; with Apple luring app developers to create fun and useful apps, Microsoft needs to get up to speed to make its newer operating systems hip, cool, and trendy. The failure to dish out youthful apps may explain why Microsoft launch events fall short when compared to the excitement and youthful frenzy behind Apple launches.
A comment on PCWorld’s forum expresses the general let-down feeling that surrounds Windows 8: “This is a disturbing trend in computing. The dumbing down of operating systems. I don’t want my PC to be like my phone or a tablet. Microsoft is making the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. To be in on the latest fad. Tablets or pads. This I feel will be their demise. They are not innovating, they are following the crowd.”
In a time when brands dish out hipper and cooler computing experiences by the minute, Windows 8 still needs more time on the drawing board. After all, an operating system cannot be radical, confusing, and expensive all at once and expect universal accolades.
Still considering Windows 8? Here’s our advice. If you want the same computing experience across devices, Windows 8 may be just fine for you; but if you are looking for something more than a uniform computing experience, then you may want to rethink your decision.