Saturday, November 03, 2012

Windows 8 - first thoughts

tl;dr I've been through the pain so you don't have to - please do not install
Windows 8 on a desktop, non-touch, computer - you can thank me later.

Last weekend I installed (and paid for) a copy of Windows 8 on my home desktop.
I complained about it at the time (display driver issues), but persevered, so I
thought I'd share my experience.

Before starting, and to give context to my story, here's my history with MSFT:
for many years I made my living building application with Microsoft technologies.
I've created Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, VB6 applications, eMbedded
Visual Basic mobile applications, .NET applications (Windows and Web, from 1.0
through to the current period), and large enterprise implementations of their
core server products; I worked for a year with Redmond on the 'Jupiter' project,
which became BizTalk 2004, and earned a living as a BizTalk consultant for some
time after that. I've owned mobile Windows products since the early days of
WinCE - I had black and white Cassioepia PDA, and all the terrible phones in
between. I'm not a fanboy, but it's not far off to say that Microsoft and their
platform have paid for my house, my holidays and most of my belongings. I owe

Recently I've branched out (not entirely of my own volition): I was given an
iPad (1) as a present a couple of years ago, which is great; I bought myself a
Nexus 7, which is better (for me, as reading is my main activity on a tablet).
I have an Android phone (which I hate), but only because I lost my Windows Phone
7 (which I loved). At work I switch between a MacBook Pro laptop (pretty good),
and a desktop which runs both Windows 7 and Ubuntu, which I use for development.

So I think it's fair to say that I have a pretty good grasp of the main desktop,
tablet and phone operating systems.

Which makes my experience with the Windows 8 all the more extraordinary. Quite
simply it's the worst operating system I've yet encountered. And one week after
installing it I have returned to Windows 7, which is the best desktop operating
system to date (IMO - I know Mac-lovers think OSX is great, but really, it
isn't. Finder, anyone?)

Windows Phone 7 is fantastic, a real break from the competition, and a bold,
imaginative statement from Redmond. It was clearly created by a team with great
talent, given the freedom to do what they are good at. WP7 is what happens when
you get the right people in the room, and let them do their best work. The problem
is that on the back its critical (if not commercial) acclaim, something incredible
appears to have happened.

It feels (and I have no inside knowledge on this) as if the WP7 team were fired,
and then their work was handed to a group with less talent, no background on the
project, and simply told to "make Windows look like this."

I cannot imagine any circumstances under which the new start screen would seem
appropriate on a desktop, operated by a mouse. Everything about it screams
"touch me", which is quite annoying on a 22" non-touch screen. On which subject,
ENORMOUS touch-friendly buttons looking f*king ridiculous on a large screen.
The installed apps (Photos, People etc.) look absurd.

All of which I could forgive, if they hadn't also messed with the 'old-style'
desktop. There is no start button, for which the person responsible should be
fired, and the Metro-style translated to the rich windowed multi-tasking envir-
onment that is Windows, looks like they just forgot to finish the product.

Windows 8 is a catastrophic downgrade in User Experience, which is a shame as I
believe it covers a bunch of really quite important internal changes. Most
companies use pointless eye-candy to distract from the lack of real features,
but it appears as if MSFT have pulled off a first - drawing attention away from
the good stuff to concentrate on the terrible UI/UX.

Do not upgrade.

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