I just downloaded and installed two OS' in the last 24 hours, one of which was the latest rev of Ubuntu, the other Windows 8 Customer Preview. I think the this preview is the public preview before the GM build of Windows 8, the GM build is normally 99% of what will be shipped to store and our computers. As always, I'd like to share my thoughts...
Personally, I think Windows 7 is fantastic. I think Microsoft really tried hard to break away from XP with Vista, and again, I never had any issues (at all) with Vista. Though Vista was a pretty XP on top and (IMO) limited and annoying changes underneath, it was a good upgrade. Vista was a resource hog for older/slower machines and that was its biggest 'issue'. People couldn't run it without having a great system. And if they had a great system (normally it was because of video games), Vista didn't do 'as well' as XP while playing the games. I saw that, but to me, since video games are no longer a big part in my daily life, it wasn't a big deal.
Then, Windows 7 came along and fix most of, if not all of, Vista's issues. It is literally a Vista SP3 purely by code revision (6.5), and that really is brilliant. What isn't brilliant is how Microsoft handled this 'update' to Vista - charging another $200 - $400 for an "update" just 700 days after Vista's release. To me, professionally, this is what ultimately rubbed the masses the wrong way - especially for all of those who felt they got duped by Vista in the first place. But I digress...
Taking a page from Apple (yeah, I said that, and "this time" it's true), they've gone with the extreme, and in some ways better than Apple - by bridging tablet computing with desktop computing. The problem is, on a desktop, it falls short. To me it's like a cartoon of Wile E. Coyote: jumping the canyon with a rocket tied to his back... almost there... then the rocket gives out, falling just short of the goal and into a cloud of dust.
This is the most unfriendly version of Windows ever. Going from 3.1 to '95 was completely rough, and this version of Windows is just as bad. The UI, though I really praise Microsoft for trying something different (to finally rid all of us from this 'windowed' world), is just limited, clunky, and seems rushed. The new default interface, 'Metro', is super familiar to X360 and Mobile Windows 7 users, on the desktop - it's... unnecessary. This is the biggest feature I really wanted to see, and unfortunately I am disappointed. There's no graphical indication of what you are suppose to do with the Metro interface, and if you go to the desktop, there's no graphical clue with how to get back to the Metro interface. To me, this is a big problem. I say this because if I, a geek for over a decade and a half, can't quickly see what I am suppose to do, then I immediately cry foul.
Did I figure things out? Absolutely.
Was it intuitive? Hell no.
Also, any non-native Microsoft app or app that is not designed for the Metro UI (on the Metro screen) is ugly and sticks out like a wart on a face. Again, yuck.
So let's look at real world use... 75% of the people that own a computer really only do a few things on it. Use the web, email, & _____ (fill in the blank). Since the Metro UI is the default UI, surfing the web is neat with IE (a native app), but again, it crashes down to a cloud of dust. The cookies between the desktop version of IE and the Metro IE, do not sync up... ???
I can't find the home button for Metro IE, and it's slower than the desktop version. This upsets me. The desktop version is fine. In fact, IE 10 is rather nice on the desktop. I can't say that for Metro. But hey, lets be honest here, who really uses IE anymore? I seriously cannot think of anyone other than my parents. And do you really want to be classed with people in their 60s? I downloaded both Firefox and Chrome, and they do not have a native Metro UI (nor do they have a native Metro UI icon) and this is fine, but now I am wondering - what's the point of the Metro UI on a desktop?
The Metro UI in apps designed for it, like email, are awesome. Really. They're beautiful, because it's not "windowed computing". Unfortunately for a desktop, mousing around the "entire" screen is a burden. But, the default email app shines with its simplicity. It truly is a new age of computing *sigh* ... if it only worked "well". The settings for the menu context is all the way on one side of the screen, hidden. Then, to do something else, you have to mouse over to the other side of the screen (where there too is another hidden set of options). On a 24" monitor, this is a lot of mousing around. It's like playing a game with a retarded supermodel. Gorgeous, but frustrating.
Getting to some good, what really shines for Windows 8 is their store. Finally, Microsoft has a place to download content. Ubuntu has been doing this (successfully) for years now. OS X just started doing it (successfully) last year. Google does something (?) with a web store (stupid Google), and now it has come to Windows desktop. It's here that users of Xbox 360 will feel right at home. Mostly anything you'd "need" for basic computing is presented in a beautiful UI, with really easy to use features. It's Metro UI native, and it's a simple and painless system. I really like the concept of a place to download content. On these OS's it's like going to the mall. It's nice.
What sucks about the Microsoft Store is that it's for Metro UI only - there are no desktop apps, (at least from what I can tell). And this is fine, since most of these apps aren't professional grade, like your Adobes and media apps.
Bottom line, the Metro UI is absolutely fantastic, but not on a desktop. It simply doesn't work well enough. Well, it does "work"... but it's just not intuitive enough to be the main feature. I have very little control of what and how the Metro UI works and looks - and on a desktop computer, I expect that.
There is no doubt, however, that Microsoft is going to make a big splash this year with Windows 8. The current Customer Preview is not without its bugs, and I'd be surprised if Microsoft doesn't change A LOT of things before GM, (if this isn't already the GM). The simple fact that we'll be getting a 'tablet' interface as a default makes me expect tablet features, like iOS or Android. This, like Windows 7 Mobile, is missing these features and it's only expounded on a desktop. The example here is folders - let me group my apps into folders, instead of a barfed view of "everything"! OS X does it, iOS does it, Android does it... c'mon Windows?!
I do have to say that I praise Microsoft to all ends for trying something new, having the guts to go with it, and the guts to spend millions and millions of dollars to give it us. What they've done is fantastic on paper, but not practical in its current position. I think it is absolutely awesome that they split us from the traditional "desktop" and made their desktop another feature. In a sense, that's brilliant and out-of-the-box thinking. But, it doesn't work. I have to look at what Apple is doing with OS X - slowly bringing the tablet experience to the desktop... vs. the desktop to the tablet. I like this approach, as it fits better with today's desktop computing.
That all being said, perhaps this is exactly what we need? Perhaps Microsoft will indeed do something revolutionary for the first time? Perhaps Micorsoft is now the new "Apple-Underdog"? Regardless of what transpires, my eyes have been sparked by a Microsoft product for the first time since XP. But, my Micorsoft luvahs and Apple hatahs... there's a long way to go.
I'm still not switching back, as I still love OS X for it's UI and controls. OS X Lion's "tablet features on a desktop" is brilliant.
But... ask me later about Ubuntu 12.04.