I have been using Windows 8 for a few weeks now, and have compiled a list of thoughts on Microsoft’s new flagship operating system. In one word? Ambitious.
Everything from the install and setup process, the new app store, the interface formally known as Metro and a raft of others changes sees Windows 8 mark the most drastic change in modern desktop history. It begs the question: has Microsoft finally found a winning combination?
**Start up reveals some ‘charming’ new features**
When you first start your Windows 8 machine you are greeted with a redesigned login prompt – in fact if you have a touch screen you can make your password a series of finger swipes, which is a great idea for tablets but your smudgy finger prints might give away your “password”.
Upon first installing the OS you are given a tutorial on the basics of the new interface including the “charms” side bar. The charms bar is essentially a better interface for some of the normal Windows functions that may have traditionally required multiple clicks, such as joining a Wi-Fi network.
**App store introduced as part of base operating system**
Like some similar platforms (Apple), Microsoft has gone down the route of introducing an app store as part of its base operating system. The store is relatively easy to use with context aware searching which is a great feature, however with no search bar or hint bubbles, discovering and finding new applications can be slow and inefficient.
**Bring a social feel to your address book with Windows LiveID**
Microsoft is hoping that you tie in your other services with your Windows LiveID, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and your corporate email account, to start giving an overall social feel to your address book (now called people).
I’ve had a few issues so far moving between devices. From my understanding, you should only have to setup this linking piece once and then any device you sign in on should configure itself with all those accounts, however in my testing this hasn’t worked.
The other benefit of using your Windows Live ID is that it should sync content, tiles and settings between your workstation, Windows tablets and your Windows Phone 8 devices, thereby ensuring a consistent experience across all platforms.
**New start screens take a bit of getting used to**
You no longer have the start menu and it does take time to adjust to not having one. Instead, it has been replaced with a new start screen that places all your apps into tiles, which can be moved around, organised into folders or deleted.
**Has Microsoft got it right with its bet on Windows 8?**
Windows 8 is helping Microsoft head in the right direction. It’s more consumer focused, thanks to the app store, has an easier to use interface, and the multitude of great devices it will be available on shows that it is designed for both work and home.
Previously the Microsoft Windows focus was to get in front of business and to be configurable and manageable at an enterprise scale. That premise is still there (although it’s a little diluted for me) but this release is focused on getting people to see their desktop as more than just a work tool, but as something they actually enjoy spending time on for the simple reason that it makes their lives easier.
Microsoft’s biggest challenge will be the training and adoption of Windows 8. Because this is such a radical shift from every other release it will take people a while to get used to and even then I think a big portion of users will still prefer Windows 7 or *gasp* XP!
Business’ will avoid it as much as they can over the next 12 months as it could threaten a serious drop in productivity for task workers, however like iPads, Windows 8 will begin to be adopted at the c-level, as senior management demand the latest, slimmest and lightest weight laptops which will only ship with Windows 8. From there we will start seeing good adoption numbers in business.
Make no mistake: Microsoft is making a large commercial bet in moving from a traditional desktop operating system to something that is radically different. Introducing a new revenue stream through the app store, and being a vertically integrated software company that also produces and sells its own tablet device (such as the Surface).
After a few weeks using and testing Windows 8 I find it very promising, although initially quite confusing until you get your head around how things work. Once you do, then you do get a great experience coupled with a very stable operating system and a burgeoning app store with new apps coming every day.
Windows 8 is the modern operating system I’ve been waiting for.
*Rhys Evans is National Practice Manager of Enterprise Information Systems at Thomas Duryea Consulting.*