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Windows 8 - First Impressions
This week Windows 8 RTM (Release to Manufacturing) shipped which means that DVDs of Windows 8 are being industriously burned, even as we speak, in advance of the October 26th official release date. I was able to download the RTM build from Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and I installed it on my desktop machine to give it a good spin. Here's my initial thoughts - and keep in mind I'm writing this for knowledge worker folks, not for teenagers who want to play games.
1. It's fast. Let me disclaim up front - I bought a new 180GB SSD hard drive to use as my boot drive and installed Windows 8 on that; relegating my 1TB drive that was my main drive with Windows 7 to be primarily my data drive now. That said I know, from running Windows 8 on other devices, that some of the speed I'm seeing now is just because of the operating system. With Windows 8 on an SSD though...boot times are amazing. I did a full reboot, from desktop to desktop, in under 90 seconds the other day. I've installed my applications (like Outlook, etc.) on the SSD and running those under Windows 8 is about as fast as you could want.
Want a blazing fast machine? Get an SSD, a healthy dose of RAM (I have 10GB) and Windows 8. It's a dream.
Even on a regular machine that just runs Windows 7, though, I think Windows 8 will be faster.
2. The "Windows 8 Style" (Formerly "Metro") interface is going to frustrate desktop users and give help desks a headache. It's very pretty, don't get me wrong. It's not hard to use, but it's very different from what you're used to and folks will have to get used to different kinds "swipes" and such to use it. On a tablet device that's fine. On a desktop with a mouse...it's taking a lot of getting used to.
Further complicating matters is that Windows 8 is a Jekyll & Hyde situation...you've got the Metro desktop and you've got a completely separate desktop that looks more like what Windows 7 looked like. It may not be obvious to user which one to use in which situation and, unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any way to turn one or the other off. This is going to be a pretty big problem, I think, for enterprise IT departments.
User training costs will be significant and the help desk phones will probably be ringing a lot.
3. Metro-style apps are difficult to work with. Not the actual USE of the apps. Navigating the weather app or the messenger app is plenty easy enough. The problem is...they're full screen apps for the most part. You can snap them into an awkward half-screen look, but you can't resize them the way we could always resize things in the past. If you're used to multi-tasking you're going to find Metro to be frustrating - you'll have to constantly switch apps back and forth.
For some users this will be especially frustrating. The Metro Messenger app is nice, but I don't want my IM client to take up the entire screen. With Metro Messenger you don't really have the choice. Furthermore, though you can install the Windows Live Messenger client we're used to from Windows 7, there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to turn Metro Messenger OFF. Which means that ever notification that pops up you get TWICE - once from Live Messenger and one from Metro Messenger. Very annoying.
Dual-monitor desktops will be almost essential.
It's also not obvious how you CLOSE a Metro-style app. (Press ALT+F4 or drag the top bar to the bottom of the screen...which is sort of a long drag on a mouse, if we're honest. You'll be longing for the "X" in the top right corner pretty quickly.)
I've been using Windows 8 full time for about 4 days now. There are some things I really like. The speed is great. Some of the "Metro" apps are nice. Certainly it's very pretty. It also feels like I'm still not quite where I was with my Windows 7 machine in terms of productivity. As a general rule I'm avoiding all of the Metro apps when it comes time to do work - and I've too often found myself trying to get Windows 8 out of my way (like the redundant messenger notifications, or the e-mail notification sound that won't go away no matter how many places I turn it off).
I think Windows 8 will be brilliant on a tablet. But most knowledge workers still do a great deal of their work on a real computer. A desktop PC with one or more (hopefully more with Windows 8) monitors, a real keyboard and a mouse. For those users...this OS may be a bit of a challenge at least initially. And I really don't look forward to running this OS on a laptop where I'm going to have to use a touchpad to fight with the OS to get my 14" screen the way I want it. Nobody wants their Twitter app full screen on a regular computer Microsoft. That's fine for a phone, but on a PC we want it tucked off to the side, not dominating a 24" monitor.
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