In case you have not heard, Windows 8 is coming out October 26th, just one week from now. If you have not heard this before it is not surprising. There is practically no buzz brewing about Windows 8. The upgrade from Android 4.0 to 4.1 generated more excitement. So did the upgrade to iOS 6, though most of that buzz was negative, so it is probably good that Windows 8 is not generating that kind of buzz. Much to the chagrin of PC makers, and Microsoft stock holders, Windows 8 is going mostly unnoticed.
First let me say that this essay is not an anti-Windows 8 rant. The truth is, I have never tried it, and the people that I trust who have tried it says it is fine, and perfectly backwards compatible, runs everything Windows 7 did and even boots faster and launches most program faster. There are good reasons to upgrade, and I may one day upgrade myself — someday — but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Why? Blame the marketing, that is what this essay is about. In fact, if I get any info incorrect in this essay, you can blame the marketing too. I’m giving my impressions based on info that I have been exposed to (what little of it there is), so I may have some things wrong. So be it.
I have the advantage of not being a shill for Microsoft, or work for any tech publication or website that depends on Microsoft advertisements or free handouts. Therefore I can tell the truth about what we the average tech savvy crowd really thinks of Windows 8.
Marketing problem #1: It’s ugly as fuck!
Those screens you see above are atrocious. I’m just saying what everyone is thinking. Red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, and white: That’s all the colors you are willing to use? Look at the opening screens for Android tablets, look at the screens for iPad with iOS. They are cool, they are slick, they look what we imagine the next generation of tech should look like. Windows 8 look like someone barfed a lego set. I am certain at some point in the future, someone will find a way to customize the 4 bit color graphics to look really cool too. As soon as they do, Microsoft should give them a job.
Marketing problem #2: It’s basically an overlay
As I understand it, Windows 8 has two user interfaces. One is basically Windows 7 without a start button (actually if you click where the start button should be you will still get the start menu), the other is the barf lego screen which they are calling the start menu. The first interface is designed to work with the traditional keyboard and mouse, the second is designed primarily to work with touch screen controls. Easy access to everything no matter which way you choose to interface. Sounds great, except that 98% of all PC users use the keyboard/mouse (or touchpad) combo. I work in an office filled with computer users, and most of them sit further than arms length away from their monitor. Reaching out to touch a screen when you have a perfectly good keyboard and mouse right there seems like a chore. Some people swear it is faster and easier to touch your monitor, but they said the same thing about Dvorak keyboards, and after 50 years most everyone still uses QWERTY.
Sure the new Start Menu can be negotiated with keyboard and mouse, but because it was not designed that way it is clunky to use. It sounds basically like an “overlay” program, like Microsoft Bob.
Marketing problem #3: The Touchscreen OS
Microsoft is trying to sell the vision that the future is touch screen. That may be true, but they are making it sound like you HAVE to convert. Obviously, you don’t have to, but they are not marketing Windows 8 as an improvement over Windows 7, they are marketing it as a touch screen OS.
I have a touchscreen tablet, two in fact. Receiving info from these devices is fast and efficient. Watching videos, reading books and magazines, playing touchscreen games, and for the most part surfing the web are fast and easy on tablets.
What is not fast and easy is whenever you have to pull up the on screen keyboard to enter info. As simple and as easy as pulling up info is on a touch screen tablet, the exact opposite is true when it is time to enter in info. Keyboard and mouse are so much better for those tasks there can be no question.
Marketing problem #4: The REAL Touchscreen OS = RT, not 8
At the same time Microsoft is launching Windows 8, they are also launching Windows RT, a hobbled step child of 8 designed to run on tablets instead of PCs. I keep reading many articles that are getting these two confused. For some reason it seems Microsoft wants us to get these two confused, to equate RT and 8 in our heads for some reason, despite the fact that RT is generating a lot of bad press. RT is a closed off OS, with no traditional Windows interface, only Start Menu. If you want software for RT you have to buy it from the Microsoft store. RT is basically Microsoft’s version of Android or iOS.
Unless I am mistaken, Windows 8 is basically Windows 7 with a new Start Menu, and a couple of other enhancements. You can still run traditional PC software, games, and utilities on Windows 8 computers. RT is a hobbled version that can’t do that stuff. The fear is that the next Windows OS, will only follow the RT model and leave old PC programs that are not compatible with RT orphaned.
I am of the opinion that the exact opposite will be true. I’m betting RT devices will sell poorly, the next CE or the next Zune. The competition in the closed marketplace model is too well entrenched to ever establish a decent market share.
Bottom line is that I want the PC market to stay alive. Just as gaming consoles can never replace PCs, neither can touch screen tablets. Therefore, I want to be sure that Windows 8 is the next evolution destined to make the PC better, not a distraction to a dead end. The marketing department at Microsoft is not giving me much to be sure about.