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March 16, 2013

MicroSoft Windows 8

Should you or shouldn't you get Windows 8?

In a word "no". Now, to be fair, there are some people in some circumstances which absolutely should get Windows 8 (but odds are that you're not among them).

Windows 8 introduced the Metro UI (and then decided not to call it that). It's the rather nice interface you see with the big coloured blocks and live tiles on Windows 8 and Windows Surface and Windows Phone etc. It looks nice and what it does it does well (mostly).

The problem is it's not done!

Now of course, the people at MicroSoft will tell you that it is done (or that an operating system is never really done), but what I'm telling you is that it never got completed. I strongly suspect that at some meeting somewhere a paragraph like what follows was uttered with great force.

People, you're doing great.   
The user interface looks and works fantastic. Now I 
appreciate that you're nowhere near finished, but we   
really need to have this touch screen interface   
going out on devices this year. So here's what we're   
going to do. Stop everything right where it is now. I   
want you to merge the existing Windows 7 with what   
we have so far for Windows 8. Whatever is duplicated,   
keep the Windows 8 coding and drop the Windows 7 coding.   
Alright get on it people! I want to be in Beta testing   
by the end of next quarter!.  

Now of course I wasn't there and am only guessing, but Windows 8 really looks like they got about half way to where they want to be and just decided that they had to release "something". So what you have is two halves of different operating systems sewn together and called Windows 8. They took all the things you liked about Windows 7 and removed them (or actually moved them) to Windows 8 new interface and anything they hadn't yet figured out how to implement in Windows 8 style, they just left in "Desktop mode" (Windows 7). This doesn't make it horrible. But it does make it a very disjointed experience.

If you've seen the Best Buy commercial where the "Blue Shirt Beta Tester" tells you how intuitive Windows 8 is, DON'T BELIEVE HIM. Windows 8 is extremely counter-intuitive. In fact you can often find things by looking where you least expect to find them. Honestly though, that's because the new parts weren't really built for the traditional desktop (or laptop) computer. And that, of course, brings us to . . .

Who SHOULD get Windows 8?

Oddly enough, there are some people who should get Windows 8. Aside from the obvious IT people (who need to know it's ins and outs), there are some ordinary people who should consider getting Windows 8.

To understand my logic, you need to realize that this is the direction Windows is moving in. It would appear that MicroSoft is attempting to create a "MicroSoft ecosystem" not unlike the "Apple ecosystem". Basically this means integrating your various devices to a MicroSoft account so that they can control what apps you get and where you get them so as to not actually ban outside developers, but to get control (and thereby profit). In order to do this, they are making their Mobile and PC platforms as compatible as possible to gently move people in that direction. This means that if we are to continue to use MicroSoft operating systems (which, of course, we will) we have to accept this and move along with them.

That tells us that there are some people who will benefit from getting Windows 8 now. In particular that would be anyone new to MicroSoft Windows desktop computing (there's no point in them learning the old way just as it's being phased out). Children should always be given the most modern operating system (as their ability to learn and understand it will usually make it easier on them). And of course, anyone who accepts that MicroSoft is moving in that direction and has no objection to being a part of their new ecosystem (and that's probably a lot more of you than are willing to admit) and would like a head start (not quite so many in this category).

And just perhaps, people with touchscreen laptops might consider a move to Windows 8. Since much of what Windows 8 was designed for involves using a touch screen, there would be some benefit to users of those devices.

Who should NOT get Windows 8?

Almost everyone. Truth be told, if you are at all familiar with Windows 7, then there is no reason to purchase Windows 8. It will just introduce you to a bunch of new problems that you don't have now, and send you looking for ways to do things you already know how to do on your current system. Even if you are purchasing a brand new system, if it doesn't have a touch screen, you really should stick with Windows 7. I believe that much of the stuff you will fight to find in Windows 8 is stuff that simply hasn't yet been moved into the new User Interface and that learning it now will be a waste of time, as you will have to learn it again for the next version of Windows (which will likely complete the transition to the new User Interface).

I have my Windows 8 computer designated for visitors like my children and grandchildren and I use my Windows 7 desktop for my day to day computing needs. If you didn't buy it when MicroSoft was practically giving it away for $40, you probably don't want to buy it now at full price.

The day will come when it's time to upgrade to "Windows Touch" (or whatever they choose to call it), when they've finished moving the stuff still in "desktop mode" over to the new User Interface and they realize that nobody wants ALL of their applications to have a huge box on their home screen. But that day is not here yet. When that day gets here (and it's likely not all that far off) you may find that you still don't need to upgrade. The new UI has fantastic promise for touch screen systems, but there are (and will continue to be) a lot of applications that just won't fit well in that environment.