GEEKNOTE: Windows 8.1 has been released and includes a few new features. One of our customers asked me to comment on Windows 8 / 8.1 and so here goes:
Windows 8 was designed for use in a tablet environment. The app buttons you see when you first start it up are supposed to let you do pretty much everything you want without ever going to a desktop. For casual web surfing and email, that may be true. I’m not a big fan of 7″ or even 10″ tablets, probably due to my 50-plus year old eyes.
Microsoft’s foray into Windows 8 hardware has been an unmitigated disaster. They started selling the Surface line first only direct and through their stores. They have since started selling it through some major retail outlets, but have yet to allow their tens of thousands of partners to sell the Surface. Would you care to guess why the sales have been disappointing? Windows 8 remains a bit player in the tablet market and I predict it will continue to be such until Microsoft plays to its strength by enlisting the tens of thousands of Microsoft partners in the process.
The bigger issue is the OS itself. If the big box stores weren’t selling Windows 8 exclusively on new machines, the OS wouldn’t have gotten any distribution whatsoever.
There are several reasons why Windows 8 has been met with massive indifference. The first of these is that it is optimized for a tablet / phone form factor and touch screens. Most of businesses don’t use tablets or phones for serious day to day computing.
As someone who uses a desktop computer for hours each day, a conventional keyboard and mouse are far better options for me than a touch screen. I can’t touch type on a touch screen.
Don’t get me wrong. Tablets have their place and I use one when I’m traveling and need to respond to email and other things. Likewise, my new smart phone is very handy. Neither use Windows 8. It’s fun to post pictures like the one I took at church this morning to facebook directly from my phone.
While tablets are the current “in thing” and have their place, I believe that reports of the death of the desktop are highly overstated. There are simply too many people who need a real keyboard and the sort of screen real estate that only a conventional desktop with 2 or more big screens can provide when they are working. I’m using both of my 22″ widescreens at work every day and could use a third one if I could figure where to mount it. Quickbooks, Outlook, a couple of copies of Internet Explorer, and two or three separate instances of Firefox all running at the same time chew up screen space quickly.
My idea of a nice “casual” system is my home computer with a single 19″ flat screen. I may check in on facebook with my phone, but you can bet that I’ll be sitting in front of my desktop system when I’m composing these GEEKNOTES or posting some missive on facebook.
It’s all a matter of picking the right tool for the right job.
We ran into an interesting Windows 8 issue with a school customer this week. The default apps that show up when you fire up a Windows 8 machine include a news feed. With two school shootings this week, this is NOT what I’d want to have presented to young students when they turn on their computers.
Setup is “interesting” in that a new Windows 8 machine wants you to give it your email address and a password before you set it up. Passwords make lots of sense on tablets and phones, but probably not so much on a personal desktop.
Another issue is maintenance. With Windows 8, it has become MUCH more difficult to get into safe mode. When a machine is badly infected, this is often the only option short of restoring the machine to factory settings. Because of changes in the boot process, even booting to a CD becomes a chore.
Another subtle change we’ve seen is the decision to drop POP support in the email client. This is easily cured by installing an email client that isn’t crippled, but it is another little “gotcha” built into Windows 8.
Are there options? Yes.
Windows 7 is still readily available via several channels and it remains a better choice for both desktops and notebooks. You get to keep the desktop you are used to, you don’t have to relearn how to use your computer, and you can quickly get down to doing productive work with your new computer. You won’t find Windows 7 on the shelves of the local big box stores, but they ARE available at the same prices you see for Windows 8 machines. We generally have Windows 7 machines in stock and we can special order quite a few different configurations for delivery within a couple of days.
If you already have a Windows 8 machine and want it to look more like what you loved with Windows XP or Windows 7, I recommend “Classic Shell” to add back the start button and menu structure to a more familiar form.
Have you purchased a Windows 8 machine? If so, let us know what YOU think about it and if not, let us know why.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek