A few days in, and the reactions to Windows 8 Consumer Preview are coming thick and fast, mostly strong reactions, with love for Metro on a tablet and hate from annoyed Windows users looking for the Start menu.
For myself, I have it installed on a tablet (Samsung Series 7 Slate bought for the purpose) and on a desktop, where I am using it for my work.
It is going OK, though one annoyance to add to the list is coping with two instances of Internet Explorer. It sounds simple: Metro IE is the no-plugin version, Desktop IE is the full version. There is more to it that that though. Where are you going to put your favourites, in Metro or in Desktop? Except that Metro IE has no favourites, just the option to “Pin to start menu”.
More seriously, pages open in Metro IE are invisible in Desktop IE and vice versa, and the two browsers do not share cookies, so you might wonder why Amazon does not recognize you when you remember you signed in yesterday – but that was in Metro and you are now in Desktop.
Users are going to hate this, unless Microsoft can do some tweaking, or even (perish the thought) have a setting that says “Only use desktop IE”.
The IE problem is a consequence of the Windows 8 split personality, where one half almost literally does not know what the other half is doing. John Gruber says:
The recurring theme of these Windows 8 reviews: the brand-new Metro UI is elegant, clever, original and shows much promise; the updated classic Windows desktop is better than ever; the two environments don’t flow well together.
Nicely put, though I do not agree that Microsoft is trying to anticipate Apple supposedly converging OSX and iOS (read the rest of the link). I think Microsoft sees the future of the PC as tablet-shaped, or at least, that the non-tablet segment of the PC market is essentially legacy and will not grow. If some users stay on Windows 7 for ever, that will not matter much provided that Metro succeeds on tablets.
Microsoft could have put Windows Phone on tablets and matched Apple’s iOS and OSX split. It could have make Windows 8 the underlying operating system of both but maintained the split. It chose not to, except to the extent that Windows on ARM is pretty much iOS, where the desktop nearly disappears – it is relegated to a kind of runtime for utilities and Microsoft Office.
I do think Microsoft has work to do on the seams between Metro and Desktop, but I also believe that its main rationale in making Windows 8 dual personality is to force its uptake. The danger, if it had released Windows Metro as a separate OS, is that it would have won good reviews but failed in the market, as happened with Windows Phone in its first year. Microsoft is going for all-or-nothing: if Windows Metro fails, then Windows client fails with it.
PS the above grab is not a stitched screen, but an actual view of my dual monitor setup.