Poor old Microsoft. Windows 8, the reimagining of Windows, is getting a mixed reception. There is a kind of alliance, with those who you would expect to oppose Microsoft (open source advocates, Apple enthusiasts and so on) lining up with Windows diehards who dislike too much change. Like Windows stalwart Woody Leonhard (remember those endless Office tips?) who says, under the headline Windows 8 review: Yes it’s that bad:
From the user’s standpoint, Windows 8 is a failure — an awkward mishmash that pulls the user in two directions at once. Users attracted to the new touch-friendly Metro GUI will dislike the old touch-hostile desktop underneath. By the same token, users who rely on the traditional Windows desktop will dislike having to navigate Metro to find settings and apps they intuitively locate in Windows 7.
I can confirm after months in the trenches and talking with many hundreds of testers that anyone who defines "real work" as typing and mousing won’t like Windows 8 one little bit.
I disagree. In fact, I had the opposite experience. I installed Windows 8 Release Preview for a non-technical friend, on an old laptop with no touch capability, and was so sure that she would dislike it that I kept the backup image of her Windows 7 install ready to zap it back on.
It did not happen. She was flummoxed at first of course, but after pinning a few applications to the taskbar and learning how to navigate Start, she was fine. All her old desktop apps still work and she cannot see what the fuss is about. Now and again she pops into Modern UI land and plays a game or uses the Facebook/Twitter integration in the People app and it is not a problem.
This has made more impression on me that my own experience, which I tend to discount being used to the bleeding edge. I should mention though that I have no desire to go back to Windows 7, even on my desktop. I like the speed of Windows 8; I like having Hyper-V; I like having the taskbar on both my displays, and it works fine.
I also have Windows 8 on the Samsung Slate which I bought last year, and words cannot describe how much better it is than Windows 7 on the same device. That said, I cannot really recommend the Samsung; its battery life is too short, its design falls short in several places, and it is too expensive to be a mainstream hit. However, it has given me a feel for how well the Windows 8 UI works on a tablet.
My view is this. Windows 8 has plenty of failings, but they are the failings of transition to a better place, not the failings of something that will never work properly. Most of the problems which rile people so much can be fixed with a small amount of effort and perhaps a read of a survival guide. I did one, and there are others just as good or better.
It seems to me to be simply dishonest to portray Windows 8 as this horrible thing that is a nightmare to use. I do not have any evidence for that, beyond the initial painful moments that I have seen at first hand. I do realise that someone might be so much put off by those initial moments that they never want to touch it again, and will declare the same to anyone who will listen, but regard it as my job, as a technical communicator, to help users get past that towards a fairer judgment.
Windows 8 is ready, but many of its users are not.