Windows 8 RTM: it’s better than you may have heard

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.

He adds:

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.

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Windows 8 is ready, but many of its users are not.

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5 comments to Windows 8 RTM: it’s better than you may have heard

  • Niclas Lindgren

    I agree with you, however Vista was never as bad as its reputation, managing the reputation is what made Windows 7 a success more than anything.

    Vista broke some compatibilities and it turns people off even if they don’t need the compatibility in the long run. I think the same works against Windows 8, however good intentions you have it is a bad thing to force change onto people, it is better to pull people to change which Windows 7 did.

    However I find that Windows 8 works fairly well and I hope some issues I have had have been ironed out in the final build. Windows 8 gets better battery life and performance better and I really don’t miss the old start menu, it was never much more than a search box since Vista anyway.

    It does however feel like it can go either way, not technically, but reputation wise.

  • Vic Klien

    See also: Paul Thurrott:

    http://www.winsupersite.com/article/windows8/start-windows-8-era-begins-144002

    “Windows 8 is a mess, but it’s a glorious, wonderful mess.”

  • Burak KALAYCI

    Vista was worse than its reputation. Vista, before SP1, even failed at file operations. Do I need to elaborate more? Pirates made a loss on selling counterfeit Vista copies. Vista is broken and unusable.

    The truth is Windows 7 is Vista 1.1 and an important part of its success is hype and ‘reputation management’. Nevertheless, it is usable.

    Windows 8 is irrelevant. I don’t care about Windows or MS any more. I’m moving on, leaving screwed up tech behind. It will take at least a decade until MS collapses, it will be more obvious day by day until we reach the inevitable bitter end.

    In fact, I landed on this post by mistake, as I’m no longer interested in Windows 8 or its pathetic Windows 1.0 like tiles interface. Next time someone decides to defend Vista, I won’t be here to tell the truth.

  • Vic Klien

    One of the nice things about StackOverflow’s UI is that it’s easy to downvote/flag borderline/trolling comments.

    Vic

  • Windows 8 , the newcomer,
    it’s bold, beautiful, authentic
    its fast, its fluid and well ,everthing feels just plain snappier!
    dont let Modern UI fool you this workhorse is ready for anything
    you can trow at it. from Facebook to Twitter integration it does it all!
    no more endless searching the web for the right app.
    trill to over 250+ great appz & games in the amazing new appz store.
    with many more sure to follow!
    run for weeks on a singal battery charge.
    this is “the” Ipad killer, Apple is surely doomed!