Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Now Get Win 8

I used to be a Microsoft employee so there is always a little bit of excitement when Microsoft ships something new.  (I think the brainwashing takes a really long time to wash through ones veins after leaving.)  There was a little bit of that excitement when I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview a few months ago on an old desktop PC I had at home.  That excitement quickly left because it was a really crappy experience.  Now I was familiar with Windows 8 because I had been running it for awhile when I worked at Microsoft so I kind of new what it was going to be like but I always assumed that the Metro and Desktop worlds would be polished up and would be made to mesh together well by the time it shipped.  I was surprised to see that it was pretty much the same Windows 8 I had used a year earlier when I worked at Microsoft.  The Tiled Metro world seemed foreign to the desktop world.   Clicking in various hidden regions would pop up Metro looking toolbars from the side, top, bottom and they looked totally out of place in the desktop world.  My biggest pet peeve was that Microsoft decided to  take out the Start menu from the desktop experience and instead brought up the heavy and full screen metro UX that looked entirely different.  I hated the whole experience.  To me Microsoft had crippled the Windows desktop experience by trying to weld on the tablet UX and it just didn't work.

So fast forward to today.  This afternoon I walked into my local Microsoft Store to check out the Surface tablet and a bunch of the other Windows 8 machines.  First off to my surprise the place was as crowded as your typical Apple Store.  People were really excited.  I'm not sure if this is true across the country but I live in Silicon Valley and people are little more tech happy here.  As I waited to check out the Surface I looked around the store and to my surprise all of the Win 8 all-in-one desktop and laptop stations were also busy and being used.  People were touching the screens and swiping and having fun trying out the computers.  This is when it hit me. Win 8 sucks on a desktop computer with a mouse but it's pretty great with a touch screen.  Windows computers finally had a cool, demonstrable and clear advantage over a Mac.  I finally got to try Surface and it surprised me.  Using it felt different than an iPad because of the keyboard built into the Touch Cover.  It felt much more like a really really light, mini-laptop especially when you launch MS Office and I found myself using it propped up with the keyboard out.

In conclusion I've changed my opinion about Windows 8.   Before today I thought it was going to be a complete failure because of it's weird Jekyll and Hyde tablet/desktop UX but I'm now thinking it may do pretty well.  I don't think iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire, or Nexus 7 have anything to worry about but my bet is that corporations will look really seriously at Surface and the other Win 8 convertible machines.  Having a full version of Office (not a dumbed down tablet version) and being able to run corporate legacy applications on a tablet is a pretty cool proposition.   Also, from what I saw in the Microsoft Store today I think the touch screens built into the new Windows 8 systems have enough sex appeal to convince people to upgrade their Windows XP systems and may even get some people who were thinking of moving to a Mac to stay with Windows.  

The bottom line is that Windows 8 with a touch screen is kind of cool and cool is not a word that people would have associated with Windows computers in the past.