I’m an Apple user in every sense of the word. My computer’s a MacBook. My tablet’s an iPad. My phone’s an iPhone. I’m as immersed in Apple’s ecosystem as much as one could be but the recent launch of Windows 8 still very much piqued my attention. As I’m sure you’ve read, Windows 8 is a massive detour from the traditional desktop computer experience but this very example of innovation encouraged me to hand over my £25 and give Windows 8 a try.
This article isn’t actually a review, but rather my impressions with Windows 8 as someone who’s not properly used Windows in nearly two years and a comparison to my experiences with Windows 8. Let’s go Metro!
Arguably Windows 8’s most notable feature is its new interface style, the Windows 8 UI that was formally (and probably still is, by many) called Metro. Metro is pretty different to any version of Windows before it, and to Microsoft’s main competition that is Apple. After being popularised on Xbox and Windows Phone, Windows 8 brings the distinctive, squared Metro style to your desktop and tablet, changing the way you launch apps in the process.
Replacing a staple part of their operating system, the Start Menu, was never going to be an easy task for Microsoft. Instead, they’ve just jumped right into it. In fact, I feel like it’s started to feel a tad more like OS X and the way Macs handle application browsing.
The default method of launch apps as tiles on your homescreen is very similar to Launchpad on OS X and iOS and came pretty easily to me. In fact, it’s kind of nice to be able to organise applications in this way rather than having them all dumped in a folder like on OS X.
Microsoft have to be commended for just how polished the Metro-influenced Windows 8 is, compared to earlier versions of the operating system. I’ve always felt Windows looks terrible compared to OS X — especially its typography — and while still not perfect, Windows 8 looks much, much better.
Every aspect of Windows just looks so much better and that extends beyond simply design, with the operating system representing the fluidity I’ve come to love on iOS. Aside from an issue with my trackpad (presumably down to Apple and certainly not a Microsoft-caused issue), everything in Windows 8 just works and actually feels like Microsoft has a cohesive ecosystem in place for games, music and apps.
Windows 8 has attracted controversy for just about everything, but the main issue for me is its determination to have me focus on one app at a time. Back when I used Windows as a primary operating system, I would have a single app full-screen and switch between them. When I switched to OS X, I started using more apps alongside each other so the jump to more tablet-style focus on single apps at one time is what hit me the hardest.
This is really the area that would push me to stick with my Mac, and might well encourage some users to stick with Windows 7. For a lot of people, such as my parents, this is probably a better setup as they never use more than one app at a time, but it’s something I can’t ignore. However, as a behaviour that I’ve become used to on my iPad, it doesn’t stand as an obstacle to becoming my preferred choice of tablet OS.
Time For A Switch?
Yes and No. As a desktop operating system, I can’t see myself switching from OS X. It’s a radical change, one who’s controversy will eventually wear off, but the whole paradigm of one-app-at-a-time just doesn’t suit my workflow. It’s easy enough to get used to and work can definitely be done (case in point, this article is being written in Internet Explorer in Windows 8) but such a change isn’t for me. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s equivalent of putting iOS on Macs and that wouldn’t go down so well either.
However, with my upcoming iPad mini purchase, I’m actively considering swapping out my 10″ iPad for a Surface because I’m just that impressed. For a platform where I’m used to such nuances as viewing only one app at a time, Windows 8 looks fantastic, works really seamlessly and the Pro version might even have the potential to make my tablet usage a little more productive. I haven’t made the decision yet, but it’s certainly looking like I might be picking up a Surface sometime soon.
Windows 8 is a big change and people don’t like change. Eventually, I’m sure a lot of users will come around and those perhaps less well versed in technology will, without doubt, appreciate the changes that Metro brings. It’s Windows for the non-advanced user.
While I won’t be making a permanent switch from OS X, there’s a lot to appreciate about Windows 8’s design and UX. While I haven’t had the opportunity to actually use Windows 8 on a tablet, I really do think Microsoft have a good contender to iOS, at least theoretically. With the launch of several major seven and eight-inch tablets, though, Microsoft might not get the adoption it deserves, but that’s a topic for another article.
In a nutshell, Windows 8 is a big shakeup of the norm and one that won’t suit everyone, but Microsoft has made significant improvements in this version that they thoroughly deserve to be applauded for.