Windows 8, uh?
By Charles Miller
It’s that time again! Every few years Microsoft offers computer users a new version of their Windows Operating System (OS). After two decades the history of Microsoft Windows has fallen into what is now a predictable pattern. Every successful product is followed by a dud that prompts many users to revert to the previous version until something better comes along.
I am not alone in preferring to forget the first two versions of Windows in 1985 and 1987, which more than being duds were absolutely awful. The Windows OS had reached a usable level of maturity by 1992 and so Windows 3.1 was a success in the market. Windows 95 was the next version Microsoft put on the market; it was not very successful and could be called another disappointment. Next up was Windows 98, the most successful version of Windows up to that time. In 2000 Microsoft release the dud known as Windows Millennium prompting large numbers of users to revert to the previous version of Windows. The next year, 2001, Microsoft released their most successful and longest-lived OS ever, Windows XP. In 2007 came Windows Vista while being a technical improvement over its predecessor was an absolute flop in the market with almost everyone preferring to continue using the previous version of Windows XP.
By now it should be rather obvious there is indeed a pattern here. The current version of Windows 7, which appeared in 2009, has been very well received by users and is predicted by some to possibly have the staying power of Windows XP. This, and the fact that Windows versions now have a long history of alternating back and forth between popular and unpopular public reception does not bode well for the next product release, Windows 8, scheduled to debut this year.
For the last few weeks I have been using the Windows 8 Release Preview, which I downloaded and installed on a test computer at home. I have been trying to give it a fair shake, really I have, but so far the adjectives that come to mind are: awkward, counter-intuitive, but also colorful and cute. Windows 8 is a product not born of need or demand so I am predicting the patterns of the past will continue and that W8 will be another bust with consumers. For the record I will detail the reasons behind my forming this opinion:
First is that Windows 8 does not bring anything significant in the way of improvements or new features needed by laptop or desktop computer users. Windows 8 is strong on new features intended to make Microsoft a player in the tablet and smartphone market. Desktop and laptop computers are not tablets, and vive la difference!
Second is the new Metro interface intended to completely replace the familiar system of menu items, and even the familiar start button is gone. Users do not like being forced into radical change and Metro is as sweeping as change gets.
Lastly, all application software needs to be rewritten for the new Metro interface. Not only does this present a steep learning curve for all users, but recompiling software always introduces new bugs—that is simply the nature of the beast.
Advancements in technology are supposed to provide solutions to problems, and in this Microsoft has a decades-long track record of making things better for the masses. History will judge retrospectively, however; I believe the past gives ample reason to confirm my predictions and reason to believe most computer users will ignore the new Windows 8 and wait for another version that really is better and not just different. Windows 8 is about to show up on tablets though, more on that next week.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer cosultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.