Harden up, Microsoft!
Microsoft needs to man up and get off the fence and either embrace a touch interface, or stick to their longheld tradition of desktop publishing.
Unwilling to part with its past and too timid to commit to a touchscreen experience, the new operating system is a massive compromise.
Microsoft argues that Windows 8 gives users choice, but maybe too much choice can be a bad thing.
The new interface is bound to confuse and frustrate users of all ages. It essentially has two “home” screens sitting on top of each other.
The tiled interface offers customisable apps and programs that sit on top of the traditional Windows desktop, except without the Start button we all know and love.
Traditional XP or Windows 7 users will have to relearn how to tailor the new operating system to do what came naturally with the older versions.
Touchscreen fans more familiar with interfaces like the ones offered by Android and Apple will have a difficult time understanding why the traditional desktop even exists at all.
Windows 8 is released in three editions, but all of them share the same user-interface conventions, whether it’s running on a laptop, desktop or tablet, not taking into account the different user experiences each device offers.
Even Apple who has historically boasted the same operating system for all of its devices, still have systems tailored for tablets, phones and PCs.
Managing director of Microsoft Pip Marlow told News Ltd that the interface provides users with the choice to use a mouse, a stylus pen and touch.
“I see my kids today and they rock up to a screen and they touch it,” she said. “They expect almost every screen to be touch these days and if it’s not they’re a bit disappointed.
“Consumers like choice. If you want to use 100 per cent mouse and keyboard you can do that as well.”
Sure, you can. But based on the preview release, it’s not a pleasant experience.
The idea that you can just switch from Windows 7 or XP over to Windows 8 on the same old computer, is questionable.
Older computers that ran XP won’t have enough processing power to run Windows 8 properly, resulting in a slow system that tends to crash regularly.
If Windows Vista or 7 struggled on a system customised for XP, it’s highly doubtful that users will be able to upgrade seamlessly.
Also, most older Windows computers don’t have touchscreens, meaning that people who choose to upgrade will be forced to navigate using a mouse, resulting in an awkward, frustrating user experience.
Really, Microsoft wants you to buy a new computer, laptop or tablet.
The operating system is also constantly pulling in live data on apps like Facebook and Twitter - which may be fine for mobile phones - but if you’re running your computer or tablet all day like you would in an office environment consumers these live updates may eat up all of your data, resulting in a massive internet or telco bill at the end of the month.
Windows 8 is the first operating system you won’t be able to buy outright.
Consumers will either have to purchase a whole new computer, tablet or mobile with the operating system preloaded, or purchase a second-hand computer running an older version of Windows and pay $40 for an upgrade.
This limits Microsoft’s ability to poach consumers who have been using a competitor product.
Ms Marlow told News Ltd that there would “potentially be new things coming out in the future” for people on a different operating system like Android or Apple, but said at this point the only way to get Windows 8 is through upgrade offers.
Only computer makers will be able to buy a full version of the operating system that can be installed on a PC from scratch.
Switching between the tiled interface and desktop is likely to bemuse young and old.
It’s great that Microsoft is finally trying to catch up to their competitors by beginning to embrace a touch interface, but they’re still only dipping their toes in the water.
Microsoft doesn’t just need to get rid of the Start button - it needs to get rid of the desktop and offer an interface fully committed to touch interfaces.
It just feels like Windows 8 still has the training wheels on as it slowly but surely forces its old customers onto a new platform.
But Windows 8 is likely to make users more afraid to drive on their own, than to encourage engagement with a whole new Microsoft interface.
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