I have been playing around with Microsoft Windows 8 for a while, from its pre-release to the just leaked release to manufacturer.
Every time I try to play with it I can’t stop myself from thinking how massively this is going to fail. Let me elaborate. The theory behind Windows 8 is that touch interfaces are king, which is perfectly acceptable on a touch device like a tablet, but Microsoft has released this operating system for the PC market as well.
In order to support the touch ability a user has to comfortably touch the screen. The problem here is as simple as the configuration of the typical work space. Keyboards are close to the user, then some space (especially true for larger displays), and then the monitor, leaving a rather large gap for users to traverse in order to interact. If you take this a small step further, some businesses even separate the user from the monitor by placing it inside the desk. These configurations completely eliminate the touch functionality.
The next issue, cost. As of this writing, the cheapest multi-touch supporting monitor without shipping or taxes listed on NewEgg at $269.99. For the normal home user, this cost is not much of an excuse because the touch monitor (and the Operating System) will typically come with the purchased pc. But that’s not where Microsoft is getting the majority of its money. Microsoft has and will always be a business driven company. A business is not going to spend additional resources (I say resources here to include training, configuration, and money), in the current economy, to support an, in my opinion, trivial input system.
I touched on this earlier, training. The most important function of a computer in a work environment is productivity. The typical user has gotten so comfortable launching programs it is second nature. Everyone knows that in order to launch a program all the user has to do is click something in the bottom left corner. Even when the “Start” label was removed with Windows Vista everyone instinctively knew how to operate it. With the touch interface, the functionality, including the familiar button, has been eliminated. (Yes, a nice pop-up shows up, but what is wrong with keeping the button and launching the new interface when clicked?) How many resources are going to be needlessly drained just teaching users how to get to the programs they typically use? (What’s going to happen is that the desktop will be a graveyard of links instead of the clean work space it is suppose to be.)
Speed. Applications built for the new launcher take far too long to launch. By that I mean a REALLY long time. I understand that these applications are communicating via the internet but DAMN.
Secure Boot. While I understand the need for Microsoft to protect its software, creating a method of keeping additional or competing operating systems from running is clearly not the answer. In my opinion this is the most blatant anti-competitive practice from Microsoft to date. If I purchase hardware I feel that I should be free to run what ever software I see fit on it. Granted, secure boot can be disabled on all but atom/tablet devices, given its existence, that option my not be available in the future.
Third Party Development. I do not know the full details but apparently its very difficult for game developers to support Windows 8. So much so that Valve has started to develop and support *nix in way we have never seen before. Valve’s tests have found that OpenGL is superior to DirectX, leaving us to question why, if performance is the primary issue, games are even developed for windows operating systems to begin with. This will affect the consumer market by increasing game development time, thus increasing the cost for games. I generally go by the “Tank of Gas” rule when looking for a game to play. That is, if the game cost’s more than 15 gallons of gas, I won’t buy.
Another feeling I got using Windows 8 is that Microsoft is forcing people to utilize Microsoft services. (Just won’t learn from your mistakes will you?) The default launcher is covered with programs that access Microsoft only services. Even user configuration tries to force users to use a Microsoft Live account by moving the skip step to the bottom. I feel that the overall experience was designed to keep other companies from competing. The default mail program won’t even let you use a third party mail service.
Overall I don’t feel that Windows 8 will be a functional operating system for the work or desktop environment, and I won’t be supporting it in any way.
I have seen a few touch displays in a work environment here and there and they either never got used because the user was un-comfortable touching the screen, did not like to look through fingerprints, or simply forgot that touch was an a part of the interface.
You can also tell that Windows 8 is built upon, or around, Windows 7. In my experience Microsoft’s greatest advancements have been when they start the coding process fresh. (i.e. Windows 95 and Windows XP.) Windows less perfect systems have been when they built an operating system on top of other existing operating systems. (i.e. Windows ME)
I would be very interested to see a game sold that booted a common *nix environment (or supported a common *nix environment) and run, thus, supporting the majority of home PC’s and *nix systems.