Thursday, November 29, 2012


Microsoft saw the writing on the wall a few years ago: We consumers were moving en masse towards portable devices such as smart phones and iPads and Android tablets. Sales of desktop and laptop computers started to slump many months ago and are taking a nose dive now. Microsoft is a latecomer to the phone and tablet market. Windows 8 is designed to pull us back into their world.

Windows 8 is designed to address a problem with all smart phones and tablets: You can’t do “real” work on them. They are great for surfing the ‘net, jotting a quick email or looking up a recipe but if you need to finish a novel or construct a spreadsheet or presentation, tablets just don’t work. As a result, computer professionals need to carry a convenient tablet for the small stuff and a big computer for everything else.

Microsoft is making a bold attempt to deliver the same experience from laptop to phone to tablet. If Microsoft plays their cards right, us consumers will be able to start working our Windows smart phones, transition to a Windows tablet and finish the project on our Windows desktop or laptop computers. We won’t have to learn a new ways of doing things for each device because they will all function essentially the same.

The problem with Windows 8 is this: It is designed for a touch screen experience. That simply does not work on a desktop computer yet. Especially one without a touchscreen. In the near future, all computers will come with a touchscreen but a touchscreen is awkward when using a desktop or laptop computer. We’ve become accustomed to a much-more-convenient mouse when doing “real” work rather than reaching out to a screen.

So here are my gripes concerning Windows 8: First, it’s kind of ugly.Windows 8 presents you with a large mosaic of touchscreen-friendly rectangular orange-and-blue tiles instead of the familiar “desktop.” You know the “Start” button we have been using for decades? It’s gone. If you want to access your applications, you move your mouse to the upper left corner of the screen and click a hidden menu. To get your old familiar “desktop” with a Start button and icons all over the place, you have to do some intensive tweaking that is simply beyond the ability of the average consumer.

The short story is this: Windows 8 has a steep learning curve. I certainly enjoy learning something new and here is much to appreciate in Windows 8 but you have to unlearn so much before you can begin to appreciate it. We consumers WILL get used to the new format but it’s going to take some time and effort to get there. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

A touch screen seems interesting but I still don't see that I'd rather have a small touchscreen versus a large LCD tv as my main monitor. After going to a 32inch screen I can honestly say that I would never want to go back to a traditional workstation monitor. Of course, when at the workplace or such, you use what is provided, but at home I don't want to always be crammed in at a desk. I'd much rather sit back in my easy chair with my big TV to look at. Everything is so much better with this... of course since it is a TV I can watch all my movies directly through to computer with great pleasure but also photo editing in Pshop is much more pleasant and working in 3ds Max on a big screen is a dream... I just feel much more connected to a large image. I find a large screen much more compelling overall to a touch screen and I don't see a touch screen tv being very practical. I'm not sure I'd want to constantly have to lean over to it to execute actions that I could normally do with a miniscule movement of my hand with a mouse. I definitely think there could be a more advanced way of interacting with a HTPC type of setup (maybe a motion sensor?) but it would have to involve being able to lean back in a chair for me to find it worthwhile and comfortable to use.

So for me big screen tv > little touchscreen I have to hunker over.

Anonymous said...

Uh...Windows 8 is easy to use. You click on the desktop tile, and spend as much of the day there (on the desktop) as you'd like. When the need arises to use a desktop app, hit the window key and find your program. That's the basics. How steep is that learning curve?

Jim Fisher said...

Easy for you. But Microsoft hasn't seen this kind of revolt since the introduction of Vista.