My home is an equal opportunity technology zone.
I use an Ubuntu Linux netbook. My wife uses a Chromebook. The kids have a Mac and an iPad. Then there is the older family PC that provides service for some school jobs and printing. It was using Windows XP until this past weekend when I upgraded it to the pre-release of Windows 8 (didn’t we use to call this Beta?). I had resisted upgrading the machine in the past due to the cost and because the machine is not the primary computing device for any family member.
But this past weekend I decided to upgrade the Windows XP machine to the Windows 8 preview release. Why now? As a technologist I need to stay in-the-know on new technology and I as mentioned, we provide an equal opportunity technology home. So it didn’t seem fair to pick-on Microsoft when the Windows machine was running an OS that is about to be retired from support.
The start page of Windows 8. Tiled application blocks.
The upgrade process.
I downloaded a ISO file from the Microsoft site and then found a free utility to expand the image file onto a thumb drive. At this point I ran the setup file from the thumb drive and followed the prompts. I chose to keep my personal files rather than wiping all files. The upgrade process started and while I didn’t time it, I believe it was around an hour and a half.
(I should note that on my first time through I kicked the power plug out of the back of the PC during the last step of the upgrade. The process didn’t recover, but it did a successful rollback to Windows XP. I had to start over. Doh!)
Windows 8, a bold new move.
My initial thoughts:
First – The OS was built with tablets and touch-screen PCs in mind. As a reminder, I converted an old Windows XP tower to Windows 8, so I recognize this limited me from experiencing the full breadth of features the new OS has to offer. But the move from Microsoft makes sense. Touch screen computing devices are fast becoming the new norm and they should be designing and developing to this.
Second – The start page of Windows 8 is radically different than what Windows users have seen in the past. People resist change and I expect there will be an initial outcry of critics as they adjust to the new look. (Change is hard on people!) The UX of the screen basically follows the growing popularity of application based tiles. Consumers will be used to this because they use it on their phones. But it’s a bold move to change the paradigm of the most used operating system in the world.
The UI of IE 10 included with Windows 8.
Third – Internet Explorer 10 is accessible from the start screen but the UX is again different. I think consumers will welcome this change because the interface is cleaner and free of the clutter of the navigation bars. The address bar is at the bottom of the screen and will auto-hide to give maximum screen real-estate for content.
Fourth – Navigation to different applications was not at first apparent to me. It seems all the magic happens in the lower left and lower right corners of the screen with hidden menus. Again, I recognize the UX was designed with touch-screen in mind. So I know my experience was not the ideal. But I also know that I’m bit more tech savvy than most and many people may struggle with the basic navigation of the new UX.
The good news with this is that the updated design, as with IE 10, removes clutter from the screen and allows more space for the primary application. But I found myself continually dragging to the screen corners to bounce back-and-forth between applications. I sense there is an easier way to navigate, even with the mouse, so it will take time to get use to the new paradigm.
Will Microsoft succeed with this strategy?
Microsoft is fighting a classic battle. On the one hand, they have the most popular OS in the world (by volume). So they get all the things that come with this such as a user base trained in a certain way. On the other hand, the company needs to show some innovative moves or they’ll become less relevant with each passing day.
Ultimately, Microsoft has to make this move. It’s a move to stay relevant with new consumer behaviors encouraged by computing devices that are smaller and more mobile than a traditional PC. It’s not the 1990s any longer and Microsoft is attempting to change to keep up. I like it. It keeps competition strong, which benefits consumers with more choices.