Hi everyone, I’m Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo!
I read someone calling Windows 8 a disaster the other day and to be completely honest, it just rubs me the wrong way. Windows 8, as an operating system, is not a disaster; it’s a fine, fine operating system. Like I’ve said many times, I use it myself; I use it regularly.
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Where Microsoft really, really blundered is with the tiled Start screen and the touch-type user interface. Now the tiled Start screen is not a technical blunder; it’s a fine software. Once you understand how it works, it works great; it really does. You don’t have to use it and I’ll get to that in a minute. The blunder here, and yes, I believe it really is a fairly big blunder on their part, was to make it the default and to remove any choice. The issue is that the Start screen was many people’s first experience with Windows 8.
And we all know how important first impressions are. Well, first impressions were awful. Microsoft really failed to realize just how jarring, and actually inexplicable in many ways, this first impression of Windows 8 would be to people. That’s the mistake they made. It’s not a technical one; it’s one of presentation, of PR, if you will. Windows 8, like I said, is a fine operating system; I do use it everyday and I use it in a way that makes it virtually indistinguishable from Windows 7, which is what everybody seems to want to go back to. Well, you can. I use Classic Shell.
I installed Classic Shell and it throws a [traditional] Start menu on there and it goes directly to the desktop without needing the tiled Start menu. It’s like I never left Windows 7. But people, for whatever reason, they just refuse to accept and understand that. What they do is they focus on the tiled Start screen and they say, “Oh, my gosh, this operating system’s all about touch screens”! I’ve had people even say that it requires a touch screen. It does not. It works just fine on a traditional desktop with a mouse. Like I said, that’s how I’m using it.
So, the other complaint that I often hear is that hardware isn’t being supported. Now, that’s almost, but not quite, a red herring. It’s a valid concern, but what most people don’t get is that it’s been a valid concern for every new version of the operating system since the day it was invented. Each new version of Windows has always dropped support for something. They have to. There’s just no way that they can cart along and actually support all of that old hardware that’s ever been developed.
So, yes, absolutely. There are hardware issues; there are things that aren’t going to be supported with Windows 8. And you bet, if that’s a problem you’re facing, that’s a very real problem and you’re going to want to deal with that. Whether that means not upgrading to 8, or getting new hardware or something else, that’s the nature of operating system upgrades. It was true of Windows XP, it was true of Windows Vista, it’s true of Windows 7 and sure enough, it’s true of Windows 8. It’s nothing that makes Windows 8 any worse than a predecessor; it’s just another version of Windows. So, like I said, if you have unsupported hardware, yes, that’s a very real issue – I get that; I’m not trying to say it’s not a problem for you, it is.
All I’m trying to say is that Windows 8 is simply behaving like pretty much every other version of Windows that came before. Hardware support of some sort was dropped. So, yea, ultimately, we shouldn’t have to turn to things like third-party software to get the user interface experience we want; we shouldn’t have to go back and say I want my Start menu and install either things like Classic Shell or many of the other alternatives that are out there right now to make those things come back.
And in fact, incrementally, it appears that Microsoft is begrudgingly returning to the [traditional] Start menu and allowing you to boot directly into the desktop. But ultimately, – I don’t want to say it’s “fluff”- but it’s not something that should get in the way of anybody’s acceptance of Windows 8, only because it’s so easily and so trivially solved with a little bit of third-party software. So, Windows 8, in my opinion: definitely not a disaster. I do look forward to what they’re going to do with 8.2 if that happens, and Windows 9.
There’s a lot of discussion and speculation they’re going to backtrack on a lot of what they’ve done with Windows 8. I understand why they did what they did with Windows 8; I think, like I said, it was the wrong presentation to people; the wrong default experience.
What they’re trying to do is unify all their user interfaces across their phones, their tablets and their PCs. I get that; that makes some amount of sense.
To make it the default though, on a desktop PC is not the right answer. But like I said, easily solved and once you’ve got that solved, you’ve actually got a pretty solid operating system that’s fast and secure and pretty much equivalent to Windows 7.
So, there you have it. I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com.