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Windows 8: Put It on Tablets, Keep It Off PCs

There's a dog pile, and I'm about to jump on top of it. (Yes, I'm also dropping RCPU's trademark obnoxious royal "we" for this entry, as I'm going to be dishing some opinions that are more personal than usual. Be ready.)

Remember dog piles, by the way? How much fun was that, as a kid, to be playing football on the playground or in the backyard and have some kid yell "dog pile!" at which time all the kids would jump on each other until somebody suffered a collapsed lung? Good times. It's no wonder I enjoyed playing rugby so much when I lived in Europe (as an adult).

But back to today's dog pile. It's a collapsed scrum of tech pundits this time, all pretty much saying the same thing about Windows 8, which Microsoft showed off at D9 yesterday: It looks great, but should it be a PC operating system as well as an OS for tablets? Probably not. (As always, some have taken this opportunity to tear into Microsoft, but we're not on that dog pile.)

The interface of Windows 8 -- as does that of Windows Phone 7, frankly -- looks elegant, easy to use and downright pretty. In the RCPmag.com link posted above (here it is again), there's a short video demo from Microsoft of the new OS. (Note to Microsoft, by the way: A little sound editing goes a long way. We don't want to hear Windows 8 demoed in a fish bowl.)


[Click on image for larger view.]
The Windows 8 start screen. Courtesy: Microsoft
The sliding, touchscreen tiles are attractive, the colors vibrant; the whole setup looks perfect for a tablet. It's a clean break from both iOS and Android, which are actually pretty similar in look and feel. There's only one problem. The demonstrator is using Windows 8 on a PC with a monitor. Here's where we turn into Lumbergh from Office Space: Ahh, yeah, Microsoft. So, I guess we should go ahead and have a little talk, hmm?

No, it's not about putting cover sheets on TPS reports. It's about touching my computer screen: I don't want to. Yes, I love the touchscreen on my phone. I'd love one if I had a tablet. Those are tactile devices, small and physically approachable. But personally, I use a netbook connected to a pretty large monitor in my home office and an ancient laptop at work (thanks, 1105 Media). I don't want to lean over my desk and touch my monitor. I don't want to touch my laptop screen and get it all greasy from the residue a Whole Foods burrito left on my fingers. I'm fine using keyboard and mouse the way I have for I don't know how many years now. Heck, as other members of the dog pile point out, even Mac users, as cool as they are, use keyboard and mouse. I don't need a revolution in PC computing interfaces.

In fact, I don't need anything from Windows 8 at all on the PC. I don't even need Windows 8. Like many PC users, I'm still on XP. Why? Because it does what I need it to do -- boot, run with acceptable speed and not crash too often -- and nothing more. I don't want my PC OS to be gorgeous. I don't want it to be elegant. I don't even want to know it's there. (That's one reason I've never bought another Mac, although I loved the old bubble-back iMac I had years ago.)

Sure, IT administrators and other pros love Windows 7. That's cool. I get that. But as a consumer and a low-level office (and Office) user, all I want from an OS is pretty much what I want from other people's kids: to be seen and not heard, and preferably to not be seen all that much, either. Just leave me alone. I have a feeling that most consumers -- and, really, we're all consumers on some level -- feel the way I do.

Now, on my tablet (if I had one) and on my phone, I want to goof around with sliding apps here and there and finding contacts and such with my fingers. I can hold those little computers in my hand; it feels right and makes sense for me to let my fingers do the walking on them. When they get a little smeared, I rub them on my shirt or on the sofa and clean off the glass a bit. Windows 8 looks great for all that -- maybe great enough that if I ever did buy a tablet, I'd consider a Windows 8 device as opposed to the iPad (as long as the Windows device had enough apps; tablet and smartphone computing are all about apps).

But on a laptop or on a monitor, I just want the same simplicity I've had for a couple of decades now. There's no reason to go changing that. I don't want to have to use glass cleaner on my screen every few hours. (Hey, I like the occasional finger food, OK?) Windows 8, unfortunately, is designed to be everything for everybody -- touchscreen tablet interface and full-fledged PC OS with all the trimmings. It needs to be just the former. Let XP or Windows 7 or some forthcoming version of the OS handle the PC stuff. Windows 8 is great, Microsoft, for what it needs to be: your weapon against the iPad juggernaut. That's the word from the top of the dog pile.

What do you want out of Windows 8? Are you interested in having a touch-screen interface for your PC? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

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Posted by Lee Pender on June 02, 2011 at 11:57 AM


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