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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.


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

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Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 1, 2011 Justin Julian Ontario Canada

We have set the bar higher by demanding technically aware employees. We pay them more, but use this to offset IT management costs for standardized desktops. Each employee gets a laptop allowance every 3 years. They buy whatever they want and run whatever OS they want to run. We install a VM client on their machine. We provide an XP image for any microsoft products our employees have to run. I have no intention of migrating from XP as long as it supports our minimal corporate toolset. We are evaluating our options for multiple OSes to keep our options open. If Microsoft makes poor buisiness choices with its future OSes, we'll redirect our resources to the competition. Just business as usual as far as we are concerned.

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 Tarun India

Sorry guys my word are for "This blog could have been easily written with the simple "Get off my lawn, Windows 8!"

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 Tarun India

Before writing anything you must think that the words you are posting on this post are being written via any version of windows os..........shame on you. So scrap the current version of windows from you machine before writing any such comment.

Fri, Jun 3, 2011 Ken New Orleans, LA

As the IT Director for a small company, I have to look at a whole lot of things other than just "pretty". For ease of use on a desktop, I prefer XP Pro SP3 (which is also on - and staying there - my personal workstations and laptops). My tablet pc has Win7 Pro on it, because I had to park it somewhere and that was the most likely, and unobtrusive place. Personally, I am no more fond of the new Microsft O/Ses - whether it's servers or dektops - than I am of Mac. My over-riding goal is ease of use, and seamless transition. Can that be said of all of Microsoft's new O/Ses? No. Change the menus, change where you even go to perform certain functions, add extra steps (for no discernible reason) and heaven help you if you need to run legacy software - now you've got to enable "XP Mode" - horrors! Granted, the kiddies out there who are just coming into the admin sector and haven't been doing things the same way for the last 15-20 years don't have the same learning curve and probably could care less. But again, it's the far-reaching factors that concern me: ease of use - if you throw in extra steps to accomplish the same task, that's not ease of use; transitioning - if I have to enable XP Mode to run legacy software, that's not ease of use; if I have to do extensive training or support because there isn't a menu available, or someone has trouble with all of the icons, that's NOT ease of use. If I have users who have arthritis or disabilities, now I have a whole other set of problems; and now I have to buy additional hardware because the new stuff won't run on my perfectly good older equipment. My point being, if I do the same things with the same software day-in and day-out, I neither need new versions, new interfaces, new gizmos, new looks, or any other "touchy-feely" crap. All I want is reliability,plain and simple. Less crashes, less hang-ups, less slowdowns, more security, quicker learning curves. I am looking to gain productivity in my office environment by way of my IT infrastructure, not decrease it, and not incur additional costs to train, support, re-install, or upgrade while I'm doing it. Bottom line, you haven't done me a single favor Microsoft.

Fri, Jun 3, 2011 John Viriginia

I really think you need to move past XP since Windows 7 is superior. I am not in favor of another OS for at least 3 yrs as mentioned. Just as soon as I feel very comfortable with all the features they all get changed. Same goes for Office but I am not in favor of staying too stagnant. As Microsoft proved with ME ("the Miserable Edition") and Vista, don't release an OS until it is ready.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 ITalchemist

Just my tuppence worth …

Windows 8 (for the desktop) is in early prototype (ie: you haven’t seen it yet). It’s still 2+ years off the launch pad with no decision yet on whether to release it as a separate version, or to back an existing winner by name and by nature and give 7 more capability, i.e. something more than a service pack but something less than a new version number.

What does seem much more likely is that late this year or early next Microsoft will release a technical upgrade to Windows 7 (I don’t really care whether it’s called Windows 7R2, or Windows 8) that is designed to expand the scope of Windows 7 without impacting existing deployments; i.e. one specifically oriented towards one particular form factor, or what Microsoft somewhat obscurely refer to as next generation of Windows 7 hardware (this is what you’ve just seen).

The issue here is basically one of not wanting to force too early another change on the still sceptical traditional desktop consumer base - ie: not disrupting what is arguably an already stable and successful platform vs. the revenue which comes with being able to add another SKU to the order books.

Typically Microsoft always follows the money, though on this occasion I suspect if common sense is to prevail they may opt to let visions (and versions) of Vista fade completely – and that tends to suggests a functional (but still optional) mid-life upgrade to existing desktop deployments of Windows 7 is also on the cards, possibly as early as 2Q 2012.

If Microsoft do opt for what, at first glance, appears to be the middle ground then the ramifications are far from benign since it then gives them the opportunity to extend the basic 7 architecture almost indefinitely through a series of 'editions', whilst at the same time cutting more slack to prepare a much more radical 'next-gen' o/s which is likely to be a significant departure from the traditional desktop o/s; e.g. a thinner, always-on, service (rather than server) based architecture, and one which is cross-linked to technologies only licensed in the cloud.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011

I forgot to mention...your picture at the top of the page is fine, but the one that comes with the e-mail makes you look like Ward Churchill...not a good thing.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011

I agree with your comments; however, it was pointed out in the presentation that it will work just as well with a Keyboard and mouse. Apparently Microsoft wants to design an OS that a five year old can use; however, that will make it a lot more difficult for us adults, with real jobs, to do our real world jobs.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011

if you actually paid attention to the demo, you would have noticed - he explicity stated that the OS works just fine with a mouse and keyboard.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 Tom Philo Beaverton, Oregon

Touchscreens are great for OCCASIONAL use purposes - but 8 hours a day doing actual work (or even play) - would cause all sorts of problems for real users. Appearances of doing work vs actual having to hold your arm / hands up all day long manipulating things is going to be hard. Putting it onflat then you are going to be bending your neck down all the time - now that would be a real pain in the neck! Some items may appear to be hard - like holding the reigns of a stage of 12 hours - but most of the time you are NOT holding you arms and hands up - you are really just resting and only ocassionally moving them - just like an touchscreen phone - you ocassionally touch it and not work on it 8 hours a day never lifting your fingers off of it. The only people I know who can hold their arms up all day long and never get tired work on the Space Station orbiting Earth!

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 Wilber

I just installed Windows 7 - I don't want a new Windows operating system for three more years.

Thu, Jun 2, 2011

This blog could have been easily written with the simple "Get off my lawn, Windows 8!"

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