Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Windows 8 - to upgrade or not to upgrade?

Microsoft have released Windows 8 - the latest in their line of Windows operating systems - only 3 years since releasing Windows 7. Widely accepted as the best PC operating system from Microsoft yet, Windows 7 itself was preceded by the much-derided Windows Vista.

It is the experience of users who rushed to Vista, from the well-liked and stable Windows XP, which may stem the tide of early adopters of Windows 8.

So, what does Windows 8 do better than Windows 7, and should you upgrade?

The objective of Windows 8 is to give a standard look across all devices running the system, whether these are mobile phones, tablets or PCs. On the face of it this seems to make sense, as users would surely benefit from the same interface on all of their technology.

But, it could be said that such an argument only holds true if all the technology is being used for the same purpose. This is clearly not the case and what a smartphone user wishes to do, an office worker on a PC may not need to do.

Windows 8 is, essentially, an overlay wrapped around Windows 7 to give the same appearance across all devices running Windows 8. This gives it the benefit of Windows 7, with the downside of a new and confusing look.

The Windows 8 interface looks clunky and poorly designed to my eye, being essentially a very large number of square boxes, each representing an “App”. The usual starting point of any Windows PC was the Desktop, but in Windows 8 this is just another App. It is difficult to navigate to find the “classic” Windows experience, and having every app available to everyone may well result in numerous problems being caused by user curiosity.

The large number of Apps which are shown by default can be whittled down and the order can be changed, but in my experience users will not do this.

The concept behind Windows 8 is for it to be used with a touch screen. This is fine for mobile phones and tablets, but not for PCs. Not only do very few PCs have a touch screen, how many users sit so close to the monitor on their desk to make it a practical proposition?

Given that businesses will be unwilling to invest in touch screens, and even less willing to allow users to access many of the available Apps, I could not recommend any business users upgrade to Windows 8.

For a much more in-depth review of Windows 8 see the PC World blog at http://goo.gl/VXLFu (Possibly the only time I have suggested anyone go to their website!)
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© Michael Donkin 2012