I'm not a software developer, so I had to wait until Windows 8 RTM hit the virtual shelves two weeks ago. When I downloaded and installed the new Windows operating system on my home laptop, I had high expectations, and my experience since then has been a roller-coaster ride of disappointment and forgiveness. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't meet my expectations for the new OS initially; but I'm happy to say it's not a total train wreck now that I've played with it for a bit.
What I Expected
I had heard quite a bit about Windows 8 and saw a few of the commercials about it before I upgraded, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I knew they took away the Start menu; I knew they replaced the familiar desktop with a tablet-like interface; and I knew they added their own app store. I was hoping for a beautiful, intuitive desktop experience that would be as easy to use as my iPad, and maybe a little more customizable.
What I Got
As I said, I was initially disappointed when I first started playing with Windows 8. However, as I tinkered, the new OS redeemed itself little-by-little, but not enough so that I'd recommend it (at least not in its current state) to any of my friends. Here's a quick overview of my most lingering criticisms:
- Some apps open in the Desktop app.
This is something I certainly did not expect. I thought it was neat that the new Windows 8 apps opened in full screen, just like you would expect on a tablet OS. However, when I clicked on the Google Chrome tile on the Metro Start screen, my browser didn't open in full screen. Instead, another app, called "Desktop," opened, and Chrome started up as a window inside that. The same happened when I opened Word, iTunes, and even Control Panel.
Incidentally, if you're a Chrome user you can get a full-fledged Google Chrome app for Windows 8. It's not in the Windows app store, but check out www.getyourgoogleback.com. Well done, Google.
- The true Windows 8 apps crash and lack functionality.
The best example I can provide at this point is the Netflix app. When I first installed it, I was impressed because it provided a tablet-style app for browsing the Netflix library. It's like what I have on my iPad, but on a bigger screen - good enough for me. But after I ran it for about a day, it started crashing. Now it's totally useless, and no amount of rebooting or reinstalling has fixed it. So I went back to my browser. What did I learn? When you watch a series on Netflix in your browser, it provides an auto-play option. The Netflix app does not; you have to go back to the list of episodes if you want to watch the next one.
- It's not as customizable as you might think.
One of the first things you'll do after installing Windows 8 is personalize it. During the initial configuration, you're presented with a series of color pallets that you can apply to your Metro Start screen. This is nice if you don't like the default purple, but you can't take it much farther. If you want a custom background with a photo or original illustration, you have to install a third-party app to get it.
But, like I said, it's growing on me.
Criticisms aside, the new OS is actually growing on me. I like several of the multi-tasking and navigation features, and surprisingly, I've even grown to like the Metro Start screen more than I ever liked the classic desktop.
Even my criticisms have started to wane. The Desktop app is actually really nice - it lends some familiarity to the new layout since it's basically the Windows 7 desktop without the shortcuts or the Start menu. I like it because it provides the Windows-style multi-tasking interface. Go figure. Furthermore, I know the apps will get better. And if I need third-party apps to make things work the way I want them too, that's not the end of the world. When all is said and done, it's nice to have something new and shiny to compete with the iPad my toddler has all but stolen.
So, would I recommend this new OS to my friends? Not yet. Would I recommend it to my mom? No way. This version is still in its infancy, and I'm inclined to say it has a long way to go before it's widely adopted by the public. And it will take some users (like my mom) a long time to get used to some of the new navigation features.
I don't imagine many people reading this are jumping at the chance to upgrade their personal or work systems to Windows 8. As my coworker Bronx says, savvy users and enterprises are more likely to stick with Windows 7 (if not XP) for the foreseeable future (here's his post if you want to read more: Microsoft, have you lost your mind again?). It's a more solid OS, and it's something we've all grown to know and love. However, if you find yourself having to manage or troubleshoot Windows 8 systems anytime soon, rest assured that SolarWinds has you covered. DameWare Remote Support just added Windows 8 support, and recent changes to Microsoft WSUS allow you to patch Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 systems with SolarWinds Patch Manager, your partner for your patch management issues. For more information about the latter point, check out Patch Manager now patches Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 systems. With the right patch management software, you can leave all your patch management worries behind.