Saturday, September 8, 2012

Personal experience with Windows 8

I've read a lot of online reviews of Windows 8. At best, reviews of Windows 8 are cautiously optimistic; at worst, foaming with hatred.

Now, finally, I've had a chance to try Windows 8 for myself. I must say, it's not revolutionary -- and that's a good thing. Windows 8 makes total sense once you think of the live tiles screen as a larger (full-screen) Start menu. Each tile is a Start menu entry. Except dynamic.

What's the purpose of the Desktop anyway but to hold shortcuts to your commonly-used programs, and to show a cute wallpaper? I know you don't store documents on your desktop, because documents go into My Documents. So you're using a full-screen Desktop to hold your shortcuts. Well, now your shortcuts are on a full-screen tile grid rather than the Desktop, with the bonus that each program can provide you dynamic information. Nice.

To continue the parallel, once you're at the (old-style) Desktop, you can return to live tiles by clicking on where the Start button used to be.

There is now also a new type of application: Metro-style. This application is written to take advantage of multi-touch inputs and the concept of live tiles. For now I am unclear if those two are the only differences between Metro-style applications and regular WPF/XAML applications that are compatible with Windows XP onward.

Windows 8's window management of Metro-style applications is causing some gripes for now. You can have either one full-screen or two side-by-side Metro-style apps. That's it. Then again, considering Metro-style apps are designed for tablets, having two apps side-by-side is revolutionary. On a 27" monitor, however, the limitation becomes more apparent.

Long term, I believe Windows will continue supporting old-style desktop applications for many years to come, but Microsoft wants the tablet interface (the Metro paradigm) to be the default for new applications. Microsoft's vision is for every modern application to be multi-touch equipped, and to be easily portable to any form-factor. I fully support this, and this may well set Microsoft apart from Apple's and Google's platform offerings.

The next few years promise to be exciting!