Windows 8: Yes, it's that bad, part 2

My Windows 8 review drew an enormous number of comments, many well-considered. Here's my stab at informative responses

I'm overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of comments attached to my InfoWorld Test Center review of Windows 8. At the risk of cribbing an approach from the Building Windows 8 blog, I'd like to present a representative sample of those comments (edited a bit) and see if I can shed some light.

From pelumini:

Quite ironic, Mr Woody, apart from your heading and summary, your article is inadvertently full of praise for Win 8! Come on get ready for the future!

Ah, but I am full of praise for Windows 8! The desktop part of Win8 has some tremendous new features, and I talked about them in both my Consumer Preview review and my Release Preview review. The Metro side (as noted in the review, I'm still calling it "Metro," at least until Microsoft comes up with a new name for it) rates as a worthy approach to a tablet OS. My biggest problem comes in the way the two have been mashed together, so it's almost impossible to use one side without the other, and the transition from one to the other leaves my eyeballs spinning in their sockets. I also have problems with the quality of Metro apps currently on offer, and a handful of lesser issues.

At the heart of it all is the death of the Start menu. We're all tired of talking about it -- I've been blogging about it in Tech Watch for almost a year -- but I think that's the single worst decision made in the design of Windows 8 except, arguably, the melding of dekstop and Metro. Killing Start is reminiscent of the transition to the Office 2007 Ribbon, which I cackled about incessantly back in the day. Back then, we didn't get an option to switch the old menus back on, although we did get a bit of a sop with the revitalized File menu in Office 2010 -- same thing with Windows 8. Of course, the transition to the Ribbon then was the "right" decision, at least from Microsoft's point of view, as sales of Office skyrocketed.

If Microsoft had just released the desktop updates as Windows 7.5, I would've pounced at the opportunity to buy it and install it on all of my machines. I think Windows RT is compelling enough, all by itself, to be a major player in the tablet market. But by combining the desert topping and the floor wax, Microsoft has made sure that many millions of people will be exposed to Metro, even if they only want the desktop. In the long run, that may be the superior marketing approach. In the short run, I think it'll backfire.

As for the future... it's rushing at us like the working end of a Mack truck driven by a metallic green guy, and the medallion on the hood says "iPad."

In a similar vein from PeterL:

The live tiles give the "Start" menu (yes, that's the start menu, get over it) a real advantage over the old line item application names by presenting information without the need to launch an app... 8 is simply the best OS for where we are headed, a land of smaller, more functional computers, if Woody isn't on board so be it.

I think the transition to smaller, more functional computers may be the most important consumer computer development I'll experience in my lifetime. I would argue that Windows 8 isn't the best OS for that halcyon future. But Windows RT may be. As for presenting information without the need to launch an app, Windows has had Gadgets for years. It's a flawed implementation, but a good concept.

And from not a fanboy:

If you don't like "metro," just don't use it. I am running Win8 and don't look at the metro stuff at all.

I've tried hard to run just the desktop, and Metro keeps getting in the way. I had hoped that installing a second, touch-sensitive monitor and relegating Metro to that smaller screen would work, but it doesn't -- at least, I can't get the two to stay separate. If anyone has concrete suggestions for banishing Metro to a small side touchscreen, with the desktop permanently on my big monitor, I'd sure like to hear it.

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