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

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From a personal email from RW:

What Microsoft has actually accomplished is an amazing hybrid OS that can be used on a touch interface device and a keyboard/mouse interface device well.

There's a lot of truth in that observation, but based on a whole lot of experience with Windows 8, I don't buy the antecedent to the argument. I don't see many situations where people would want both capabilities on the same machine. I use my desktop all day, every day, working on things that demand a desktop. When I'm on the go or don't need/want The Big Machine, I grab my iPad. As a direct result, my laptops are just gathering dust.

A very perceptive question from Guest:

Are you reviewing the OS or reviewing apps?

I'm reviewing both and watching both closely. Since the Metro apps in Win8 RTM no longer have the "App Preview" name emblazoned, I felt it was incumbent on me to look at the whole package, as it stands, right now. At this point, as I hope I've clearly demonstrated, the Metro apps are in a truly sorry state.

For example, I can't find a single feature in Metro Mail that holds a candle to an analogous feature in -- not one. Metro People does a poor job of merging contacts in my real-world example, and that's probably the single key capability people will need in, uh, People. Zero thought has gone into Metro Calendar. Metro Messaging doesn't even have a contact list. Metro Photos can't perform simple edits. Metro Xbox Music and Xbox Video only exist to sell. Metro SkyDrive is cute but clumsy, and I don't know how the Metro version will even begin to compare with the new desktop version, which is quite impressive.

The Metro apps will be a crucial factor in Windows RT's uptake. Consumers will go to a store and try a Windows RT tablet, then (perhaps metaphorically) go across the street to an Apple store and compare to an iPad. While hardware sizzle and perceived quality will influence some, for most savvy consumers, there will be two critical questions: apps and cost. Right now, the iPad apps run rings around the Windows 8 apps, full stop. Nobody knows the costs, for either the Windows or the Apple products. Where we'll be in October and through the holiday season is anybody's guess.

There's a historical backdrop to this question. Back in the days of Vista, Microsoft started consolidating the programs we came to know as Windows Live Essentials (now Windows Essentials). In Windows 7, Microsoft yanked several applications that had appeared in Windows Vista and relegated them to Windows Live Essentials, thus simultaneously allowing Microsoft to ship Win7 without rolling out final Live apps, and releasing the Live apps from the Windows update cycle. We were told at the time that the Windows Live apps would be updated more frequently than Windows.

Unfortunately, we've only seen one significant upgrade cycle to the Live apps since Win7 launched. (No, I don't call Wave 5 a significant upgrade.) I'm hearing the same sort of promises for the Metro apps. Perhaps Microsoft will upgrade them fervently. Perhaps they'll fall by the wayside. In either case, it's important to take a look at how they exist right now and not rely on vague promises about how good they will be some day.

A cautionary note from Jared Roper:

I appreciate the intelligent alternative to Apple, iTunes, and the insidiously locked down platform of iOS and iEverything. Once the cross-platform integration of phone, tablet, PC, and Xbox is complete I think people will regret lagging behind the technological evolution.

Windows RT (and half of Windows 8) will be just as insidiously locked down as iOS. Whether that's good or bad probably depends on your feelings about Apple and Microsoft, but the net result is the same. There are good arguments both for and against the locked platforms, and cracks are undoubtedly going to circulate around October 27, but the bottom line is that they're both locked.

And I'll sign off with a note from David Hayes:

Wow. Have you actually used Windows 8? Windows 8 is fantastic.

Well, yes, I just finished edits on my 1,000-page book about Windows 8. I've used it.

That said, I can't wait to get my hands on a Windows RT Surface. I don't see Windows 8 taking the computing world by storm. But Windows RT is a horse of a completely different color. If we could just do something about the name....

This story, "Windows 8: Yes, it's that bad, part 2," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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