I am a techno-geek. Reading about the latest and greatest technology excites me, like a kid in a candy store. I love it all- the newest big screen TV’s, smart phones, computers, game consoles, and tablets. You name it, I am into it. I even love the challenge of confronting and fixing the growing pains that new technology can present.
That said, Windows 8 is on the docket for a fall 2012 release, so, of course, I get a little giddy inside at the thought of playing with a new Windows Operating System.
My first computer course in high school taught me to code in Windows DOS (Disk Operating System) and work with Lotus 1-2-3 back when Windows 95 was shiny and new.
Much has changed since then, and many different iterations of the Windows Operating System have come and gone: some beloved, some not so much (I’m looking at you Windows ME and Vista).
Despite all of the changes that have occurred in the past 17 years since I took that high school class, no version of Windows has transformed the user experience from one version to the next like Microsoft is doing with Windows 8.
My first experience with Windows 8 began in March when I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The installation process seemed pretty consistent with previous versions of Windows, with some subtle differences. One of the bigger changes I saw was that Microsoft requests you create a Microsoft account to use their Microsoft App store, and sync certain settings across all of your Microsoft devices (computers, phones, Xbox 360). Once Windows 8 loaded, I expected my first reaction to be, “Wow! Look at all the new features!”, but instead it was “Huh? What do I do now?”
With Windows 8, Microsoft has drastically changed some of the most common navigation functions, including the removal of probably the most familiar feature of a PC: the “Start” button. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I snooped around, looking for a hint of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment. Once I figured out the navigation, I found that the heart of the operating system is nearly the same as that of Windows 7. Microsoft built Windows 8 on the same solid foundation as Windows 7, but decided to completely re-landscape the yard, renovate the exterior and put a new roof on it. The core Windows experience from Windows 7 is there, you just have to know how to find it.
Microsoft decided to take a bold new direction with Windows 8, making it a hybrid between a standard Windows PC experience and that of a smart phone, in an effort to unify the mobile and computing platforms. Windows 8 comes pre-loaded with several traditional apps found on most smart phones; ranging from calendar, mail and maps, to sports, news and weather.
Additionally, Microsoft added “Xbox LIVE” to their app selection to bring the popular Xbox LIVE game service to the PC. The apps that I tested in Windows 8 were well made, and impressive. These new apps offer a similar experience to that of a smart phone, providing different types of information quickly and easily. There are an additional 99 apps already available in the Marketplace at the time this article was written, and many more to come by the time Windows 8 launches this fall.
There are many other under-the-hood changes in Windows 8 that a techno-geek like me loves: the enhanced task manager and system configuration utility, the backwards compatibly of programs with Windows Vista and 7, and the availability of a large quantity of apps right at my fingertips. However, what will ultimately decide the popularity, and the success or failure of Windows 8 will come down to two things: is the new experience provided by the inclusion of smartphone style apps appealing to the general population? And if so, is the experience compelling and advantageous enough to motivate people to work through the learning curve to navigate Windows 8? The answers to these questions will be decided soon when Windows 8 arrives in the fall.
(Editor's Note: Garrett Flora is cofounder and Partner of PCRx Computer Solutions, a computer company in Tucson. For computer and technology related questions, or to schedule an appointment with PCRx, call 1-855-ASK-PCRX (1-855-275-7279) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website at www.pcrxonline.com.)