First the good newsTesting has revealed no problems with Deep-Sky Planner 6 running under Windows 8 64-bit. It seems that the changes made by Microsoft to Windows didn't really affect Deep-Sky Planner. This developer is delighted not to be headed for the kind of new OS woes that occurred with Vista.
Now, the mixed newsMicrosoft hasn't released actual sales figures, but Windows marketing/CFO announced in late November that 40 million licenses were sold in the first month of availability, putting it ahead of Windows 7 sales. This figure is the total number of units shipped to end users, computer manufacturers and retailers. That sounds good for MS, except that the press is full of stories of customers buying new computers with Windows 8 and returning them. We don't know how many of those 40 million units will remain sold. Computer manufacturers have been lamenting the lag in end-of-year sales compared to projections, and product reviews seem to be predominately negative or mixed at best.
Bottom line: fourth quarter 2012 sales reports should be illuminating.
Observations and minor gripesIt is blatantly obvious that the GUI design team wanted to make the UI look like that of a mobile device. Slider switches are used in place of check boxes. Live Tiles are used instead of icons. These are just semantic changes that users can deal with. The changes that seem much harder to defend involve widely used features in Windows 7 that have been obscured or removed from Windows 8.
For example, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) was available for Windows 7 and did a fine job of scanning, detecting and fixing viruses and malware. MSE is gone in Windows 8. Its capability has been merged into Windows Defender. Ok. Windows Defender gets virus updates and scans for malware, but the scheduler is gone. If you don't leave your computer on all of the time, it is very likely that your computing time will be interrupted by a Windows Defender security scan. Worse, once you find Windows Defender and run it, you'll find that 'Scheduled scans' is missing from the Settings tab.
The workaround suggested by Microsoft is to use the system task scheduler to set up system scans. Wow. How many average Windows users have ever used the system task scheduler? How did this make it through usability testing? (It wouldn't have passed at Knightware.) You can do scheduled malware scans with Windows 8, but why remove a working scheduler from Windows Defender? Can you remember using any security software that didn't include a scheduling feature? I'd hate to be tech support for that one.
Bonus example: have you figured out how to get Hibernate on your shutdown menu? Mobile devices use Sleep (context saved in RAM, CPU in standby) instead of Hibernate (context saved to storage, storage device powered down, CPU in standby), so there must be no need for Hibernate to be handy. Alas, Hibernate can be configured back into the shutdown menu, but why was it exiled from there by the installer? Another hint that Microsoft really wants the mobile device market, even at the expense of their dominating position in the desktop and laptop market.
The bigger picture: the Start MenuThe trend seen by this author is that users with touch screens find the new Windows 8 UI acceptable, but there is little touchscreen hardware in the Windows user base, and there are very few applications that implement the new capabilities. Most keyboard and mouse users either use a third-party utility (e.g., Start8) to bring the Start Menu back to Windows 8, or they revert back to using Windows 7. Surely some stick with the Windows 8 Start page and learn to deal with it. This author is dealing with it but not liking it.
This suggests that there are 2 very separate high-level use cases for a personal/productivity OSes: the tablet/mobile market, and the desktop/laptop market. This is precisely the model that designers at Apple addressed with two separate products (iOS and Mac OS). Whether Microsoft designers can address these two use cases with a single product remains to be seen. It does raise the very fundamental question of why the Start Menu is not even optional with Windows 8 - it is simply gone.
The market seems to be saying that keyboard and mouse users really want Start Menu back. Touchscreen users can do without. That leaves developers watching carefully to see how this plays out.
ConclusionThe story of Windows 8 will be interesting to watch. If you use Windows, you really should watch the show. In this author's use, Windows 8 rates thusly:
- Starts from Sleep almost instantly.
- Runs some applications faster.
- Start page can be configured so that a very few favorite program tiles are convenient.
- Good for children's electronic doodling as shown in a current Windows 8 ad.
- UI changes for laptop and desktop installations have made using Windows more clumsy. This affects productivity, and there is not a compelling feature offered in Windows 8 that counteracts the negative impact on productivity. When is Service Pack 1 coming?