In defense of Microsoft Windows 8

Posted by Rob Enderle

A lot of folks appear to be pounding on Microsoft Windows 8 this month. Then again, I suppose this is somewhat par for the course when such a far-reaching new platform appears on the uber-opinionated tech scene. 

Indeed, there were those who were upset when Apple’s OSX first launched and the same can be said for Windows when it first hit the market. Ditto for good old Microsoft Bob, who was so different most never even saw the feature come and go.   

The best parts of Microsoft Windows 8

Of course, we also get upset if Facebook or Twitter makes minor changes so it shouldn’t be a surprise if folks get worked up about the massive (and they are massive), changes in Windows 8.  However, I’ve been using latest iterstion of the OS for several months on a tablet now, recently built my first ground up Windows 8 desktop system weekend before last, and havesome really great experiences to report.  Let’s walk through some of them.

A Dream to Install

I’ve been building my own desktop systems for almost 20 years now. My first build was a pre-launch Windows 95 system and there was such a lack of standards that the motherboard couldn't even be properly screwed into the case - so I ended up mounting the motherboard on rubber feet. Back then, drivers were a real problem to find and most were not very well coded. All this added up to a very frustrating several weeks.  

For much of last decade I built a new system about once a quarter from hardware I was sent and it was kind of a hobby. However, about a year ago I grew really tired of the several hours it took to load all of my applications and customize the settings on a new machine. Essentially, the hardware was easy but the migration wasn’t.  

So much has moved onto the web over the last couple of years that there are only a small handful of applications I have to install now and Windows 8 goes in like a dream. While it did take about 90 minutes to build the latest system, about 35 minutes of that was messing with a finicky cheap power supply. I realized I could go from parts to working in connected Outlook in under 2 hours. Once the app store is up and running I should be able to populate my apps, the ones that still run locally, like I now do with a new phone and building is fun again.  

Basically, Windows 8 now moves most of the settings automatically when you first log in and, once you are on the platform, you’d be surprised over how much your new system looks just like your old one after your first log in. A lot of times users complain, as I did, about how long it takes them to get a new piece of hardware the way they want it.  Of course, once they move to Windows 8 that particular complaint will likely become a thing of the fast.

Speed

With the drop in price for SSD drives (I’d purchased an Intel 240GB one for only $179), you’ll pretty much see this on every Windows 8 box, at least to host the OS. Regardless, initial boot and suspend rresume is amazingly fast. Unless it is sending mail (which can delay a suspend or shut down), or you have an app that doesn’t want to die, the OS goes down and up almost like a light switch. It is more of an iPad like experience now, in fact from cold boot on current hardware Windows 8 may be faster. Windows 7 never seemed that slow until I’d started using Windows 8 and suddenly it feels like Windows 7 is booting through molasses.   

Wrapping Up:  Three Things to Remember

There are three things to remember that will make your Windows 8 experience far better. Firstly, if you hit the Windows and "X" keys at the same time the admin menu you are having trouble finding will pop up. Secondly, the top and bottom left corners will bring up other menus you’ll need - and yes, they are different depending on which mode you are in (Windows 8 UI or 7 UI). Finally, if you can’t find something - type its name from the Windows 8 desktop and the platform will generally find it immediately. Honestly, those three things took away 95% of my learning frustration with Windows 8.

Oh, and yes, Windows 8 works best with a touch screen or multi-touch keypad. The latest iteration of the OS is OK with a mouse, yet sucks with a track point. Having the right pointing tool certainly makes a huge difference. I’ve certainly warmed to Windows 8 but it took me some weeks to do so, so here's to hoping you'll find it as much fun as I eventually did.