My take on Windows 8.

Seeing as others have stated their views about Windows 8 and why it isn’t selling, or why PC’s are on the decline, or why they think Windows 8 is the best thing since sliced bread, I thought it might be about time that this humble Granma gave her opinions on the subject. There will be many who won’t agree with me, probably the business users and those who work in Information Technology, whilst those who tend to use IT for pleasure or to simply socialise will probably know where I’m coming from.

I can remember a time when Information Technology as we call it today (or computers) first appeared. The only users in those days were businesses. colleges and training centres. They were all PC’s (usually Amstrad’s) and you had to be Einstein to get any sense out of them. I don’t remember them having an Operating System as we know it today, only programs such as Lotus 123 etc. The other type of computer, a Mackintosh, tended to be used by those who wanted to produce graphics etc. Ordinary people just didn’t have a computer, either because they couldn’t afford one or didn’t have any use for one. The desktop PC was a useful tool and as time has passed, is now virtually indispensable amongst our biggest corporations such as the NHS, the Police, etc. All are still running Windows XP, and most tend to  use a tailor made program that suits their particular needs and usage.

As time has passed, the rest of us have begun to use IT in a far different way to the way that corporate users make use of it. For the consumer user (for that is the description most used these days to describe the user who is not using IT for work purposes) IT allows us to socialise with one another, keep in touch, pass the time, entertain etc. One could argue that its exactly the opposite type of use to that of the corporate user, because we aren’t using it to ‘produce’ anything or in a serious manner, but rather in a frivolous way. Of course, we can also use it to keep tabs on our appointments, remind us of things we need to do, give us directions, and generally be an ‘aide memoir’ and assistant in our busy lives. In fact now that I own a smart phone, I don’t know how I ever managed without it. My point here is that now that the non-corporate user has begun to make use of Information Technology in their daily lives, the demographic of usage has changed dramatically and beyond recognition.

Of course the corporate user still uses their static PC’s and Mac’s in exactly the same way as they have always done, their needs have not changed, nor their need to change PC’s or even change their operating system. For any corporate user, changing and updating their core operating system would entail training their entire staff to use the new system, a costly and time consuming nightmare that any corporate user will obviously dread, and whilst the current set up in use is working fine, then many will consider it not worth the cost or the hassle, hence the reason why most large institutions and businesses are still using Windows XP, and as Microsoft plan to withdraw support next year, its going mean a massive upheaval.

In the meantime, as the corporate usage has in a way stood still, the none corporate usage has ballooned. From those years when no one but the corporate user found any use for IT, now the majority of us own some type of smart phone that we make use of daily, or we own tablets, e-readers, etc., and our needs seem to be that we need to use IT as we move around, during travel, walking along, in coffee shops etc., we don’t seem to want a static PC that remains in one place. Texting, taking pictures, keeping in touch with each other, these are our needs wherever we happen to be.

So, can one Operating system cover both uses? I say not. I believe that it’s one of the main reason’s why Apple has never attempted it. One usage is so far removed from the other, that its an impossible task and one that in my opinion, Microsoft shouldn’t have attempted with Windows 8. The corporate user needs to be able to multitask, have several programs open and  visible on their desktop at once, be able to maintain security of the highest level as their usage may entail accessing personal details of others, or information that they wouldn’t want others to have access to, whilst to the consumer user none of that is really important, as demonstrated by the way we are all happy to inform the world where we are at at any given time, and broadcast our latest pictures via sharing.

I love my Windows phone, and in my opinion, the operating system on the phone is perfect and Microsoft would be stupid to think otherwise or to change it. The way that you can tailor the tiles to suit your usage, personalise the phone to such a high degree that no Windows phone will look exactly like someone else’s, the way the tiles are ‘live’, the People tile, it all works brilliantly and is a ‘user focused concept’ that Microsoft should be proud of. On the phone it works well, as does the phone’s mail app, calendar etc., and Joe Belfiore and his team are to be fully congratulated on making an operating system that is fully tailor made to the user.

But in Windows 8 its a disaster. It simply doesn’t work!  No corporate user is going to make use of it, the Mail app, the People app, the Calendar app, they are a practically unusable and a thousand steps back from Windows Live Mail in the case of the Mail app. No integrated Calendar? In fact, whilst I was testing Windows 8, I simply downloaded the whole of Windows Live Essentials to the desktop in Windows 8 because I couldn’t function without their features and I’m  a simple consumer user!  Nothing works in Windows 8 that would suit the usage of the corporate user OR the consumer user in my opinion, and the integrated apps are rubbish. Windows phone puts it all to shame, both in usage and in application.  What Microsoft will do I have no notion, but they should leave Windows phone alone, its perfect.

They should have taken  the Windows phone OS and added it to tablets aimed at consumer usage, but updated Windows 8 desktop for PC’s and corporate usage. Its a step too far, and by trying to fulfil two separate usages, they have ended up fulfilling none. 

TG  (This post is entirely my own thoughts on the subject of Windows 8, and I know that many of you will not agree with my sentiments, only time will tell who is right and who is wrong, and my thoughts are entirely as an ordinary user.)

This blog post has been written, edited and published from the greatest blog editor ever, Windows Live Writer, for which their is no equal and which has not been made into a Windows phone app unfortunately. Sigh.

Windows 8. A step too far?

 

One of the most frequent complaints against Microsoft in the past is that they have not been innovative enough and that they tend to follow meekly behind others who have been far more ready to take risks in the past such as Apple. I’ve even been guilty of that accusation myself. But as a user, here’s my take on things for what its worth.

In the past, Microsoft has been the main company serving the corporate technological world. During the years when it was generally only companies and/or institutions who used PC’s, and when most of us ‘none corporate’ users didn’t dream of owning a home computer, Microsoft aimed their sights firmly at the business sector and their usage needs. Word processing, Spread sheets, Databases, and an operating system geared to the running of a business  meant that most of Microsoft’s main focus was squarely aimed at the corporate  user. And rightly so. But in the meantime and certainly since the launch of Windows XP, the user base has slowly shifted from being just the corporate sector usage to the ordinary consumer ‘in the street.’

Microsoft seemed to be oblivious to the shift taking place from the corporate user to the consumer user. It was as if they had their eyes firmly set in only one direction. Others such as Apple and Google were never as focused on the corporate usage side of computers, and therefore they have been quicker to see the demographic shift in needs. There is a huge difference in how an ordinary consumer at home uses technology and their PC to how they are used in the workplace. Consumers tend to prefer to share, photos, short messages, music, etc, and this need has mainly been met  by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Not only that but most prefer  to do this ‘on the move’ and to not be tied down to a static home PC, hence the rise of laptops, tablets and ‘smart’ mobile phones. The consumer user base has slowly grown since the launch of XP, but meantime most of the corporate sector has not kept pace and most  remain still using Windows XP.

For them, ( I should imagine) its a very big undertaking to move forward to a new operating system as it involves the training of all of your staff in its usage. I was shocked last year to realise that the entire NHS is still using Windows XP whilst I’m now running Windows 8 Consumer Preview!  What I am trying to say here is that whilst corporate usage has not moved on, the consumer usage has grown and grown and has become far more advanced.

Now suddenly its as if Microsoft have glanced around from the direction they have always faced and suddenly noticed that its the consumer who is rapidly becoming the de facto user and their usage of technology needs to be met.  The big question is, are they too late? The tablet market is currently dominated by Apple with the iPad with even Android having difficulty making any dint in that area, and despite the fact that Windows phone is fantastic to use, they have an uphill battle all the way.  Talking of Apple, one of the paths that they have not taken was to try and merge the same operating system on both their iMacs and also the iPhone and IPad.  Now, Microsoft are planning the risky step of doing exactly that, serving both the static PC user (which by definition includes the corporate user) AND also the mobile phone/tablet market. Can it be done? Is it possible to meet every type of users needs with just one OS?

Paul Thurrott sums it all up for me in one of his recent posts on the subject of Windows 8 here at http://www.winsupersite.com/article/windows8/windows-8-release-preview-rip-aero-20032012-143133  and I agree that in ‘bending over backwards’ to enter the tablet and mobile hardware market, where of course battery life is crucial, are Microsoft going too far and forgetting the static PC user who up until now have been their bread and butter?  Should they instead have one operating system for mobile devices (i.e Metro) and simply keep Windows OS for those users who run a static PC or who want to remain with the Windows environment?

Personally, I am now quite used to using Windows 8 on my static PC with a mouse and keyboard and I really like it, but I have to admit that the Metro interface does look (and work) far better on my phone working with touch input.  Nor am I needing several programs open at once or to do any word-processing or work of any kind, my needs and usage is  far removed from those of the corporate user. And there is the big question mark. If most of the corporate world is still using Windows XP, can I see them rushing to move to Windows 8 anytime soon? To be honest with you, no I can’t. Nor can I envisage users such as the NHS equipping all of their staff with tablets either!

It’s all a very big gamble and one that is sort of surprising in a way coming from Microsoft, a company that most consider to be a ‘dinosaur’ who never innovate or do anything new. Can they pull it off? It’s certainly going to be a very interesting year finding out!

TG