Windows 8 CP proves that PCs and tablets don’t mix

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview is out, and I finally got around to installing it on a machine. After installing it, using it a bit on the computer itself, and remotely from an iPad, I’m left with only one thought: what on Earth were they thinking?

Of course this is just my opinion here, but one that seems to be shared by quite a lot of people. Personally, I have to say that this is the worst so-called upgrade I have ever seen. And that includes Honeycomb, whose notification system and fullscreen-breaking on-screen buttons are so unbelievably stupid that I still can’t believe how it has been released to the public. In trying to take Windows 7, an OS that got rave reviews for being the best Windows version to date, from being a PC-oriented OS to a more dual PC/tablet system, Microsoft has managed to make the software a pathetic excuse for an OS for either device type.

The endless stream of “WTF”-moments start during setup. Whenever anyone asks me for my email, I want to find the person who added that requirement and punch him or him squarely in the face, as I just know that somewhere in some Bible-sized user agreement is a small piece of text saying I just agreed to have them send me spam. If it hasn’t been necessary to get users’ emails for Windows installations so far, it shouldn’t be in Windows 8 either. So naturally I didn’t give them my main email, but instead the email I have with Microsoft’s own joke of an email service, Hotmail. It happily accepted that, and later populated the tile UI with my emails and whatnot.

Once inside the OS, I wasn’t really surprised to see that the changes to Windows are worse now than the last time I tried it, which was the developer preview. The start-button is now gone, which just makes everything sooooo much easier and user friendly. Like shutting off the computer, which is not apparently an option in the settings. I probably missed the more obvious option somewhere, at least I hope so. Getting to the control panel to see why it wasn’t finding graphics drivers on its own after a few reboots was equally interesting. Again you have to go through the Metro UI (tile menu), and once you get there, you get this sort of peculiar mix between the two UIs. When I tried deactivating the password lock, which the computer had automatically activated with my Hotmail password, the feature wasn’t where it is in Windows 7. Or rather, it has been removed. Searching for it still brings up the link to remove the password, which brings you to the right “page” in the control panel, just without the actual option. It did however link me back to the Metro UI settings panel, where it allowed my to set a pin code or picture password. No password deactivation, though. Newsflash, Microsoft: a device that you can rip the hard drive out of and take it with you, or just boot to another OS using a USB stick, isn’t secure just because you take away people’s ability to have a desktop computer that never leaves the house log in automatically.

Anyways, I made it to the control panel, and long story short, Windows 8 has driver issues. At least on the 2007 hardware I ran it on. Funny, the free OS Ubuntu Linux doesn’t have that problem. What exactly am I paying for again? This isn’t really new though, just one of those moments when you wonder what on Earth you’re paying for.

Anyways, back to the mess that is the Metro UI. Remember when Microsoft was forced to let people choose their own browser? Yeah that didn’t change Microsoft’s way of thinking, as I’ve never in my life seen as branded a menu as the default Consumer Preview metro UI. It pushed all sorts of Microsoft software in my face, including Xbox Live. How are you going to explain to enterprise users that you removed the Start-button but decided to put in a default link to a gaming network? Basically the entire Metro UI is like that, one Microsoft product after the other. Skydrive, chat, video, more Xbox stuff. And the UI itself – just ridiculous when you’re using it with a mouse. About as intuitive as using Windows 7 on a touch screen. In trying to make it work with tablets, Microsoft has caused Windows to no longer work properly with a mouse. Genius.

So, that’s what lead me to install Splashtop and remote control Windows from my iPad. It immediately became a more natural experience, and the UI looked and felt much less ridiculous on a touch screen. Only problem is that while I was expecting improvements from Windows 7 when using Windows 8 on the computer, I expected something that could at least compete with Android and iOS when used on a tablet. This can’t. At all. You cannot make a mobile OS by slapping a new UI on top of something not designed for touch screens. You simply can’t. As Symbian, or heck – Microsoft itself had to realize that fact eventually and kill Windows Mobile and make Windows Phone. Metro UI is a UI running on top of an OS that isn’t made for touch screens. It hasn’t worked in the past, there’s no reason why it should work now.

The big selling point of Windows 8 is to have the best of both worlds. Well, normal Windows 8 can’t run on the kind of hardware we see in other tablets these days. That makes the tablets bulky, battery inefficient, requiring fans for cooling, bumping up price. All so that you can run an OS that gives you access to PC programs. Which it does, though those programs will still be unsuited for touch screens. Windows 8 isn’t a magic fix for trying to have two different types of devices in one, it’s simply a slightly less awkward compromise than the existing system. Slightly less awkward is still awkward.

So what’s Windows 8? Well, it’s an OS that would work well on something like the Transformer Prime, a few years from now when hardware has caught up to fit the required hardware into the kind of packages that other tablets come in today. Dock you tablet, get a laptop, mouse and keyboard where you expect them to be. That being said, the way I see it – all of this has been my opinion after all – that sort of usage scenario is really the only place Windows 8 has any business. Run this on a dedicated computer and you have a ridiculously bad version of Windows 7. Run this on a tablet that only functions as a tablet, and you have a horrible tablet that is going to be behind iOS and Android for God knows how long. As it stands, I would much rather have an ultrabook with Windows 7 and a tablet and carry both than to have anything that runs Windows 8.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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