Windows 8 has an identity crisis

Two weeks ago I asked: "So, what do you think of Windows 8?" Whoa, did you answer. I saved up your responses until today, when the first new iPad reviews hit and the Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists can't seem to write about anything else. Surely there's something better than that. Say, apologists, how did that iPad unboxing video work out for you?

Microsoft enthusiasts know that something better is coming along. Well, it's here right now for eager testers. The Apple Fanclub can have iPad. Many of you want Windows 8. But many BetaNews readers are disappointed, too, with the Consumer Preview released last month. You want your Start Menu back, you bristle at this mixing of touch-oriented Metro with the classic (well not so much anymore) desktop motif and you're concerned there's too much change coming way too fast.

I originally planned to title this story "Windows 8 is a winner", before thoroughly reading your comments. For most of you, as a smooth-performing OS, that characterization is accurate. But Metro and the new Start Screen receive, at best, mixed reaction. Many of you are not loving either. Hence, the final headline, which more reflects the core debate about Windows 8: Is it a PC or tablet operating system? Can it really be both?

Alexei Youditskiy: "Windows 8 is great!"

Harold Teasley "loves" Windows 8. "The interface is clean, useful and informative. Multitasking is very fast on my computer and the switching between Metro and Aero is fast and almost seamless...I love the idea of the operating system presenting me with the tasks I need to get to right on the home screen For those of you who enjoy drilling down through a bunch of icons to find out the weather or if you have emails you need to respond to more power to you".

Hector Macias Ayala: "This is stupid, even from a teenager who's excited to have a friggin' new UI, my whole activity on the PC depended on the Start Menu; everything I do is there, except just for Internet browsing, for which I have three icons in the taskbar, and a completely empty desktop. I hate having any icons there, and Win8 is all about having the stupid screen full of icons, and no wallpaper".

A reader going simply by David comments:

I installed Windows 8 on my laptop. My wife hates me right now, but I am still giving it a go. Many things are hard to find now, but they are there. It seems to me that Metro is a glorified Start Button. You can still get your Start button programs by going to the Charms bar and clicking on search. Scroll left to right to find most of the items in their program folders. Everything is left to right, which takes some getting used to. I also discovered that you can close Metro apps. You have to go to the upper left corner to get the currently open apps bar (like Charms bar on the other side). Right click on the app and click close. Done!

I think everyone is just jumping to conclusions on Windows 8 due to everything being moved around. Right now it takes me longer to do things, but maybe it will be better once I 'tweak' the interface to my liking. Metro is butt ugly compared to my iPhone/iPod Touch. I think this will be great on tablets and phones, but they seriously need to tweak things for the desktop/laptop. Last gripe: Why is the shutdown button hidden under settings in the Charm bar? It should be a little icon on the Metro screen or the Charms bar".

I can answer that one, David, and it also relates to why Microsoft removed the Start button: Windows 8 isn't meant to be regularly shut down.

Eoin Malins sees Metro as "fine for tablets", but "unusable on a desktop computer. I felt so stupid when I had to Google for how to reboot the computer. Whoever thought hovering your mouse in an empty corner of the screen to make a 'Charms' (stupid name) toolbar appear, then make you pick 'settings', 'power', 'reboot' should be slapped. It leaves you feeling like you're playing a poorly written Lucas Arts game".

Earth to Microsoft: No feature should ever make your intelligent users feel stupid. If it's not intuitive, the design is what's stupid.

Commenter tinypocket astutely observes: "If Microsoft really listened to people, we'd probably still have windows 3.1 interface. I remember many people hated the Start button when it first came out. Now, almost 20 years later, they take it away and people start throwing riots".

To reader plasticmonkey007 Metro is "just a giant step backward". Shawn MacLeod has more mixed-opinion, viewing Windows 8 as "useless as a keyboard and mouse OS, but it seems like it would be a pretty good touch-based tablet OS".

"I definitely think there's improvements to be made to make the new interface more mouse-friendly, which hopefully come in the final build, but it isn't as horrible as people make it out to be", tinypocket comments. "At least the performance as an OS I find is much better -- feels more snappy than even Win 7".

A reader going simply by John joins the chorus against mixed Metro and desktop motifs:

Microsoft this message is for you: You should have designed two completely separate new Windows 8 versions, one for desktop/laptop users and another for touch screen/tablet users. By combining the two versions and releasing just one OS, you have failed miserably as the desktop experience is crap, horrible and very frustrating experience. I, and I am sure millions of other users, will never upgrade to your horrible new Windows 8. Unfortunately, you must go back to the drawing board, and fire all the idiots who programmed this piece of shit.

Teasley sees the new UI differently: "Metro saves me loads of time. Metro isn't a bad interface, it just suffers from unsophisticated users who want to stay in the twentieth century. I'd prefer more control over my music and a way to put the tiles in folders, but the flaw isn't in Metro, it's in people who want to let their computers run their lives instead of having the computer package data for me in useful ways".

HornyToad doesn't like Metro, which makes for extra work. "A system that makes you click three or four times to get somewhere when its predecessor would let you get away with one click and/or a press of the Windows key is in regression. In the Developer Preview builds, you could deactivate Metro and revert to the 'old' Windows 7 interface".

Many commenters expressed their want to disable Metro and wonder why there isn't an option to do so. The tactic reminds of Office 2007, which introduced the Ribbon and no way to revert back to the old UI.

HornyToad sees the Metro off-switch provided in the older Developer Preview as a "smart move, especially for the upcoming Enterprise and Professional versions. At work, our IT guys have installed Win8 on several desktops and laptops, usually with lower specs than on my machine, and though the new OS works fine on them, too (albeit slowly), the complicated interface already makes them say they might skip this Windows version and hope that the next will be more enterprise-friendly. (Remember how many professionals did that with Vista too?)"

Nathan Ottenson is "absolutely blown away at how narrow minded so many of the users posting on here are. I was never much of a MSFT fan boy until I got my Windows Phone, and now they continue to blow me away time and time again". That said, "I agree there is a bit of a learning curve involved with picking up Win8, but I'm convinced that all the decision made in regards to navigating the GUI were done thoughtfully".

Expect more of your reaction to Windows 8 in upcoming stories. The Metro-vs-desktop, PC-vs-tablet debate is one you can continue in comments. My main interest: How will the UI change affect your business' plan to deploy Windows 8.

Photo Credits: Fer Gregory/Shutterstock (top); Microsoft (others)

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