Thank you, Apple -- iPad made me fall in love with Windows 8
Every once in a while I find myself having to reinstall the operating system from scratch on my laptop. Unlike previous occasions when I would contemplate choosing between Windows 7 and Windows 8 as the default OS, this time around something rather strange has happened. Instead of having to deal with conflicting thoughts, and even remorse, I installed Windows 8 and never looked back. I now wear my "Windows 8 user" tag proudly and not with regret.
If you asked me whether I really want Windows 8 not much longer than two months ago I would have said that "I love and miss Windows 7" -- and for good reasons at the time. My complaints mostly focused around the Modern UI, which was designed with tablet use in mind and not for users like me (and likely you as well) that are accustomed to Microsoft's operating systems on more traditional devices like full-fledged PCs and laptops. So what changed?
Blame It on the iPad
A couple of weeks ago I went on a short trip and instead of carrying around my laptop with me, like I always do, I took iPad 2 instead (because it's lighter and easier to carry around). The iPad forced me to deal with an app-centric tablet environment for a couple of days and, even though I couldn't do much real work on it, I managed to successfully carry out most lighter tasks -- watching some YouTube videos, chatting with friends, browsing the web, doing some social networking stuff and so on.
The experience using apps on a tablet compared to a traditional computer is totally different for me, mostly due to the hardware. But the iPad eased that transition. When I got back home and to my beloved laptop, Windows 8 started to look like a familiar face, someone that I never liked before, but after a brief separation we've suddenly become best pals.
By and large, apps on Windows 8 are just like apps on the iPad in the sense that they share a similar philosophy implementing essential functionality except, in my case, on the former there's no touchscreen for that more intimate connection. I started to organize apps on the Windows 8's Start screen just like I would on the iPad and to download more useful ones to complement the already available offering.
Nextgen Reader is one of my favorite apps available on the Windows 8 ecosystem, as it allows me to keep track of all the news that interests me and because the app features a live tile that regularly updates with new entries. I often glance at the start screen at which point I catch up on worldwide events and even weather (something that I've grown to like having there before heading out). I can also see the latest interactions from Twitter or Facebook on the People tile and chat with Facebook friends straight from Messaging. Before using the iPad to get my kicks while I was away, none of these things seemed natural to use on a laptop running Windows 8.
So I got in bed with apps, but to my surprise I also started to enjoy the search functionality that became second nature after months of awkward use. Press the Windows key, start typing and I've got my apps, files and settings right there without having to look for them (which I now find to be an outdated method even on Windows). What's more, the transition between the Desktop -- where I do spend most of my time for multitasking -- and the new Start menu doesn't bother me anymore. To my surprise I even like having notifications for emails (which I don't know why it's not on by default).
After having used Windows 8 for a while even my corner of the screen hunting has much improved. I can't remember a Microsoft operating system that forced users to keep hitting the corners of the screen so much as Windows 8 does, and this requires some training to turn into a habit. Months later and I'm on board with it up to a point where I've mastered the skill of switching between apps or triggering the Charms menu with little to no mishaps in the process. I find myself using the mouse gestures as the sole means of navigation.
Having an HTC Windows Phone 8X, which comes with Windows Phone 8, has helped the falling in love process. The smartphone operating system does come with its limitations, which I still haven't gotten used to so far, but paves the way towards a smoother transition between two different devices -- smartphone and laptop -- in a way that I feel like I'm moving from one room to another inside my house rather than from my place to a subpar hotel. The live tiles really work on Windows Phone 8 and I've embraced that they do provide a similar, and genuine, benefit on Windows 8 as well.
I have always liked the design of Windows 8, which is fresh and provides useful functionality, but with more extensive use starts to provide an analogue experience, a natural connection between me and the machine. I now consider getting a Microsoft Surface RT to replace my Apple iPad 2 and even my laptop for writing and documenting articles, something that I couldn't even grasp a couple of months ago. I suspect that most people that have used a Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 device will have no trouble in adopting the other after a while.
I was Wrong
Admitting defeat, or in this case conceding that Windows 8 is better than anything I have ever used before, does not come lightly. But, as any respected early adopter and most especially traditional computer user I must admit to being wrong about Windows 8.
Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox