Windows 7 is great, but I won't go back
There is friendly disagreement here at BetaNews. My friend and colleague, Mihaita Bamburic, uses Windows 8, but laments that he wants to return to the last era by downgrading to version 7. While I feel for him, and he certainly has that option, I would say the same thing I did to my family when I upgraded our household computers -- yes it is different, but I doubt Microsoft is going back now.
That is a harsh statement, although I certainly put it as gently as possible to my wife and kids. However, aside from my assertion that things will not revert, there are several other reasons I feel no loss in this move.
Windows 7 was Good
I will not argue this point. In fact I fully endorse it. Windows 7 was arguably the most user-friendly and secure version ever released. It never gave me a problem, and I ran it on multiple home computers. Ironically, I will be sticking to it on my HTPC because Microsoft kicks Media Center to the curb in its latest OS.
In fact, I will go so far as to admit that, for certain types of customers, Windows 7 may still be the best option. Certainly business will not leave it anytime soon, but that is hardly a ringing endorsement given how slowly IT moves to adopt operating systems and software. Many of them are just arriving on the platform from Windows XP.
Windows 8 is Better
Good, however, is relative. Things can be good, but it never means they cannot get better. Windows 8 takes what Microsoft learned with Windows 7 and brings it into the future. That future does not require a touchscreen either.
Windows 8 may be heralded as a "tablet OS", but it works just as well with a mouse and keyboard. Yes, I admit that on an actual PC, as opposed to a tablet, you will spend much of your time on the desktop side -- that is where I am now as I write this, although I could just as easily do so from Modern UI.
So what is the point of the Start screen on my desktop and laptop? I switch to them when I walk away because it is nice to come back, or even walk past, and see all of the instant notifications -- email, Facebook, weather, and others. Why should I click different tabs to get each of those things? Yes, my phone and tablet can show me this, but the bigger the screen the better.
Start Button? We don't need no Stinkin' Start Button
While the Start screen has been controversial, the loss of the Start button, a relic from 1995, almost causes warfare among customers. Face it. The relic is gone and it will not come back, unless you want to use one of countless pieces of software that have popped up to capitalize on customers -- some even having the nerve to charge a fee to bring back the past.
Windows 8 provides no shortage of simple ways to access your software that do not involve clicking a button at the bottom left of your desktop. From the Start screen you can begin typing a name -- no search box required -- and your app will appear. You can also do the same from the Search option in the Charms menu if you are on the desktop.
That leads me to the aforementioned Charms menu. It is easy to access and gives quick links to Search, Share, Devices and Settings. It is a one-stop shop for pretty much anything you want or need to access. You can find apps, access shutdown and other quick settings. Think of it as a modern version of your lost button and menu.
In the End
As expressed above, I have nothing against Windows 7, it served me well for several years. But technology moves forward and that is what Windows 8 represents -- a move towards the future. Honestly, it was a move Microsoft desperately needed to make. Will it be popular with business? I honestly have my doubts, but I think the associated tablets will find a place in that market, even if the desktop version of the OS does not.
Eventually though, IT will build proprietary apps for the Start screen and begin the migration. Like all previous Windows operating systems, that will be a slow process, but it will happen sooner or later.
If you plan to buy a new computer then Windows 8 will be what you get. Give the OS a little time. It does take some getting used to, but once you get the hang I think you will find that it truly is a step in the right direction. Change is good and necessary.
Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox