TechWeb

Windows 8 Upgrade: No Touch, No Good

Oct 31, 2012 (12:10 PM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240012625


I've been using Windows 8 for months now -- ever since the first preview version. Now that the final version is here, what's the verdict?

Performance

Simply put, this operating system is smokin' hot! The boot times are a fraction of Windows 7 and earlier -- even on underpowered legacy equipment such as my ASUS Eee PC T101MT touch netbook. In truth, I've never seen a netbook with only 2 GB of RAM move so fast through a cold boot. It's perhaps the best Windows kernel to date. Microsoft got this part right and I'm very impressed.

Microsoft got indexing right, too. In Windows 7, searching for files and programs was easy. All you had to do was hit the Start Button and then start typing. With Windows 8, it's pretty much the same thing, except it's even faster. You still have to wait for Windows 8's Live Tiles to appear before you start typing, but once you're there, finding what you're looking for is fast and easy.

Upgrading Legacy PCs To Windows 8

BYTE's George Ou offered a good description of the bundled Windows 8 apps: Half baked. On a legacy PC -- even a gaming machine with 3D graphics and a ton of RAM and processing power -- the Windows 8 apps literally fall flat. The apps are two dimensional; all that legacy power is wasted on Windows 8's Modern UI, and it's a shame. The interface is fast but still very clunky. Windows 8 is optimized for touch, not a mouse. So, tablet, yes; desktop, not really.

Modern UI, Or Classic?

Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky called the release of Windows 8 the start of the touch PC era. In truth, the Modern UI will be difficult for some people to get used to. The removal of the Start Button is going to force a change in work habits that hurts some users' productivity.

Live Tiles work well on tablets and even smartphone. I'm actually quite impressed with how the interface works, but I don't see this working well on a traditional PC. In my opinion, the Windows 8 apps, the new UI and the classic desktop just do not fit together. Swapping back and forth between the new UI and the classic interface is jarring at times, especially if you've spent any appreciable amount of time in one or the other during any given computing session.

In fairness, there are a few tricks which, once you learn them, make Windows 8 a lot easier to use on a conventional PC. For instance, putting the mouse cursor in the upper-right corner displays a group of icons for functions such as settings for the PC. The only way to learn these tricks is by accident, but once you do know them, everything else gets easier.




Tablets Are Now Touch-Enabled PCs

Somebody needs to remind Steven Sinofsky of what a tablet PC is. Slate-based tablets have been around for a long time. They didn't work well back then, but maybe it was a concept ahead of its time.

Microsoft is recasting the tablet as a hybrid. Windows RT tablets and Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets aren't tablets. They're touch-enabled PCs that are lighter, faster and more powerful than earlier generations. Although Apple's Tim Cook might think Windows 8 devices are a jackalope, the mythical animal that's an unnatural mix of two distinct creatures -- in this case a tablet and a traditional PC -- I tend to side with BYTE's Larry Seltzer, who thinks it's only crazy if it doesn't work.

I'm going to be watching how Microsoft markets Surface tablets and how it helps promote third-party Windows 8 devices. I think Larry's right. In order for these devices to take hold, a lot of money is going to have to be thrown at the currently entrenched computing paradigm.

Should You Upgrade?

I've been asked this question quite a bit over the past week, mainly by people in the office anticipating the release of Windows 8, and it isn't easy to answer, but I'll try. Should you upgrade to Windows 8?

Yes, upgrade:

  • If you have a touch-enabled PC.
  • If you are interested in the performance bump. Just be prepared to deal with the dual interface issues -- Classic desktop vs. Modern UI.
  • If you must have the latest version of Windows.

No, don't upgrade:

  • If you have a traditional laptop or desktop. Windows 8's interface doesn't work well on computers with no touch capability.
  • If you have Windows 7 and are satisfied with it. Windows 7 is fine for most users and most existing computers.