I had the privilege of setting up two Windows 8 machines recently for two very different users and with two very different setups. I thought this was interesting because every Windows 7 setup I've ever done was reasonably similar.
"These are the new things your system does and all the old things from your XP machine work about the same way." --This is Windows 7--
"This is how you get to your email, oh wait, the Mail app doesn't support POP3. I guess go to the webpage since you don't want to sign up for Office 365... oh it's like Office but now you pay annually... you can buy it once... oh, you don't want to pay that much. Yeah, the web browser is very different, you can get the old one if you..." (you get the point) --Replacement desktop Windows 8--
"Yeah, it can do internet and play games and do all sorts of things from this app store. You can also click here and use old Windows programs too but they aren't made for touch." --New tablet Windows 8 (not RT)--
Needless to say, one experience was much more positive than the other. I can send it down to the concept of tablet vs. desktop but that's not quite it. As I watched two different people try to acclimate themselves with something new I saw a mixture of frustration and relief from the man replacing his old desktop (It wasn't POSTing and honestly, it was a dinosaur and needed replaced IMHO) and awe and surprise from the man testing out his new tablet. And I'll stumble into a bit of a segway for my first point. One man expected nothing but the other expected his old machine and more.
One of the worst feelings for a consumer to have is that of being cheated after struggling with your product. They will tell their friends to avoid the product and company even if they are 100% in the right. Ahead of Windows Blue it feels unfair to criticize Windows 8 so, but it has to be said. The Modern UI feels so forced in a desktop setup that it's a really hard sale.
It works as its advocates will tell you, but as I will tell you, just barely. In a desktop setup, it is not better and that's the problem. To convince someone that their old machine was in need of this OS upgrade it must be better.
Throwing the apps in front of someone's face is a great setup for a tablet. See it, touch it. On a desktop it is unintuitive and confusing. Most people are trained on the idea of the file system having levels and (sometimes forced) categories. At this point, we are be ushered into an era of one touch, one app, one purpose, and one common interface.
Ecchi Sketchy One Touchy
Whether on a mouse and keyboard, trackpad, touch screen, or that crazy pressure sensitive tech DoCoMo was working on a while ago, you are using your hands to work your PC. A crazy transfer from the vast broad strokes from a mouse, trackpad, or one of those nubs Lenovo refuses to give up, to the fine controls possible with your fingers has left the GUI industry torn. Mandate a 3 product minimum like Apple (phone, tablet, PC), or try to smash two product categories together like Google and Microsoft.
The old machine: MidGen P4 CPU@2.8Ghz, 2GB RAM, onboard GPU (AKA: Dinosaur)
The new machine: pre-Haswell email@example.comGhz, 4GB RAM, onboard GPU (I didn't order it)
Mo Peripherals, Mo Problems
Something you all need to understand about the elderly is that they think the world should work for them. They have spent a lot of time in this world and in their own minds. They are extremely familiar with both.
I've heard the Windows 8 advocates shouting from every corner of the map about how amazing it is and I was ready to believe this. It's great. It really is. For me. As demonstrated by my series of sentence fragments, I was thinking about Windows 8 in my world in my mind.
Here was my challenge:
- Describe every visible thing on the Windows 8 start screen in relation to real life or Windows XP.
- Explain why Office is ridiculous suddenly.
- Explain the fresh hell that is the Win8 photo importer for an old Kodak digital camera.
- Explain why their printer is now unusable.
Excuse me Microsoft, let me drop everything and learn a new way to do almost everything. Longer story slightly shorter, we picked up a decent USB flash drive for file backup, a new printer, a download of Open Office, and a fair share of headaches.
At the end of the day, the computer is less functional than the old one. The one benefit is that it will POST and performance is significantly improved.
Now I'll finally move on to the tablet and perhaps a more optimistic view of Windows 8. The question to lead the assault will be as follows. Why, when I click Internet Explorer with a mouse, am I taken to the touch version of the app.
Asus VivoTab Smart 400: Pre-Haswell Atom@1.9Ghz(if it feels like it), 2GB RAM, Onboard GPU, 64GB MicroSD.
This thing rocks. Microsoft, without a doubt, has pulled out all the stops and created a fantastic Tablet UI. It flows smoothly and loads quickly. I honestly feel that the touch version of IE beats Safari and Chrome to the finish line. Perhaps though, this is because IE's desktop interface and features are behind both Chrome and Safari. Microsoft seems to have forgotten the heaps of traditional computing setups running its OS.
All that needed to be explained was new and fresh. The product is understood to be a new thing and not a replacement of something antiquated. The owner doesn't try to make it be his old PC only asking what it else it can do.
Now that little tablet is part of an interesting setup. With an HDMI cable, it becomes a streaming device for Netflix and Pandora. (Sure we only mirror at 720p but it looks pretty good) It is a nice research device for time spent on the toilet or sitting in front of a setting midsummer's sun on the patio.
A Conclusion of Sorts (not a TL;DR)
Microsoft seems to have overstretched itself with Windows 8 by building multiple products in one for a lot of different hardware. They haven't. They built a great tablet UI and forced other hardware to work around that.