Windows Eight

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And here is my promised review of Windows 8. Just for reference, I’m running it on a 2011 iMac with a 3.1GHZ i5 processor, 1-GB AMD 6970M graphics, 1-TB HDD, and 16GBs of DDR3 RAM.

The verdict is that it’s an excellent operating system with one major flaw. I’ll attempt to explain below.

1. Speed

Windows 8, above all things, is fast. It downloads data fast,  and installs things fast. Just as an example, here’s a Steam screenshot:

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As you can see at the top of the screen, it reached a download speed of 7mbps, which was typical for all the installs listed. This was just not a thing on my old W7 install-the best I ever clocked was about 4mbps on that. Other application installs were similarly quick.

2. No more driver games.

This is another decided improvement on W7. I currently have the following peripherals plugged into or paired with my computer:

-LeapMotion controller

-Two external harddrives

-Apple Mouse and trackpad

-Xbox 360 game controller wireless adapter

-Razer Death Adder mouse

-Belkin USB hub

I never once got a message that Windows was looking for drivers for any of these. I had to install software for the LeapMotion, but I knew that going in. I suspect Microsoft has adopted the same approach as Apple when it comes to peripheral support: Natively supporting peripherals within the OS itself, thereby largely obviating the need to install drivers item by item.

3. Informational access.

I’ll just go ahead and say it now:

Outside of being able to hit the Windows button and start typing to dig up a file or application (assuming, of course, you knew what it was called) , the Start menu was horrible. It crammed an entire file system into a tiny informational display with decent (but not great) customization options. As a nine to five Windows user since October 2011, I avoided using the Start menu as much as possible, preferring to either pin my frequently-used applications to the task bar, and keep my files organized by type in Windows explorer.

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This, despite everyone’s complaints, is great. You can see everything installed on your computer, remove the tile or uninstall whatever it is you don’t want on there with a couple of clicks, and it also discretely pushes relevant or useful information without really getting in the way of anything. There’s no iOS/OSX/Android-style notification center, but given the massive bump Windows 8.1 is bringing, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see one in the future.

4. W8’s fatal flaw is…

It’s Windows. People don’t think of Windows as being user-friendly, fast, fun, trendy, or terribly easy to use, and it’s a major problem. Microsoft’s marketing of the Surface further exacerbates this-here’s the Amazon.com product description for the flagship W8 device:

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To re-iterate: The entire first line is about how you can use Office with this. Now, don’t get me wrong as Office is terrifically useful and still the norm in the overwhelming majority of businesses and government but, erm, it shouldn’t be a key selling point that a Windows device is compatible with Microsoft’s biggest piece of software. It’s be like Apple describing the Macbook Air as being able to run iTunes…which, by the way, they don’t:

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Nor does Google describe the Nexus 7 tablet as being able to run Google Chrome:

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Google and Apple, by comparison to Microsoft’s emphasis on productivity over all the other things you could do with a touchscreen ultrabook, either emphasize technical details that you can fill in the blanks with, or that it gives you access to a wide variety of services that you might enjoy using.

This really, really needs to change. My suggestion is that Microsoft ought to ditch the Office emphasis on software and hardware most consumer users would buy for Facebook, Twitter, or perhaps gaming.

Especially gaming. Right now, Microsoft pretty well owns the gaming market-yes, Steam has 55 million subscribers, but what do they buy to play those games?

Windows-based PCs. Steam currently lists six thousand Windows-compatible PC games, compared to a thousand or so compatible with OSX and 300 or so compatible with Linux.

55 million users, I’d like to point out, is an equivalent (almost) figure to how many people subscribe to Xbox Live, which currently dominates the console game. That may change with the PS4, but there’s no debating that Microsoft basically owns the PC-gaming market, or at least, that it could.

Closing

As an iMac owner since 2008 (I’ve owned two of them since then, and both still run-my 08 iMac belongs to my wife now) I honestly like Windows 8. Really tempted to get this on a tablet at some point-especially with Haswell being a thing now; having a ‘real’ desktop OS on a tablet is seriously tempting, especially with being able to uninstall bloatware from whatever OEM and being able to have a full web browser.  It’s main problem is marketing and the Windows legacy, which is not an especially cheery thing.

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