What's fascinating about the early reactions to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is their wide range of intensity.
There's no middle ground. Early reviewers either love it or they hate it.
Last week, David Pogue wrote an unqualified love letter to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in the New York Times, calling it "new and delightful."
Today, longtime Mac enthusiast Andy Ihnatko gave raves to Windows 8 in the Chicago Sun-Times:
My overall opinion is so high that it has to be stated right here in the first paragraph: Microsoft has really cracked something here. With the Metro user interface, they’ve created a simple and beautiful design language that’s relevant to a broad range of devices and to the ways that people use computers in the second decade of the 21st century.
And later, under the heading "An OS for all devices," he writes:
I’ve had a chance to try Metro on a wide range of devices. I’m impressed by its elegance and I’m impressed by its feature list. It wasn’t until yesterday that I came to appreciate how flexible the Metro design scheme is.
But that reaction is counterbalanced by equally negative reactions, often from PC traditionalists. See, for example, this post by Russell Beattie today:
The integration with the classic desktop though? Wow. It's. Completely. F***ing. Insane.
The combination is jarring, confusing and ultimately unusable. I can't even respect it as an interesting attempt, as it just simply doesn't work.
And there's this from Mathew Baxter-Reynolds: That Windows 8 experience? Confusing. Confusing as hell.
I'm getting occasional blasts of that powerful negative reaction to Windows 8 in direct interactions with some readers as well. It's not a majority—call it a very vocal minority.
They're represented on Microsoft's forums, too. At the moment, the top-rated topic at Microsoft Answers for Windows 8 Consumer Preview is "What happened to the Start icon on the desktop?" It's followed closely by "Disable Metro" and "Disable Metro UI."
Reading some of the complaints about the new Start screen inspired me to go back and look at Usenet groups from 2001, when Windows XP was in the final months before it was released.
Here's a priceless exchange from late September 2001:
> WinXP is a great operating system it combines the best of WinME with the
> best of Windows 2000 and adds new and for once usefull features and then
> there`s messenger - I think I`ll stick with ICQ.
Well I hate it. I hate the way it works and I hate the way it looks - The interface is a digusting piece of OS-X wannabe crap IMO.
Talk about losing control of the machine.
I'm sticking to Win2000 thanks.
The entire thread is both hilarious (as long as you don't mind occasional filthy and juvenile language) and pathetic (it started less than a week after 9/11).
In looking through other newsgroup posts from that time I also found surprising support for a Windows feature that was dropped in XP.
Here's how one particularly impassioned user ended a lengthy plea to save personalized menus:
But going back to my original post, the part that baffles me is why we, the end-users, weren't given an option of turning Personalized Menu's on and off with the new XP-style Start Menu. The code is there for the Classic Start Menu and I'm sure that it should be hard to implement on the new menu. The removal of what (as seen by the response) is a very popular feature ALTOGETHER in the new XP-style Start Menu should be reconsidered. I am sure that many of us would like to see it back as a powertoy or add-on.
Please, bring it back!
Another message from later in that thread includes a response from Microsoft's Raymond Chen, explaining why the change was made.
More than a decade later, and it's the same discussion, with a different Windows version.
I think the passion in those reactions is potentially a very good thing. It's also a strong indicator that this really is the most important Microsoft product launch in two decades.