This new version of Windows? "I love it." "Oh yeah? I hate it."

This new version of Windows? "I love it." "Oh yeah? I hate it."

Summary: There's no middle ground in the early reactions to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Reviewers either love it or they hate it. Why the strong positive and negative response?

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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:

Windows 8 and Metro show true multiplatform OS promise

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.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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204 comments
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  • Interesting

    I think it's really a bad idea for people to basically advocate for a faster Windows 7 in Windows 8. These people are basically asking Microsoft to pull a RIM and assume that "once a leader, always a leader" in operating system market share. The fact that they have the confidence to try something completely new either means a they recognize that the iPad completely changes everything or b) they recogiZe the iPad WILL change everything. The fact that they are making this adjustment in the Windows development cycle immedialty after the iPad was released means they aren't stupid.

    Or they can again make another, faster Windows OS, assume the iPad never happened and watch Apple capture the next billion computer users.
    Jeff Kibuule
    • Good call!

      Change, it seems, is necessary.
      Imrhien
      • Change for the worse!

        Change that panders to the lowest common denominator, e.g., PC illiterates, ensures that mediocrity becomes the standard.
        sonotech1
    • RE: Interesting

      You have to admit, though, that Apple has completely different interfaces for its laptops & desktops when compared to its phones & tablets. Microsoft is taking the "one size fits all" approach. And I'm with Frank Zappa in the song "Valley Girl" - one size does NOT fit all!
      benched42
      • Apple MacOS and iOS

        Actually with Lion and Launchpad it very much resembles iOS. It just doesn't boot into that interface by default.
        bobiroc
      • Why Not?

        Why can't one size fit all? I think it's a smarter plan to bring all of these technologies into 1 single device to rule them all. Perhaps I'm the 1% but I'd rather carry 1 device that could adapt to the ways I compute, instead of having to carry multiple computing devices for different situations.
        rwalrond
      • It's not one-size-fits-all. It's "versatile."

        This one-size-fits-all meme is inaccurate. Putting Windows 7 or OS X on a tablet would be one-size-fits-all. But Windows 8 is versatile. And I, for one, appreciate it. Why would I want a different OS for my phone, tablet & PC, if I could use just one that worked equally well on all of them? That makes no sense. That's just fanboy propaganda.

        The reality is that Windows 8 is an evolution. Possibly a revolution in computing. Apple started this, and Microsoft is taking it to the next level--borrowing the best from iOS & Android... and then innovating on top of it.

        I think some people just find it hard to accept that Microsoft is innovating again, leading again (or at least has a chance to). I'm pleasantly surprised.
        metromalenyc
      • One size does NOT fit all

        bobiroc: So Lion boots into a screen with icons and four or five icons fixed at the bottom and can ONLY run programs in full screen mode?

        rwalrond: Because of the limited screen real estate on a phone. On a phone screen everything has to run full screen. On a desktop or a server, not so. And do you really want the same limitations that a small screen form factor that a phone has when using a 32" HD monitor with your desktop?

        metromalenyc: An OS that works on a phone shouldn't be used on a server for, at the very least, screen size considerations. And how about resources necessary? You going to put 20-30G of storage simply for the OS and then 1 Tb of storage for data on a phone? Not saying that wouldn't be awesome, but the tech is not there yet; in particular the battery tech necessary to power all that hardware. Not saying the base shouldn't be the same, but the interface? Really?
        benched42
      • RE: So Lion boots into a screen

        Benched42,

        Do you have a reading comprehension problem? I specifically said it does [b]NOT[/b] boot into that by default and used a descriptive word stating that Launchpad on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) [b]Resembles[/b] iOS.
        bobiroc
      • I'm Taking a "Wait and See" Attitude...

        I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude, but I have to admit that I'm skeptical. On my work desktop I have two 1920x1080 screens. I have that much screen real estate so that I can have several windows open at the same time. If that is reduced to two windows that each take up one screen, I don't think I would appreciate that very much.

        I have to see how this new interface really works on the desktop. I'm not terribly worried at this point because I know that I'll have Windows 7 on my work desktop for a while, and all my other machines at work and home are Linux where I have plenty of choices of user interface. Besides which, it looks as though there will be a classic desktop choice on Windows 8 (at least) when my desktop at work might change to it. Basically, my fall back position is very strong now, so if Microsoft is forging in the wrong direction, I have plenty of time for either them or I to deal with it later.

        The KDE project is taking an approach that uses the same base for the GUI, but has different skins for desktop or touchscreen use. That's at least an interesting alternative approach.

        @bobiroc
        Either the Lion desktop with Launchpad resembles iOS functionally, and you had a point to begin with; or it resembles it superficially, and you have a point now but had none to begin with.
        CFWhitman
      • Well

        Apple is running full bore, trying to do the same thing. So better watch out you won't be able to compute soon??? I think much of the furor is that that non-innovating, slugg of a company called Microsoft beat that can't stop innovating company called Apple to the punch, in what might be called the most innovating process since the advent of computers??? Huh!
        eargasm
      • Have you actually used the server or desktop OS?

        @benched42 and @CFWhitman

        The Server 8 OS does NOT boot into the Metro interface as standard. I know, as I'm using it.

        Both Server and Desktop OS allow you to run multiple applications (using that term intentionally, not Apps) and to spread them across multiple monitors if required. Shortcut enough stuff to the desktop and you don't need to enter Metro, ever. As Ed's previous post indicates, there are plenty of shortcuts for power users to get to grips with too, eg Windows key + X to bring up a shortcut menu for all the key admin applications.

        I think the power of multiple devices behaving in the same way, with the user implementing them how they see best for any given circumstance is a real bonus for Windows users. If user A has a Windows Phone and an XBox and is a master at using that interface, why shouldn't they use it on a PC? If you truly are a "Power User", well, Windows key + R still works, use that to launch your dskmgmt.msc, compmgmt.msc, secpol.msc etc. Stop being a GUI wimp and bitching about progress. ;)
        mountjl
    • I still use my PC/MacBook

      I use desktops/laptops for more hours than my iPad. I do real work (programming etc.), not browsing the internet. This post PC crap is just that, crap.
      jgoode1
  • Sort of depends where you are coming from.

    From what I can tell, those in love with smartphones think its acceptable, those that dislike smart phones and are serious PC users don't care for it.

    From the PC users perspective there is nothing of value in Windows 8 that isn't in Windows 7 and Windows 8 requires learning not just a new interface but how we work.

    Microsoft (and pundits) don???t seem to grasp that 80% of everything a person does with a mouse and keyboard is done with muscle memory in much the same way we walk. I don???t have to stop and ???think??? about where to put my feet, how to handle a slope, or even how to dance. Muscle memory takes care of all that for me.

    Now if there is a real benefit to learn say, walking backwards I might be willing to learn but if all it does is get me to the same place, just slower, then it holds nothing of value or interest.

    My fear for Microsoft is PC users and those who make decisions on upgrades will figure it out and come to the same conclusion, there is no benefit to learning to walk backwards...
    NoAxToGrind
    • I disagree

      The new development model means that Metro apps now can benefit from all primary Windows programming languages (including HTML5) but without having API layers built on top of additional Win32 layers (such as the case with C# and .Net). The benefit for the user is fast apps with better functionality in a smaller package without requiring all of these API runtimes to be installed separately. WinRT allows developers to develop for high-end multi-core systems or low-power ARM devices, and know that it's going to run everywhere. The curated store and Metro version of IE mean less drive-by and accidental malware installs (I'm almost curious to see how creative malware writers get to counter this). Having a computer that is more device-like is Microsoft's goal - they even state this in the hardware logo docs. It means a more seamless experience for users where they can just USE the computer, not have to manage every little process on it and worry about doing something wrong.
      Joe_Raby
    • Your analogy of walking backwards....

      seems inaccurate. Once the new method is learned, it is much faster than the old windows workflow. Walking backward is never going to be faster than walking forward.
      kstap
      • Whether it is a true analogy depends on the user and their work

        For some people Win8 may truly be a great interface. But it also has a lot of problems for folks who have to live with legacy applications and scripts. I develop drivers for Windows, and while things work ok with Win8 if I use the Windows 8 driver development tools, if I have to go back to support anything pre-Vista the odd's of getting it to work are essentially NIL.

        It is unfortunate, since I think Microsoft could have left the desktop a little closer to Win7 (i.e. a start menu that does something), and the environment would have worked. As it is, it will be a long time before I can use it on my system.
        oldsysprog
      • I want both.

        I really like 8, and love 7 too. I think that the best option would be to have an overlay which could be switched to drop down using a keyboard press, perhaps the legacy pause/break button. I find switching screen between Metro and the desktop to be too disruptive to my work flow. It would be even better if I could have a translucent Metro drop down so I could see the data running in the desktop below. This mixed response would appease everyone and if it was fully optional that would be even better!

        I am really open to 8 and have enjoyed it enough to install it as VM and now on my gaming pc at home. I just have to make it dual boot XP for Mass Effect and several older games now!
        n.gurr
      • I Want Both...Too

        I agree completely with n.gurr, and he's voiced exactly what I was thinking: Why not have the Start Screen act as a transparent overlay to whatever is running underneath, brought up when you need it? This transparent overlay Start Screen could also be sizable, so you could set it to your size preference, and still have its swipe-ability. And imagine that with this functionality it could truly mimmick your Windows phone or Windows tablet (when that comes to market), perhaps default set with the same exact apps those mobile devices have => truly Windows everywhere.

        Plain and simple: The Start Screen shouldn't HAVE to be full screen. The Start Screen should be available beside (or overlayed over) either Metro of Desktop apps. Metro apps shouldn't have to be full screen (or 1/3 screen). Those of us who have been given windows to resize at will for the last 25 years should not now all of a sudden expect to deal with settling for just partitions.

        Furthermore, have a choice of what you want to boot into, Start Screen or Desktop (I think the new Opening Screen system is OK before either choice). A real coup would be to be able to boot into WHATEVER OS you want (via Hyper-V) and have it act much like how Windows 8 has the Desktop itself acting now (like a quasi-virtual machine screen able to run beside Metro apps).


        The whole Metro idea is a good concept IMO, just piss poor execution. Check out the environments that the guys at Rainmeter have come up with for Windows 7, especially the Metro ones. Now that's class. You don't have to bring back the Start Button, just make a better offering of the Start Screen.
        BeoStyx
      • @kris_stapley ... That's just the point

        [i]" ... Once the new method is learned, it is much faster than the old windows workflow. "[/i]

        That's not the diagnosis from most pundits so far .. you're in denial if you think the overall verdict from Jane & Joe Public is positive towards the W8CP. You can read the related threads and general sentiment, can't you? Trying to force-feed new technology to anyone is a tightrope, high-wire affair for any vendor: MS is no exception.

        [i]" ... Walking backward is never going to be faster than walking forward. "[/i]

        (...see this post's header)
        thx-1138_