Five ways to skip Windows 8

Five ways to skip Windows 8

Summary: As Microsoft's partners and fans edge away from Windows 8 on the desktop, it's time to re-consider the alternatives.

Even fans of Microsoft are no longer sure that Windows 8 is really any good on, or for the desktop.

I've been working with Windows 8 for months. Even after Microsoft dished out the release candidate to application developers, I'm still finding Windows 8 to be the worst Windows version to date.

Yes, worse than Vista, worse than Windows Millennium Edition (Me), and the only reason I'm not saying its worse than Windows Bob, is that Bob was just a user interface for Windows 95 and NT and not an operating system in and of itself.

Now, though even some of Microsoft strongest fans are beginning to back off from praising Windows 8.

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) aren't happy that Microsoft is going to be competing with them on tablets with Surface -- the one area where Windows 8 Metro actually works. As a result I can't see them pushing Windows 8 hard to their customers. Besides, they're going to have to support potentially millions of customers trying to figure how to use the Metro interface and that will eat alive their already razor-thin profit margins.

At the same time, independent software vendors (ISVs), such as Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell, who thinks that Windows 8 will be "a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." He's not the only ISV to look at Windows 8 with a jaundiced eye: Blizzard vice president Rob Pardo, whose company develops the ever-popular World of Warcraft game, said Windows 8 is "not awesome for Blizzard either."

Many users don't like it, vendors don't like it, and developers don't like it. Windows 8 could be dead even before it arrives. So, what can you do to avoid Windows 8 when the stores start filling up with it in the next few months? Here are your best options:

1: Stick with Windows 7 or XP

As ZDNet's Ed Bott points out, you can just keep using Windows 7. If you also can't ever imagine not using Windows but are getting the heebie-jeebies about Windows 8, when it comes time to buy a new PC tell your computer vendor that you won't even look at Windows 8 and insist on Windows 7.

If Microsoft gets enough push back from its customers, Windows 8 -- like Vista before it -- will get shuffled back into the deck and the previous operating system, XP was given a new lease on life. I believe Microsoft will do that with Windows 7 as well.

In any case, Windows 7 PCs, which will be on sale for at least two more years and it will be supported until 2020. Heck, even XP SP3 will still be supported until April 8, 2014. If you really love Windows, you can keep running the Windows you already know for years still to come rather than deal with Microsoft's poorly conceived Windows 8.

2: Go with desktop Linux

I've been telling you for ages that desktop Linux works great. It's far more secure than Windows will ever be, and is more stable to boot. I'm not going to repeat myself here. I will say, though, that Mint 13 is a really great Linux desktop that any XP user will quickly feel at home using. I'll also point out that anyone -- and I mean anyone -- can use Ubuntu Unity. I can also point out that Valve is bringing its Steam gaming platform to desktop Linux.

Finally, I'll add that you can buy PCs with pre-installed Linux from many smaller vendors and that Dell is recommitting to the Linux desktop. Dell has just released new high-end laptops with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and will soon be releasing a developer's Ubuntu laptop.

3: Go with a Mac

Want to know an evil little secret about many top "Windows" developers? I've seen lots of them walking around with Apple laptops at the software conferences I've attended over the last few months. And yes, they're running OS X on them, not Windows. Oh, Windows is on them; they just run Windows on virtual machines.

In particular, while I'm primary a desktop Linux user, I run all major desktop operating systems and I have to say Mountain Lion, Apple's latest operating system, is looking and works pretty well. On my MacBook Pro and Mac mini, it's proving to be faster and I like its new features. I especially like that, thanks to AirPlay Mirroring on late model Macs, it's finally possibly to easily and without wiring put my computer display on my Apple TV-equipped HDTV.

4: Cloud-based computing

Google has taken this idea the farthest than anyone else with its Chrome OS and its Chromebooks. (Chrome OS consists simply of a thin-layer of Linux and Google's Chrome Web browser.)

Before you dismiss the cloud desktop idea out of hand because you'll need an Internet connection to make the most of it, you should consider that everyone is moving this way. Mountain Lion uses iCloud extensively, Microsoft's Office 2013 is largely built-around the cloud, and Linux distributions such as Peppermint rely all but entirely on the cloud.

The personal desktop is becoming the personal cloud desktop no matter what your operating system is.

5: Time for a tablet

Is the PC old hat? I don't think so, but tablets often can replace PCs for many uses. It's not just the iPad either. The newer model Android tablets, especially the Nexus 7, are rapidly gathering users. Of course, Microsoft wants this market too for Windows 8 and Windows RT (Windows 8 for ARM processors) and its forthcoming Surface tablets. I personally doubt that Windows 8 will fly much better on tablets than it will on PCs.

On tablets it's not so much that Windows 8 Metro doesn't work -- it does from everything I've seen -- it's that Apple already owns the high-end, is keeping its hand in the middle-range with the continued availability of the iPad 2, and Android seems to be finally getting a firm grip on low-priced tablets. I don't see that that leaves any space for any Windows 8 tablet.

If it turns out that Surface tablet pricing really does range from $1,000 for the Windows 8 x86 model to $600 for the Windows RT version, I think Surface will be as dead as Microsoft Bob the second they hit the market.

The bottom line

Whether you stick with older Windows or move to something new, you have far better choices than Windows 8.

Related stories:

Topics: Windows, Apple, Cloud, Dell, Laptops, Linux, Tablets, Ubuntu, PCs

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  • UGGHHH!!!

    Just another guy who loves to hear himself talk!
    • Grow up!!

      He's a blogger!! It's his opinion whether you agree with it or not. If you don't like then don't bother reading his blogs. SHEESH!!
      Arm A. Geddon
      • You my friend

        Rare talking through your rear end. The author is an a$$hole. He hates Microsoft with a passion. In fact he is obsessed with them. He wakes up every morning with cold sweats.
        • One more thing...

          I think most of you Microsoft drones are the ones OBSESSED!! Sweating much?
          Arm A. Geddon
          • Calm down Apocalypse...

            Calm it there Apple Fan-boy. Microsoft innovates as well, get over yourself. Sorry not every company wants to keep icons on their phones, tablets and computers for decades, but Microsoft decided to move on.
          • Sorry. Hate to break your bubble.

            I use many different OSeS.
            Arm A. Geddon
          • milo ducillo Sorry. Hate to break your bubble.

            So milo ducillo you say "Looking forward to Win8!"

            So am I too. It will be an avalanche disaster.
            Indeed the beginning of the end for MicroKlunk.

            I agree 100% with the Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

            So I say to you: Have fun with your viruses, reboots and ancient time consuming
            WindoZe 8 defrag monkey business due to MS DOS still being in the Metro/NON-Modern OS.
          • I know, isn't it funny?

            Microsoft got desperate and cut its own throat. I wait to see it they come back from the dead in Win 9.
          • No, we're not losing any sleep. Believe me.

            Yeah, Windows 8 will be the tipping point that makes 2013 the year that Linux finally comes alive. I can see that clearly.
            And if you believe that, you must be a Linux user.

            The truth is, the mainstream doesn't even know who the hell SJVM, and those that do don't care. His anti-Microsoft diatribe is mostly left for the entertainment of the cultlike ABMers on ZDNet. Outside of that, his words are wasted (pretty much like mine for that matter).

            The people that know better (have a brain) aren't concerned about SJVM and the like.

            Looking forward to Win8!
            milo ducillo
          • @the MS troll

            >>The people that know better (have a brain)
            Those with a brain do not use Microsoft
          • Then I guess 95% of the world doesn't have a brain.

            That's what you would have people believe, anyway.
            BTW, you use Microsoft technology whether you realize it or not.

            milo ducillo
          • zdnet is MS technology?

            So unfortunate, 95% know nothing about Linux, their brain degrades....
            >>you use Microsoft technology whether you realize it or not.
            And what is that? While the opposite is true. Most of the sites run Linux (or FreeBSD) with Apache (like or nginx
            Fed you too much already...
          • You fed me garbage

            Why did you assume I was talking about blogging?
            A good portion of the 95% know about Linux, and don't find it practical for their needs. Linux, despite having made leaps and bounds on the desktop over the last decade, still won't appeal to the mainstream user populace. They can't get rid of that legacy impression of a technophile's hobbyist platform. If you have to sit someone down and explain to them the reasons why Linux can do what they need it to do, you've already lost them.

            But, this COULD be the year!
            milo ducillo
          • Experience

            My experience as a practicing engineer is that Windows is good for well defined problems with an identified clear solution. In other words, you are just doing what someone else has done before.

            Linux is more flexible, but requires more thought on the part of the user. like most such situations of that type, that means that Linux will solve more problems than windows will, but is not for amateurs. In other words, Linux is for those who figure out how to do the things in the first place. That is typical of Unix systems for the last 40 years.

            More recent Linux programs and systems are narrowing the divide between Linux and Windows, while generally still keeping the ability of Linux to use Unix level power. This means that even you could conceivably use Linux now.
          • @butthurt eulampius

            The amount of stupid emanating from your brain is bound to cause a Fukushima like disaster.
            Marco Salazar
          • Acutal Number

            the actual number is 98%, see Sturgeon's Law.

            Just Sayin
          • No

            "Then I guess 95% of the world doesn't have a brain."

            No, it is not that they don't have a brain, it's that they don't care.

            Most people (the 95%) are not interested in computers. Like cars, they use whatever is available. Most don't really know what the computer is running, and don't want to know. They DO curse Microsoft regularly, (or apple or whatever), but at the end of the day, they just use whatever is there.

            Windows, Apple, Linux, all are similar enough that the 95% can and do use them, but they really don't care what is there.

            Just like with cars. Ford, Toyota, Chevy, it doesn't matter, as long as it takes them where they want to go.

            Of course, what is true with OS is also true with Office suites. MS Office, Open Office, Libre Office, Word Perfect Office, it really doesn't matter to the majority. As long as it works.

            And all of them DO work, more or less. That's all that matters to the 95%.
          • This should get...

            ... a lot more than just 5 votes. This essentially describes an extremely high percentage of computer users today. Don't care, don't wanna know, talking about (computers) bring tears of boredom, necessary evil, etc.
            What do they know of Apple? iPhone or iPad. Some don't even realise Apple makes computers. And Linux? never heard of it.

            Me? I don't care. I read all this tripe by *all* OS fan-children with equal amusement. There are those who wish to go on record exposing their ignorance of the OS they hate most, and they repeat that ignorance from thread to thread in case you missed it in a previous thread. They are so well known now that one sees an implicit OS icon next to their names.

            And then, there are those that really are informed, those that actually work the products. None of the above yahoos ever respond to these individuals' posts. That pretty much defines the validity of their remarks: against fact, opinion falls flat.

            Interesting little community.
          • 95% = Most are also using a Nix device OS?

            milo ducillo

            I must say you are completely daft!

            Tell me what OS is on the iPhone, the Google Android Samsung, HTC, Nexus, iPad,
            Samsung Galaxy tablet and many more real modern mobile cpu's?

            Your beloved 95% WindoZe only users actually also use Linux too.


            Because NO one uses a WindoZe Phone or tablet and they NEVER ever will.



            "There's NO App for that"!
          • Linux success really isn't just MS leaving a hole

            Linux has a far worse enemy than Microsoft. Linux itself. There are too many fragmented versions. Too many zealots angry about "binary blobs" and non-FOSS in general. And no one in charge -- no central authority, no coordination.

            All that has helped make Linux great for geeks, great as a rapid development platform, great for embedded computing... and non functional as a consumer OS. Until there is a guaranteed way to distribute commercial binaries that work across most distros, and community support and acceptance for thus, few commercial concerns will consider Linux.

            Once that happens, only when that happens, can Linux even begin to be a general Windows replacement. There is precedent... Google had done very well with their "Android" distro, by specifically addressing these concerns.