Five ways to avoid Windows 8

By year's end, Windows 8 is going to be on every new PC around. You won't have to use it though. Here are five ways to skip getting trapped on the Windows 8 Metro.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

You don't have to get on Windows 8 s Metro ride.

You don't have to get on Windows 8's Metro ride.

Some people are still sure Windows 8 is going to be the cat's meow. I'm sure Windows 8 and its Metro interface will be more like a cat's yowl of pain. The more I look at Metro, the more I'm sure that Microsoft's new desktop will flop as badly as the Facebook IPO.

It's not just me. Business analysts, who couldn't care less about technology but care a lot about what customers think, are saying things like "Windows 8 will prove to be a disappointment."

Windows users who were already unhappy about having to learn Metro, which doesn't work or look a thing like Vista and Windows 7's Aero interface never mind XP's familiar appearance, are finding out there's more trouble ahead for them. Windows 8 will cost more at launch to upgrade to from Windows 7. DVD playback and media-center functionality will now be an extra-price option.

Oh as for Metro-friendly applications, here's what Matthew Baxter-Reynolds, an independent software development consultant, speaker, author, and trainer and all around Windows guru who's writing the book "Programming Windows 8 Apps with C#" had to say: "does Metro actually work? In my opinion: No."

I don't care if your most prized possession is an autographed copy of Bill Gates' The Road Ahead, you have got to be wary of moving to Windows 8. So what can you do to avoid, or at least delay, the day you have to start using it?

1. Stick with Windows XP

OK, so your PC is getting a little older, but it's still working isn't it? According to some estimates, most PC users are still using XP. Certainly hundreds of millions of users are still using it. If it's not broke, why fix it?

Well, there is one reason: On April 8, 2014, Microsoft says it will officially end support for XP--and Office 2003 while they're at it. Of course, Microsoft has extended XP's life support before. Today, they swear they wouldn't do it again. But, if say 20% of users still have XP running in their PCs in 2014… well let's just say I won't be surprised if Microsoft has a change of heart.

2. Stick with Windows 7 or move to it

So, let's say its 2012's holiday season and all the new PCs are coming out with Windows 8, what do you do? You don't ask, you demand, Windows 7 instead.

Yes, I'm a Linux guy, but if you really want Windows, and I know most of you do, Windows 7 SP 1 is easily the best version of Windows to date. Yes, it's not the same as XP. There is a learning curve. On the other hand, while it's not as safe as Linux, Windows 7 is a lot more secure than XP. There are also plenty of useful, easy to-use tools to move your XP data and applications to Windows 7.

3. Move to a Linux or Mac Desktop

Since Microsoft wants to force a radical change on you, why not really make a change and move to Linux or a Mac? The Linux desktop is great for both power users and for users who just need a computer for the basics. Specifically, I think XP users will find Linux Mint with the Cinnamon interface to be inviting. And, Ubuntu 12.04's Unity interface is much easier to use than Metro. Heck, my 80-year old mother-in-law is a successful Ubuntu user!

Macs, of course, are Macs. They're pricy, you're locked into Apple's hardware and software in ways that Steve Ballmer can only dream about, and, and, gosh they're pretty and easy to use. Well, easy to use so long as you do exactly what Apple thinks you should be doing anyway.

4. Move to the cloud with Google's Chrome OS.

Chrome OS hasn't really caught on yet, but I think Google's Chrome OS is a real alternative to Windows for many users. It's not so much Chrome OS itself, it's the whole concept of being able to use a Web browser and the cloud for everything you need to do and that you want to do instead of a fat client desktop operating system.

Think about what you're doing today. Web-browsing, e-mail, IM, VoIP, maybe using Google Docs, whatever, how much of that actually requires that you use a local application? If 99% of what you're doing on your computer can be done on the Web, what more than you really need than the Chrome Web browser, or-and there's the point--an operating system like Chrome OS, which is just the Chrome Web browser running on a barebones Linux structure?

5. Use an iPad or Android tablet instead.

Microsoft really wants people to switch to Windows 8, and its close cousin Windows RT smartphones and tablets. I'm not holding my breath. I actually think Windows 8/Metro on Intel actually makes sense--Windows RT, which doesn't have Active Directory support, not so much. Metro looks and works better on a tablet than it ever will on a desktop. There's just this one little problem: People love iPads and they're getting fonder of the Android tablets with their lower price tags. If I were a Microsoft fan, I'd worry if there's any room left in the market for a Windows 8 tablet.

At the same time, as Microsoft is painfully aware, tablets are becoming popular as desktop replacements. As ZDNet's own James Kendrick points out, "It is now possible to get a full day's work from almost anywhere, without compromise," on a tablet.

So, come the day you go to a Best Buy and all you see is Windows 8 PCs from one end of the store to the other, just remember you do have other, better, options.

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