Review: Windows 8 is here, are you ready for the OS of the future?

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Microsoft recently finished development of their next Operating System (OS), Windows 8. The latest addition to the Windows family ushers in a radical UI change that you will either love or hate tremendously. I love it a lot. I have been using Windows 8 on and off since the release preview came out. I began by loathing the ModernUI (formerly known as Metro), but over time I have grown to love it.

It is a two headed beast; optimized for both touch screens and the keyboard & mouse. Microsoft tries hard to cater for the needs of mobile and wired computers by creating this hybrid OS that can run on both tablet and PC. The OS feels like a much more polished version of Windows 7, it feels snappier, cleaner and more stable than my current Windows 7 setup. It is a great OS although I fear that users in Zimbabwe, and other markets like it,  will not be able to utilize it to its fullest potential; more on that later.

What is this “revolutionary” ModernUI Style design?

The Windows  8 FamilyThe UI design is perhaps the main thing I like about the new OS; it is clean, simple, minimalistic, sharp, modern and lean. I ran out of superlatives that can describe it. From an aesthetics perspective this is easily the best user interfaces out there today.

Microsoft bit the bullet and removed the mess that was Aero which brought transparency, reflections, shadows and other pseudo-realistic features to windows. Now, not only does this look good, the flat theme or streamlined, cleaner look takes away the load from the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) which had to render all those gimmicky features and therefore increases the performance of the PC and saves battery power at the same time.  If you wish to be more productive you can switch to the traditional desktop mode and run any software that you want. It is the same desktop we are used to, minus the start menu of course.

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Start screen: The “new and improved” start menu

Start Screen - Tendai Marengekere

Now this is by far the most controversial feature of Windows 8 as it takes away how you’ve interacted with your Windows PC for years and basically just throws that out of the window (pun intended). Make no mistake folks, the start menu is dead and frankly I’ll say good riddance; I hardly ever used the damn thing anyways.

The Start screen, for me, provides a much more useful and easier way of searching and starting programs. Just hit the WIN key, type a part of the name of the program you want and hit ENTER!

Universal Search

The Search functionality is built into the start screen, just type part of the filename and results dynamically and instantly appears. It is also something of a universal search, as it will retrieve apps, files, settings which include the particular string you search for. By selecting different contexts, one can also search the web, within apps, the store, people, mail, photos, etc.

I feel that much of the criticism of the Start Screen has been made by misinformed people, those who haven’t taken the time to learn how to use it or those that are afraid of any change. The start screen is primarily for consumption. The desktop is for production.

Security
Windows 8 comes with its own antivirus, Windows Defender, pre-installed, this has been my antivirus of choice since its first release. It is great software that has very minimal footprint and performs very well overall. For those who prefer to pay for things that they could get for free, Windows 8 provides an opportunity to install third party antiviruses such as AVG, Avast and others like them. When a user installs such a third party antivirus Windows 8’s own protection will turn itself off and defer entirely to the third-party product. Microsoft’s software will activate only if there’s no third-party malware protection at all or if the third-party software is installed but has no up-to-date signatures.

Task management

The task manager has been changed and it has some new powerful features. It shows intuitive graphs and statistics for performance analysis, one can easily investigate how resources are being used in the background. It also shows you how much bandwidth apps use, which is very useful for people with metered internet connections.

Apps: Where it all goes wrong (for those of us without reliable internet connections anyway)

This is similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store, the only difference being that Windows Store doesn’t have many apps and even if it did I doubt many Zimbabweans would buy apps. Despite the shortage of apps, the free ones I have tried are awesome.

The whole ModernUI interface lives and breathes the internet. It is designed with the cloud in mind. Everything is linked to your personal cloud where it is kept secure and you can get it anytime you want. It is the OS of the future; it has the same layout from your PC, to your tablet and your phone. One OS to rule all devices.

Windows 8 brings all your data together by compiling all your info from many different sources.  I hardly ever open Gmail in the browser anymore; Windows 8 comes with an awesome email client that can handle most email services you throw at it. SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage offering, is directly embedded into the OS and pictures in my SkyDrive along with Facebook photos are automatically synced with my computer’s photo album. Facebook is deeply integrated into the OS, no need for you to open up a browser to receive messages or to see notifications.

Most of the apps require logging into some online service. The People app is always updating, so does the News app, the Stock app and generally all apps are frequently updating. There is an option to disable auto-updating tiles, but that defeats the whole purpose of the OS.

This is all great stuff, but it doesn’t work for us here in market where the internet is either unstable, expensive, or both. Windows 8 assumes that you are always connected to the web. I can’t put the blame on Windows 8, but more on how we are being left behind technologically due to our lack of cheaper data packages, but that is a story for another day.

Windows 8 borrows most of its features from mobile operating systems. For those of us with smartphones; imagine all your apps on your phone, only difference is that it’s on the desktop PC. Without a reliable internet connection the whole idea of the ModernUI is rendered pointless, it becomes a confusing pointless start menu.

Hardware requirements

Microsoft says it will run on any computer currently running Windows 7.

  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster
  • Ram: 1 gig(32bt) or 2gig (64bit)
  • Hard Disk: 20gig +
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

The lowest specs I have used were in a virtual machine with 1 GHz and 1.5gig ram and it worked perfectly.

Can it succeed in Zimbabwe?

 

For the Home user
No, the average Zimbabwean home user is not ready for Windows 8. It has a learning curve that most users might not be willing to endure. The only way people will start using the OS in their homes will be if they are tech enthusiasts or if they buy a new machine preloaded with Windows 8.

Small businesses and Corporate Users
It would be an ideal upgrade especially for businesses; small or large corporates, Windows 8 ushers in an intuitive and powerful Task Manager. I love the abstraction of the start screen and the desktop. It is very difficult for a user to get into trouble after clicking the wrong program; this should make most IT administrators happy. The free and powerful antivirus bundled with the OS should also be welcome to most admins; this will reduce the cost of most small businesses IT budgets. There are more business features in Windows 8 which can be found here. Despite these features I doubt many will want to experiment on corporate machines until the operating system matures. So most likely it will be like Vista, most people will skip it and wait for Windows 9.

 

Conclusion

To utilize all of the operating system’s functionality, you need to sign in with a free Microsoft account then you get features such as the syncing of preferences and files within the cloud, easier password recovery options and access to the Windows Store. You can setup with a local account but you would lose out on the major functions of the OS.

I foresee Windows uptake being slow for home users and minimal for business. Quick adopters will most likely be fellow tech enthusiasts and students who like the thrill of new tech. I recommend Windows 8 to anyone who is willing to experiment and wants a taste of what the future holds. If you would like to try it for yourself, you can go and grab a free 90 day evaluation copy here and take a look at what the future holds.

30 Comments

  1. Nerudo says:

    I think for the average user this would be ideall. Why? Because a home user has more time to figure out how the whole UI works.
    Trust me corporate workers are dumb heads that simply call IT when their computer keeps making a beep after they click.

    Businesses are not ready for Metro and as we were talking at work sometime ago. The best roll out is to disable metro completely for Office users.

  2. mic says:

    Pc looks like a giant smartphone when using Win8, think Microsoft should have developed two different OS for pc and smartphone.

  3. mic says:

    Shit blog, do you only choose comments from your ‘regulars’ or prople you know????

    1. choose comments? don’t get you.

      1. Welington Maposa says:

        I think he’s referring to some comments that were here a few moments ago but have disappeared. Although the cursing is uncalled for.

        1. ironically, its the cursing that causes Disqus to downrate a commenter and automatically classify their comment as spam, hence the automatic disappearance after posting.
          We have to manually dig it out and release it.

  4. ndozvinei says:

    its a thing of beauty thats for sure, i was skeptical prerelease but since i started using it, i cant imagine using anything else

  5. dnyambayo says:

    I like windows 8, it’s so easy to use, got the hang of it within minutes of installing the preview.

  6. Justcurious says:

    does the preview expire? if so when?

    1. Welington Maposa says:

      the RTM gives you a 90-day trial period.

  7. Nerd Ahead says:

    The transparency styles that came with the Aero theme are still there, depending on the Graphics specs on your PC its off by default, but overally I love its information transfer rates & the way you can integrate everything from your facebook to your emails like you do on smartphones, one thing they should invest in is a Windows 8 DVD for really really dumb people, you can imagine what silly things you get called to assist someone with at times.

  8. Kondelyford says:

    The fact that the windows mobile didn’t make it big on the mobile market is that people don’t like it,its kinda complicated and boring,So its clear Windows 7 seven is still on top for 2 to 3 years to come .

  9. tinm@n says:

    Hardly an OS of the future. More of an attempt to have it work the same on phone, surface and desktop. Good dream.

    Metro is horrid to say the least. They totally butchered the years of work THEY put into to making an intuitive, consistent and functional windows user experience. Users are used to the conventional windows system.

    Steve Balmer should be retired.

    The idea of trying to make it iphonish was horrid. Mouse and touch are two different things and two different experiences. In fact the experience isnt as good as OSx or iOS(though i hate you Apple-waving fist)

    In an organisation where you would have to support & train average users, this would be a nightmare implementation. Count the business applications that have the conventional windows look then you have to have users grapple with adjusting to this totally overhauled experience..

    Can you imagine, you have to click to get to view the start button? For a while now I’ve been using the new Office interface with the “celebrated” ribbon and its still a pain in the rectum. I am not touching that thing with a 10m pole. Even if they retired windows 7 support.

    Disclaimer: I made no promises 😀

    1. I would presume that having an OS experience that is uniform across all your devices is the future.

      You can still use the desktop which is still the same as Windows 7. Windows 8 still has windows, user experience on the desktop hasn’t changed much.

      ModernUI( formerly Metro) is more inclined towards touch screens and apps. ModernUI is for consumption and the desktop for production.

      As to it being Iphonish, please tell us how it is similar to iOS besides the one issue of it being touch oriented?

      1. tinma@n says:

        No it isnt the future. You only say so to echo what Microsoft has said. Having a tablet interface on a mouse-driven environment is a terrible user experience. If one wants a tablet/touch experience, one uses the appropriate device for that.

        It has changed very much my friend. That tile-based interface, though seemingly petty is a serious distraction to the average user. For the home user or IT enthusiast, like wat @Nerudo:disqus said, it is ok. But when you think in terms of the support nightmare of adapting your users to such an interface, you will understand what I mean.

        When I said iphonish, I meant Microsoft attempt to emulate UI innovation, the Apple or iPhone way and achieving nothing but an epic fail.

        1. The Tile interface is just a start screen, you can simply press the windows key and go into the desktop, which is the same as window 7. there is nothing new there. Your old software will still work the same.

          I beg to differ about it being an epic fail. They have innovated and now other will be playing catch up. They have pioneered and changed how PCs are being made. Tablet-ultrabooks are coming into the fold. even touch enabled PCs. Maybe they won’t reap the financial benefits but 8’s a win for technology.

          1. tinm@n says:

            Define “simply”. From who’s point of view? You?

            My concerns are not for a tech-savvy audience. Or the home user who isnt pressed for time.

            Global reviews have the same sentiment. This change is not as simple as the evolution from the older pre-Vista UX. This is a total overhaul in the way you interact in a “desktop environment”. An epic fail indeed.

            There we go again, abusing the word innovation. Their real premise of argument revolves around the developers. The idea is to make a seamless and less painful transition in deploying applications to the surface, windows phone and the desktop. Using the philosophy that application ecosystems lure or drive the current tech-space, specifically the cloud. And therefore making deployment easy for developers would make more applications available and push users toward their platform(s)… Let’s do it like Apple! Let’s be iphonie and appie! Let’s do it better! Right?

            Fail

            I am an active M$ developer, by the way. But not a fanboy, yaay, yaay type. In terms of corporate environments, M$ has certainly dominated. And their tools make it easy for developers to focus on solving business cases. Windows is still preferred when it comes to the work environment. They deserve due respect and credit there.

            But this thing they call Metro… is the next fail after Vista aka Win Me II and its predecessor, Win Me aka Win Me.

            Like those two, Windows 8 is an “expensive prototype” used to get requirements for their next real version.

  10. Tapiwa ✔ says:

    Reality check: who is willing to pay $40 for a legal upgrade from Win 7?
    Or $65 if you have brains and are getting the physical media – this
    is the MSRP, I shudder to think what our beloved local Microsoft
    partners will be retailing it for.

  11. tambaoga says:

    Microsoft makes its own version of Ubuntu: Software Center, Unity(Metro), Lenses, Ubuntu One and ask you to pay hundreds of dollars for it. Ubuntu has everything mentioned here except the antivirus of course. Defender seriously?

    1. Bill Mafupa says:

      You can say that again. The “Universal Search” screenshot above looks like they just took everything from Fedora (Linux) and changed the colour from a neat blue to their ummm! green. Stealing ideas and then charging for them. Ha!
      ha!
      ha!

  12. vaMukanya says:

    Tendai, great writeup but do you share Tim Cook’s doubts about Windows 8 on both PC and table. As Cook puts it “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator but it won’t please anyone”

    1. thanks haha.every man is entitled his opinion . I do not share his sentiments. Imagine you have a tablet-ultrabook. When working you use it as a laptop, when on the go its a tablet. the OS is suited for that.

      I guess we will have to wait and see. I think it manages to manage the balance of touch vs Desktop. It’s an innovative push. I am hoping that for progress it succeeds and we get to see more OS like that from other competitors.

  13. jack says:

    Windows 8’s learning curve will not be to bad as you have start8 or classic shell to return the start menu for power users. Also samsung and other OEMs will be including a start menu alternative to reduce confusion in desktop mode. if people don’t like the start screen they only have to click the desktop tile.

  14. KuraiMGT says:

    Enjoyed the write up style and quality. Got me curious to download the release preview and see if we share same sentiments

  15. My Africom modem won’t work, the USB tether from my phone won’t work… its an OS for the future not present

  16. Mike says:

    I still use XP. It works fine for me. I think they should support XP until at least 2050. Each operating system should have support for 50 years.

  17. macdchip says:

    My Ubuntu is the OS of past, present and future! Do l need antivirus, what for?

  18. macdchip says:

    My Ubuntu is the OS of past, present and future! Do l need antivirus, what for?

  19. CastroMzizi says:

    i love the fact that the requirements are the same as those for Windows 7. Its an operating system fopr the futur but still has got the Windows 1995 feel. Nothig changes with Microsoft, They shud do a complete overhaul of the os.

  20. Promicin says:

    Windows 8 mutakunanzva chaiwo, all those voting down the OS probably use capped internet and worry abt costs. All you need to do to enjoy is have a connection otherwise hapana hapana. Powertel iri tiiiiiiiii.

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