It’s always been my theory that you can always when new technology has the potential to change things. If you’re a technology geek, like me, the first thing you will notice is that buzz around a the product gives you a funny feeling inside. You want to see more, you want to learn more about it, you want to understand exactly how it works inside and out. You also want to rationalize why someone would buy the product and analyze just how well it will do with people you consider “normal users”. I did all of those with Microsoft’s Windows 8 Developer Preview this past weekend.
First lets go back to 2005 and 2006. Microsoft was in the height of it’s “me-too” phase. Bill Gates had clearly checked out mentally from the company. Windows Vista was in beta, and the talk of the town was that the Windows XP’s follow up was going to be a disaster. It was. It was a living embodiment of everything wrong with Microsoft. The operating system had been mismanaged to the tune of a years of delays. It felt designed by committee and sterile. This was a dark time for me. I openly lusted for a MacBook: an elegant machine, with an operating system made by people who cared about the details, about the way people who used their products would perceive it. I was standing on the edge, and I almost became a member of the Mac faithful until Zune made it’s debuted and helped me understand that Microsoft could in fact produce quality products.
I tell you that story, so that you may put my comments on using the Windows 8 this weekend into the proper perspective. I’m inherently not a fan of Windows. I hate that there’s usually four different ways to do any operation at any given time. I hate that the Windows Team thought it was ok to not have clear usage scenarios for the top ten things people want to do with their personal computer. I also hate that feeling I got in the pit of my stomach every time I had to sell one of my former retail customers firewall and protection software: “Why wasn’t Microsoft making it easier for these guys to use a PC?! When does responsibility for end users become a factor in this equation?”
Apparently, Steven Sinofsky had the same thoughts I had.
After using Windows 8, I can safely conclude a few things about the direction it’s going. Techies are going to hate it. They’re going to hate the way it makes it easier to customize any computer you type your Windows Live ID into. They’re going to hate not having complete control over what they see on the screen. They’re going to tell you that it looks cartoonish, and doesn’t allow you to do the things you should be able to do. They’re going to need to shut the hell up and think about simple users for a second.
“Windows 8 is car buying the way it should be.”
Make no mistake, there are some things that I think go too far in Windows 8, (like not having the ability to turn off the Start menu) but I can’t find one thing that doesn’t or isn’t trying to make a computer what it should have always been for millions of people: an appliance. An appliance that wakes up faster, shows you the information you are looking for faster, and then fades into the background and lets you get to work. While using the Developer Preview on an old machine I decided to install it on the laptop I carry with me normally for a few days. I completed the short installation process and then typed in my Windows Live ID to discover that my browsing history, Live Tile choices, and background had already been synced from the older computer. Imagine that. No external media, no Windows File Transfer wizard. In short Windows 8 is car buying the way it should be, or computers the way God intended. You hit the power, do what you have to do, and go about your business. This weekend; I caught a glimpse of a different life, a life where people could actually manage their computers without needing to pick up a copy of “Laptops for Dummies”. It’s a brave new world full of people who do things other than care about and cover technology and they’re now in the driver seat so I suggest you fasten that safety belt. The kids are doing it for themselves.