Windows 8 Review: The Dual Compromise
With the release of Windows 95, Microsoft heralded a new age in it’s evolution, one where the entirety of it’s Windows core was changed, down to the technical levels. With Windows 8, a similar change is occurring, though in a very different way. The future which Microsoft is preparing for is not quite the one which it imagined back in 1995, and for this reason alone, the beat of Windows must alter to accommodate the ways in which humans are pushing to interact with their computers.
My relationship with Windows 8 goes back quite a distance, having tested at least 5-6 builds or “releases” of the operating system. Indeed, the first unofficial leaked versions began surfacing in early 2011, with build 7850, a milestone 1 compilation. My reviews of these early builds can still be found, although by today’s standards they are highly incomplete. At the time, Microsoft was very secretive about their projects and what Windows 8 was truly going to be. Similar to Apple, the company would refuse to allow any employees to give out any data on Windows 8’s goals, and went as far as to lock down certain functions of the operating system. For example, the entire brand new metro experience was completely hidden until build 8102, which was the official Developer Preview release back in January of this year. For the first time in the history of Microsoft, they were able to keep a tight lid on what the next version of Windows entailed, barring even well-known tech enthusiasts from understanding the true aspects behind the future of Windows. As another cycle of testing comes to a final halt, however, I can officially say that the development of this next release is over, and I can now provide my personal perspectives on what is to come in the future of computing for Microsoft.
Windows 8 is as much of a depart from the traditional ways of computing as it is an improvement over how people used the desktop in Windows 7. Though the entire “desktop experience” is neither gone nor completely faded, there certainly exists a push towards reminding PC users that it is reaching it’s inevitable end. While this might not come for a few more years, the need for users to embrace the future of Windows computing is important, otherwise Microsoft’s new strategy might not succeed. For those who have been with Windows 7 for quite some time, this transition is much easier than for Windows XP customers. Windows 8’s changes, for the most part, try and retain a subtle backwards compatibility with Windows 7’s interface, if not in an obvious way. The new types of apps, which Microsoft used to dub as “metro apps”, will eventually replace traditional desktop programs, or so intended by Redmond. The other aspect of this strategy comes into play with the new tablet-form devices, which are supposed to ultimately converge the form of a desktop with the versatility of touchscreen tablets. As a result, we have the start screen, which now completely has replaced the start menu. Yet the desktop is still accessible, allowing one to feel at home among the familiar grid of clutter we all love from installed programs. Although the start button is gone from the taskbar’s left corner, pressing the Windows or control+escape key yields the start screen. In windows Explorer, the presence of ribbons was an expected change from the ones added in Wordpad and paint inside Windows 7. Simply stated, the evolutions in Windows 8 could be considered both expected and unexpected at the same time, at least from the vantage point of strategy and future computing outlook.
Of course, there will be a lot of confusions which many will undoubtedly face whilst attempting to use this new release of Windows. Over time, a rather stale perception has developed amongst every day PC users: The expectation that every second release of Windows will be terrifying and unstable. Does windows 8 create such an image? Will you, dear reader, be able to adopt to the vast amount of changes included within the depths of Microsoft’s vision? Yet most importantly, how will Windows 8 shape the landscape of not only assistive technology, but also the future of computing? The perception is yours. Let us dive right in to what you will experience now that the final release has hit the PC market.