Although I'm impressed with the number of features and improvements that Windows 8 will bring to the table for consumers, I still have serious reservations about what Windows 8 will mean for power users and developers like me. And based on some of Windows 8 reviews that I’ve seen lately, it looks like I’m not alone.
Metro Is Great to a Point
Metro has justly received plenty of fanfare and accolades. Metro is a fresh new look from Microsoft that definitely seems to be a step in the right direction when it comes to providing a standardized UI across a variety of different Windows devices.
However, Microsoft's attempt to infuse Metro into every single facet of its products reminds me too much of that stereotypical kid in school who just couldn't say anything funny to save his life—until one day he manages to pull off a perfect impression of the principal that has everyone in hysterics. Fresh from his success, this kid keeps trying to interject the same, and soon-to-be tired, impression into conversations in hopes of getting more laughs.
If that analogy sounds like a bit of a stretch, just remember that Microsoft once embarked upon the process of confusingly renaming all of its online services with the .NET moniker, such as Messenger .NET and Passport .NET, because the .NET Framework seemed to be such a great hit with developers. Likewise, consider how Xbox Live became such a great success with gamers that Microsoft decided to rename all of its .NET services to Windows Live services as well (only to happily retire the naming scheme recently).
In the case of Metro, what we're dealing with goes much deeper than mere marketing. Microsoft has achieved great success with Metro in terms of how well it's suited to smartphones and gaming consoles. Now, the company is feverishly working to bring those same successes to its PC and server OSs. However, I'm not sure that a UI that works fantastically with fingers and thumbs is the best fit for the desktops, workstations, and servers that I will be interacting with going forward.
Consumer versus Developer Needs
Although a cohesive design and user experience (UX) definitely makes sense, relative strengths and weaknesses for each platform still needs to be considered. These considerations are why Windows 8 still worries me, and I keep getting the feeling that Microsoft is pretending that business and power users like me don't exist.
Stated differently, I've bragged about my workstation before. It sports an overclocked 3.6 GHz hexacore Intel i7 3930K processor with 32GBs of RAM that bristles with several solid state disks (SSDs) and supporting drives. It also sports two beefy video cards, which supports three monitors that I use to help boost productivity for development, performance tuning, writing, or performing several different tasks that help me pay the bills. Why would I want to upgrade this powerhouse to a UX that's designed to target end users who really only want to use their thumbs to find new movies of adorable kittens to watch?
Now, that's not to say that I hate Metro or think it's the wrong move. I clearly think it's the right move. Microsoft has to address the fact that for decades it’s been selling full-fledged computers to typical consumers and end users. However, the complexity, power, and sophistication of those full-fledged computers have resulted in a backlash against Apple's PC offerings. Apple has been able to capitalize on PCs by offering simplified and specialized computers that I prefer to call appliances. Consequently, my beef is that although huge segments of the current consumer market today would be better off with appliances, I still need a computer with all of its complexity, power, and extensibility simply because I'm not a consumer in terms of my computer usage patterns.
Worryingly enough, I don't appear to be alone. I've read review after review from people who are actively working with and testing Windows 8, and the same sentiments keep cropping up. Reviewers want to love Windows 8, but they keep butting heads with Metro when they try to get work done. In fact, don't bother with my worries and fears about what Windows 8 could mean from a productivity standpoint. Instead, go take a look at Cyril Kowalisk's very well-written review, which provides a great overview of how Windows 8 doesn't seem to be focused on productivity. Kowalisk also writes about how the future of Windows and how Windows 8 will potentially bode very poorly for power users.
At this point, it looks like businesses might completely skip Windows 8, similar to how many businesses skipped Windows Vista. As Paul Thurrott explains in his article, "Did Microsoft Just Give Up on Windows 8 Businesses?," it looks like Microsoft is effectively anticipating such an outcome. Hopefully, Microsoft is planning something great for the company's next OS—because although I might be persuaded to put Windows 8 on my laptop, I really see no benefit to installing it on my desktop.