“I myself am not really looking forward to this new release” or “I am sticking to Windows 7 until they have something truly worth offering” or just a simple “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO“. When Tina reported on Windows 8 just a few weeks ago, those were some of our reader responses.
It’s not only limited to our loyal followers. Lifehacker’s YouTube video summarizing the Windows 8 keynote was filled with similarly negative reactions. But you know what? There’s really nothing to worry about. In fact, Windows 8 should be awesome – and here’s why.
The Old Desktop Isn’t Gone – It’s Better
Perhaps the greatest area of concern for geeks is the metro UI. It’s a new interface for Windows that will be optimized for touch, so much ado has been made of it during press conferences. It’s common for people to think that the old desktop is being marginalized or taken out completely.
As I reported back in June, that’s simply not true. The traditional desktop has always been a part of Windows 8. In fact, it will better than Windows 7. A number of new features have been shown that will greatly improve the traditional experience.
Multi-monitor support has been improved by giving users the option to include a customizable taskbar on all displays. The task manager interface has been revamped and will include superior real-time performance information. Anti-virus will now be baked into the operating system.
As Microsoft has pointed out, these are just features they’ve had the time to display. As with any new release of Windows, there will be multiple adjustments, bug fixes and improvements. Windows 8 will offer the best traditional desktop experience yet.
Don’t Blink! You’ll Miss It
Performance improvements are also a focus of Windows 8, which benefits everyone. Since Windows 8 will be partially competing with mobile operating system like Android and iOS, Microsoft has designed it to provide similar responsiveness. This is, frankly, long overdue. But late is better than never, and I look forward to a Windows experience that involves faster booting, nearly instant resume, and a more pleasurable experience on (relatively) slow hardware.
Another nifty and under-reported performance enhancement is the introduction of full hardware acceleration of the operating system. Previous versions of Windows have accelerated some parts of the user interface, but with Windows 8 Microsoft is promising seamless acceleration of both the interface and apps.
The time is right for this move, as we’re entering an era where all new computers will offer competent integrated graphics. The impact of this is evident in the demos where video is smoothly integrated with Windows interface elements, something that would be difficult on slower processors without the assistance of a GPU.
The Steam Effect
Windows 8 will ship with an app market simply called “the store”. Although some might bellyache over this, I feel it is long overdue.
Built-in app stores have a number of benefits which, in my opinion, are best demonstrated by Valve’s game platform. When you purchase a game on Steam, you can download it quickly, and you can purchase it without worrying about if you have the latest version or patch. Demos are also easier to implement, giving consumers more information.
There are also security benefits. Quicker patching will ensure that security problems are taken care of uniformly, and fakeware can be more easily removed from the market. With proper oversight, a digital store can allow for independent developers to thrive and put their product in front of customers who otherwise would never have found it.
Obviously, there is some risk here. A poorly managed store is bad news, and my experience with Microsoft Xbox Live has had its ups and downs. The Xbox is different however, because Microsoft’s store is the only option. With Windows, there’s nowhere to go but up, as the worst case scenario is a return to the current state of the Windows software market.
I’m excited for Windows 8. Personally, I think Microsoft’s recent track record is promising. Windows Phone 7 is cool, Windows 7 is the best operating system I’ve ever used, and my Xbox has become the chief media center of my home theater. The company is making the right moves, and doing so with more grace than most give it credit for.
But hey, I’m sure some our readers think that I’m wrong, and I didn’t write this article to shut anyone up. So what do you think? Will Windows 8 be an improvement, or should we buy popcorn and lawn chairs so that we’re comfortable watching this impending train wreck?