Of course, that means searching is much faster. Actually, everything is faster. Benchmarks by PC Magazine (and others) indicate that Windows 8 is faster to start up, shut down, browse the web, render graphics, encode media, and darn near everything else. I have to stop short of adding “gaming” to that list, as preliminary results indicate that Windows 8 gaming performance is about the same as Windows 7. File manipulation and maintenance are also much improved. The new task manager is powerful (and pretty!), and the file move/transfer dialog has been likewise upgraded. Boot menus have been given a major facelift, and finding and repairing hard disk errors is incredibly fast. All of which makes the user interface, for me, a draw. There are killer features, but there are also features that make me want to kill myself. And yet, I am more excited about Windows 8 than I’ve ever been about an operating system.See, there are three companies that offer software that will run on a desktop/laptop, a tablet, and a phone:
Apple: I like my iPhone, but over the years I’ve come to realize that Apple will never give me direct access to my own files, much less the nitty gritty bits of the OS. Add that to the fact that (in my opinion) iOS desperately needs a facelift, and I’m looking for a change. I’ve never loved OS X, but I’ve come to believe that it’s just a matter of taste.
Google: Google is a terrific company. I own a Nexus 7 and love it. I judge people who don’t use gmail. Google Chrome (the browser) is all I’ve used for years, and Google Chrome (the OS) is brilliant, if lightweight for my uses. But the core of the problem is that I am not a Google customer . Google revenue comes mainly from advertising, and Google needs to follow those dollars. Thus far I think Google has done well by the consumers, but choosing a platform where I have no rights (since I’m not paying for the platform) is ultimately a losing proposition because the platform has no incentive to develop in the direction I want it to develop.
Microsoft: Which leaves Microsoft. Have you used Windows Phone yet? If you haven’t, try it out, at a store or even online. It’s gorgeous—and it feels light years ahead of iOS and Android. I honestly can’t wait until Windows Phone 8 comes out and I can ditch my iPhone. Until then I’ll just stare at my girlfriend’s phone with envy. But there’s something else: it kind of looks like my start screen in Windows 8.
The resemblance is no coincidence. Starting with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft devices—phones, tablets, and computers—will all be running the same operating system. Oh, I realize that’s a gross over-simplification, but from a user perspective, it’s true in all the ways that matter: SkyDrive is deeply integrated and allows real, honest-to-goodness location abstraction for files. User interface elements are visually and organizationally similar or identical. Code written for your Windows 8 laptop can be easily ported to your Windows RT tablet and, with a bit more effort, to your Windows 8 phone.Whatever the reasons, my Nexus 7, iPhone, and Windows computer co-exist as if they were sworn enemies, compelled to communicate by their evil master. Why aren’t my files available wherever I go? Why isn’t my browser synced automatically? Why can’t all my devices computers behave like one so that it all looks the same wherever I go? Why do developers need to make a half dozen versions of every product? And why the hell do I still need to worry about things like extensions, and compatibility, and damn drivers? Because we’re stuck in an old paradigm—the one established by Microsoft and Apple in the 80s and 90s. We still think in terms of files and drives and machines—because we have to. They are a physical reality that constantly intrudes on our user experience. New technology enables abstraction—the ability to let go of the physical model and start thinking in terms of documents and songs instead of files and extensions. To think about my documents and his documents instead of documents on this machine and documents on that machine. In other words, to embrace a paradigm that is suited to how we use computers rather than how computers work. But for that happen, we need to lose all the fuzzy familiarity that comes with incremental upgrades to the old paradigm.
I love Windows 8 because it’s a scary, daring, monumental first step toward that new paradigm. Toward creating a platform that provides a unified computer/tablet/phone experience that lets me forget about the physical realities of devices and data storage. That provides a garden but keeps the gate unlocked. That works for the enterprise and the consumer. And that keeps ME as the customer, and not advertisers or subsidizers.
So I’m buying up all the Microsoft stock I can afford, because I think this is going to be one hell of a compelling platform. I’d recommend that every Windows user make the leap, not because Windows 8 is perfect, but because it represents real movement toward a better relationship between us and our technology.