A Week in Windows

For the past week I have primarily been using the latest addition to the Windows family of Operating Systems, Windows 8 Pro.

My word have things changed and in my opinion they have changed for the better!

I have been reading a variety of reviews some of which rate the new OS as “OK”, some “A sign of good things to come”, others “A complete disaster!”.

One review I read, which was reassuring, mentioned that the same things were being said about the Windows 1.0 OS when Microsoft first transitioned away from the command-line interface of MS-DOS to the new graphical user interface. Of course, a change this big was not well received at first and it took Microsoft a few releases to truly nail it and make Windows 1.0 something that was usable. As you all know it wasn’t too long after this that Microsoft went on to dominate the PC market for decades.

Now Microsoft is faced with a similar conundrum. This time they are transitioning from a well known desktop graphical user interface to a new touch-centric user interface, but still trying to preserve desktop functionality and usability. It’s quite a feat and as expected there has been a lot of criticism. I don’t think Microsoft thought people would take to it instantly, as there are people out there who still complain that Windows 7 is too different from Windows XP and continue to use this ancient OS even though Microsoft will be pulling the plug on support for it.

To borrow a quote from Steve Jobs “Time takes care of these things” and rightly so. Microsoft arrived late to the smartphone and tablet market and it’s clear that this is where people are spending their money and their time carrying out everyday computing tasks. We rely so heavily on mobile devices these days that even companies like Facebook and Google worry about how to target phone & tablet users with ads because there is where more than 95% of their revenue comes from. It’s an astonishing transition!

I think Microsoft can pull this off though. As late as they may be in terms of establishing a presence within the smartphone and tablet markets they are further ahead in some ways. Apple still has two separate OS’s: OS X and iOS. They sync all of your data very well via iCloud, but the experience is notably different between the two platforms. This is not the case with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. On paper they come across as two separate OS’s, but they are based off the exact same kernel, which puts Microsoft in a better position going forward. Right now there are some shortcomings such as not being able to view movie content purchased from Windows 8’s Xbox Live Video store on Windows Phone 8, but I am under the strong impression that these things will be resolved soon. As for the experience though, that’s where the magic happens.

For a couple of days I had the chance to play around on a Nokia Lumia 820 and hopping between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 felt completely seamless! I set up the tiles to match as closely to the configuration of my desktop (give or take a few things due to smaller screen real estate). Veterans of the Windows OS who opt for a Windows Phone first while still using Windows XP or Windows 7 may find this as a way to ease themselves into Windows 8 and likewise people like me who have been using Windows 8 Pro full time, but still have an iPhone, may find themselves looking into a Windows Phone in the future.

Another advantage that came to mind, which I believe Microsoft is probably already working on, is the feature I have longed for in the OS X / iOS world whereby you could simply dock your phone into a larger screen with a keyboard and mouse and get a full desktop experience. As Windows Phone runs the same kernel as Windows desktop/server it can support the same amount of CPU’s and RAM. When phones become powerful enough surely this architectural decision that Microsoft made will come into play. This makes sense seeing as Office and other desktop related software is still the biggest cash cow for them.

I know this is all just speculation, but it is something that has got me very excited and as mentioned earlier I have not been this excited about a Windows release since Windows 98. Such a coincidence that both versions have an ‘8’ in their name 🙂

I’m definitely going to be riding this one out and so with that I am announcing a full transition to Windows 8 Pro! That means Operation Transport was a success and I now have everything I ever need running on Windows. Due to the work carried out as part of Operation Drano there wasn’t much else that needed to change because all of the applications I rely on are available on Windows 8. However, one thing has changed… yes, you guessed, I no longer use Google Chrome! I am a huge fan of Internet Explorer 10. No, you did not read incorrectly, I am a huge fan of Internet Explorer 10. In all of the time that I used Windows on my personal computer (1995-2002) and for work (2004-2012) I have always opted for Mozilla Firefox and the more recent Google Chrome. I loathed Internet Explorer all the way up to version 9 in Windows 7. Internet Explorer 10, however, is a different animal and the metro version is down right slick!

“But wait! What about your bookmarks?!” Fear not Ladies and Gentlemen, as I will be utilizing the power of iCloud to be the synchronizer of browser data between Windows 8, OS X, and iOS. Apple developed the iCloud Control Panel for people running Windows, which was very nice of them. You can sync bookmarks with Internet Explorer and sync your Photo Stream. For email, contacts, and calendars it recommends that you utilize iCloud.com instead, but this isn’t a problem for me as I am now fully up and running on Outlook.com for email, contacts, and calendars.

This means that on OS X and iOS I now utilize the Safari browser, which for iOS, is better purely because Apple does not allow you to set the iOS version of Google Chrome to be the default browser anyway. As for OS X it will take a little getting used to, but in the name of simplicity it is best to just run Safari.

“But wait! Internet Explorer and Safari do not run on Linux!” Unfortunately Linux will always be an OS I tinker with on older machines, run as virtual machines, and use for server side technology. I don’t think I can utilize it as a permanent desktop OS 😦

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