That’s the question I was asking myself in the past few days.
Ever since Windows XP, I’ve installed the latest Microsoft OS in beta form on my main work machine. I’ve installed Windows XP Beta, Windows Vista Beta and Windows 7 Beta. With Windows 8 approaching quickly, passing the Beta milestone (RC is out), I have not installed it yet on my work machine. I did install it on a virtual machine, though.
Why am I hesitating? For the first time in more than 10 years – I feel uneasy with the next Microsoft client OS.
It started when I installed (on a VM) the first preview of Windows 8 exposed at the Build conference last September. The Start screen wasn’t the familiar desktop, but a new “home” screen that was clearly tablet-centric and touch-oriented. Switching to the traditional desktop (which looks like another Metro application) revealed another monumental change: the removal of the ubiquitous Start button. In the first preview the button was still there, but it was drawn as “flat” – clicking it switched to the new start screen. Starting from the Beta – it’s gone completely.
I install a lot of software on my machine – my Start menu in Windows 7 has a lot of entries. But at least they are sorted and I can scroll through one by one – or use the search facility.
In Windows 8, desktop applications just show various executables on the new Start screen:
This is my Windows 8 VM with a minimal set of installs – mostly Visual Studio 2012 RC and debugging tools for Windows. No even Office apps.
To be fair, Windows 8 search facility is great – just start typing when the Start screen is in view and there goes search.
Right clicking anywhere not on a tile causes the AppBar to show app with an “All Apps” options. Selecting it shows this:
This looks like the equivalent of the old Start menu. It list not just the stuff I installed explicitly, but also many internal Windows applications, such as Windows Magnifier, Windows Media Player, Control Panel, Computer, Command Prompt, Windows Journal and many others. Some I use often and some almost never. This makes the list very cluttered. It’s possible to right click an app and select “Pin to Taskbar” or “Pin to Start”, the latter causing this app to show on the Start screen, which is certainly better than nothing.
A useful feature is achieved by pressing Ctrl and sliding the mouse wheel. This zooms out the display, showing all titles at glance. I suspect I will be doing that a lot:
I am always looking at the improvements and new features of Windows by examining the Windows SDK docs, and the number of enhancements and new stuff is impressive – this makes me want to switch immediately. No doubt a lot of work has gone into the product. I would have preferred, however, that Microsoft would separate a desktop OS, intended for desktop machines and laptops from the tablet form factor. Even a touch-capable laptop will not be used as such much, as it’s tiring touching a screen that is slanted 90 degrees, requiring lifting fingers from the keyboard. If anything, Windows 8 Metro stuff (Start screen and apps) should be united with the Windows Phone platform, as both are targeting touch-centric devices, with similar usage patterns.
So, will I switch to Windows 8? Yes, I cannot afford not to, personally and professionally. But I will wait for the last possible moment – the RTM release of Windows 8.