As the PCWord editor charged with covering desktop PCs, a touch-centric OS from the leading developer of PC operating systems is the sort of thing that gets me looking over my resume. But Windows 8 isn't about ditching the mouse and keyboard, so much as it is about addressing the way we use technology today.
Lion is taking steps in the right direction: You can see hints of Apple's future (I hope) in the Launchpad, which borrows heavily from iOS. Applications are condensed into icons, with numbers giving you a bird's-eye view of anything that needs your attention. Windows 8 goes one step further: Tiles are much more useful, doling out information at a glance, instead of forcing you to dive into a particular app to see what messages or notifications await.
Finding Your Stuff
Files trees and folders are archaic. They harken back to a time when finding a photo or that track off of that one album required remembering where you put it. Today, search is king. And I thought it couldn't get easier than Command + Spacebar on the Mac, which brings the focus over to the Spotlight search bar.
Windows 8 offers the same functionality, but divvies results up into Apps, Settings, and Files, and rolls some extra functionality into the mix: a search for "Cake" will point to any files on the device, and with a tap (or click) I can extend that query to Facebook, Twitter, or locales nearby--it turns out there are quite a few bakeries around here.
It's All About the Apps
Windows 8's tiles, while attractive, are ultimately unwieldy. Sliding through the list of colorful icons is pretty cool the first few times. But should your collection of Metro Apps starts to grow, you'll be stuck with page after page of animated tiles to flip through and organize.
There are a few pinching gestures that make sifting through tiles a bit more efficient, and you can group preferred applications together and simply shunt the rest to the far right of your Start screen. But there will simply come a time when you'll have too many tiles and Metro apps than you'll be able to manage efficiently.
As Windows 8 is still in its early stages, I can only imagine that a superior method of navigation is on the way -- iOS didn't get folders to corral those apps until version 4, after all.
Making The Right Gestures
Not much of a contest here: when it comes to multi-touch friendly shortcuts, Lion's trackpad gestures come out ahead.