The new version of Windows breaks with its past, and for tablet owners that will be a good thing. The new Metro interface is ideally suited for tablets and touch. But desktop and laptop owners will likely see it as a mixed success. Metro apps are more visually compelling than Desktop-based ones, and do an excellent job of integrating information piped in from the Internet. But the Desktop is underpowered compared to previous Windows versions, and overall the operating system feels more natural to touch-based interaction than it does to mouse- and keyboard-based use.
I certainly look forward to using Windows 8 on a tablet, because it offers useful and innovative features, such as displaying changing information directly on tiles. I can't say that I'm as enthusiastic about using it on a traditional computer, though. Switching between Metro and the Desktop feels awkward, and I never shook the sense that I was using two different operating systems. While I appreciate Metro's new features, I think Microsoft should have worked on adding new features to the Desktop as well, and done a better job of integrating the separate interfaces.
Given that the software that many people use on a daily basis -- Microsoft Office -- works only on the Desktop, and that the next version of Office will be a Desktop app as well, many people will spend a good deal of their time on Windows 8 desktops and laptops using the Desktop. I certainly will. So while I'm looking forward to taking advantage of Metro's new features, I'm not at all pleased to know that for most of the time, I'll be in an interface that Microsoft seems bent on making worse, not better, with this version of Windows.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).
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