On Keeping An Open Mind When It Comes To Windows 8 - A Response

Mike Halsey MVP
Feb 7, 2012
Updated • Feb 7, 2012
Microsoft, Windows 8

Yesterday Martin wrote up his thoughts and concerns about the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft.  I've spent much more time with Windows 8 so far, have given talks about and I'm current writing two books about how to get the best out of it, one for complete novices and another for IT Pros and Enthusiasts.  I thought then that I might be a good person to respond to some of Martin's concerns and perhaps bring a different perspective to the discussion.

I don't want you to think though that I will be spouting Microsoft's official PR line, the company is perfectly capable of doing that on their own and they don't need me to help them.  What I want to bring to the discussion though are the thoughts from someone who has spent some time with the OS, knows perhaps a bit more about what's coming than I generally let on  ;)  and understands the different aspects of the OS in some depth.

Many of Martin's concerns centre around the new dual-interface between the desktop and the Metro UI.  This is a legitimate question about why we either need or should have a dual-interface in an operating system.  I feel that Windows 8 is a transitional OS between the way we've been doing things now for around 30 years and the way we'll be doing them in the future.  Anybody who has spent any time working with a tablet will intuitively use Metro and won't even think about the fact that they've only got one (or two) apps open at a time.  We've just gotten used to it.

Martin is quite right though that people often have other things running in the background such as messenger apps, multiple browser tabs and so on.  If you look at the way some tablet operating systems handle these you can get some idea of the direction that we're going in with Windows 8.  Don't assume for a moment though that Metro in Windows 8, as seen in the Developer Preview or as expanded in the Consumer Preview (beta) will be anything like Metro when Windows 9 arrives, or even Metro when Windows 8 Service Pack 1 is delivered.  As a UI it's still a concept, even though it's roots can be traced back almost a decade ot Windows Media Centre, and as such much is set to change and evolve in the next three years.

So how this multi-application space works in Metro with Windows 8 will be determined by how people and companies write their apps.  We will see a great many different ways of doing things as many imaginative people bring their own ideas and concepts to the Metro UI, and it will be interesting to see where these take us and what Microsoft officially adopt.

Ultimately then we will lose the desktop.  The fact that we've been using it for the last thirty years doesn't mean there isn't a better way of working.  Metro may not be it, but we have to start somewhere.  I'm not sure how much I'll use Metro myself but despite having a very uncluttered desktop, the prospect of having an interactive one that is telling me, all in one place, what my latest email is, who's mentioning me on Twitter, what the forecast is for tomorrow, what my next appointment is, the current currency rate between the £ and the US$ and more is very appealing.

Regards using the desktop, Microsoft have said that, even if it's just in group policy, you will be able to set the desktop as your default UI.  This will be important for people for whom all their software requires it.  While we've seen some very imaginative tablet apps appear such as Adobe Photoshop Touch, it will be several years before top quality professional-grade apps appear for Metro.

Martin also raised concerns about using Metro and the new Windows-orb'less desktop with a mouse and keyboard.  While Microsoft have not announced anything yet, they have said that everything you can do with touch you will be able to do with the mouse and keyboard.  Personally I'm looking forward to seeing what new mouse gestures they offer.  Also don't forget that very soon we will have monitors and laptops with Kinect sensors in them as well.

Martin is quite right though that as things stand the dual-interface, and how you switch between them and control them, can be confusing.  It's partly for this reason that one of my new books "Windows 8: Out of the Box" has been commissioned where it probably wouldn't have been for Windows 7.  On this we'll just have to see what Microsoft offer us to increase usability and to minimise the learning curve.

So what about the Start Menu?  Microsoft wrote a very long blog post detailing why they were making the changes they were back in October.  I am of the opinion however that the Start Menu should have been dropped when the Windows 7 taskbar was introduced.  These essentially offered us two completely different ways to find and launch programs.  All Microsoft need to do is find a way to control (or bucket) all the extra programs (uninstallers / utilities etc.) that appear in the Start Menu and all new programs should be pinned to the taskbar by default.  For my part, I won't be sad to see the Start Menu go.

To reassure you Martin there is a great deal more coming for desktop users and IT Pros, but that none of it was finished in time for the Developer Preview.  When the Consumer Preview is released in a couple of weeks we will all see what these features are but Microsoft have promised several hundred small and large features in total still to come.

Let's be honest that Windows 8, as I said earlier is a transitional OS, much in the way early builds of Apple's OS X were when the company was moving people off old PowerPC software.  It is probably going to be painful for some, but if there really is a new way of working ahead of us that can genuinely help productivity, usability and most importantly accessibility with computers, then I believe we should embrace it.  For a while though it will have to co-exist with the traditional desktop and there can never be a truly integrated way to do that.


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  1. Some Dude said on March 19, 2023 at 11:42 am

    Are these articles AI generated?

    Now the duplicates are more obvious.

    1. boris said on March 19, 2023 at 11:48 pm

      This is below AI generated crap. It is copy of Microsoft Help website article without any relevant supporting text. Anyway you can find this information on many pages.

  2. Paul(us) said on March 20, 2023 at 1:32 am

    Yes, but why post the exact same article under a different title twice on the same day (19 march 2023), by two different writers?
    1.) Excel Keyboard Shortcuts by Trevor Monteiro.
    2.) 70+ Excel Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows by Priyanka Monteiro

    Why oh why?

    1. Clairvaux said on September 6, 2023 at 11:30 am

      Yeah. Tell me more about “Priyanka Monteiro”. I’m dying to know. Indian-Portuguese bot ?

  3. John G. said on August 18, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Probably they will announce that the taskbar will be placed at top, right or left, at your will.

    Special event by they is a special crap for us.

  4. yanta said on August 18, 2023 at 11:59 pm

    If it’s Microsoft, don’t buy it.
    Better brands at better prices elsewhere.

  5. John G. said on August 20, 2023 at 4:22 am

    All new articles have zero count comments. :S

  6. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 7:48 am

    WTF? So, If I add one photo to 5 albums, will it count 5x on my storage?
    It does not make any sense… on google photos, we can add photo to multiple albums, and it does not generate any additional space usage

    I have O365 until end of this year, mostly for onedrive and probably will jump into google one

  7. St Albans Digital Printing Inc said on September 5, 2023 at 11:53 am

    Photo storage must be kept free because customers chose gadgets just for photos and photos only.

  8. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    What a nonsense. Does it mean that albums are de facto folders with copies of our pictures?

    1. GG said on September 6, 2023 at 8:24 am

      Sounds exactly like the poor coding Microsoft is known for in non-critical areas i.e. non Windows Core/Office Core.

      I imagine a manager gave an employee the task to create the album feature with hardly any time so they just copied the folder feature with some cosmetic changes.

      And now that they discovered what poor management results in do they go back and do the album feature properly?

      Nope, just charge the customer twice.

      Sounds like a go-getter that needs to be promoted for increasing sales and managing underlings “efficiently”, said the next layer of middle management.

  9. d3x said on September 5, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    When will those comments get fixed? Was every editor here replaced by AI and no one even works on this site?

  10. Scroogled said on September 5, 2023 at 10:47 pm

    Instead of a software company, Microsoft is now a fraud company.

  11. ard said on September 7, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    For me this is proof that Microsoft has a back-door option into all accounts in their cloud.
    quote “…… as the MSA key allowed the hacker group access to virtually any cloud account at Microsoft…..”

    so this MSA key which is available to MS officers can give access to all accounts in MS cloud.This is the backdoor that MS has into the cloud accounts. Lucky I never got any relevant files of mine in their (MS) cloud.

  12. Andy Prough said on September 7, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    >”Now You: what is your theory?”

    That someone handed an employee a briefcase full of cash and the employee allowed them access to all their accounts and systems.

    Anything that requires 5-10 different coincidences to happen is highly unlikely. Occam’s razor.

  13. TelV said on September 8, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Good reason to never login to your precious machine with a Microsoft a/c a.k.a. as the cloud.

  14. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    The GAFAM are always very careless about our software automatically sending to them telemetry and crash dumps in our backs. It’s a reminder not to send them anything when it’s possible to opt out, and not to opt in, considering what they may contain. And there is irony in this carelessness biting them back, even if in that case they show that they are much more cautious when it’s their own data that is at stake.

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