The New York Times called Windows 8 the most radical change to Windows since the late ’80’s. That may be a very strong statement and also rather disconcerting if you’re not that adaptable when it comes to technology or have developed a sentimental attachment to the look and feel of Microsoft products over the years. On the other hand, Windows desperately needed to make leaps and bounds rather than small steps to win back a piece of the consumer pie that Apple now takes a big chunk of.
So what’s new…
The most notable major changes that have come with Windows 8 seem to be superficial, surface amendments rather than computing innovations. But let’s remember that it is called Windows for a reason so the transition from the traditional four-paned Start button and expected drop-down menu to large tile-style icons is pretty big. It’s quite intuitive (although not if the Start button has been your security blanket since it was revealed in Windows 95) and users of touch screen devices will be fairly comfortable with the new ‘Start Screen’ as opposed to having a central launching point for all applications and tasks. The Start screen or ‘Modern UI’ is almost better-suited to tablets and it would appear that the traditional desktop hasn’t been completely axed for this very reason. It’s one layer down and can be used concurrently without slowing processing time while providing a familiar working interface for PC users. You are also able to split the screen to view two panes at once which is handy. Life Hacker vocalised concerns about the new tiled interface saying “…it isn’t nearly as convenient as the old Start menu”, which is probably another reason why Windows has held on to it for the moment.
There are worries that big business won’t change to the new OS right away as they’re still getting to grips with Windows 7 and PC users may want to stay on the current system, however touch phone and tablet users who are expected to benefit more from Windows 8 are likely to give it a go. This will be the desired outcome for Windows who’ve lacked the cool factor that Apple effortlessly possesses and hope their new friendly interface with a more contemporary feel and enhanced functionality will do the trick.
I particularly like the holding page (above) where helpful widgets inform you of the time, weather, number of unopened emails and their senders, calendar with upcoming events and music tile to show you what’s playing. Also re-vamped are the Task Manager (which I think we can all agree looked a little dreary), there’s a built-in Windows Defender antivirus, system-wide spell-checking, a system-wide search tool that lets you search for anything from contacts to music in your files and across the internet and Cloud that syncs all your SkyDrive data, address book, photos and even third-party app’s so they’re accessible on any Windows 8 device. Windows Explorer’s also had a make-over and sports a cleaner look to go with the rest of the new Windows family.
Some may need tutorials to get to grips with all this although a lot of the changes make for smoother handling and will be easy to navigate if you have a smartphone or are used to using touch-based platforms. Overall, the Windows experience definitely looks a little niftier and might just be what the Microsoft team need to compete in the tablet world.