Thursday, March 1, 2012

I’m Not Excited About Windows 8–Here’s Why

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview (or rather the public BETA) came out today and I’m not really that excited about it and I don’t think any desktop power user will be. This date, sadly, can be marked down as the demise of the desktop OS; while Microsoft isn’t the first to do any damage, their software is used by more users when compared to that of Apple’s. Here’s a glimpse at (what I think) happened and will happen.

Back in 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and a year later the App Store- a brilliant concept to fight piracy and to familiarize non-savvy users with the best apps for their platform (and yes, the ideology about Apple not inventing the App Store exists, but no one really copied it till after they came out with it). The eventual success of the iPhone led to others cloning the concept and coming back to 2012, most platforms have some kind of an App Store and this includes desktop operating systems as well. The bad news is these companies didn’t just take in the App Store concept, they’ve also taken the tablet-smartphone concept so seriously that they’re actually compromising their desktop operating systems to look and feel like their mobile counterparts.

Now, most of you would get back at me by saying how the iPad is brilliant and how you get all of your work done on it. Hold it! This isn’t just about getting your work done- it’s about safeguarding this thing we have here. Yes! The Open Web! I’m not going to rant about these companies being evil- no. I’m glad that these apps are around and how we all have yet another device in our bags. But, if you’d noticed the web hasn’t really infiltrated into these mobile devices. Just like how desktops were in the 90’s, you need an application for getting pretty much any work done and “open web” is almost non-existent. Contrast this to our current desktops where web apps are highly prevalent.

I’m not saying that touch devices are bad. They’re awesome and they have the potential to replace what we already have, but the web isn’t ready for it yet and the kind of momentum these companies display might just make matters worse.

Let’s put some things into perspective.

On Windows 7, to write a blog post, you’d probably go to WordPress.com and get started with what you had in mind. Today, WordPress.com has an app for the shiny new Windows 8 which prevents you from having to use the browser and the kind of user experience that you’re having isn’t going to be similar to the website or another platform and you’re just being locked down. All of this is okay with a mobile device, but when it invades our desktop space, something isn’t right.

Microsoft isn’t the only company going on with this model. Apple’s OS X, at this point pretty much looks like an iPad hybrid and with the notification center, app store and other iOS-like features, I’m afraid if they’d kill OS X and go on with a strategy like Microsoft’s where the tablet and the desktop run identical software.

This sleep-deprived rant of mine probably won’t matter much to you, but I’m definitely worried. The future, as @twitosh put it is pretty dark. We may not have an actual desktop OS that works effectively with a keyboard and a mouse and lets you access the open web where platform doesn’t matter.

On Desktops, we need operating systems to be more platform agnostic instead of making you invest in them- thereby locking you down.

Microsoft needs to strike a balance with Windows 8 if they’re looking for any success at all. They need to turn off the Metro UI depending on the kind of device the software is being used, so that the n00bs aren’t intimidated and the adventurous ones can try out Metro by manually turning it on.

Image Credit: Ashutosh Mishra