Reviewing Windows 8 reviews – as “exhausting” as using the new OS

My accountant the other day said she’s in the market for a new PC and asked if she and her family should upgrade to Windows 8. Having covered PC technology for many years, she thought I might have some insight into into the new operating system.

I told her Windows 8 sports a brand new user interface and there could be a steep learning curve. Windows 8, I’ve read, is also more geared for touchscreens and tablets than traditional mouse and keyboard driven PCs. I don’t have any hands-on experience yet with Windows 8.

After I read Hiawatha Bray’s review in Thursday’s Boston Globe, I was stunned. Bray described the relearning experience as an “exhausting” and “frustrating….unspectacular….a chore.” He made a basic but important point: computers are supposed be labor-saving devices and Windows 8 trends in the opposite direction. The underlying message was stay away at least for now.

Many of the regular tech insiders were more positive. The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg acknowledged “potential for confusion,” but said it’s a “bold move” and that it’s tile-based interface is “a welcome step” from the familiar iconic metaphor we’re used to seeing. Other industry insiders acknowledge the difficulty of a Windows without the familiar “start” button, but have been neutral to somewhat positive from what I’ve read.

Sometimes, I wonder if insiders in the form of the trade press and those tight with Microsoft are simply not objective enough to offer guidance to everyday users like my my accountant. If Hiawatha Bray struggles using Windows 8, what’s my accountant to do? Actually, she’s buying a PC for her  son who’s headed to college to study engineering. He could probably figure it out quickly, but average PC users – namely the rest of us – would replicate Hiawatha’s experience or worse (do not use Windows 8 near an open window).

One former colleague who has covered Microsoft for years is Mary Jo Foley. Writing for ZDnet.com, she has always refused to be sucked in by Microsoft and as such was not given a Surface tablet review unit by Microsoft – odd, given her large following. Like me, she reviewed the reviews.

She charges Microsoft carefully selected the reviewers….read between the lines (I can proudly say I helped Mary Jo her on her career path, persuading her to take the Microsoft beat in mid-90s when we both at PC Week. She’s a great reporter and analyst – knows Microsoft as well as anybody.)

I suspect Hiawatha did not get a review unit, either. By the way, the Microsoft Surface tablet runs a variant of Windows 8 for PCs called Windows RT. They are virtually the same except RT will not run any but an handful of older Windows applications. Windows 8 will.

A commentator on Public Radio yesterday extolled Microsoft’s move away from skeumorphism, which is the term to describe the use of familiar icons that Apple still uses. You know, click on a phone icon and you activate your phone. A letter is mail etc.

The commentator argued that rejection of skeumorphism, a `word’ only a software developer could love, indicates Microsoft is ahead of Apple in software design. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. Apple’s success is deeply rooted in making computers – and software – easy to use. It’s in the company’s genes just as world domination in software is in Microsoft’s genes.

Do user’s really care about inside baseball like skeumorphism? Hell, no.

I am willing to allow that maybe the billion or so PC users might get through learning process and find a rainbow on the other side. After all, using a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet is matter of finding what you want. We’ll see.

I sent my accountant the link to Hiawatha’s review. She’d already read it. My guess is she’ll look for a Windows 7 PC.

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8 Comments

  1. Sean says:

    You should really try and use Windows 8 instead of passing judgement on something you know nothing about. You and the rest of the “tech media” are so far up Apple’s ass you can only approve of what they tell you. ZDNET, CNET are the two biggest shills for Apple. Guess if they paid my salary I would be too, but fortunately, I have a brain and can think for myself. I use a mac at work, and a PC at home running W8, it’s so smooth and easy to use if you have half a brain.
    I’ve had every kind of smartphone including an iPhone, which was boring, and nothing spectacular so I took it back in less than 20 days.
    All you’ve proved to me with this and other reviews is that I am smarter than “tech media”, of course I already knew that. Thanks for further proving my statement.

  2. Gid says:

    Sean.. idiot lol, Windows 8 is a disaster!

    Gabe Newell even says so and is porting Steam across to Linux as a back up because of how bad Windows 8 is, Blizzard even say so! also the Developer of Minecraft, they all refuse to get their software Windows Certified for Windows 8… They cant all be wrong can they? and windows 8 is really this spectacular new operating system that is misunderstood? its basically Windows 7 made complicated, look at benchmark results Windows 7 v Windows 8 there is barely any difference apart from Windows 8 boots up faster.. wow thats worth some more money >.< Windows 8 is basically windows 7 with a metro theme and made with a few extra features that was not available in Windows 7, If anyone has any knowledge they will know microsoft just grabeed a copy of Windows 7 and shipped it with the metro theme.. really thats all they done!

  3. Aeron says:

    I completely agree with Sean. I am not a High Tech user by any means and I had no trouble what ever using Windows 8. I fully believe as Sean says that all the negative articles are mainly from the Apple Cult idiots.

  4. John says:

    The truth is, as one who worked for ZDnet and Ziff Davis for 16 years, I can tell you Microsoft is a much bigger advertiser than Apple so you can spike your charge that they are Mac shills. They may have a bias, but it little to do with their paychecks….otherwise, they’d be shilling Microsoft…which is sort of what I said. Yes, I should use it and I have played with now on a Surface at Staples. Truth be told, I trust Hiawatha Bray and felt he was one of few who came right out and said Windows 8 frustrated the hell out of him. Maybe others will have an easier time. Understand I have used Windows since 3.0 and there have been some real clunkers. So my skepticism has nothing to do with favoring the Mac…don’t assume that everyone who disses Windows 8 is a Mac bigot.

  5. Mon says:

    I have not used a production copy of Win 8. I did use the enterprise evaluation trial back in august for about 6 days to give it an honest shot. I admittedly didn’t run it on the most powerful, up to date machine, just an amd dual core at 2.2 ghz with 8 gigs of ram. The machine runs 7 fairly well. I had no touch screen and couldn’t find drivers that were certified at all. Most of the 7 drivers worked, but I was using common if rather old hardware. I had navigation issues of the OS and have been regularly using computers since the 80′s and an IBM PS2. I had some rather bad issues getting my productivity software to run, and the OS kept trying to force me to use versions of software that weren’t on my machine, and force me to store my data off of my computer and on their cloud. None of these things are issues that I enjoy.

    With 7 I feel like the OS is trying to be a workstation on a network, far more than a stand alone processing computer; and the network isn’t one that I run.

  6. Steve says:

    I am with you Mon on this. Used 64bit W7 working very well with all drivers. Got myself talked into upgrading to W8 Pro what a disaster. After upgrading my sound, webcam, steering wheel & mouse did not work properly. Then trying to install the latest drivers another disaster ended up with a purple screen lockup where the mouse pointer moved and after awhile froze completely. Find on the internet F8 has now become Shift + F8 which did not work.
    This is a bigger piece of crap than Vista ever was it has most probably been designed for the tech strained brainless Iphone & Ipad kind of user which does nothing with a PC than serve the web and chat on facebook……crap, crap, crap!!! I have reinstalled W7 pro and most probably will never leave again!!
    Long live Windows 7!!!

  7. Peter W. says:

    One of our computers failed last week so I had to buy a new one. There was no choice but to accept one with W8 although I had planned to wait six months to see how it the new operating system settled in.
    I set the new machine up for one of my team and although, I believe, I am quite switched on in using computers I found W8 most user unfriendly.
    There was nothing instintive about it and it must have taken me a good 10 mins to find out how to switch it off. It come with all sorts of junk we will never need and I have not yet had the time to find out how to delete a good 80% of the tiles/icons. It seems to be desined with twitter and face book users as the main customers and ignors those of us with a job of work to do.

  8. Bruce Jackson says:

    I own a small ‘virtual’ advertising agency. Here I use a Win 7 workstation with 2 monitors a 6 core processor and 36 GB of Ram. I use my computer 8 hrs a day for work and after hours for my photography hobby. I am not interested in using it for touch screen tech, facebook, windows app store, or other useless things. That’s what my iPad is for. And, I have no need to connect the two together except for perhaps my music. Windows 8 does not fit mine or other regular desktop user needs and I’m pissed off that it is being forced on me. There is no way I will bring it into my company. Given that soon all new windows computers will have Win 8 already installed, we have been talking internally about migrating everything to MAC including account servicing – which is something this die-hard windows user thought he would never say. At least the MAC interface has a very short learning curve. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that. For me and my account team, Windows 8 is a useless waste of time and energy. Microsoft has not earned the right to ask me to spend hours trying to relearn everything.

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