Redefending Windows 8: Don’t come back Start button!

I’ve actually written about this before and I’m likely to just be repeating myself, but I feel like repeating myself, and you could skip this. I’m motivated to write about this again because it seems that Microsoft are caving in to the Start button resurrection campaign.

I’ve heard that the Windows 8.1 update later this year will, amongst other things, allow you to boot directly to the classic desktop – bypassing the Start screen – and allow you to resurrect that nearly 20yr-old Start button; though that Start button may actually just invoke the Start screen; just like the bottom-left corner hotspot already does, in the same way a hidden Start button would bring up the old Start menu…

I feel Microsoft have been set up by journalists and a vocal minority of users in an Apple-domineering world, because right now all it takes is one click from the Start screen to access the desktop (anybody so lazy to require a direct boot into it is odd) and the Start screen is merely analogous to a ready-opened Start button crossed with an auto-population of desktop shortcuts; allowing you to less clutter the classic desktop with shortcuts.

Some people complain that the modern UI is best adapted for touch and shouldn’t be on traditional computers. Ridiculous. The iOS interface looks more apt for traditional computers yet still works fine on the iPad; the only discernible difference with Windows 8 (whether on PC or touch gadgets) is that instead of icons there are tiles, and these tiles are often informative to not require you to open them unless needed, based on the information in the tile. Windows 8 is as easy to use on a tablet (I say this as a Windows Phone 7.8 owner) as with a mouse and keyboard, because touch screen is simply an alternative to mouse input; it’s nothing very radical really.

Windows 8 is being compared to the New Coke taste change of 1985 – which I was too young to remember, if it emerged in the UK, but I would say Windows 8 is more like a redesigned can; maybe like when the non-pull-off ring-pull was introduced. It still tastes the same but works a bit different. There is a slight learning curve, but wasn’t there one when people moved from DOS-based systems to the first GUI Mac or Windows? In that age, though, there wasn’t the internet to amplify ‘bitching’. Even Windows 95’s first Start button appearance was virtually pre-internet (commercially) and some seemed to cling to Program Manager.

I can see why Microsoft might want to seem to appease the rowdy crowd as Windows is its flagship product. They mightn’t be leaders in tablets and phones, but Windows on laptops and desktops is still king and they don’t want to erode that base; particularly as Canonical’s Ubuntu seems a more probable alternative to pricey Macs for customers to defect to.
But here’s the thing, people that don’t like the modern UI probably won’t like Ubuntu’s Unity interface that much either. Though it’s not tile-based, some concepts are the same, such as invoking hidden things. Personally I commend Canonical and Microsoft for making Apple look like play-safe dinosaurs on this matter.

The failure of sales regarding Windows 8, and probably PCs in general, is because tablets and phones have been the hot product category for a good number of years now, and PCs from even a decade ago (my recently retired Dell is still around with a new role) are still workable. In fact their power can be superfluous as we’re not seeing software and hardware demand such radical power as was the case during much of the 90s. Windows Vista didn’t fare well so the next logical leap for an XP user was 7. But a 7 user doesn’t need to go to 8, in my opinion, not unless they like modern UI apps, which I will admit require a bit more functionality; Microsoft needs apps that are simple enough for tablets but powerful for computers, though some simple tablet-style apps are absolutely fine because, like the eBay app, for example, you don’t need much there.

I respect that Apple are a cooler brand these days (I love my iPod Classic and would replace it in an instant if I died), but Microsoft gets more stick than necessary because of an outdated corporate-monster image. They’re actually making some great products and my only real criticism of them is that they haven’t got the marketing slickness of Apple or the outsider respect of Linux. I’ll be clear, Microsoft adverts are often rubbish.

I’m not going to read over this piece before I post it, so I apologise if this has typos and seems to ramble in places. I just think, what I’m trying to say is, I wish a lot of people would just get over the Start screen. It’s NO big deal, and I hope that Microsoft largely stick to their guns. Windows is their art, and no one should tell them how to evolve it; and I happen to think their changes benefit the consumer rather than hinder it – in time. Windows 8 is not only fast in pure speed, I also find working within it much more faster than with any previous version of Windows.


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