Just like Windows 8 has evolved, so has my opinion of the operating system. After using prerelease versions of Windows 8 for several months, I still prefer Windows 7, but I have no doubt Windows 8 will be my Windows of choice at some point. Microsoft will likely tweak the heck out of the OS after receiving massive amounts of customer feedback (after revealing yesterday that Windows 8 has seen more than 1.24 billion hours of early testing from consumers). In addition, third-party developers will create software that improves the Windows 8 experience. Sweet Labs’ Pokki app, which re-creates the Start button on the desktop, is one such example. Windows 8 is still evolving, and it will continue to do so for some time.
Windows 8 represents the future of Microsoft and the PC itself. Essentially, the desktop of old is fading away in favor of ultrabooks, tablets, and hybrid devices like Samsung’s Smart PCs. VentureBeat executive editor Dylan Tweney believes Windows 8 will be a “test of whether the company can successfully manage the transition to a new era of computing.” I agree, and I believe Microsoft has the experience and leadership to accomplish this.
But of course, Windows 8 also faces plenty of criticism. The brash cloud computing visionary Marc Benioff, the CEO of customer-relation management giant Salesforce, recently called Windows 8 “the end of Windows” and claimed Windows itself was irrelevant in the new age of powerful smartphones and tablets.
Benioff might have a point: Windows as we know it is over — but Windows 8 could easily sit alongside iOS and Android as another powerhouse in mobile computing. And its real strength is that it’s not just a mobile OS. Unlike iOS and Android, Windows 8 can also power traditional computers without a sweat.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which has lots of personality and some noticeable flaws, is one such device that shows Microsoft’s commitment to reshape Windows. Surface is simply a preview of what’s to come in a year (or less). New Windows 8 tablets will be more cooked and the app ecosystem will likely be populated with all kinds of great software soon.
Windows 8′s Start screen (see photo above) replaces the Start button on the desktop as the place in which you launch apps. The Start screen is colorful, fun, and useful, and it looks quite similar to the tile-based design found on the Xbox 360 dashboard and Windows Phone devices. The Start menu tiles are helpful because they show real-time information, such as how many emails are unread, stock market prices, headlines, and more.
While the Start screen is easy to customize and understand, many people will want to retreat into the “desktop” mode. The desktop mode does basically everything you’ve done for years in Windows. The most helpful thing to do in desktop mode is to pin all your important programs to the taskbar so you never have to search for desktop-focused apps.