Windows 8: First Impressions…

So I’ve been away for months, living in a hole writing essays. However, this afternoon I’ve broken away to share my first impressions on Windows 8, which I acquired last night via that upgrade offer I mentioned a few months back.

Now, the first thing I’ll say is that the upgrade process was actually pleasant, which I thank Windows for, as their Windows Anytime Upgrade application bundled into Windows 7 was clumsy, frustrating, and generally left much to be desired of a ‘new Windows experience’.

Once Windows 8 officially landed, I was struck by the absence of the iconic Windows “Start” button. Instead, the start menu has been expanded into a full screen, Mac influenced Aero “and some” style splash page. It’s very pretty, and for that I again say well done. I’ll admit that on the first install, that’s all it did. None of the tiles (which bear suspicious similarity to the Nintendo Wii’s ‘Channels’ system) worked, and it all felt a bit rubbish. I did a bit of troubleshooting through Google and turned up a solution, Restoring the PC. This was again a very simple process and worked a charm. However, I had to sacrifice all my files and so essentially, upgrading was pointless. Kudos to Windows for their Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant however, which handles your order, assesses your machine’s compatibility, and a few other things that can be called nice touches that I thought worked well. It felt efficient, surprising, and intuitive and it didn’t spit a browser window at me at any point.

When I got into the swing of things (The App Store is a must, and I’ll explain in detail why later) although I see in the UI some of the points negative reviewers are making, particularly about not being able to get into the bones of the system easily (which I refute, users of Windows 8 complaining of missing/obscured features should navigate from their desktop to very the bottom left hand corner of the screen, right clicking in that specific area opens a massive door in terms of quick access to key administrative tools. Reviewers appear either unaware or unconcerned about this subtle nod to users who favour the more traditional windows experience. I’ll admit, I found it by accident and it did feel concealed to say the least.

The movie guide: a free app that a; movie fans must have.

Now the App Store, I was going to save this for later on, but it is a crucial defence of the operating system that again, I feel reviewers are overlooking. They’re looking at the system technically, and like any operating system pushed out by Windows it will have bugs. I’ve said before that Microsoft often leave debugging to the consumer, and this will be no exception, however, my PC has showed a serious increase in stability after applying just three essential updates, and since connecting up all of my services to the Start screen, I now see how useful this new “layer” over Windows 7 is. So why am I so pumped about the Windows App Store? Well, let me put it like this: In the first fifteen minutes of (albeit the second) initial setting up, I had acquired a Ted Talks HD tile, a free cookbook, a tile that allows me to compile a personal library of classic fiction, several news and social networking apps, all for free. I had just tailored myself my ideal Windows experience in the time it took the kettle to boil.

Some reading this may think I’m pandering to Microsoft, but in truth, I expected Windows 8 to seriously flop. I am genuinely surprised at how smooth the transition from Windows 7 to 8 has been, and find some of the criticism out there a little rash.There’s a lot of great free stuff in the App Store, and it’s something the Windows 7 Gadget system couldn’t really offer.

The OS has clearly been optimized for the tablet market and this actually works quite well when transferred over for desktop or laptop use. With a mouse pad, it feels not too unnatural. But for desktop users, the first 30 minutes will require perseverance. Once you get a feel of the OS, a lay of the land as it were, you’ll start enjoying yourself, and feeling a little bit bad for not giving it a proper chance at first.

One thing I will mention that completely blew my mind, much like the amazing StumbleUpon tile, was how the Windows Music tile works. It detected my music, downloaded all album art, and on top of that, when I click an artist, it gives me a full screen image of the band or artist, and a nice big sidebar of biographical text. This is one of example of the surprising gems, the unexpected touches that make you stop and murmur “That’s clever” into an empty room.

Overall, I’m enjoying the Windows 8 experience, definitely Business capable but Home user orientated, it looks like Windows has finally found the perfect balance between performance, functionality, user-friendliness and has iced it all with some well thought out and striking visual touches.

 

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