Windows 8: The Great Divide

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I’ve been struggling to find a way to write about the consumer preview for Windows 8; what angle to take and the usual issue of procrastination and finding the right words. One of the things I’ve been doing is looking at videos and reading various people’s thoughts on Win 8. Now the problem of doing this, at least for me, is that those opinions can of dull my own first impressions.

I tend to think about their thoughts and criticisms and those in turn affect my own thoughts (which is why sometimes you have to cut off the stimuli). So for me the interesting thing about the preview has gone from the changes Microsoft has made with Windows 8 (which I will discuss) to the Windows user base.

In the tech world and in particular the part of it that concentrates on consumers; there is a lot of talk about fanboys. Fanboys is a term (mostly derogatory) used to describe fans of particular platforms and products.

Now if you read or hear mention of the term its usually in regards to Apple or Google’s Android operating system. Now not a lot of talk is given to Microsoft fans but that is in part because Microsoft is seen as a bit past its prime; its heyday a part of nineties’ nostalgia.

So its been interesting to see this underground group getting vocal about Microsoft products again. And I say this not to say that Microsoft don’t exist or that they represent only to say it’s a quieter group. Windows 8 has brought them back out in force but it also illustrates that there is a divide in the group.

Or maybe I’m like a lot of folks and taking a few incidents and blowing them way out of proportion.

To me Microsoft has a generational (of sorts) gap between Windows users like there is on the Apple side. There those who were early adopters and users of Windows; people who crossed over from DOS or early Windows versions like 95. These users like the fact that Windows as a platform has stressed backwards compatibility, enterprise friendliness, and gaming. It’s a system that allows users a level of control not found outside of Linux with a wide selection of hardware to choose (or make yourself). A lot of these users would call themselves power users; they spend and use the PC as a desktop or a gaming rig. To a majority of these people the user interface that has developed for Windows is it.

Now there is another group which is smaller and newer in respects. Editors note: this is a hypothesis on my part. They came to the Microsoft through products that sit outside of the Windows and Office worlds (though not exclusively). These are the people who may be closer to what could be considered Apple users; concentrating not on the power of Windows but the aesthetics. These were the people who are users and lovers of the Zune music player, the Xbox, and Windows Phone. I count myself among these people.

Now these two groups (along with the people who straddle my stereotypes) are now facing a confrontation in Windows 8. In the weeks leading up to the beta release and after the internal debate has revolved around the introduction of Metro and Metro styled applications, the importance of the desktop, and the idea of combing touch computing to a system also used on traditional desktop computers.

For a lot of Microsoft traditionalists, the whole enterprise is a mistake. The new start screen and the Metro interface have no place on a laptop or desktop. They don’t have the ability to do what they’ve always been able to on Windows in the past. They also feel constrained by the new applications model and want a way to shut it off.

For the Microsoft progressives change couldn’t come fast enough. To them Microsoft has clung to long to the "Old" ways; that commitment to maintaining old code has prevented them from keeping up with the likes of Apple and Google. Windows 8 is a welcomed change and for them the setup works. They want Microsoft to do more and by more invade the desktop.

Now that’s just a simplification of the situation; but it’s a proper summation of the big issue. I would like to say the discussion has been civil but its not always. Some who don’t like Windows 8 direction complain they are being talked down and told to toe the line; others counter that traditional Windows users are afraid of change and are not given the OS a fair chance.

For me I like what I see in Windows 8 but I also see places where refinements and changes can be made. I think the change was inevitable; at some point Microsoft would have to modernize the look and feel of Windows if it wanted to keep it in the market.

But that’s my two cents.

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