HK Gadgets News

Is Windows 8 Right for You?

Touch screen features, a totally redesigned user interface and stunning animations. But do you really need it?

Windows 8 began selling on Friday, Oct. 26 in the U.S. and it is expected to hit Hong Kong in a couple of days. Now that the latest version of Windows is on the market, is it time for you to upgrade?

The first question is to decide if you really need it. Next, the second question is to decide if you will go for the tablet version or the desktop version. Microsoft has been preparing the marketplace with advertising and TV commercials. Now that it’s here, the advertising is likely to increase heavily. Here are some important things you should be clear about before making your mind.

First and foremost, Windows 8 is an awesome departure from previous versions of Windows. Some may view this as a good thing and some may not. The look and feel of your computer has become a very personal thing, and technology enthusiasts are likely to embrace the challenge of a completely redesigned operating environment. Those who do not like change may wind up loathing the new interface. Only time will tell. Because the user experience has changed so significantly, I’m beginning to develop an impression that Windows 8 will be far more of a consumer product than a business product, but as I just said, only time will tell.

Microsoft has decided to completely change the user interface and make it more similar to tablets and netbooks running Linux. Instead of the traditional Windows 7 interface (which is still available), you will be presented with a touch screen a new interface (previously called Metro). This user interface has large icons and shows basically the most accessed programs and web apps. Just as it works on an iPad or an Android tablet, the user can touch the screen to select which app to use. Some of my friends in Hong Kong have used Windows 8 and they all mentioned about feeling it was similar to the interface of tablets and smart phones

If you have ever used a Nokia phone based on Windows, you will feel that the new Windows 8 looks familiar.

This fundamental change is likely to cause some anxiety among those who are quite comfortable with the traditional Windows Desktop.

The other significant change is that there are now two very different versions of Windows 8. Windows 8 RT is a somewhat limited version of Windows 8 that will run on Microsoft’s new Surface tablets.

You are likely seeing a lot of advertising for these new Surface tablets this weekend, as this will be the first major Windows 8 hardware and software device to hit the market.

While the Surface tablets run Windows 8, it’s very important that you understand they are running Windows 8 RT, which is not the same as Windows 8. Windows 8 RT will not run traditional Windows applications. This is what I consider one of Microsoft’s biggest mistakes. I recall that Microsoft has done this once with Windows CE, a couple of years ago. Windows CE apps were not compatible with normal Windows apps. It turned out that Windows CE was a big failure for Microsoft. Apparently, history will repeat itself.

You will not be able to install Microsoft Office or QuickBooks on Windows 8 RT, as an example. All apps for Windows 8 RT will have to be purchased from the new Windows Store, no differently than how iPad applications have to be purchased from the iTunes store.

However, just because an app is in the Windows Store, does not necessarily mean it will run on a Windows 8 RT Surface tablet.

You will have to make absolutely certain that the app will run on Windows 8 RT. There will be a version of Microsoft Office for Windows 8 RT, however, it will not be ready for a few more months.

Surface tablets will initially come with preview versions of the software.

There will be a Windows 8 version of the Surface, called the Surface Pro Tablet, which will run Windows 8 and any Windows application, so if you intend to get a Surface tablet to run Microsoft Office and QuickBooks, you will have to wait until January when the Surface Pro is set to release.

The Surface tablets available with Windows 8 RT today will not do what you want.

This is where things are not as clear as I would have liked to see, especially for business customers.

Windows 8 presents such a dramatic change that I don’t see many businesses here in Hong Kong wanting to adopt the new operating system until sufficient time passes to allow the manufacturers of critical business systems software to test their applications on the new operating system and resolve any issues that may exist.

Fortunately, when it comes to things like printers and other peripherals, all the devices that work with Windows 7 are supposed to seamlessly work with Windows 8, as the drivers are all compatible.

We should not have to confront that issue this time, however, on the pure software side, the new user interface will require software companies to redevelop their software to support this new operating environment.

About the author

Martin Gale

Robson Hayashida has over two decades of experience in the computer industry in product development, support, training, and e-marketing. Mr. Hayashida has been working on writing ColdFusion Web Application series, as well as multiple books on SQL, Regular Expressions, Java Server Pages, WAP, Windows development, and has recently being involved in multiple Meteor / MongoDB and Node.JS projects and more.