Windows 8 is better than you think

People tend to form an opinion on an operating system immediately and way before any of them had a chance to use it.  For example, it is widely unknown that Windows Vista is crap.  Yet, if you used a computer with Windows Vista, you would likely just assume it’s running Windows 7.  Perception is everything.  Sometimes it’s wrong.

Windows 8 has a vastly different tiled screen in-place of the start menu.  We all know this.  At first glance your immediate reaction to drastic change is negative.  Completely normal.  Then I saw my dad use Windows 8.

Section of Windows 8 Start Screen
Section of Windows 8 Start Screen

For an older user, Windows 8 is a blessing.  From their point of view, you are presented with a very inviting and straight-forward screen with colorful tiles.  Hidden away is the complicated desktop with dozens of icons.  Gone is the start-menu with endless rows of applications. The new interface has all of the every day tasks right there in from of you: email, internet, weather, calendar, and more.

My dad never has to leave the easy-to-use start screen.  So how does this new interface simply things?

In terms of simplifying email, my dad has email accounts from AOL and MSN.  This caused a few problems:

  1. Previously he would sign in and out of those each day.
  2. He would not know if he had new mail or not until he signed in.
  3. He had to learn different interfaces to send and receive email.

I could have fixed this by creating a gmail account and have those emails funnel in to there. This would give him another email account and possibly confuse him even more.  Not to mention it might be too complicated with labels and priority inbox and such.  Perhaps that’s not the best email inbox for him.  I wasn’t about to use Outlook because that is even more complicated.

But with the new windows mail. It could not be easier.  I added each email account he had to the mail app and he could easily switch between them.  He would also know immediately when he got a new email.  The best part is that it all exists within the same easy to use interface.

What Microsoft did is actually VERY smart.  They made an extremely easy to use interface that the MAJORITY of their users would be able to master.  Both young and old can master this interface very quickly.  They released a windows phone and tablet with the same exact interface.  If I bought my dad a surface tablet or windows phone he would immediately know how to use it.

That’s rather brilliant, don’t you think?  All of those untapped users could buy a windows phone tomorrow and feel right at home.

At the same time, this new interface hurts the advanced user.  We don’t want it and have no use for it.  I have Windows 8 running and am extremely satisfied in every aspect except this new start menu.  For the advanced user, Windows 8 is an incremental update from Windows 7.  The new interface is not a deal breaker, but I’m not exactly thrilled with it either.  If i don’t want to use it, then I don’t have to.  Advanced users can get around the problem.

It’s also blatantly obvious that by creating this interface Microsoft is yet again putting their apps front and center and conditioning their users to stay with Microsoft products.

Except this time, they might actually want to.