Windows 8, on the surface, is a dream come true to many people. For the first time ever, Microsoft has created an operating system that will work well on a tablet. The Metro interface and apps built specifically for it are highly optimized for touch interaction, much like the iOS and Android, and not so much for keyboard and mouse.
Windows 8 also makes room for work on legacy Windows software, like Adobe Photoshop, which can’t be done on iOS or Android. The promise is that Windows 8 saves you the trouble by assuming the role of both tablet and desktop operating system and only one device will be needed ultimately.
Alas, it remains a dream.
Legacy Desktop Apps Won’t Run on Tablets
It’s a myth that Windows 8 tablets can double as a desktop PC. While tablets running Windows 8 will have both Metro and desktop interfaces, just like their traditional desktop and laptop counterparts, the Windows 8 running on a tablet is not the same as the one running on traditional PCs.
Microsoft calls it Windows on ARM, or WOA. It’s another version of Windows specifically tailored for the ARM chip architecture, typically found in the core of tablets and mobile phones because of its low power consumption.
For that reason, a majority of upcoming Windows 8 consumer tablets will be powered by ARM chipsets, sporting WOA instead of the full Windows 8. It will be similiar to the Windows Phone platform, with the Metro interface and young App Store.
The desktop interface on WOA will support only a number of apps, including Internet Explorer 10 for desktop and the entire Microsoft Office suite. Core Windows features like File Explorer and Control Panel will also be available, but beyond that, the desktop interface is of no use.
Simply put, you can only use Metro apps on most Windows 8 tablets and not legacy desktop apps like Adobe Photoshop, Chrome and PC games. The joke about Internet Explorer being the number one browser to download other browsers isn’t that funny now, is it?
For the minority of tablets that will run on Windows 8 for x86/64, they’ll mostly be similar to today’s Windows 7 tablets. They will be thick, have a short battery life and expensive. These tablets are usually tailored for enterprise user and a far cry from the current consumer tablet trend.
Why Metro on Traditional Desktop and Laptop?
It makes perfect sense to have Metro on traditional desktop and laptop, if the same operating system is used in tablets too. But that’s not the case. Tablets will run a different, albeit visually similar, version of Windows 8. The tablet experience is not dependent on the operating system running on traditional PCs.
That begs the question: Why force Metro on traditional PCs then, with no option to turn it off? I have said it again and again, the Metro interface is ridiculous for keyboard and mouse. It’s unnatural and definitely not productive.
Instead of offering a full desktop experience on tablets, Microsoft is offering a full Metro experience on desktops and laptops. In the process, Microsoft is changing the way we interact with our PCs.
The start button is gone. You will have to click on the tiny space at the bottom left corner to bring up the Start screen. The shutdown button is now buried under the Settings menu, which can be called up using ‘Charms.’ And to bring up the ‘Charms’, you will have to hover to the top right or bottom right corner of your screen.
There is much to learn transitioning from a pre-Windows 8 PC to Windows 8. Loyal, but non-savvy users will be totally confused and unhappy having to learn a system again that they’ve used for years.
For what, I don’t know.
Photo: Odi Kosmatos