Windows 8 is Schizophrenic for a Reason

All of Microsoft’s ruckus about its brand spanking new Windows 8 hides a basic truth: This is really two distinct operating systems sharing the same computer, and it’s most obvious during boot.

A month ago, I upgraded an Asus Eee PC running Windows 7 Starter to Windows 8. When it boots I see the new Windows Logo, the login screen and then, for a split second, my old Windows 7 desktop and background before the Windows 8 background lays on top of that. That’s two operating systems loading consecutively.

Hidden Frustrations

Does this matter? For the end user’s point of view, it depends. They’ve lost the Start button, which isn’t as trivial as it first seems. “Start” has been the symbol of Windows since Windows 95 was introduced more than 17 years ago. For many computer users, Start is the only way they know to interact with a PC. They never used Windows 3.1 or NT 3.51, let alone DOS.

Never mind that Apple had a similar launch button long before 1995. Redmond made the bigger deal out of it. People lined up around the block to buy the OS. (Was anyone in those days lining up like that for Apple?) The company whipped people up with a $300 million ad campaign that blasted the Rolling Stones singing Start Me Up. (They alone cost between $8 and $14 million.)

Be that as it may, because the Start button is irrelevant to tablets, it had to go. Sort of. It has to stay in some form because conventional Windows users who are still crunching documents with 32- and 64-bit apps need their mouse to navigate. Once their apps are launched they don’t need to see Windows 8 tiles again — but they still need to launch their apps.

Better Boot Speed

One glowing feature users immediately notice is how fast Windows 8 boots, wakes and shuts down.  I’m watching a Windows 7 migration from XP right now and users are overjoyed with how much faster 7 is over XP. Windows 8 is considerably faster still.

Before I upgraded my 2.5 year-old (dropped once) Asus Eee PC duel core Intel Atom 1.66GHz with 2MB RAM netbook, I timed how long Windows 7 needed to boot, wake and shut down. Then I timed again after an upgrade to Windows 8. This wasn’t a benchmark. Just me being curious. Here’s what I found:

Notice the shutdown was 3 seconds slower on Windows 8, but this really varies. Same since the days of W2K. Some days it was lightning, other days you could come back from a coffee break to see it finish mapping drives.

Win 8 is not as resource intensive as Win7 because Microsoft removed Aero, which was a resource hog. Video cards don’t need to render as much and Windows is snappier now.

Once users feel comfortable they’ll be just fine using the new tiles to start their old Windows 7 applications. They can toggle to the HTML 5 tiles to check the weather and their email without making a single click. Eventually, they’ll probably spend more time in the Windows 8 side and see that they can do all their work there. As upgraded apps become available, they’ll spend less and less time with Windows 7. A faster more responsive operating system combined with a lot of information with fewer clicks and a tablet that looks the same way will make even leery users comfortable over time.

The End is Near

EndThe Windows 7 side of Windows 8 will likely be dropped in the next release (Windows 9?). By then Microsoft will have surely have weaned its multitude of users from its desktop OS to its tablet/netbook OS.

Microsoft is looking at the long game. People will still be working in the enterprise, but they won’t be using desktops in the conventional sense. Ironically, I can’t help but think that if Microsoft hadn’t adopted the Start button in the first place and continued to pursue tiles, it might have gotten to Windows 8’s distinct approach a lot sooner.

5 Responses to “Windows 8 is Schizophrenic for a Reason”

  1. It sounds like MS dressed up a Chevy and called it a Cadillac, except in this case actually made it faster in the 100 yard drag race. I’ve never been in such a hurry that I needed my PC to boot, or shutdown. ASAP.

  2. The Engineer

    would be nice to get some input on how unsigned VMware drivers can be loaded in Win8. Can it be taken into “Test Mode” and tweaked to have the VM drivers loaded? I am not ready to mess with that quite yet…

  3. If they drop the desktop, then Gabe Newell’s prediction that Microsoft wants to certify/make royalties from all gaming will have come true. That, and censor gaming it’s not fond of. If they do it, it will be like Windows Vista because no one will want it. I say that because my computer is used for Adobe products, the net and gaming. I don’t need the Oprah Winfrey app, thanks.

  4. Don`t upgrade your WIN7 OS! It will bork your system. You have to upgrade from scratch. Everything works after you patch it. There is a hidden problem it asks all the time for you to be the administrator or it will not install drivers or programs. It is annoying. Plus the tiles keep growing and growing with useless files instead of what you need to run!

  5. On a SSD drive the performance gains are non-existent; Windows 7 and Windows 8 are almost identical. I will concede that the boot time has decreased a few seconds (7-8 to 5-6) but other than that I see almost no difference in day-to-day use.

    The desktop improvements are welcome, notably the new task manager, but how often do I need to spend hours in the task manager? The classic one worked just fine, even if it did not have the shear amount of data presentation available.

    As for security; most if not all dangerous viruses enter the system at the software level. Even if the OS is locked down like Windows 8, apps that have privileges can circumvent all security, Java being one of the worst. In fact, Java is THE worst security hole on any Windows system. There is not a single anti-virus that can stop these exploits no matter how much bragging Microsoft, Symantec, AVG, Trend or Avast try to convince you otherwise.

    The new interface is purely subjective. Personally, I hate it. I do not use a Windows tablet and I despise having to go to an ugly, fisher price looking, full screen menu just to start an app. I liked the beautiful simplicity of the start menu. I could do EVERYTHING with it.

    The shuffled layout of getting to various other features is simply a nuisance. Bottom-left-click, full screen start menu…bottom right, drag mouse up, get to another menu, click on item…top right, click, drap down to close apps. I could do any of these things with 2 clicks on the start menu.

    I really like change. It is healthy. What Microsoft did with Windows 8 is not change. It is shoe-horning a poorly designed tablet OS on top of their traditional desktop. The free market has already said its peace about the Metro UI (how popular we’re those Windows 7 phones?). So why is Microsoft stumbling ahead with this ugly, un-customizable UI and taking all of us desktop users with it? I am totally lost on what Microsoft is thinking.

    By the way, why did Microsoft fire the president of the Windows division less then a month after Windows 8 shipped? If the OS was widely praised and accepted they would not have done this, even if the man was the devil. Just saying.