Friday, August 31, 2012

Windows 8

I'm finding myself using a Mac more and more for professional purposes, which I thought I'd never do since so much of my software development work involved writing code for Microsoft platforms. Since I'm heavily invested in web application and service development, this is becoming less the case. Lately, I've been working with Node.js on the back end, and Angular.js on the front end. There's nothing Microsoft in the pipeline, and I'm becoming shockingly convinced that there's no need nor place for .NET. Like the good little whore of a language it is, Javascript is seducing me with a leering wink from the server side.

So OS X is a great environment for doing development work. In addition, I have all these older Macs lying around which I used to use as well-built Windows hardware. What I find (prepare to be shocked!) is that OS X works great on a Mac. What a discovery! What I really mean is that I get better performance from my tools over the long run. Things seem to stay cleaner rather than what everyone experiences with Windows in a long performance decline over time. Maybe this is the case with OS X, but I don't tend to install lots of productivity software on a Mac. Anyway, older Macs seem to work great for me, but I'm digressing.

I've been waiting for Windows 8, wondering if I should upgrade my existing Windows machines and/or look into new Windows 8 hardware. What I'm finding is a growing reluctance to buy into the new OS. Everything I read about it suggests a kind of user experience set of hoops you have to jump through to be productive. I hear colleagues of mine saying the same thing. The root of my prejudice, though, is the Windows Phone, whose effort I applaud but whose interface I dislike. I've disliked it since the early days.

What bothers me about Windows 8 is that the primary motivation of the new UI (and one should really call it a bifurcated UI) is not to help me out and make life better for me as a user. Instead, the new UI seems motivated by marketing: it's a unification effort with the Windows Phone. In my opinion, Metro on the Windows Phone was an inspired effort to differentiate a user experience from competitors who had light-years worth of a head start in the market, but I never thought it was necessarily a better experience. Microsoft simply had to differentiate just to get in the game. I can concede the need for that paradigm shift on the phone, but it makes no sense to me for the desktop. Yes, you can debate the placement of tablets between the phone experience and the desktop, and the need for some sort of continuity in user experience. But when it comes to the desktop, Metro, or properly the Windows 8 UI, is not my cup of tea.

I never, ever installed Windows Vista. I was able to avoid mucking myself up in that disaster. For years I ran XP, and then gratefully upgraded to Windows 7, which I like (except for the idiocy of the name, which was surpassed in its idiocy only by Windows Phone 7). Names aside, I'm not wasting my time with an OS upgrade that provides no service to me. I don't see how Windows 8 on the desktop does anything but make my life more difficult. The desktop is not a phone, and it's usually not a tablet, either. In the case where I need a touch screen, then I want a user experience I like, and I do not like Metro. Worst of all, I do not like being shoe-horned into a marketing decision, and a desperate one at that, to break the current mold of touch-based user experiences. I recognize the need for Microsoft to have done so, but doing so and forcing me into it has lost me.

And thrown me into the arms of Apple where, after years of working on and with the Windows desktop shell, I never thought I'd be.

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