The tiled home screen of Windows 8.1. Image from Microsoft.
My old desktop ran into some major issues last week. (My theory: antivirus ate a file.) While it’d still boot into Ubuntu, booting into Windows was not happening. It’s likely something that I could have fixed…eventually…but it’s been on it’s last legs for a while now (it was from 2011 I believe). It was just time to update. I wasn’t planning on getting a PC with Windows 8.1 installed, I was planning to get one of the Windows 7 options still hanging around. But then Woot had an awesome deal on a refurbished i7 machine, so Windows 8.1 it is.
Coming into Windows 8.1 I figured I had a slight advantage. The Xbox runs a similar UI with all the tiles. And I had (and loved) a Windows Phone. After watching my husband work with Windows 8.1 I think the only advantage I had was some of my stuff was already setup.
- Some needed upgrades. There are some features in Windows that have needed an update for a while. For example, backup. Windows 8.1 has a really nice auto backup feature that backs up the desktop and documents folder to a location of your choosing daily. It works well and it doesn’t need a ton of setup. Just turn it on in settings.
- Preference syncing. I got a Surface 2 RT recently (but that’s another post). When I booted up, some of the settings auto synced. It’s just nice not having to do it twice. If you’re a multi device user like I am, having everything together is a big benefit.
- Apps. I’m not always a huge fan of apps. But being able to run Hulu in it’s own instance instead of in Chrome is nice. I have a habit of not paying attention and closing the tab I have my video in. Plus, it seems to scale the video better when I dock it to the side.
- Tiles for quick info. I’ve always liked tiles. I like quick updates of my email and calendar available at a glance. It’s something I loved on my Windows Phone and I like it on Windows 8 as well.
- Tiles have too much of a focus. But as much as I like tiles, there is too much of a focus on them in Windows 8.1. The focus makes sense on a tablet or a phone, but not on a desktop. They should be a secondary focus on a desktop, not the primary.
- Paradigm shift. Windows 8.1 is a huge paradigm shift for the operating system. With the focus on a start screen instead of desktop, Microsoft is trying to make a unified experience A respectable goal. It’s just not quite there. This feels like an operating system for touch screens. Not a operating system made to run on everything.
- Too Many Clicks. I didn’t realize this was what was driving me nuts until a friend pointed it out. But there are too many clicks to do things in Windows 8.1. You go to start, and then you have to click the down arrow to get to your non-tiled apps. It’s not an intuitive system, and it feels cumbersome.
- Too few apps. There are fewer apps on Windows 8.1 then there are on Windows Phone. Granted, you can run basically anything you run in Windows 7 in Windows 8.1, but not in the nice separate app thing like my Hulu example above. If Microsoft wants this to be cross platform, it needs to be cross platform.
I had really low expectations for Windows 8.1, which is probably why I wasn’t completely disappointed with it. But it’s still weird, and I don’t understand a lot of the choices they made with this OS. I get that Microsoft wants to make the one ring of operating systems, but a desktop is not a tablet and should not be treated as one. Instead, I wish they’d had a “tablet mode” (I seem to remember something like that when tablets looked like this).
Microsoft has a history of Good-Bad-Good when OS releases come out. Windows Vista? Bad. Windows 7? Good. Windows 8? Bad. Which actually has me excited about Windows 10 (or as I like to call it, Win-Ten-Ten). From the previews I’ve seen it looks like they take the traditional Windows we are used to, and merge it with the cool features in Windows 8.1. I’ll upgrade to Windows 10 sooner than later, which should say something. And even if it doesn’t, “it’s not as bad as I expected” is hardly a vote of confidence.
You know how sometimes with operating systems they grow on you as you use them more? Nope. Not so here. The more I use it, the more I want away from it. And I’m really not happy that metro made it’s way into Microsoft Server 2012.