Windows 8 has been at the receiving end for long due to some sort of alienation of existing Desktop users who were accustomed to the traditional start menu driven interface. It’s failure to gain market traction and good word-of-mouth as fast as it’s extremely successful predecessor have also been the contributing factors behind the never ending criticisms being hurled against Redmond’s hybrid OS. But we do have to take a look at some aspects and it’s sheer usefulness on tablets and convertibles before dismissing Windows 8 as “crap”.
I have a Intel Development Tablet, which was given to developers originally to work on Meego. Now the problem with the device is that it is horribly underpowered having Intel Atom “ Pine Trail “ processor of yesteryears and is nowhere comparable to the Clover Trail family of Atom processors. This device struggles to run literally any OS despite having a 64 GB SSD and manages to crumble even while running Ubuntu Linux 12.04 or Android 4.0 ICS.
Let me remind you that this article deals with Windows 8 / Windows 8 Pro and not Windows RT, the crippled ARM cousin against which is a very different beast for a lot of reasons
Windows 8 : The Magic Bullet?
After getting tired of trying all the other options before me, I decided to load Windows 8 Pro 64 bit bought during the initial days of the launch of the OS. Now you might be thinking why shove a 64bit OS on an Atom Powered machine (even if it supports). Turns out it actually works buttery fast.
One of the best things about Windows 8 is it’s boot time. Almost never failing to boot in less than 10 seconds, Windows 8 is easily one of the fastest booting mainstream OS’s on the market at the moment. There is literally no competition to Windows 8 ( even RT) when it comes to boot speed, with Android taking around 30 seconds and iOS around the same time to boot.
The Metro UI and the Gestures
If you have ever used Windows 8 on a touch screen, you will know what I am talking about. The gestures and Modern UI while not being perfect, are actually very intuitive on a touch screen and once you get a hang of it, you will appreciate multitasking and using the apps in Windows 8. Just like Windows Phone, Windows 8 even on low end devices like mine is wonderfully smooth and fluid. Android Tablets are sorely lacking in this regard.
Noteworthy Inbuilt Apps
Internet Browsing is one of the strong points of Windows 8 especially on the recent breed of x86 tablet and hybrid devices that are flourishing in the market. Easily the best browser for a tablet Metro Internet Explorer is one of the most under rated things in Windows 8. No matter how many tabs I opened on the machine with a paltry 2 GB RAM, it never lagged and is superficially smooth. The whole UI is extremely neat and well designed. In my opinion, the metro Internet Explorer trumps iPad’s safari and the Nexus 10’s Chrome hands down.
Another underrated app in Windows 8 is Reader, one of the rare inbuilt document reader’s in an OS which actually supports text highlighting and creation of notes within PDF’s along with super smooth navigation. Again, second to none.
A Full Fledged PC Environment
Many devices on the market upcoming in the market are rather Tablet Hybrids rather than dedicated tablets with ARM processors. These devices have a very distinct advantage of being able to run your traditional desktop when you want it. Even in case of my own device, which is actually meant to be a x86 tablet, I can just connect external Keyboard and Mouse via the USB ports and I have a fully functional PC. This distinct advantage of being able to use your machine as both a touch centric device as well as a traditional PC is pretty exclusive to Windows 8 devices.
Also interesting to note is the similar concept of hybrid OS being in development with Ubuntu Tablet OS, which morphs into a full fledged desktop when docked. AMD’s newer Temash processor’s turbo dock is a good demonstration of how Windows convertibles could easily give PC like computing power to users without sacrificing on battery life.
Make no bones about it. Thanks to SkyDrive and in general a functional bunch of third party applications that provide converged cloud management capabilities, Windows 8 is at par with Android and iOS if not better.
Quality of Apps : Still A Sore Spot
The quality of most of the Windows Store apps is a sore spot in Windows 8. Take Dropbox for Windows 8 for example. You can not even upload files using this one. Funnily, all the third party apps which support Dropbox integration, have upload and much more features loaded right since day one. Microsoft is still struggling to get Facebook on board to build an app for Windows 8. For the uninitiated, let me remind that Microsoft actually owns a stake in Facebook.
This kind of sloppiness towards the Windows 8 platform from popular developers is a massive contributing factor for the sluggish sales of Windows 8 devices. Hopefully this scenario will change with Microsoft going to extent of paying $100 to each developer submitting a unique app for Windows Store for a limited time.
Where do we go from here?
While low end tablet market is dominated by iPad Mini and Nexus 7 sized tablets, the high end market is clearly positive and receptive to Windows 8 going by the moderate sales of Surface Pro. While lack of apps may be a concern, the fact that you actually get a full working Windows desktop with millions of professional PC software ready to use, along with a UI that is very functional when you want to use the device as a tablet, makes Windows 8 a very legitimate solution for many scenarios where the iPad can not simply compete.
That said, Windows 8 still has a long way to go and a lot of portions of Modern UI in Windows 8 need improvement. Thankfully, the recently leaked screenshots of Windows Blue, the major update to Windows 8 just shows that Microsoft is steadily working on that.