Monday, March 5, 2012

Windows 8 or Windows 7 R2 (?)

I ran the earlier "Developer Preview" for about a month on a bare metal install.  It was nice, but too buggy to keep using it beyond that.  I went back to Windows 7.

Then I downloaded the more recent "Consumer Preview" release, and followed the same process:

  • Installed in a virtual guest machine for a few days to evaluate
  • Back up my physical machine and create a repair disk
  • Wipe and load the new OS on bare metal, formatting the entire hard drive
After a week, I have the following thoughts:
  • The Consumer Preview is much more stable and reliable than the Developer Preview
  • The new Start Screen interface (aka "Metro" or "tiles") is aimed at tablets only
  • The new Start Screen interface doesn't offer any benefit on a desktop or laptop
  • Some apps work only in "Desktop" mode
  • Some apps work differently between Start and Desktop modes
  • Most of the staple apps have not changed at all (see below)
  • Windows 8 is really more like a Windows 7 R2
It has a new-ish interface, sort of, kind of, except when it jumps back to "desktop" mode for many apps.  Yes IE10 is a little faster, depending on which flavor of it you launch, but installing Flash, or other plug-ins is klunky unless using the desktop flavor.  Explorer finally has a ribbon. wow.  That could've been added to Win7 by a hotfix, but they held off until this.

A HUGE, I repeat HUGE, number of components and apps that ship with it were not upgraded or updated.  MMC 3.0, Event Viewer, Computer ("system") properties, Network Interface (sharing and etc.), Services, and nearly all the .MSC add-ins, are all the same as before.  I dare anyone to identify what was improved from WMP 11 to WMP 12 besides the version number.  REGEDIT, most of the command tools like SC, REG, CACLS, XCOPY, etc. haven't changed one bit.

Let's call it what it is:  A tweaked version of Windows 7 for tablets

If you're on a desktop it's really not a huge benefit.  The jury remains out as to whether the IT-oriented improvements are really better than Windows 7.  DISM, and imaging features saw some improvements, but beyond that?  We shall see.  It looks like the "consumer" in "consumer preview" is the clearest indicator that this isn't aimed at businesses or IT shops at all.  Purely a consumer play, which is fine, but the marketing hype needs to be viewed with Cap'n Crunch secret decoder goggles to filter out the marketing noise.

I'm expecting the Microsoft marketing machinery to do the same thing they did with Windows 7:  Focus on consumer and UI/UX features and completely ignore the (positive) business impacts, and IT management features.  Too bad.  When Windows 7 hit the streets, those of us in the IT world found ourselves digging up our own "what's cool" lists to convince management that upgrading to Windows 7 was worthwhile.  Given the revenue channels Windows follows, you'd think the focus would have been the opposite.  

Microsoft left IT professionals holding the bag on making our own business case arguments, at least during the first few months after release.  Later, of course, they gradually fed the enterprise customer pipeline more and more details about the improvements for their environments.

Let's hope they have something to offer business customers besides a cool touch-screen interface.
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