My 'Week working exclusively with Windows 8' to give it a second chance (as suggested by journalist Tim Anderson) is over. Actually it was over a few days ago but I've been struggling with getting this 'summary' blog post together.
So what's the verdict?
I wrote a blog post summarising my findings over the weekend.
I then rewrote it several times to try and make it less ranty, and less obsessed with all the nit-picky problems I found that were more to do with my main apps than the operating system itself.
I re-edited it again to avoid sounding like a broken record on the subject of where Microsoft is headed and how badly it's handled the Windows 8 launch. After all, it's not like I haven't done that particular subject to death over the last 18 months ;-)
Then I decided that trying to get this 'Windows 8 summary' into a well-rounded 'honest' blog post was just turning into a HUGE time sink.
So, the bottom line is this: Tim was kinda right - Windows 8 is a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
I had problems, but all my desktop apps run fine on it after a couple of support calls were made and in one very particular case a quick fix obtained.
More interestingly, I actually love the 'modern apps' stuff that's plumbed in, even if the poor APIs underneath mean that even the apps that initially look great (MetroTwit and Evernote I'm talking about you!) and almost had me enthusiastically shouting 'The emperor's wearing clothes after all' turned out to be highly varnished turds that just aren't of sufficient quality for day-to-day usage.
I'm sure that with time, service packs and new APIs things will improve.
In the meantime Windows 8 isn't the car crash that Vista was so far as ordinary users are likely to be concerned. You just need to spend a couple of hours learning the new way of working (ALT + F4 is my new best friend, the Windows key on its own the other!) so that you can get back to the trusty Windows desktop environment you're used to with Windows 7. So if you're feeling brave, just avoid buying any ARM tablets or 'modern style apps' for that tablet until they've ironed out all the nightmare issues around the poor APIs and buggy controls and go for it.
I'm NOT going for it. But for mostly arbitrary reasons around the usage of Windows Key + M being taken away for no good reason (I use that combination a lot!) and not liking the 'thin barrier' the new 'modern app' Start Page puts in my way. Well that and the fact no client or potential client has ever expressed any interest in running Windows 8 and I'm a firm believer in developing on the platform you're going to be deploying to.
At the time of writing I have one outstanding problem (a big one) where I can't create a home network (Windows 8 wants a password from a PC that was running a beta and has since been repaved and refuses to offer any kind of new 'Create a new HomeGroup' option instead) but otherwise the operating system seems pretty solid. Even using it with just mouse and keyboard.
I can see consumers really getting to like 'modern apps' and 'live tiles' as demonstrated with the pre-installed apps (the biggest disappointment here is that none of the apps in the app store seem to support live tiles or contracts when they should). I can see those same users then realising they'd like the same experience on their phone.
This can only be good news for the uptake on the third attempt at launching Microsoft's phone operating system, assuming the retail chain forces Windows 8 onto consumers via the 'new PC purchase' route (although a quick visit to computer stores doesn't indicate that this is actually happening, with most stores I checked still selling only PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled - what's that about??!)
Those expecting the usual long rant and disappointed not to find one might want to check out this video 'The Microsoft Roadmap' from last week's Oredev conference instead.
If you don't have time to watch an hour long video summarising the last five years of Microsoft I hope the speaker (Scott Barnes) doesn't mind me summarising the whole thing with his closing line "The takeaway is you've been part of an experiment for the last five years".
As a footnote to this post, I made a similar comment in a tweet some months back. A relatively high profile contractor/community member working for an investment bank replied that my tweets were always 'too negative' and that he was perfectly happy with the current Microsoft situation. Although he's an MVP and so has to pay the 'public shill' tax of being publicly positive about everything to do with Microsoft, in private he's always been as 'negative' as I am about Microsoft, so his public tweet surprised me, and I couldn't resist asking him if his clients who had now wasted millions on a 'dead man walking' technology were equally happy and loved putting a 'positive spin' on things instead of being 'too negative' at their wasted millions.
The reply of 'I've earnt good money, and continue to do so. What's the problem?' probably says all that needs to be said about the average contractor/consultant, their sense of responsibility for those who've followed their advice and paid them big sums of money, and the Microsoft software industry as a whole.
That being said, it's probably true to say I'm jaundiced where the investment banking industry and Microsoft are concerned. A couple of weeks ago I lost a potential 'big bucks' client through pointing out that 'No, actually you CAN'T just take your big enterprise Silverlight app built on MVVM and various frameworks and 'just recompile it' to run as a Windows 8 XAML/C# application. The interviewer visibly sulked throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the 'tell us what you've done' interview (pointing out his incompetence in front of a colleague probably wasn't one of my best moves!)
Oh well, if nothing else it's good to see so many of those in the investment banking industry have learnt from the big crash of the last few years and can now justify those big salaries and big decisions </sarcasm>
We reap what we sow I guess, and whilst carping on about how dreadful most of this stuff is isn't helping me win friends and influence at a certain Redmond-based software company or within its rewards-based 'community', I can at least satisfy myself with the fact that I'm not the business owner paying for all this incredible incompetence and greed!
If you're a business owner who wants software built by someone serving YOUR best interests rather than their own, feel free to drop me an email! I haz references - lots of them :-)