‘Daring yet awful’: An epic Windows 8 rant


blog We hate Windows 8 on the desktop just as much as the next man, but we haven’t tested it as extensively as Taswegian technologist Simon Reidy, who penned this epic rant on Google Plus this week detailing why Microsoft’s new opus is the company’s “most interesting, daring, different, ridiculous, contradictory, frustrating, and awful Windows yet”. At the heart of Reidy’s opinion of Windows 8 is the idea that Microsoft has tried to cram too much into the operating system. Some sample paragraphs:

“One of my primary gripes, is that the distinction between Metro apps and their ability to use Live Tiles, and legacy apps (which cannot access any Metro/Live Tile functionality) leaves you in a situation of having to decide between the two operating environments for many applications.”

There is simply no continuity with Win8. Why do my pictures and videos when launched from their desktop libraries, default to opening in the crappy bare-bones Metro Photo/Video apps? Easily fixable by changing default programs of course, but I can see a lot of less users being really confused by this jarring behaviour.

I want to like a lot about Windows 8 as there are genuine improvements under the hood, but I’ve come across so many little problems and inconsistencies that its clear that its still very much a confusing, half-baked product at the moment. In many ways it feels like Vista all over again (although unlike Vista, at least the overall performance is just as good as the previous OS).”

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about Windows 8 over the past few months as I try to get a grip on what the operating system will mean to the Australian technology sector, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not as simple as black and white.

What Windows 8 fundamentally represents is Microsoft’s understanding of the fact that the laptop and tablet markets will eventually converge. Apple hasn’t yet made an attempt to converge the laptop and tablet categories (although it’s clearly going in that direction with the latest versions of Mac OS X), but it eventually will; recognising that if it doesn’t, somebody else will. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt to stay ahead of this trend; and it’s a powerful attempt, using Redmond’s core platform, Windows, as its hero attempt to stay ahead of the curve.

But along the way, Microsoft has done much to ignore traditional users of Windows; those who use the desktop OS as a desktop OS, and have no plans or desire to have it integrated with their tablet devices for the forseeable future. Many, perhaps most Windows users also have no desire to use a touchscreen on their PC.

Personally, I feel that Microsoft is comfortable with those users continuing to use the best desktop operating system ever made, Windows 7, and I doubt that there will be many technological advances and upgrades which aren’t back-ported to Windows 7 from Windows 8 if they become absolutely critical. Windows 7 is the new XP — a desktop operating system to last for a decade or more — and Microsoft seems fairly comfortable with this. Windows 7 for the desktop (especially advanced users), and Windows 8 for the mobile platform; that’s the implicit message Microsoft appears to be pushing for the moment, even if it’s pushing a completely different one explicitly.

With this in mind, I’m not as angsty as Reidy about Windows 8, as I don’t see it as the be all and end all for the desktop and laptop PC market. I really have no interest in upgrading my Windows 7 gaming machine at home to Windows 8, and I can’t see myself switching to a Windows 8 laptop/tablet hybrid and off my iPad/MacBook Air combo. But I will be watching carefully to see how successful Microsoft is with its new touchscreen paradigm. Because it does have to get this space right eventually. If it doesn’t, in a decade, we will all be living in a purely rigid iParadise.

Image credit: Dell, Creative Commons


  1. Simon has also gone on to say that with a few tweaks his done away with the most of the ‘metro’ gripes he had.

    • Yep most true. I’m regaining control of the desktop in a big way :)

      If anyone wants a registry tweak to “Unmetro” Chrome grab it from my dropbox here (by default it will always open the Metro version from the start menu, even if manually pinned)

  2. I’ve been using it for about a month.. (since the RTM).
    It takes too many liberties with the touch interface concept… and needs a bit more polish with assisting the user to find the hidden menus.

    but its not that bad, its definitely a better OS than Win7.

  3. Thanks Renai. Seriously honoured to see my comments appear in a Delimiter story (even though I did make a few grammatical errors and miss a few words out :) )

    On the topic of Windows 8, your comments above completely nail it as well. Comparing Windows7 to XP’s reign is spot on . I can still see many business environments running Win7 in 10 years time. There’s just no way this OS is suitable for any kind of professional deployment. Its barely acceptable as a consumer OS, let alone one to rely on in an enterprise environment. Who knows what it will grow into, but as it stands I think Microsoft have made a massive mistake by jamming a tablet OS into the start menu of a desktop OS.

    • I should follow up this by saying there is one benefit to having the Metro ‘Modern UI’ on the desktop. You can keep a direct eye on the app scene for WindowsRT and Windows 8 tablets. In one year’s time the app store will hopefully have grown into something significant (at the moment there’s something like 5,000 apps. Five of which are actually worth installing).

  4. I went to Vista, so I’ll be going to Win 8 as well.

    I can always roll back….

  5. I have to disagree with the post, unfortunately. I’ve been using Windows 8 for a couple of days, and already I find it easy to navigate through both the Metro UI and standard Desktop. Granted, I have had to make a few minor tweaks to the associations, but that’s no different to using a third party bit of software such as irfanview.

    I haven’t had a chance to play under the hood of Windows 8 yet, but I find the new UI for the desktop to be somewhat more informative, especially with the new Taskmanager, whilst the issue I had with graphics (The screen would have random black lines flash across the screen) was actually related to Acer using custom drivers and chipset rather than anything related to Windows.

    No doubt I’ll form more of an opinion the further I play with it, testing it to its’ limits and trying to break it, but right now, it seems to be a decent replacement for 7.

    Having said that, it’s a different beast to windows 7, and that’s part of the shock on the change. New users would definitely be better off watching the short tutorial on first boot, as it explains a lot of the new features of 8.

    Again, these are just my thoughts, based on my experience with the OS.

    • If you read my full post I do have mixed feelings about it, and comment directly on the welcome improvements to the desktop (things like improved multi-monitor support, the new task manager and file transfers are great) and I don’t even mind the somewhat cluttered ribbon UI, as there’s lots of good commands on tap (one click to ‘select all’ is nice).

      As for Metro, it would have its place, and in some ways it is an improvement over the old start menu, but I just wish desktop apps were allowed to take advantage of it (Note that I tested Outlook 2013, which as a desktop app presents a static icon, as opposed to the inferior built in Mail client’s live tile).

      Sure you can convert everything away from using the default Metro apps, but not without a bit of tweaking. You or I don’t mind that so much, but what about regular users who are used to their pictures opening in the Windows Preview box? So many Joe Blows are going to be forced into using Metro if they don’t know anything about file association and reg edits.

      • @Simon

        As for Metro, it would have its place, and in some ways it is an improvement over the old start menu, but I just wish desktop apps were allowed to take advantage of it

        Don’t forget Simon, it’ll be 6 months or so at least for the new cycle of “legacy” apps to come through with full Win 8 and therefore Metro Modern UI suport.

        Yes, it is a little jarring now, but I can see a day in the near future where your Adobe Photoshop preview of what you were last working on shows in the tiles, etc.

        For the record, I think Microsoft have done a bold and interesting thing here. I HOPE it’ll do well, because they really seem to have tried properly this time.

        • I hope you’re right seven_tech, but unless I’m mistaken Microsoft don’t seem to allow or want this. If legacy apps are “updated” to Metro by developers, then that particular app has to follow the rules and will only run in Metro fullscreen style (not able to integrate with its desktop counterpart which may also be installed) as they have to run on WinRT devices as well. Hence how can an app released through the Windows app store as an official Windows 8 app, be used as a windowed desktop app? (Or how can a desktop app integrate into the Metro full-screen environment with live tiles?). They are two totally different worlds.

          All the apps so far that do have desktop counterparts (things like Evernote, Metrotwit) are forced into the same full-screen minimalist sandbox, and are highly limited compared to the desktop app so that they are optimised for touch, and run well on Arm tablets. This is not what I would call an upgrade. Its simply optimisation for tablet usage.

          Unless Microsoft lifts this limitation and there’s some serious cross over from WinRT apps into legacy “Windowed” usage, I just don’t see how desktop apps will ever be able to take advantage of the new start menu, or how a desktop machine will ever benefit from using Metro over legacy apps.

          Obviously the situation will improve with time. However at the moment there’s not a single Metro app that is worth using over the desktop version (on a desktop machine obviously; on tablets Metro Modern UI makes perfect sense).

  6. Have you used it?

    Having been a strong “that looks crap” supporter, and then actually using it everyday for nearly 2 months I can only say one thing:

    ” I won’t go back to Windows 7 ”

    And thats a pretty big statement to make. Whenever I use my work PC on windows 7 I feel like i’m using something old, and something sometimes unresponsive.

    Windows 8 boot times, Windows 8 usage scenarios with search being a first class citizen, Windows 8 additional features.

    You seriously cannot say it isn’t a great OS after using it all the time. The metro interface is basically a huge start bar. You don’t need a button to get to it, every keyboard under the sun has a button that does it faster.

    I use Mac OSX, and Window 8 and Windows 7 daily – they are all great OS, but Windows 8 in my new favourite.

    • Just to be clear I’ve been running Win8 in dual boot since the first consumer preview, and have followed every bit of news along the way. That’s why I upgraded on launch day. I totally understand why some people would regard it as a big improvement. However there are bugs, inconsistencies and a huge divide between the Metro and desktop environments which cannot be ignored.

      Put it this way, I’m still happy I upgraded and won’t be going back. That doesn’t mean the OS doesn’t have a shitload of issues. Hopefully Microsoft can work through them to create a more cohesive and natural experience for desktop users. I think Metro looks great for tablets, but no one wants to run fullscreen apps on large high res desktop monitors.

      • For the people coming from Windows 7, using it on multiple monitors and with normal windows apps doesn’t change? (apart from the start button going, and the start “bar” now being full screen [metro]).

        I have yet to experience any of these “shit load of issues”, and would potentially point to the usual new release windows problems of driver manufacturers not being up to speed with all legacy devices.

        If you don’t use the metro apps, which as you point out, and i potentially agree with you on as, not being nice switching between worlds, this is not a problem?

        Also the addition of unlimited music being built into an OS, and search and social being first class OS citizens is nothing short of epic.

        • I’m flat out at the moment, so rather than listing the issues one by one, I’ll have to be lazy and refer you to a review which sums them up perfectly. Out of all the Win8 reviews I have read the last week, I think Peter Bright’s review at ArsTechnica really nails the pros and cons.

    • I have used it in a VM, and found it quite confusing. The main thing which pissed me off was the whole ‘full screen’ thing. I don’t want a start menu that takes up the whole screen! I don’t want my whole screen taken over by apps! I use multiple apps at the same time … it was annoying trying to navigate between them. I don’t want a half/half metro/desktop paradigm schizophrenia; I want things to be consistent.

      I may do a longer trial on my home PC, but I’m really not incentivised to. Windows 7 was pretty well optimised for the power user, and I am definitely a power user. Unusually for me, I haven’t even reinstalled WIndows 7 for about a year … normally I would reinstall and refresh things more often than that.

      Fundamentally, I feel that an operating system should get out of the way and let the applications shine. It shouldn’t be front and centre because it’s a platform; not the reason you use your PC. I don’t use my PC to use Windows; I use it to use Word, Chrome, StarCraft II, etc. With Windows 8 I always felt as though Windows was trying to take over the experience, presenting itself as the intermediary to the apps instead of letting the apps be the focus.

      Perhaps I’m too picky and didn’t spend enough time with it … but I just found the experience annoying.

      • @Renai

        While I see your point about the “Power User” aspect of the new UI, I think, to be fair, that’s as much a matter of learning to accept the new UI and adapting with different techniques.

        Power Users HATED Win 95 when it came out….”what the HELL is this “Windows button???”. They grew and changed.

        I’m no doubt less of a power user than you, but I find starting apps 10 times faster in Win 8 (both physically and waiting for loading) and while it is a little unintuitive to begin, with the switching between them, once you learn, it’s only a 2 button shortcut away. I think that’s what will make or break Win 8 for Power Users- keyboard shortcuts. With everything now essentially hidden away behind the fullscreen UI, shortcuts will become mandatory, rather than optional on desktops.

  7. I honestly don’t understand all the angst over Windows 8 on the desktop. I’ve spent quite a bit of time using it on a non-touchscreen desktop PC, doing quite a lot of real “desktop PC” work (software development in my case), and for the most part it was easy to forget I was using Windows 8 at all – once you’ve got a few basic things set up you never see the Metro interface, and it feels like you’re using a snappier version of Windows 7 with a flatter colour scheme. Again, I don’t see the problem – if you want to stay in desktop land you can do so very easily, and incidentally the desktop has lots of nice little improvements over Windows 7, so you should be a happy little desktop camper?

    Oh well, I guess some people really hate it when their cheese gets moved. ;-)

  8. I purchased a copy of win8 because it’s cheap but it will stay uninstalled until I see some of the “interface shock” removed.
    While it may be useful on a small screens on dual 24″ monitors Metro is a great real estate waster. I have the dual screen because it want the extra real estate and want to use it reasonably efficiently. Being able to run only two “metro” apps on a monitor is not an efficient use of the available space. Also have some issues hitting the hot corners consistently more often the pointer just slides thru to the other monitor.
    The interface should be intuitive but on my setup it ends up being obstructive and frustrating
    It is a OS allegedly built with “no compromise” but on a PC it is a OS full of compromise heavily weighted towards tablets and touch interfaces.
    On the corporate side we only started rolling out Win7 this year so Win8 was always going to be a miss.

  9. I’ve been using windows 8 since last friday , and so far i’m pretty happy with it , Although I am firmly in the camp of Simons’ post and Metro is for me “a glorified start menu. ” .
    I esentially hardly used the start button on windows 7 so the change for me isnt much , if you were to embrace the metro side of things , then you probably could have got yourself a tablet in the first place.

  10. It sounds relatively minor to make it work fine as a desktop OS, so presumably that’d also be trivial for a builder to incorporate into a rollout image for an enterprise.

    Surely the under-the-hood changes would justify the update alone?

    Especially by the time SP1 rolls out and, presumably, fixes a lot of the teething problems.

  11. Seems to me it has everything that Windows 7 has and does a lot of things better than 7. Plus it positions Microsoft for the time when touch screens become the norm. I upgraded my Win7 laptop on Staurday and will definately not be going back. Next step is to replace my Windows Home Server box with Win 8 Pro.

  12. Well I’ve been using it natively since the weekend and I’m generally pretty happy. My main gripe is the store…but that will obviously improve in time. Given some app makers just won’t make winrt based apps, I do kind of wish win32 apps could get live tile access though, as I really like live tiles.

    • “I do kind of wish win32 apps could get live tile access though, as I really like live tiles.”

      That is probably my single biggest disappointment. It’s pretty ridiculous that even Microsoft’s own Office apps are nothing but static icons.

      Given it also acts as a notification area, the Start Menu could be much more useful if only desktop apps could make use of live tiles.

      We’ll probably see tweaks pop up to allow this soon. I just started looking into replacing some of the more fugly old-school icons with Metro style tiles, but I’d like them to be more than a pretty static icon.

  13. I reckon Apple has the right idea – iOS for phones/tablet and OSX for the desktop environment.

    The equivalent would be Windows Phone OS (after a rebrand perhaps) for touch devices (ie phone/tablet/surface), and keeping Windows OS distinct for the desktop for those that function best with mouse/keyboard.

  14. What I want to know is why you think the laptop and tablet markets “will eventually converge”?

    I don’t see it myself. Yes in a very narrow range of I-can’t-carry-two-so-I-want-one-that-does-everything use cases – mostly occurring in particularly technology focused profession – there is a desire for convergence.

    But not in the most-of-the-world-rest-of-us-chickens cases. And with the price to capability ratio still improving I can’t see an economic I-can’t-afford-two-so-I-want-one-that-does-everything driver having much force or longevity.

    • Think of a tablet as being 70% entertainment focussed and 30% work focussed. Then look at a laptop being the opposite.

      Both devices have common ground they both do, but one caters more seriously to entertainment, the other more towards productivity.

      Can you write a book on an iPad? Sure, if you believe the adverts. Can you streanm a movie to a laptop? Most definitely. But its easier on one than the other.

      And its not hard to see them moving closer to each other as time goes on. Surface is a step towards that, as is the iPad, with a dockable keyboard. Thats where the converging markets comment is heading.

      • I disagree, the focus of a tablet (or laptop) is portability. The focus of a desktop is raw computing (and graphics) grunt.

    • “What I want to know is why you think the laptop and tablet markets “will eventually converge”?”

      Because, TBH, what’s the difference between the two?

      The main functional difference is that tablets have touchscreen and laptops have keyboards. Except of course there’s no reason why laptops can’t have touchscreens and tablet’s can’t have keyboards.

      The historical difference has always been about size – but we’re getting to a stage where the size difference is very minimal.

  15. Quote: “Microsoft has done much to ignore traditional users of Windows; those who use the desktop OS as a desktop OS… Many, perhaps most Windows users also have no desire to use a touchscreen on their PC”.

    Well then why don’t you set it up a desktop only system? Install Classic Shell and optionally Classic Start Menu and you never have to see Metro ever again, even after a reboot. The desktop experience then becomes the same as Win7 with the benefit of extended systems tools. Easy.

  16. Until Microsoft pay EA to force Battlefield 5 onto Direct X 15 or whatever version of that cannot be run on Windows 7 I will be sticking with Windows 7. The only reason I upgraded to Windows 7 was because of BF3 and I have zero reason to upgrade to this garbage OS.

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