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10/18/2012
09:03 AM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
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Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?

Keyboard and mouse users have little reason to celebrate when Microsoft's new OS rolls out. Does that make me a dinosaur?

This post-PC era we've embarked on sure seems to have a lot of PCs in it.

That's what I think every time I'm in a shared space where people do work--coffeehouses, airports, co-working offices, and so forth. Take the coffee joint I visit a couple of times a week. Unlike some spots, people seem to go here to work. Good luck finding a seat if you arrive much after 9 on a weekday morning. They're occupied by salespeople, developers, designers, entrepreneurs, students, and navel-gazing writers. It strikes me as a fairly representative sample of the modern mobile workforce. And although I'm generalizing, they're all using laptops. (Plenty of the laptops are Macs, but that's a different story.)

Sure, there's a smartphone on the table next to every laptop. There are also iPads, though they're less ubiquitous than phones. Yet people are still hunting and pecking, pointing and clicking. The laptop is where people get stuff done.

I find this reassuring. I happen to like the laptop, and that's one of the main things that makes me a little itchy about Windows 8. Microsoft's reboot seems to relegate the keyboard-and-mouse crowd to the cargo hold, while upgrading tablet and other touch device users to first class. Microsoft is not hiding from that, either. The system requirements for the Windows 8 Release Preview say the OS "works great on the same hardware that powers Windows 7." True enough, but a few bullet points down you'll find this note: "To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multi-touch."

What about folks more inclined to use a touchpad than a touchscreen? (And what about a mouse? They still make those, right?) I'm not old enough to be a dinosaur, am I?

[ Is it suddenly Apple's turn to catch up? See Windows 8 Beats The Mac, Appsolutely. ]

I actually think the Windows 8 UI looks good. While the app-centric design is a little too consumer-oriented for my tastes, there are many potential business uses in changes like SkyDrive integration. And I'm sure (or at least hope) more business apps will come in due time to balance out the less productive apps. Beyond the UI, InformationWeek readers have also pointed out some compelling reasons why they're excited for Windows 8, such as improved dual monitor support, Storage Spaces, and under-the-hood improvements.

The UI--a major change--is going to cause user disruption in organizations that adopt quickly.

But people can learn a new UI. That's a solvable problem. What's less clear is why I would use an OS that is clearly designed for tablets and other touch-screen devices when I'm not using one of those devices. Maybe that does make me a dinosaur, but it's nice to know I've got some company. "Windows 8 is designed for tablets and smartphones. Makes no sense for a desktop PC to behave like that, sticking with Windows 7 which I am very satisfied with," says one reader, "RichMNY". "BTW, I have a smartphone, happy with this type of interface for this type of device."

I agree. I like the touch interface on my phone; it also makes sense on tablets. I don't get it on the PC. I'm sure over time, more and more people will use touch-screen PCs or laptop-tablet hybrids that include keyboards, particularly once retail stocks are replaced with Windows 8 hardware. But I'm reasonably skeptical that touch PCs will have the same sweeping impact as smartphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets.

You can indeed use Windows 8 with a keyboard and mouse or touchpad. And, as plenty of people have pointed out, you can even roll back the UI to include the familiar Start button if you simply can't bear to live without it. But that indicates to me that the QWERTY crowd is better off sticking with Windows 7 for now.

Responding to Paul McDougall's recent piece on why Windows 8 beats the Mac, reader "JPolk" says: "Microsoft jumped the gun on touch. The bulk of the PC world simply can't use it in the workplace and that's where most of the computing is done." Reader "Paul987" echoes that perspective: "I need a UI that best facilitates that work. And despite the inability of people who presumably don't do that type of work to understand, touch simply isn't optimal for those tasks." Other readers respond with what they are missing with a touch-centric UI on a PC. It's an interesting discussion to check out.

The pre-launch marketing for Windows 8 effectively weighs in with Microsoft's position on that debate. A decidedly consumer-centric video on the Windows 8 release preview site begins with the tagline: "All you need to stay in touch."

It's a nice pun, but I still don't think I get it.

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Mark532010
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Mark532010,
User Rank: Strategist
10/20/2012 | 5:58:04 AM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
While that is true, and probably for teens it will be trivial, for the existing non-expert people who use Windows to get their work done it will be a nightmare.

I have people who put in trouble tickets because the "email" icon is "hidden" inside of the "Microsoft Office" menu. having a big picture menu of apps will help them, but then try and explain to them how to find a file, if they are in Word they will use one system, if they are in the OS they will use a completely different system. I don't even know if you can see a mapped drive from metro, certainly I don't know how to tell them to browse it looking for a file. and explaining how sometimes they have to look on the taskbar at the bottom to see the running programs and sometimes they have to mouse down from the left side to see them... it will be quite difficult for me as a support person
KWierso
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KWierso,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/20/2012 | 12:44:04 AM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
I call shenanigans on the "not keyboard friendly" bit. Microsoft has added dozens of new keyboard shortcuts to Windows 8 that help with the new interface AND the traditional desktop.

I've been using Windows 8 as the primary operating system on my non-touch-capable laptops and desktop (with three monitors, I should add) throughout the various development builds since the first developer preview released last year in September, and I've had no trouble using it with "just" a mouse and keyboard.
pjellison
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pjellison,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 8:58:48 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
As I read and comment on this using my PC running dual screen monitors giving me 42 inches of horizontal screen. I am wondering how exactly I am going to have my email open, A web browser on a budget app or capital app, be VNC'd into a remote machine I am doing something on, While I talk on my wired phone (or skype)? While skimming a word doc! I can do any ONE of these things on my Ipad or my Iphone at a time. But not all open for a quick glance! Tablets are a tool, they have their place, but they wont come close to letting me work as efficiently as on a PC. Mobile is maturing, but it has limitations and one is screen size. Be it a PC or what ever you want to call it. This platform is going to be tough to duplicate mobile. Until I can get a verbal or thought powered interface the PC is presently the most efficient way to operate. I might add about every "manager" in our operations uses this same arrangement.
Hiajay
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Hiajay,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 7:34:24 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
Kevin Casey,

There are plenty of scenarios where navigating a laptop with touch is superior to the conventional mouse & trackpad. For example, imagine you're sitting somewhere with the laptop on your lap. Navigating with touch will be much more easier and faster than trying to use the trackpad in a cramped space.

Now, imagine you're showing off your powerpoint slides or something similar to one or two friends on your laptop. Again, it'll be much easier to touch & swipe with your hand than pointing and clicking with the trackpad.

With Windows 8 there'll be touch-centric Windows 8 apps and games, such as Fruit Ninja. Cutting and slashing the fruits with the fingers of both of your hands is way more fun than doing it with a mouse pointer!

How about zooming in & out of maps? photos? scrolling through a very large document or webpage? It's so much faster and enjoyable to do that with your hands than point & click.

Over time, many third party apps will take advantage of touch in a way that mouse & trackpad will look outdated and out of place.
Hiajay
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Hiajay,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 7:16:32 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
I completely disagree with you. Why are PC sales falling every quarter if there's no post-PC world yet? And that too after the tablet market was jumpstarted by the iPad 2.5 years ago. You can't miss the correlation. Yes, desktops are still required for the "heavy lifting", but that's increasingly becoming niche. Touch-centric devices are performing most of the common computing tasks for most people. And these devices are getting more powerful with every new generation. Traditional PCs won't go extinct anytime soon, but they've already been pushed to the backstage of the computing landscape.
Tom P
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Tom P,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 7:15:56 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
The "post-PC world" is about as relevant of a phrase as the paperless world we were supposed to have been in many years ago. Didn't happen.

PWhite has a point about people buying more power than they needed, but now that everyone is editing and managing video, there's no such thing as too many cores or too much memory when it comes to video editing.

Windows 8? If they hadn't mucked up the UI, I would've been one of the first to buy it.
PWHITE000
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PWHITE000,
User Rank: Guru
10/19/2012 | 6:18:54 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
What most people seem to be missing, or have missed, is that a certain aspect of PC computers have always been irrelevant! From day one, the basic computer has been capable of delivering power and features suited to a place of business. For decades even the low-end home computers have not been totally relevant to many, many (can I add another many) home users who have had no need whatsoever of the full capabilities of the device they have purchased.

For twenty-five years I have cringed at computer-store salespeople who have no clue what their buyers actually need, and instead sell them on power and features which they personally find attractive. How many times has my aged mother brought home the latest computer which the salesperson convinced her was what she needed, only to find it frustrating to use and eventually giving it to one of the grandchildren who could use the dang thing!

There are multitudes of people who really don't have the same personal needs as what a company or business has with a computer.

Now here's the clencher... and this is one which I have not seen mentioned very much... the cost of the apps!!! I paid several hundred dollars for Photoshop which I use on both a Mac and on a PC, it's a great app. I paid almost three hundred dollars for the music app which I compose my compositions on. But for the past year and a half I use my iPad for doing the majority of what I used those two apps for. Besides the purchase of my PCs/Macs, I have literally spent thousands of dollars on software over the years. I spent $4.99 for the incredible little iPad image app, and $1.99 for the music scoring app used on my iPad. Can you fully comprehend this difference? Perhaps $7 compared to $700 is not that important to businesses, it is quite important to the casual at-home user. (Microsoft... pay very close attention to what I'm saying here, it could make or break your latest toy.)

Yep, if PC people cannot grasp that their needs, and their financial means are not the same as everyone else's then yes, those folks are indeed out of touch.

We will see if Microsoft is in-touch with the average person. We will see if a whole new Windows 8 app store opens which offers some incredible little $2 and $4 apps which are designed specifically for their device.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
10/19/2012 | 6:03:16 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
I don't understand all the angst - the Live Tiles are really nothing more than big icons that you already click on. I have used Win8 and the interface is a dramatic change, but nothing that can't be overcome in a few hours of usage.

Win8 can be BOTH mobile and desktop friendly. It doesn't have to be one or the other.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Strategist
10/19/2012 | 6:01:08 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
I'll have to respectfully disagree - the bulky CPUs in the desktops will ALWAYS be more powerful than anything you can get in a tablet - just like the desktop/laptop issue. Mobile CPUs will always lag behind. Will the future tablets do what PCs can do today? Sure, but the PCs at that point in time will do 100x what our PCs can do now.
msimko110
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msimko110,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 5:50:07 PM
re: Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?
I see a lot more Macs around too. They don't always play nice on Windows networks. But Mac users are more frequently former Windows users that got fed up with the maintenance, slowness, and failures of Windows.
That's why I went to Ubuntu years ago. Now, using Windows is frustrating to me.
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