Why Windows 8 Brought Me Back from Mac
During my days as a help desk technician, I largely switched over to Apple computers at home. The most basic reason was that, after working with malfunctioning Windows-based machines all day, I wanted to come home to a different set of problems. Yes, that’s right – Macs aren’t perfect. However, I’m not going to lie when I say that part of the appeal was the visually striking MacOS. Rebuilt from the ground up both technologically and visually, it didn’t just work, it looked good doing it. Microsoft’s Windows 95 and XP absolutely worked, but they lacked the eye candy of OS X. Microsoft tried to catch up by making the OS glossier in Vista and fixed a lot under the hood in Windows 7. I rather liked Windows 7 and have been using it on and off for a bit.
Eventually, however, Microsoft decided to stop messing about and gave us Windows 8. Much as Apple’s OS 10.0 was a radical departure from MacOS 9 in both appearance and functionality, Microsoft has looked at how we actually interact with technology and used that to craft a shockingly new operating system.
Windows 8 owes some of it’s DNA to Windows Phone, where Microsoft pioneered the “Live Tile” interface. These dynamic elements update, letting you know that things are going on, be it news, email, messages, app updates or other goodies. They’re more than static shortcuts – they cry out to be interacted with. Yes, MacOS does this with Mail and iChat, but it feels more intuitive with Live Tiles. It feels a bit like your entire screen is a notification center.
What Microsoft has done is made a desktop OS for the smartphone generation. People have complained online about the Charm Bar (where you can access Universal search, Sharing, Devices and Settings) being hidden. Except I’m not seeing confusion about that. Know what the first thing my 11 year old did when she got her hands on Windows 8? She swiped in from every corner. When she saw that swiping resulted in the Charm Bar, she just smiled and went back to work. Today’s users expect UI elements to be elegantly hidden away. Windows 8 does just that.
Windows 8 brings a renewed focus to the element of touch. It absolutely baffles me that Apple has not come out with a touch screen device. Yes, they have other touch solutions, but it’s not the same as just reaching out and touching the screen. Microsoft has managed to grasp that simple concept, not settling for just building touch and gestures at the most basic levels of the operating system, but has, also, partnered with vendors to create impressive touch-based devices. Which brings us to another way Windows 8 evokes Mac OS 10.0 – tight integration.
Modern users likely forget what a game-changer the early iMacs were for Apple. Apple threw accepted wisdom to the wind and created a device based on emerging technologies and ignoring old ones that should have died long before. With Windows 8, Microsoft is strongly partnering with vendors to create exceptional devices that are more than just a typical all-in-one, laptop or Ultrabooks and many of these give Apple’s designs – then and now – a run for their money in my eyes.
In my search for a good Windows 8 testing machine I had been considering the Dell Inspiron Duo a slightly older, but cool tablet/netbook solution. The Duo’s screen spun in a special hinge, transforming into a tablet. Dell seems to like the design as much as I did, because they have created the Dell XPS 12, marrying that hinge design with the power of an Ultrabook. Dell’s XPS line has long put the lie to the idea that Dell just makes boring business machines. With the specs on the 12, I’m strongly considering obtaining one for more than just testing.
In much the same way as Apple swayed me in 2000 with slick hardware and a tight OS, Microsoft and partners like Dell are calling me back.
This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell.
A boy’s gotta eat.