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Windows 8 review: Still a two-headed beast

Preston Gralla | Aug. 16, 2012
The two faces of Windows 8 -- the Desktop and the interface formerly known as Metro -- still coexist uneasily in the final RTM version of the OS. But some of Windows 8's native apps are great.

Although the Release Preview made some steps in that direction, eliminating the "glass" look and introducing windows with squared-off edges, a blog post from Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows 8 User Experience team, made it sound as if more changes were coming: "While a few of these visual changes are hinted at in the upcoming Release Preview, most of them will not yet be publicly available. You'll see them all in the final release of Windows 8!"

However, I have been able to detect no changes in the RTM's Desktop UI. Since the RTM code is what will ship with new Windows 8 computers this fall, the changes we already saw in the Release Preview are apparently as far as Microsoft intends to go.

The bottom line

Windows 8 RTM remains a dual operating system, one designed for tablets and one designed for the Desktop, with few links between the two. Used on a tablet, it represents an excellent alternative to iOS and Android, with an information-centric approach to user experience, rather than an app-centric one.

Used on a PC, though, it's a mixed bag. Traditional computer users will find some Windows 8 apps useful. But they'll likely be frustrated by having to spend more time on the Windows 8 Start screen than they want, and will in particular be unhappy about how the Desktop has been made less useful with the elimination of the Start button.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is making a bet that it can please both tablet users and traditional computer users with a single OS. That bet didn't pay off for me. On a tablet I find it an excellent operating system. On a traditional computer, it doesn't work nearly so well.

Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).



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