I was going to title this post “Windows 8 (review)” but have found the two weeks I have just spent with Windows 8 to be so frustrating with the hardware that I happen to own that I’m simply not capable of giving it a full review.
I will describe my experience, and I suppose that could be considered a review of sorts.
But it’s not a review of the full Windows 8 experience as much as it is a review of the process of attempting to actually use Windows 8 in any meaningful way with the otherwise good hardware that I happen to already own, like many Windows 8 adopters.
When Microsoft first revealed the Windows 8 Metro interface, I was astounded.
I was really impressed that they were attempting to move forward so quickly.
They need to.
And Windows 8 and the Metro interface which will surely persist beyond Windows 8 will succeed over time. And I’m sure it succeeds right now, on tablets and laptops and desktops with trackpads that it ships with that are Windows 8 certified.
Unfortunately, my attempt to use Windows 8 on existing hardware has been an exercise in futility.
The install was flawless.
Credit to Microsoft for having an elegant install process. Everything worked upon reboot. Well, almost everything. The one thing that didn’t work is the one thing that is probably the most important part of the entire Windows 8 experience.
That one thing is the trackpad.
My Air trackpad works. But multi-touch gestures do not.
I could not find any software fix for this online. Without multi-touch gestures, Windows 8 is rendered virtually useless. Technically, it’s usable. Technically. Without multi-touch it’s possible to navigate the Metro interface via moving the mouse arrow to a very tiny icon at the corner of the screen. It’s an exercise in futility.
It’s like trying to breakdance in quicksand.
This single failure prevents me from diving further into Windows 8. I tried, but could find no fix. I’m not going to go out and buy a Microsoft or Microsoft approved trackpad. It’s ridiculous to have to do that.
Yes, it’s Apple hardware. I know, Windows and Mac are like oil and water, right?
Wrong. Windows 7 runs fantastic on my Air in Boot Camp.
Windows 8 supported all the hardware in my Air out of the box perfectly, except for the trackpad.
Think about that.
Microsoft included drivers for my model Air. But not the trackpad. Seriously. The one thing that needs to work absolutely 100% in order to navigate the intriguing and truly innovative Metro user interface is missing.
For two weeks I booted into Windows 8 whenever possible.
I would go behind the Metro interface to the more familiar “desktop” interface. But there is no Start Menu. I know that the Metro UI is fantastic for so many reasons. But if I’m choosing to go down into the traditional “desktop” UI, why take away my Start Menu?
I don’t get it.
I was going to try Windows 8 on my Dell tower, but what’s the point? No trackpad at all. And I already know how bad navigating Metro with a mouse is.
This is a serious problem.
Windows users are used to getting the new version of Windows and installing it on existing hardware.
Yes, Vista was an abomination that for many users rendered their existing hardware virtually inoperable when running Vista. But that was because of CPU and RAM requirements.
Requiring multi-touch is a major step. Most Windows desktop users simply do not have a trackpad.
In five years time, when Windows 9 and Windows 10 are out, this won’t matter. More people will be using laptops and tablets than ever. And by then, I’m sure Microsoft will have a better UI option available for those with mice.
But right now, the predicament is a disappointing one.
For the record, yes, Apple is skating to where Microsoft just shot the puck.
Apple has been pushing multi-touch hard lately on the desktop, and I am certain that we are just around the corner from an iOS-like UI getting layered on top of OS X, in the same way that Metro is layered on top of Windows 8. It is inevitable. But I don’t think Apple will bungle this transition the way Microsoft has.
I can’t give Windows 8 a bad review.
I’ve tinkered with it on tablets and laptops with working trackpads. It’s a positive leap forward is so many ways. In fact, it’s possibly the most forward-looking product Microsoft product they’ve ever released.
But the conundrum that I find myself in is one that thousands, if not millions of people of will find themselves banging their heads against the wall trying to solve after installing Windows 8.
It won’t kill the Windows and it won’t kill Microsoft.
But it just plain sucks.