Windows 8 is heralded as the next operating system from Microsoft but with major changes to the user interface how will businesses take it.
First off, we need to look at the key difference in the operating system, as Microsoft look towards the future they see trends of people picking up tablet devices and mobile phones, not sitting at desktops and typing for hours. This has lead to the development of the new ‘Modern U.I.’ (Previously known as ‘Metro U.I.’), a radically different user interface than what our users know today. This ‘Modern U.I.’ replaces the Windows 7 Start menu with a full screen, bright and bold interface comprised of tiles rather than standard shortcut links. These tiles are able to show live information from sources such as weather and social media sites.
This unfortunately for businesses means that users have a large amount of scrolling to do to before they see that normal programs, Programs are arranged in an ad-hoc way rather than the standard alphabetical list users are used to. With customisation users can arrange the icons to display up to 24 tiles on the first screen, normally enough for most users. However in my experience, most users wont do this, Windows XP, Vista and 7 all had features available to “Pin to Start” since 2002 yet I still see a significant number of users relying on the ‘recently opened programs list’ and getting very confused when an application disappears.
As a side note, When looking at the New ‘Modern U.I.’ take a look back at Windows 3.1 Program manager (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_Manager) and let me know if you see anything familiar, Have we really moved forward?
Next we look at the ‘Modern U.I.’ Apps themselves, designed for a world of touch screen devices they seem to include larger bold interfaces, and few features the business workforce will find this slow and bulky from general workstations.
The one saving grace we have is the option to run these items in the normal Windows 7 style desktop environment, but it does mean just another couple of clicks every time we want to start a program. By default Windows 8 include no way to open internet explorer directly on the desktop, the user must first open the ‘modern U.I.’ App and then switch to the desktop mode using the spanner icon at the bottom of the screen.
As you may have noticed, the windows in the above preview do not have traditional close buttons and there is not task bar at the bottom of the screen to allow switching between apps, instead everything must be found by learning a series of gestures that are designed for a hand not a mouse and never seem to work first time you try them. To close a Modern UI app the user must grab an imaginary handle somewhere at the top of the windows and drag the app down to the bottom of the screen out the way. To switch between applications the user must move the mouse to the top left hand corner, until the task switching icon appears, once this has appeared the user needs to swipe the mouse down the side of the screen without moving too far from the edge. and if done correctly the user should see a task bar appear similar to below.
However you wont be able to switch directly into most programs, instead you must first load the desktop, then switch to the programs you want in the normal windows 7 methods by using the bottom task bar. These modification make the user experience feel like you are running two completely different operating systems, firstly the windows 7 that we are all familiar with, and secondly an operating system designed beautifully to work for touch screen tablets and phones but with no regard to the workforce who generally make up the largest proportion of an operating systems sales. While both interfaces work well for their purpose, Microsoft seems to have attempted to bolt the two together and have created something that totally fails to form a practical operating system for the corporate marketplace.