Windows 8 six months in: Thoughts from a power(less) user

It’s been half a year now since Windows 8 officially hit. For those first three months, I coveted it from afar. I was in Ecuador checking out plans to build a Latin American Silicon Valley, and I felt squeamish about upgrading without access to all the backups, support, and even the reliable postal service we take for granted in North America, should something go wrong.

That turned out to be a smart decision.

Upon my return, I kept one of my New Year’s resolutions and dove headfirst into what I hoped would be a quantum leap forward in productivity and general operating system awesomeness. I upgraded my Windows 7 Dell laptop and shortly thereafter ordered a Surface Pro.

It turned out to be quite handy having the Surface Pro after the Windows 8 update crippled some key functions of my Dell laptop. Interestingly, numerous Google products barely function on my Dell machine running Windows 8. To be fair, some Dell drivers, and Google’s insistence on building Flash into Chrome and other products like Google+ Hangouts, seem to be at the root of the problem, but the problems still speak to the strained relationships between Microsoft and its OEMs and competitors and the stunning overall lack of support for Windows 8, especially when compared with past Windows launches. More on that further down.

That was my somewhat painful introduction to Windows 8. Three months later, and even after getting started with my Surface Pro, I’m still too stubborn to roll back my Dell machine to Windows 7, even though some problems still persist. I’ll explain why in my six reflections on the first six months since Windows 8 officially dropped.

See, the thing is that:

1. I love the concept of Windows 8. Many months ago I wrote about how I’d love to be able to make my Nexus 7 my primary device. I know plenty of you feel the same way about your iPads as well. Of course, Android tablets and the iPad don’t quite have the same level of flexibility and productivity power that Windows addicts like me have become accustomed to.

Windows 8 touch systems, in particular the Surface Pro seem, on the er… surface, to bridge the gap between our increasingly mobile, touch-screen-centered existence and the persistent need to maintain the levels of productivity we’ve come to expect from legacy Windows (or OSX or Linux) systems.

Android and iOS have come to be really good at what they do well, even exceeding the capability of Windows for certain things like sharing and app interoperability. So for the first hour of using my Surface Pro I was psyched. It seemed that everything I loved about Android (the place where I live for most things to do with my social, day-to-day, on-the-go life) and Windows (where I get work done) had been baked into this slick little slate. Unfortunately, I quickly came to another realization:

2. Windows is a continent, not an ecosystem. I mean, of course there is such a thing as a Windows ecosystem, but over the decades it has grown to such an extent that it barely resembles the picturesque walled garden of a place like iOS where all things interact in a sort of harmony. It’s more like a huge continent that various platforms are trying to colonize.

Every time I boot up my Surface Pro, it’s like watching this ongoing battle of colonial powers all fighting for my attention. Will I choose to support an expedition that begins via the lush lands of the new Windows 8 Start screen? Or will I play it safe and devote my time to the established and more secure stronghold of the legacy desktop? Perhaps I’ll go totally gonzo and explore via the app-rich lands of Bluestacks? Maybe stay close to the ship and do as much as I can on the Web via Chrome? Ah, but which mode of Chrome do I need — desktop mode or Win8? Internet Explorer seems to take well to this strange new environment for once.

The result is a kind of crippling chaos that most often forces me to retreat into the familiar security of a browser window or the legacy desktop for most tasks. But speaking of explorers…

3. Where are the devs? So the common wisdom is that iOS is where the money is for app developers; I get that. But principles of supply and demand should still be in effect in this universe. Fact is that while demand for Windows 8 has been soft, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon, given the enormous market share that legacy Windows versions enjoy.

The undersupply of Windows 8 apps is simply staggering. Sure, designing Windows Phone apps didn’t become the cash cow Microsoft might have hoped, but Redmond is clearly all in on competing with the Google Play and iTunes stores.

Maybe I should stop beating around the bush and just come right out and beg developers to start coding for Windows 8, and Microsoft to give them the tools and incentives to make it worth their while. Please help us, folks. It’s a virtual desert in the Microsoft store.

Speaking of the seeming lack of brain power on the Windows 8 development side of things:

4. Where did everything go? Yes, I couldn’t forget all the complaints we’ve already heard about Windows 8. They can mostly be boiled down to “Why did you guys feel a need to hide practically everything?” Apparently we can’t have a Start button and a Start screen. And for some reason it takes 18 clicks and reciting a brief dance routine to restart your system.

But the real problem here seems to be Microsoft’s attempt to do the impossible: stuff a brand new user experience on top of an old one, add a new form of user interaction (touch), and then integrate them and make them as intuitive and easy to use as possible. If it’s too complicated for me to figure out, my neighbor buying his first system to use with his small business is totally screwed. But that said:

5. The integration of touch in Windows 8 is actually a win, it’s just not done.

During rare occasions when I can get things done via the Start screen and apps designed especially for Windows 8 like Skype and Evernote, it can be a delightful experience. It’s a hint of that potential I mentioned earlier in the successful merging of a mobile OS with legacy Windows.

Redmond landed on the shores of my brain decades ago and planted its flag with an MS-DOS command prompt.

Unfortunately, those moments have been few and far between the past few months. Even worse, most touch-based Windows 8 apps seem to be crippled in strange and inexplicable ways, or maybe some functions are just hidden too deep within the “Charms” bar for mere mortals to locate. Either way, there is work that remains to be done, and I’m hopeful that many of these fixes will be granted from upon high in the Pacific Northwest in a future update, which is why:

6. I’m not giving up. Maybe it’s not quite right that the continent of my attention is what Microsoft and others are trying to colonize with new ecosystems. Maybe it’s far beyond that. Maybe I’m just another of the conquered and Windows is my conqueror. Redmond landed on the shores of my brain decades ago and planted its flag with an MS-DOS command prompt. Then they wowed me with Windows 3.x and the majesty of Windows 95.

Since then I’ve been courted by other colonial powers, but I was conditioned at a young age to the ways of Windows and — no matter how it came to be this way — it still feels like home. Now my home has just received a fresh coat of paint. And even if the painters did a shoddy job and painted over all the switches and outlets and left a mess on the hardwood floor, I’m willing to wait for them to come clean things up and get my home looking better than ever.

With touch-screen device, adjusting to Windows 8 proves quick

Q: I run Windows XP SP3 on an elderly Compaq laptop, and I want to buy a new computer that runs faster and better. My read is that Windows 7 is a pretty good operating system and worth investing in.

However, my understanding is that Windows 8 is only a fancy shell and that beneath it runs plain old Windows 7. My understanding also is that 8 is not without its own problems. My instinct at this time is to buy a new laptop with Windows 7 already installed on it. I would value your opinion on this matter, i.e. Windows 7 vs. 8.

— James Leitzell

A: I first installed Windows 8 on a computer several months ago and my first reaction was decidedly negative. It has seemed very stable, but not as easy to use as Windows 7. But then I had to wonder how much of that was because I was used to the Windows 7 interface, and Windows 8 is a major departure.

The main difference with Windows 8 is that the operating system has been redesigned for touch-screen use. Yes, you can still get to the old-fashioned — and very efficient for mouse users — desktop, but you have to take a couple of steps to do so. I’m not sure why Microsoft decided users needed the same exact interface on all devices, but maybe they are way ahead of me.

That said, so far I’ve found Windows 8 to be quite stable, and I’ve quickly adjusted to the interface differences.

Here’s my recommendation. If you’re getting a device with a touch screen, go for Windows 8. If you’re getting a device without a touch screen and you have a choice of Windows 7 or 8, I would go with Windows 7 for now because it’s been more thoroughly tested and it is more familiar.

If the device you want is available only with Windows 8, don’t worry about it. You will quickly adjust to the new interface.

Q: I have a new Windows 8 laptop. I have Comcast Internet service through an SMC router with wireless support. When I connect to the Internet through the wireless connection via Internet Explorer 10, the Internet leg drops periodically (every 10 to 20 minutes). It then resets itself after about 30 seconds.

However, it does not just happen with IE, as I experience it with other browsers. This does not happen when I connect directly through an Ethernet cable. I have noticed the same situation on a Windows 8 tablet as well as a Windows 7 laptop.

I swapped out the SMC router to no avail. Is this possibly tied to my starting to use Windows 8? This is annoying at the least and disruptive during any kind of download. — Richard Wilkinson

A: The most likely problem is your wireless router. You don’t say exactly what model you’re using, but I have found through hard experience that spending more on the router definitely pays off.

Wireless connections are subjected to a lot more interference and issues of signal strength than are Ethernet connections, so you need to make sure you’ve got quality components.

I was having similar problems with a router and finally decided to try upgrading. I spent $200 for a new, high-end wireless router, and all my connection issues disappeared.

By the way, I’ve not heard of any wireless-connectivity issues being tagged to Windows 8.

Q: I have been using Internet Explorer 8 for a number of years. For the past year or so, it has gotten progressively worse. It is slow to load and slow to close. It has gotten so frustrating that my wife will drive to the local library rather than use this computer.

I fully realize that it is long past time to upgrade to Internet Explorer 9, which I am fully ready to do, but I have two questions regarding the upgrade/changeover.

First, I want every vestige of IE8 gone from this computer. Will an upgrade to IE9 eliminate all traces of IE8 or does it just add to or change appropriate sections? Second, if I delete IE8 first, how do I even get on to the Internet to download IE9?

— Bruce Miller, Issaquah

A: If you install Internet Explorer 9, it will automatically replace Internet Explorer 8.

That said, if your Internet performance is getting worse, I suspect there are other problems. I’m assuming you have anti-virus software running.

But are you also running an anti-malware program? If not, I recommend that you download one and run a scan. I use Malwarebytes AntiMalware.

Windows 8 Market Share Grows up to 2.26% as Windows 7 Slips for the First Time!

Its been over 3 months since the official Launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT platform and thou we don’t have any official word on No. Of devices sold,what we do know it is doing exceedingly well with the licenses selling.

Last time we checked Windows 8 had already over 60 million licenses sold in a little over 2 months of time.Now as per the NetApplications MarketShare numbers,Windows 8 has now 2.26% marketshare just behind the latest version of Mac OSX operating system (10.8) which is at 2.44% of worldwide marketshare.

Last month we saw the drop in Windows XP operating system while Windows 7 was still the number 1 operating system with continuous growth ever since its launch.But for last months trends the Windows 7 dropped to 44.48% from 45.11% but still leads the marketshare.The second spot still held by Windows XP with 39.51%(39.08% last month),while the Windows Vista continues to see a drop which is down to 5.24% marketshare which was around 5.67% last month.

Overall Windows Operating System still leads the Worldwide PC marketshare with over 91% of PCs still running Windows operating systems.
Ever since its launch Windows 7 has been gaining the marketshare,but this was for the first time that we saw a drop in the marketshare,so it might be an indication that Wndows 7 has reached its peak value and that we will soon see Windows 8 on the number one spot with array of devices slated for launch,but its still early days.

Gartner: Windows 8 failed to kick-start PC market

Research firm Gartner says that an estimated drop of 4.9 percent in worldwide PC sales over the fourth quarter has signalled a shift in the market.

In Q4, PC shipments worldwide fell by an estimated 4.9 percent, according to the research firm. A total of 90.3 million units were sold, but a shift in both consumer habits and the fragile state of the economy played a part in making sure PC manufacturers had little to celebrate as their products were shunned in favor of tablets.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner said:

“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by ‘cannibalizing’ PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs. This transformation was triggered by the availability of compelling low-cost tablets in 2012, and will continue until the installed base of PCs declines to accommodate tablets as the primary consumption device.”

Rather than asking for a new PC for Christmas, Gartner says that the plethora of cheap tablets made sure that they replaced PCs as the ‘must have’ gadget during the holiday season. Although there were a number of cheap notebooks on offer, this did little to excite the Christmas cheer for PC vendors.

However, it may not all be doom and gloom for PC makers. “On the positive side for vendors, the disenfranchised PCs are those with lighter configurations, which mean that we should see an increase in PC average selling prices (ASPs) as users replace machines used for richer applications, rather than for consumption,” Kitagawa said.

Many of us waited to see if Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, would have any major impact on PC sales. Gartner says that Windows 8 failed to revitalize the PC market in Q4, mainly due to “lackluster form factors” in PC vendor offerings and a “lack of excitement” which is found in the touch element of tablets.

The research firm also says that HP managed to climb back up to secure the top spot in worldwide PC shipments against rival Chinese firm Lenovo. However, Hewlett-Packard’s shipment rate did not change compared to a year ago, whereas Lenovo did experience the best growth rate among the top five PC vendors. Dell came in third place — although its sales fell by 21 percent year-on-year — whereas Acer came in fourth with a drop of 11 percent in PC shipments.

gartner pc sales estimates q4 2012

Over 2012, PC shipments reached 352.7 million units, which Gartner says is a 3.5 percent decline based on figures from 2011. HP still retains the top spot overall with a 16 percent marketshare and Lenovo is second with 14.8 percent. However, Asus has shown the highest rate of growth with shipments increasing 17.1 percent.

gartner pc sales estimates q4 2012

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX surfaces on Windows 8

Originally due in November, the Windows 8 and Windows RT version of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX are available now. Being compatible with both Windows 8 and Windows RT, you don’t have to try to remember exactly which Surface tablet you bought; it’ll work on any of them.

Pricing on the Windows 8 version is consistent with the XBLA and PSN versions, at $9.99/8.49€. We assume the ghost count is also consistent, at so many ghosts.

VPN access under Windows 8 just got easier

Windows 8 developers that need to support VPN access will find NCP’s new version of its VPN client has some useful bells and whistles.

German firm NCP Engineering has upgraded its VPN client to support Windows 8, and has added a host of features to make it easier for users to connect and stay connected across different networks.

The new version of NCP’s Secure Entry Client (Version 9.31) is available as a universal client for Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP and can connect to a wide range of VPN gateways, such as those from Juniper, Check Point, Cisco, NetGear and SonicWALL.

Version 9.31 includes a new Access Point Name (APN) management feature that eliminates the need for end users to configure the mobile access point from which they access the Internet.

Previously users who switched between mobile networks had to tweak these APN settings manually. Now NCP’s IPSec VPN software automatically prompts the driver to search for and configure the APN via the NetID of the SIM card.

The software also boasts “an intuitive graphical user interface that is simple enough for any end user to understand and control, and to allow for safe and secure connections to corporate networks with a single click – and without needing to worry about firewall settings, device compatibility, connection negotiation or policy requirements.”

NCP’s Secure Entry Client also includes a seamless roaming feature enabling it to automatically change between networks, eg LAN, WiFi and 3/4G, during a session and to dynamically redirect the VPN tunnel, without the user even noticing.

Its “Friendly Net Detection” feature automatically determines whether or not a network is secure and activates the appropriate firewall rules accordingly.

It also, according to NCP is very easy to use from both the user’s and the administrator’s perspective. A graphical, intuitive user interface provides information on all connection and security states and detailed log information makes for effective assistance from the help desk.

NCP says this high level of usability means less time spent on training, less documentation and fewer support calls. And an integrated budget manager guarantees cost transparency because a volume or time budget or the use of a specific provider can be set and monitored.

Android for desktops Vs Windows 8: Google to bring Android to PCs

Google is taking its android to PCs. Android for desktops Vs Windows 8 comparison may look out of place right now, but this is certain to happen thanks to increasing touch enabled PCs and laptops being launched every other day, saysAbdul Vahid V

Google Android is heading to desktops; no joke. It is going to happen in near future. At CES 2013, we have seen a couple of large smart monitors from ViewSonic with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Beyond that, Google is reportedly working to take Android to complete desktops PCs, notebooks and laptops. As per a Patently Apple report, Google has applied for a patent for taking its Linux-based free mobile OS to PCs.

“A recent patent filing by Google surprisingly indicates that they’re seriously eying the desktop and notebook markets for Android,” Patently Apple writes. The site further notes that it has received enough clues for Google’s work on Android for x86 projects. The company is also under process of considering a list of other Intel-Android linked projects. Arrival of Android on desktop will be a big challenge for Microsoft and its newest OS version the Windows 8.

Currently, Android dominates over Microsoft’s mobile and tablet software counterparts; the Windows Phone 8 for phones and Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro for tablets. But, in future, Android for desktop may lift critical threat to Windows 8. Indeed, recent reports and developments point light to this factor. Apart from ViewSonic’s two smart monitors with Android, many more products are expected for sooner release with Android OS.

ViewSonic Android Smart Monitors: The American tech maker stunned CES spectators with two amazing monitors. They are 22-inch ViewSonic VSD220 and 24-inch ViewSonic VSD240. They are up with incredible specs. The monitors run Android 4.0 ICS, the version which is being replaced with Android 4.1 or 4.2 Jelly Bean on mobile phones and tablets. The machines mount 1920×1080 pixel screens with dual touch and pinch-to-zoom capability like a mobile or tablet PC.

The ViewSonic monitors sport a couple of Full USB ports, one microUSB port, two 1.5-watt speakers and a 1.3MP front camera with 720p video recording facility. Amazingly, the PC compatible smart monitors also have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity, 3.5mm headset jack and DC-in jack for power supply. That is, they are themselves two standalone high-tech PCs with Android, and as well they can be connected with PCs.

Asus All-In-One PCs with Windows 8 and Android: Asus first talked about its AIO with Windows 8 and Android at the Computex Taipei. Now it is again in the news with CES 2013. It is a massive 18.5-inch PC with separated processing units for Windows 8 and Google Android. It will mount an Intel Core i3 to i7 processor for Windows 8 and a quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor for Android. So it will be both a high-end Windows PC and a larger Android tablet, at the same time.

Android for PC Vs Windows 8
Android is a highly popular mobile OS platform. It has now taken over all its competitors including Apple’s iOS in mobile industry. The most peculiar thing with Android is that it is open-source software. Many people prefer Android on their handhelds as they wish to be a part of an open source project. Another great thing is that it is stunningly easier to handle Android interface. One more vital thing is that it allows third party app and product developers generously and free.

In all the above three significant areas, Microsoft Windows has some set of disturbing restrictions. See, first of all, it is not open source, but a closed platform. Secondly, it is not that easy to use Windows’ interface as you can do with Android. And finally Windows has too many restrictions in its approach to third party developers. The company still charges OEMs for the software and programs. All these things will bring bad results for Windows if Android comes to desktop market seriously.

Can we think of a time where Android will gain domination in PC market as well? Sure, we can’t tell, no. Because, it looks that there is a good chance for a platform like Android in PC market. The long-dominating Windows and Apple OS X may lose some important space once Android is active in the mobile industry.