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Windows 8 early review

November 4, 2012 1 comment

It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything on this blog. Reason? Well, quite simply because of lack of time. But since I now have used and tried out Windows 8 in difference scenarios I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my thoughts and experiences.

This review is based on the use of a Dell Inspiron Duo hybrid laptop/tablet, a XBox 360 with the latest updates, Windows 8 Enterprise edition and a network consisting of 802.11n WIFI, Gbit cabled backbone and a 20/10 Mbit internet connection.

DISCLAIMER
This review is based on my own experience so far and might contain comments, statements or recommendations which may be inaccurate. This is my personal review and does not represent the views of my employer or any other entity. Any decision made based on the content of this post is completely on the readers own risk.

Windows 8 in general

At first the Windows 8 user interface, often referred to as Metro, scared me a bit. Where’s the blooming start menu? Oh, it’s the entire screen filled with tiles! Anyway, it took me a while to get used to it, but when I think of it now it’s actually quite amazing. It’s easy to navigate regardless of type of pointing device (finger, mouse or keyboard). The key is to know the shortcuts and the how to complete different tasks. Swiping the fingers from different sides and corners on the touch display and the different keyboard shortcuts make all the difference. Learn them and you will find the new user interface to be quite nice.

My one big issue with the new UI is that it’s too user friendly. If you need to get under the hood of your computer or installed apps you will most likely run into some difficulties. But do you really need to get under the hood? In most cases you probably don’t, but if you do you will put your hacker skills to a test. I expect it won’t take long before there’s a lot of tools available for tweaking, tuning and customizing Windows 8 and different apps.

APP SUPPORT
The app support for Windows 8 is still underdeveloped and is expected to be the key success factor for Windows 8 compared to Apple and Google. One thing which has annoyed me for several years is the limitations in cross language app support. Since I’m living in Norway I’m automatically excluded from US apps. Why? I’m interested in lots of international services and content but for some strange reason I’m not supposed to use them.

I know there’s about 9000 apps in Microsofts store but I can only choose from about 50 apps in the app store on my device. To get a hold of US and international apps I have to hack my computer so that the online services don’t believe I’m in Norway.

YOU SHOULD BE ONLINE
Many features within Windows 8 requires the user to be online with Microsoft and other service providers. You have the ability to store information locally, but the best use is when you are online. Since most people have the ability to stay online more or less all the time, this shouldn’t be a big issue unless you travel abroad. It’s still very expensive to roam on mobile networks and it something you probably won’t do.

My recommendation is to think online when you consider Windows 8 devices.

MEDIA SUPPORT
The Windows 8 media control is very nice but some key features are still missing. Even if it’s possible to add UPnP media  services as a device in Windows, it’s not possible to add media content from these devices into media libraries in Windows. You will have to have an indexed local copy the media files to be able to add it into the media libraries. If this is how it’s supposed to be, what’s the point of having a SAN with media server capabilities? I thought central storage with streaming capabilities was a good idea, but maybe not? This said, it is possible to playback from UPnP devices but you will have to browse files each time you use it and it’s not possible to add UPnP content into playlists.

Windows 8 for enterprise business use

Windows 8 is very integrated with online public cloud services. For most companies this is a security risk and there are several issues with integrating personal and professional information. The use of Windows 8 in a corporate environment will probably introduce new and complex security risks which might give the CISO and IT quite a headache. Unless the enterprise has established own private or hybrid cloud services, the use of Windows 8 will not provide increased business value, and I expect it to take quite some time before the enterprise is completely cloud based.

The good thing is the ability to provide sandboxed solutions. This will reduce the users ability to move information from the personal space to the professional space and vice versa. However, this will reduce the users experience and the ability to work with information transparently. But it might be worth it until cloud services are secure enough and the enterprise is mode cloud based than today.

XBox360 and Windows 8

One of the things I was looking forward to was the Windows XBox integration. The ability to control the media experience transparently between the XBox and the Windows 8 tablet is something I’ve longed for. Unfortunately this was a bit too mature. The thoughts and ideas behind seems to be very good but the implementation has some issues.

First of all is the pricing. In most cases you need to have an XBox Live Gold subscription to be able to use any features. In addition you are required to subscribe to different services such as audio and video streaming services. So far you are more or less bound to Microsofts own online services or at least Microsoft partner services. All in all it’s very expensive compared to other online streaming services and you’re not able to choose which services to use. Is Microsoft adopting the Apple business model I hate so much? I hope not.

The other major issue I have is the stability and media support embedded into the OS and the XBox. Streaming over the air (similar to Apples AirPlay) lags and in some cases, typically when playing HD quality video, it’s not possible to view. Several media formats is not supported and even the industry standard h.264 MP4 video format is not supported by the XBox. But it is support by Windows 8.

Besides this it’s close to a dream come true. To use the tablet as the XBox remote and view Windows media content on the XBox is very nice, and I expect the integration support will increase over time.

The hybrid laptop/tablet

As I said in the intro I use a Dell Inspiron duo for this review, and there’s not much to say really. The device is too heavy, has too short battery life, is missing two-face camera etc. the flexibility of having both a multi-touch screen and a keyboard is very nice, but I expect the future devices such as Microsofts Surface Pro will kill devices like this one. At least I am looking forward to the new series of Windows based devices.

Summary

To summarize I think Windows 8 and the “new age” of computers is very exciting but there’s still a long way to go. It’s especially important that the areas of consumerization vs the enterprise and cloud services is resolved.

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