We all know that Microsoft’s upcoming OS “Windows 8” is under development. Microsoft has released a Developer Preview build of Windows 8 to public in past and very soon Microsoft is going to release a Beta (Consumer Preview) build of Windows 8 to public on Feb 29, 2012. Everyone will be able to download and use it absolutely free.
Windows 8 comes with several new features and enhancements like new Start Screen which has completely replaced traditional Start Menu, Ribbon UI in Windows Explorer, redesigned and enhanced file copy/move dialog box, enhanced Task Manager, Refresh/Reset PC functionality and much more. You can learn more about all new Windows 8 features in our exclusive Windows 8 section.
Although there are many improvements and new additions in this new Windows OS but the question comes, will Windows 8 be a good OS for Desktop and laptops? This question came in my mind because it seems Microsoft is mainly targeting touch-devices like Tablets for Windows 8 development. Why? Please read below:
Windows 8 Start Screen
Lets talk about Start Screen first. Start Screen shows big live thumbnails (called Tiles) of installed programs in Windows 8. Its extremely cool to have such kind of screen in touch devices as the user needs to use his finger to select an item and it would be really hard to select an item from traditional start menu. Big thumbnails help user in opening a program easily and quickly.
But what about Desktop and laptop users? Why would a Desktop user want new Start Screen to forcefully occupy the whole screen area to show big thumbnails of programs? Start Menu takes a very small amount of screen space and the user also have access to Desktop but in Start Screen, if you want to look at Desktop, you’ll need to click on Desktop tile or use keyboard shortcuts.
Also using mouse to scroll between several program tiles on Start Screen takes much time compared to the good old start menu where it shows a list of all installed programs using small icons and text which doesn’t take much space.
So for a Desktop user, Start Menu is far better than new Start Screen.
PS: There is a registry hack to enable Start Menu in Windows which can be found here. But again its a hidden trick and I’m not sure whether it’ll work in final RTM build of Windows 8 or not? Microsoft can disable this trick in RTM build.
Removal of Start Button
Now the news are coming from latest Windows 8 testing build that Microsoft has removed “Start button” from Taskbar.
First removal of Classic start menu from Windows 7, then removal of the whole start menu from Windows 8 and now they removed Start button from Taskbar? Where are they going?
The Start button in Windows 8 Developer Preview build used to launch new Start Screen and now after the removal of Start button, you need to move your mouse cursor to the bottom-left corner of screen which shows a small thumbnail of Start Screen. You need to click on that thumbnail to launch Start Screen.
The reason behind this move is the presence of actual “Start Button” key on all touch devices. Actually Microsoft has provided some guidelines to all computer manufacturer companies to develop devices compatible with Windows 8. The first and most important guideline is the presence of Start button key. All touch devices must have a Start button on the device panel which should launch the Start Screen.
Now Microsoft is again thinking about touch devices and forgetting about Desktop users. Desktop users don’t need Start Screen. They just need to click on Start Button and launch the desired program.
Instead of completely removing the Start button, Microsoft could have made it a bit shorter or could have used a rectangular shape similar to Aero Peek (Show Desktop) rectangle present in the end of Taskbar. Microsoft can make it completely transparent or put Windows flag icon or a big S on it. So that at least users can know that they need to click on it to access Start Screen.
And about Metro Apps, why would a Desktop user need a chromeless Internet Explorer metro version when he already have an excellent IE9 version? Metro IE is great for touch devices like tablets where the screen is small and you need to use your fingers to browse the sites but for a Desktop user its not so great. IE9 already comes with minimal UI. It hardly takes screen space and provides much space to browse websites.
Again Metro Apps are great for touch devices but not for Desktops.
What Would Be The Best Solution?
Its true that tablets are becoming popular day by day but Desktop users are still there and will always be there so we should not forget about them.
Why to create a single OS which is perfect for tablets but not very good for Desktops?
What Microsoft should do is to develop 2 separate editions of Windows 8, one for tablets and the other for Desktops. Desktop edition should come with traditional Start button and Start Menu and the Tablet edition should come with new Start Screen.
Or Microsoft can program Windows 8 setup in such a way that it should automatically detect the computer system at the installation time whether its a touch device or Desktop and then it should install the right edition.
Also instead of completely removing a component, Microsoft should provide an option to switch between features. If they wish, they can disable Start menu but they should also provide an option in Taskbar Properties to enable traditional start menu. Same thing can be done for Start button. Providing options to user is better instead of forcing him to use something which he doesn’t want to use.
I’m sure if tablets were not so popular and Microsoft didn’t think about them, Windows 8 would have been something different than what we are seeing today.
Just my two cents. What do you think???
PS: I don’t hate Windows 8. There are many things which I love about Windows 8 for example, enhanced Windows Explorer, Task Manager, File History, Reset/Refresh PC, new boot loader, etc. But implementing changes to make the OS compatible with tablets and ruining Desktop user experience is not a thing which I’ll admire…