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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM

More thoughts on Windows 8 touch desktop

People are thinking seriously about how they’ll incorporate Windows 8 into their homes.

That’s based on feedback to Monday’s column, reviewing a new Sony touchscreen computer loaded with Microsoft’s new flagship operating system. (Shown here in a picture by Greg Gilbert of The Seattle Times.)

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The discussion is just beginning, really, now that Microsoft began handing the software over to computer makers today to start building Windows 8 systems, which go on sale Oct. 26.

Soon Windows 8 will be running hundreds of millions of computers, greeting people at home and work with its new look and winking Metro-style icons.

Enthusiasts will get there first. Microsoft is giving the final version to developers and tech administrators starting on Aug. 15. Big companies with Microsoft software subscriptions will get the enterprise version on Aug. 16.

That means your geeky neighbors — especially in the Puget Sound region — will be loading their PCs with final version of Windows 8 and running it at home within a few weeks. If you can’t wait until October to see what it’s like, I’m sure they’d be happy to show off their updated systems.

In the meantime, here’s a sample of feedback I received from people who have been testing preview versions of the software.

Responding to my comments about how newcomers to Windows 8 may find the mix of touch and mouse controls a bit confusing, reader Tom noted that the software has some handy keyboard commands that can be used instead of touch gestures. They include “Windows Key + C” to bring up the “Charms” controls.

“I have been using Win 8 since February exclusively on my Sony Vaio Y netbook (no touch screen) using the keyboard and mouse and find that it works really well,” he wrote.

Tom, a dentist, has been showing Windows 8 to “anyone that wants to check it out and so far most all have been impressed.”

“Personally I will be getting some form of tablet (probably the Surface Pro in January) and am not really interested in getting a touch desktop simply because I’m used to sitting back a ways from the screen and the mouse and keyboard work really well for me with Windows 7 now and with Windows 8 in the future.”

Online commenter “StartingAllOver” said the change and learning curve are familiar:

“I remember when I switched to Window 95. For the first week I wanted to throw my computer out the window. Another couple weeks and it was much better than Win 3.1.

I expect the switch to 8 will be the same, although I don’t know if I will ever have a touch screen on a desktop computer.”

Reader Peter, who works in tech support, isn’t pleased that people will have to buy new hardware — a touch screen — to get the full Windows 8 experience. He’s also expecting the software to flop, particularly with older users who still aren’t used to current versions of Windows and Internet Explorer:

In my experience with tech support, the only [advance] that will make all happy will be a truly natural voice interface because the over-60 set hates Windows 7 and most all change, and the over 70s set can’t handle more than one tab in IE, much less a bunch of blocks to touch on the screen.

Reader Thomas disagreed with assertion that the nicest Windows 8 desktop options will be “all-in-one” systems, without a separate computer tower.

“It’s not going to happen,” he wrote. “People — even basic users — want customization in their PCs. You can’t get that with all-in-one. Plus the touch screen (while useful for small portable devices) eventually turns into a nightmare for desktop users. No one wants to pretend they’re at an airline kiosk checking in when they’re getting ready to perform daily computer tasks.”

Let’s touch base a year from now and see how things have progressed.

Comments | Topics: Gadgets & products, Microsoft, PCs


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