A big week for Apple and Microsoft

Testers and reviewers have been whining and ranting about the new Windows 8 OS, it’s user interface (UI) in particular, describing it as “schizophrenic”, “mashed” and “frustrating”. They’ve also been quick to point out some other minor change ups they consider “stupid” or “ill conceived” such as the search function, new shortcut key mappings and lack of an actual “Start” button. Let’s be frank! Microsoft has been known to release the odd flop (remember Windows ME and Vista?) but even those “failures” broke new ground and set the stage for XP and Windows 7, both extremely stable and productive operating systems. I adopted Windows 7 a few months after it first launched and I have had nothing but praise for it.

I’m not a Microsoft fanboy (if such a thing exists). I hate Internet Explorer, like Bing, hate Hotmail, love Office and think the XBox is ridiculously prone to failure. I rely heavily on Google, have been dating Linux off and on for 10 years (still can’t bring myself to commit) and support open source software wholeheartedly. So, when you read the rest of this post, keep in mind that I’m not in Microsoft’s pocket, so to speak. If anything, I’m intrigued by Windows 8 and all the hardware that will be coming out in support of it over the coming months and years. I happen to believe that Microsoft, sensing that it’s 3% share in the mobile market and dwindling PC sales, needed to adapt to these new markets in an intelligent way and do so with a mind on easing the transition. It’s easy to see that they have a bead on gaining market share across the entire mobile and PC spectrum and have a long term phase-in plan that will likely find them first to offer a quasi-familiar and fully functional cross platform OS…something Apple is, as of yet, unwilling to attempt and Google, regardless how much I and many others appreciate Android, is unlikely to achieve because I simply don’t think consumers and business are ready to adopt Android, or Google OS, on their production computers. ┬áThen again, I could be wrong.

But when I imagine a future where my smartphone, tablet and PC are seamlessly integrated, running software that I actually use and have near limitless connectivity options, I’m banking on Microsoft. Is Windows 8 there? Hardly. But give it a year or 2 for smartphone hardware to catch up and PC hardware users to adopt new input modes (touch and gesture based input devices) and I think Microsoft will be poised to bridge the gap. Like many of you, I’ve been watching the videos on Youtube and reading the reviews since Windows 8 Betas were made available in the Spring. I think the Surface is the first of many great Windows 8 tablets to come and that they will shake iPad dominance in that market. I also think the Lumia 920 is just the first of many native Windows 8 smartphones that will give Microsoft some traction against Google on that front.

So what about this “schizophrenic” PC user experience? To be fair, I agree with some of the things reviewers have been pointing out but I also believe that people are generally adverse to change. This is no exception. I remember the transition from DOS to Windows 3.1 took some effort on my part to adapt. From there on out, each new Windows iteration, although similar in many respects, have invariably brought about a slight learning curve and adjustment period. And while we all have had our issues with each of those OS upgrades, as none of them are perfect, it’s fair to say that, judging from endless support forums, users in Apple and Android camps are experiencing the same thing. New PC purchases will, sooner or later, only be available with Windows 8 on them. Manufacturers will start cranking out new accessories and peripherals that are Windows 8 compatible while older ones will be sent to recycling because they simply won’t work and the whole massive cycle will move forward with or without us. Microsoft will tackle bugs and release an endless stream of updates and Service Packs and users will, no doubt, become accustomed to the new OS…perhaps grow to despise it (Vista) or love it.

I, for one, will be taking a leap of faith and upgrading my machine on Friday. I’m also waiting for the Lumia 920 to hit shelves to purchase my very first smartphone. For those of you who are reluctant to dive in, I will keep updating this blog with my impressions, experiences and advice.