Fri, 26 Oct 2012 Windows 8 review
Microsoft's all-new update to Windows is finally released. But is this amalgamation of desktop and tablet effective?
Macworld Buying Advice
Windows 8 is almost here, and system makers are readying new models. Some will be touch enabled or otherwise optimized for Windows 8, while others will be similar to existing PCs. For some time, PC sales have been down, partly because everyone has been waiting to see what Windows 8 will be like on new systems. Although we’ve delved into the RTM version, and we like what we see, the success of Windows 8 will depend on how rapidly customers adopt the new user interface and the hardware to support it. Under the hood, Windows 8 offers performance improvements, a new file system, easier recovery from system problems, better cloud integration, and numerous minor enhancements. However, the Start screen seems to overshadow all the cool new stuff. Although admittedly the original Start menu created some controversy when it launched years ago, Windows 8’s Start screen seems much more polarizing. Toss in Microsoft’s overly aggressive stance in trying to sell apps and content, and some users will likely rebel. Of course, you can avoid much of that hard sell simply by using a local account rather than tying your Windows account to a Microsoft account. But in doing that, you’d miss a lot of what’s intriguing about Windows 8. In some ways, Windows 8 also highlights Microsoft’s tribal nature; for example, “Xbox Music” stands alone as its own thing, rather than as part of the Microsoft Store. Internal company differences shouldn’t confuse users, as some of these moves probably will. Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is ushering in a new era of cloud-connected Microsoft services, a unified user interface, and more-robust social media interaction. Younger users may find Windows 8 more attractive than some old-school computer users will. It’s a risk that Microsoft needed to take to try to remain relevant in today’s connected, mobile world. Only time will tell whether it’s the right risk at the right time. Windows 8 isn’t for everyone. If you’re mostly a desktop PC user comfortable with Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 8 is probably not worthwhile. If you’re a mobile user who needs easy access to the complete Microsoft ecosystem, including SkyDrive, Windows 8 is definitely a good fit. If your needs lie somewhere between those two extremes, give Windows 8 a close look; the cost is low, but you’ll need to learn your way around the new Start screen and make sure that your existing software runs well in the new OS.