Windows 8 – A Desktop OS Or A Mobile Device OS?

It’s 2012 and the world of computers has begun to get a bit more confusing as the traditional PC continues to become more and more pushed into the background, in favor of Internet-capable devices and mobile computing systems.

Some go so far as to say that the desktop PC is essentially dead, and that the laptop isn’t far behind. While going that far seems like a bit of a stretch to me, it seems that the beginning of the end is in sight, though I think it could take decades for this ‘new vision’ to truly be realized- at least in my opinion.

A big part of this change is Windows 8, and the fact that it is changing things up puts it in the unique position of being hailed as the messiah or as the devil incarnate, depending which group of techies you ask. So what truly makes Windows 8 a change?

Obviously the Metro UI, but the bigger picture is how Windows 8 (and RT) is billing itself. There was a time when mobile devices and mobile computers were designed to look/feel/work more like PCs. The marketing teams worked to let you know “it’s like having a PC in your pocket” and other such mantras.

Windows 8 flip-flops this principle and the marketing is more like, “It’s like having a mobile phone that sits on your desk.” Windows 8 promises to make the computing experience just work, more like a simple tech-device, and less like a PC. That, in theory, means an easy-to-use interface, less crashing, and less need for true technical skills and knowledge. Does Windows 8 fully realize this goal, though?

It’s a start, but there are few things that are holding it back from fully moving on from feeling like a PC.

You can’t do everything in Metro

To really feel more like a mobile, easy-to-use device, Windows 8’s new device-like, touch-optimized UI (Metro) should be a bit more dependent. Managing basic files, changing important settings, and the like should exist without needing the desktop. This is especially true in Windows RT.

It’s still based on an aging PC platform.

While not everyone will agree, I truly think that Microsoft’s ambitious goal of making the PC less like a PC can’t be realized with Windows. It needs powerful anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, it needs fragmentation, and other maintenance that still makes its upkeep seem more like a PC than a phone.

Windows 8 took the Windows source in a very different direction but at its heart it’s still Windows. To really make this revolution come true, all of this will need to be addressed and perhaps even backwards compatibility and legacy support will need to be dropped.

It still is two different UI in one package.

Okay, point one kind of addressed this – but it’s so important I guess I’ll sort of repeat myself. Windows 8 still feels a little like two operating systems bolted together. This works, and I really like Windows 8, but if Microsoft is truly serious about moving on and creating a fully mobile/easy OS, a few bridge tools between the two UI’s isn’t enough. The best solution? Probably removing the desktop altogether.

The bigger question is, should Microsoft make any of the changes that I mentioned in the three points? That depends on who you ask, personally, I don’t want to get rid of the desktop, I like it. To really make it more like a mobile device and less like a PC, though, it might be necessary.

I’m curious, who all wants that kind of change? Do you want your PC to simply work, with little control, little maintenance, and no need to really have major PC technical skills? I guess as a nerd, I would rather things stay as they are.

Again, do I really have a choice? No, if the tech-companies like Microsoft and Apple want to move away from the PC-centric design of their operating systems, the only choice left is to either go with the flow or become a full-time open-source rebel.

So, do I like Windows 8? Yes, I do. Do I hope that Windows 9 goes even a step further in Microsoft’s goal to remove the PC-like feel from the computer?

Not really, but it might happen anyway.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts below.

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  • 123321

    i think windows 8 is just the first step towards an-only-metro-based OS … i hope windows 9 will only have the metro interface. although i think it is a good decision from microsoft having the desktop in win8. because: first there aren’t engough metro apps to fully replace the desktop yet. second, people need to get used to the new interface and can go back to their well known environnement (the desktop).
    till windows 9 is going to be released there will be a lot of metro apps so that the desktop could (i hope so) disappear. metro with live tiles is just more beautiful, works better, is more intuitive, and of course its sth new! 😉
    anyway there are still some important things missing for metro from microsoft, such as a complete file-managing-software, complete system controls, …(flash in internet explorer?^^)
    well, yes i think microsoft is going the right way. the aim to go back to purity and simplicity is also a very good idea.

  • Aaa

    I hope that Windows 8, 9, or even 10 can keep two faces: desktop and metro, and enable users to select anyone to be the startup interface. Metro is not suitable to do anything, such as programming, complex document editing, etc. iPad users have the same problem. And I hope that MS can improve both interface, rather than merge them together. It is a big advantage that Windws 8 have two faces, if comapred with Apple’s products.

    • donzebe

      I think we will continue to see the current windows 7 desktop App in future metro windows for many years to come.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WJGC7242GFDP2QXANKF5WTMEA Rex

    I think the post PC era is overhyped.  I truly believe we will see an increase in form factors, not less.  Mobility and microsizing will allow forms not possible before but they do not erase the reasons current forms were created.  This means, all the old forms will be included with some not yet seen.

    Windows 8 is two different OSes.  Maybe by windows 9, they will be able to sandbox legacy software as virtual apps in their individual shells.  Clearly that is beyond the scope of Windows 8, so it is pretty impossible to get a completely cohesive OS.  The problem is getting old software and even the desktop to be fully accessible via touch.  If they had time to work that out, I think it might also feel more cohesive.  As it is, the best they can do is try to create cohesive styling cues. 

    They also need to stress the desktop app.  I think many people complaining are failing to notice this.  In some ways Metro is like server core.  It is a lower level of the OS than the desktop is.  You can close the desktop app and MS says the code is removed from memory when that happens.  But you can never close Metro.  It is sitting in the background.  They also need to stop calling it the start screen.  That implies it is a replacement for the start menu which have people thinking it hovers over the desktop, which can not be further from the truth.  Perhaps something like App Base.  I know many people (including me) call it the Metro UI.  But that is the style cue, and not a good name for the base of the OS.  It cant obviously be called the desktop, but it needs a name such as that, that explains this is of that level.

    I realize none of these changes make any real difference outside how things are perceived, but most of the problem is not in the OS, but in the perception. This is probably enhanced by the desktop looking too much like that which is familiar in previous versions. On the otherhand, they have changed so much already, more work on the desktop isn’t likely to be taken well either. Look at what happened when they removed a simple dated visual chrome named Aero.