Windows 8: Desktop destroyer? (and not in a good way…)

As a self-professed power user, I’m rooting for Windows 8. I’ve been using Apple computers exclusively for about a decade, but as Apple shifts to focusing on consumer products such as phones and tablets and less on actual computers, I’ve grown disenchanted. Buying a desktop computer in particular from Apple now entails very high prices for outdated hardware. The control that Apple has racheted up over its users through constant disruptive OS updates has had me pining for the good old days: the days where my computer was mine to customize and to use as I please. In that bygone era, a computer could last 5 years or longer through upgrades; nowadays, RAM is soldered onto laptop motherboards or all-in-one iMacs and you’re expected to buy a new machine or a new OS interation every two years. So, despite being chronically disappointed with every iteration of Windows from the last 10 years, I want Windows 8 to be a success. I want it to be a success so I have an alternative.

I know there are others like me. Anyone who does anything professionally with a computer (besides email and word processing) is a part of this group. True, we may not be as large and as attractive a market segment as those targeted by the iPhone and the iPad, but for Microsoft, a company who has seen its mobile phone efforts completely ignored by the mass market, I would have thought we would represent some low-hanging fruit.

Enter Windows 8. Against my better judgement, I’ve let Microsoft’s pleasing new designs convince me that Windows 8 will take me to a desktop computing nirvana. I assumed that Windows 8 would make (or at least strive for) a more powerful, efficient, intuititive desktop computing experience.

But it isn’t. It’s designed primarily for touch screens, and when touch can’t handle the tasks at hands (read: often) it switches back to what feels like an emulated version of Windows 7. It’s a weird mish mash of past and what is presumed to be the future. This makes sense for tablet or a laptop/tablet hybrid, but what about for a traditional laptop or a desktop, where one’s most intensive/serious work is to be done?

I get it. Everyone’s doing touch and PC sales have plummetted. I just don’t don’t think touch (or voice control, for that matter) is right (at least not in its current implementation) for most serious computing tasks, and killing desktop computing seems like an awful big sacrifice for a gamble on touch.

In wanting to be new and edgy, Apple’s competitors are merely playing following the leader. No, touch interfaces are not going to replace the keyboard anytime soon. The keyboard is an efficient, remarkably fast tactile user interface. Why are we so eager to abandon it? Just so we can do our best to emulate what we’ve seen in Minority Report and in the Jetsons?