You don’t have to look far to find reports that Windows 8 (and the updated Windows 8.1) is an unmitigated failure. A quick search turns up stories detailing why Windows 8 has failed, why Windows 8 continues to fail, as well as one pondering whether or not Windows 8 is Microsoft’s biggest failure ever (Hint: It’s not).
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The relative success or failure of Windows 8 has been headline news again this week as reports that HP is bringing Windows 7 “back by popular demand” went viral. Thankfully, there are also some common sense stories that dig past the hype to reveal the reality behind a simple HP marketing campaign.
Since its launch, there have been comparisons made between Windows 8 and Windows Vista (For the purposes of this article I will use “Windows 8” to refer to both Windows 8 and the updated Windows 8.1 operating systems). Those comparisons are based on the premise that Windows Vista was a complete failure, and attempt to connect the dots to illustrate how Windows 8 is an equal or greater failure.
In my opinion, the comparison is valid, but for a completely different reason. Windows Vista was a failure…from a marketing perspective. Microsoft failed to give businesses or consumers any compelling reason to embrace the OS, and it let competitors—namely Apple—dictate the narrative of Windows Vista as a failure. As an operating system, though, there is nothing wrong with Windows Vista. It had a rough start due to poor driver support out of the gate, but after a few months those issues were addressed and Windows Vista matured into a very capable OS.
Similarly, there is really nothing wrong with Windows 8. Ignore the hype and consider these five reasons you should check out Windows 8 for yourself.
Windows 8 will run virtually any software that you’re already running on your older Windows systems. The traditional Windows software runs in Desktop mode—which is basically just Windows 7 hiding behind the new Metro Start screen of Windows 8—but it runs just fine.
There are some applications that /4/not work natively in Windows 8. You can search for “compatibility” and select the option to “Run programs made for previous versions of Windows.” This feature lets you install applications in compatibility mode, which emulates previous versions of Windows and should work for most software.
Windows 8 is less demanding than its predecessor. The operating system requirements are the same as Windows 7—a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of hard drive space. Granted, those specs are substantially more than the base requirements for Windows XP, and you won’t get optimal performance using such a stripped down system.
What’s more important, though, is that Windows 8 delivers notably better performance than Windows 7. There are multiple benchmark studies, such as this one from ZDNet, that demonstrate the superior performance of Windows 8 when running the same tasks and diagnostics on the same hardware.
Windows 8 does not suffer the same fate as Windows Vista when it comes to peripherals. Windows 8 is backwards compatible with Windows 7 when it comes to the vast majority of devices, and most peripheral vendors offer devices and drivers specifically engineered for Windows 8.
For the rare situations when Windows 8 doesn’t automatically detect your device and apply the appropriate driver, a little sleuthing will have you up and running in most cases. The bottom line is that most printers, monitors, mice, keyboard, webcams, and other peripheral devices manufactured in the last decade should work with Windows 8 with no—or at least very little—effort.
Windows 8 is more secure. Period. It is more secure than Windows 7 and Windows Vista. It is significantly more secure than Windows XP—which will be substantially less secure in a few months when support expires and Microsoft stops developing updates and security patches for the venerable OS.
Compared to Windows XP, there are more security enhancements than I care to enumerate in this article. But even just compared to Windows 7, Windows 8 includes support for BitLocker encryption even without a TPM chip, and it has improved multi-factor authentication. Microsoft has improved Windows Defender so it now monitors network behavior for suspicious activity, and Remote Data Removal lets you remotely wipe company-related data without completely wiping a user’s personal data. Those are just off the top of my head.
If you’re using a traditional desktop or laptop PC—particularly one that isn’t equipped with a touchscreen display—then the unique qualities of the Windows 8 Metro Start screen will elude you. However, if that is the case and you just want to use Windows 8 as if it’s Windows 7, that is exceptionally easy to achieve. You can just add tiles to the Start screen for the applications you use in Desktop mode and start them with a single click. Or, if you prefer you can set up your Start screen so the only tile is the one that takes you to the Desktop mode, and then just set up your shortcuts on the desktop or on the Task Bar like you’re used to doing in previous versions of Windows. It is a very slight change in behavior that should take about 5 minutes to get used to. No big deal.
The beauty of Windows 8, though, is that it can also be more. Windows 7 is just Windows 7 and Windows XP is just Windows XP. Windows 8 is like having Windows 7, with the added versatility of being able to set up live tiles to display current news and weather, or social network status updates. If you have a Windows 8 tablet like a Surface Pro 2 you can fire up the Kindle app and read a book in bed, or use the Xbox Glass app to augment your movie-viewing experience in the living room.
Much of the negative attention about Windows 8 has focused on the initial lack of a Start button, and the unique aspects of the Windows 8 Start screen. Microsoft addressed the Start button issue with the Windows 8.1 update, and the backlash about the Start screen is melodramatic.
It’s simply a matter of perspective. Rather than looking at Windows 8 as Windows 7 that has been handicapped by the Windows 8 Metro Start screen, users should look at it like Windows 7 that includes a bonus Metro Start screen that opens up new potential—whether you choose to use it right now or not.
It seems that most of the Windows 8 naysayers are really just Windows (or Microsoft) naysayers in general. It /4/not make their opinions completely invalid, but it would seem reasonable to take the opinion of a diehard Mac OS X or Linux user with a grain of salt when it comes to Windows.
Many of those who aren’t Mac OS X or Linux users appear to still be using Windows XP. Again, that doesn’t invalidate their feelings in and of itself, but these are the same people who already chose not to upgrade to Windows Vista or Windows 7—neither of which had nearly the dramatic overhaul that Windows 8 did. What that tells me is that this group is simply adverse to change and looking for things to dislike about a new operating system to justify the choice to stick with an OS from last century that will no longer be supported by Microsoft as of April.
That brings us to the water cooler crowd. These are the people who haven’t used Windows 8, and don’t have an opinion based on personal experience, but share the doom and gloom stories they’ve read from the Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows XP lovers. Rather than checking it out for themselves, they just perpetuate the negative hype, which creates a snowball effect where everyone seems to agree that Windows 8 has failed, but nobody really knows why.
The reality is that most of the differences in Windows 8 are cosmetic or trivial—especially compared to Windows 7. Nobody seems to freak out when a car manufacturer moves some buttons around, or changes the position of the gear shift from one model year to the next, and you don’t see a big backlash of people boycotting Oreo cookies because of the dumb way the new packages open.
The reason is because these things are just not that big a deal. Give it 15 minutes and it will become the new normal and then you’ll wonder (like me) what all the fuss is about.