by Shane O'Neill

Windows 8: A Bridge to the Future or New Coke?

Sep 26, 20123 mins
Computers and PeripheralsLaptopsMobile

Critics applaud Microsoft making Windows 8 uniform across devices, but also accuse the company of cutting of its toes to fit the shoe.

Windows 8 is exactly one month away from launching to the general public, but it’s already one of the most polarizing versions of Microsoft’s flagship operating system.

Windows 8 is a complicated beast, but the main polarizing issue is the tile-based user interface, formerly known as Metro, now just called “Windows 8 UI.” Microsoft’s effort to create an OS that works across PCs, tablets and smartphones has been applauded by some. But the Windows 8 UI, designed for multi-touch capabilities, is awkward to use on laptops because it moves sideways and lends itself better to swiping and tapping.

This has been a turn off to early testers and bloggers who see it as Microsoft forcing what is essentially a tablet UI onto a desktop environment. Windows 8 laptops will have touchscreen functionality, but to Windows 8 critics that doesn’t solve the problem because laptop users are not ready for that, or don’t want it.

It seems that Windows 8 is ahead of its time, and that’s either a good thing or bad thing, depending on your perspective.

Two columns on the subject of Windows 8 struck me this week for their contrast. Veteran industry analyst and columnist Rob Enderle writes that Windows 8’s uniformity across devices is innovative and necessary. Whereas, CNN Money contributor Cyrus Sanati argues that forcing an OS design of the future on current PCs is a big mistake that will paralyze people. The “New Coke” analogy – if your product ain’t broke don’t fix it as Coca-Cola Company learned back in 1985 — comes from this column, which assesses Windows 8 more from a market share/usability angle than a deep technological one, but still makes some salient points.

Slideshow: The Best of Windows 8 Hardware (So Far)

This is certainly not the first negative commentary or review on Windows 8. Reviews from both Infoworld and Extremetech have been harsh, with the key gripes being that Windows 8’s apps are weak and the user interface is confusing.

But others, like Enderle, see having a seamless Windows experience across devices as something special that no other company can match. Research firm Gartner issued a research report this week stating that Windows 8 is a big gamble but one Microsoft must take to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices are the norm.

However, Gartner admits that the radical changes inherent in Windows 8 could turn off both consumers and enterprise IT and lead the OS to suffer the same low-adoption fate that crippled Windows Vista.

Which side of the Windows 8 coin do you fall on? Game changer or Vista part 2?