Windows 8

If you want to try Windows 8, wait for a hybrid

There's one big problem with Windows 8: it has a split personality disorder. If you want the maximum Windows 8 experience, you'll need a hybrid tablet/laptop.

Asus Taichi hybrid tablet (Credit: Asus)

I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but if you really want to take Windows 8 for a spin and get the best possible experience then you should just plan on getting one of the new hybrid tablet/laptop machines that many of the leading PC makers are going to be selling this fall.

That was my conclusion after moderating this week's ZDNet Great Debate between Jason Perlow and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on the issue "Does Windows 8 belong on older PCs?"

Here's what I wrote in my verdict at the end of the debate:

"Because Windows does not have a very good track record on operating system upgrades when it comes to stability and performance and the fact that Windows 8 is adding such a radical new user interface to the desktop, it's difficult to recommend that any but the most curious technophiles should upgrade their old machines to Windows 8. Instead, try it out on your next laptop, especially if it's a touch-screen hybrid."

ZDNet users felt differently. They voted 74% to 26% in favor of putting Windows 8 on older PCs.

However, I think a lot of users who end up installing Windows 8 on their current Windows machines are going to be pretty frustrated. The Modern UI (formerly "Metro UI") is heavily slanted toward a tablet experience. Using a mouse to navigate the new UI on a desktop feels awkward and confusing. It's kind of like trying to poke a giant in the foot with a pin in order to get his attention. You quickly realize that you've got the wrong tool for the job.

On the other hand, if you're using Windows 8 on a touch-screen tablet, there are some tasks like setting up a VPN where Windows will kick you into desktop mode and force you to clumsily tap your way through menus that were meant for precise mouse clicks.

This split personality disorder is the biggest problem with Windows 8 and it's going to lead to a lot of teeth gnashing when it's first released. I think Microsoft will eventually refine it and get it right, but be prepared to hear lots of complaining for a while.

Ultimately, that's why I'm going to recommend that those who really want to take advantage of the good stuff in Windows 8 just opt for hybrid. That will allow you to take advantage of the cool Modern UI apps like the built-in travel app, while also staying efficient and fully capable when you have to switch into the traditional Windows desktop to do certain tasks or run legacy apps.

I've never been a fan of dual-purpose machines. The failure of Microsoft's Tablet PC and HP's TouchSmart devices are evidence that these kinds of machines don't appeal to most users. But, advances in multi-touch hardware/software and the arrival of thinner, more versatile form factors should make this new fleet of hybrid Windows 8 devices worth giving a shot. At least in the first iteration of Windows 8, it's clearly going to be the most effective way of dealing with the new Windows.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

40 comments
javsav
javsav

How could the author of a tech sight be so computer naive. I have no training but I grew up with computers. Your problem is you have been brainwashed into the use of the mouse for everything. Take a second to ponder what you do when you want to copy and paste something. Rather than navigating across the whole screen to the edit menu with your mouse to make two clicks you learned that you can push ctrl and c and cut out at least 5 seconds. The new start is far superior. Want to open word? Push win type wor push enter. Alternatively if you want to click start, programs, microsoft office, word that would be stupid but you are powerless to your inferior process. Want to open this article? hold win + f , type fail, push enter and it springs before your eyes. But I understand your desire to search for it in a massive folder of documents scrolling down a list. And if you are unable to learn it is extremely easy to install the start menu (look online) to assist you with redundance. THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE. And now search google for "windows 8 commands" there are plenty more useful. Don't use the large size apps on a computer, their presence does not force you into using them. Use regular programs you did on win 7. Schooled.

dogknees
dogknees

So, the author is saying it is not possible to work as efficiently in Windows 8 on a Desktop as one can Windows 7 on a Desktop. Something he isn't saying is, there may be different ways of using the system to meet your requirements that are just as efficient as Windows 7 or even more so but he hasn't figured it out yet. Hopefully we'll see a retraction when people realize that Windows 8 is more efficient.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Why can't MS understand this?

ASteinberg
ASteinberg

As a MacBook user, I'd say that if you have the correct touch device, Metro UI can be nice. Consider something like Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad - in fact Logitech has something like that (Touch Mouse).

siege911
siege911

I installed it on a Dell Latitude and it worked great. In fact I was so pleasantly surprised that I thought I'd leave Windows 7 for good. Then I put my Latitude in the docking station and my 3 other monitors came on. That's when Windows 8 fell flat on it's face. It's great for a casual experience. In fact it's significantly better than Windows 7 for a casual experience. But it translates horribly for the power user. I couldn't handle it for more than 3 days with multiple monitors before I gave up and reinstalled Windows 7. I think I will wait for Windows 9.

cybershooters
cybershooters

You don't need a "hybrid" device, you just need a touch-screen laptop, had one for ages. But I really hate Windows 8, I mean I REALLY hate it. Sorry but I've been using it for awhile and I detest it because it takes longer to do anything. For example, you're in program A on the desktop and you need to go to program B to check something. You don't have a shortcut for program B on the desktop because you don't use it very often. So you go to the Start screen, hunt for the tile, start up program B and by this point you've forgotten what you were doing in program A. In Windows 7, program A is on the screen the whole time you're looking through the start menu so you don't forget. It's either that or you plaster the desktop and taskbar with shortcuts, which defeats the point of having the tiles on the start screen. It's even worse if program B is a Windows 8 app and progam A is not. So you go to the start screen, click on the app, it sits there for seconds with a stupid splash screen, then the app starts up and by this time you've lost track of what you were doing on the desktop or you have to switch back and forth which is a royal PAIN IN THE ASS. Anyone who says this should be installed on desktop machines either doesn't have enough experience of it to really comment or has a way better memory than I do or has a lot more time on their hands to mess around with it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69RllXjCL6o

AlphaCentauri
AlphaCentauri

Was nice to use on a tablet (I used splashtop to try it out connected to a vm running windows 8) Was painful to use on a laptop (installed on a dell vostro laptop). To me the ideal is to be able function in the following 2 scenarios: 1). Dock the tablet where i get an external monitor (with the tablet optionally becoming the 2nd monitor) and an external keyboard and mouse, and the OS plays like Windows 7, ideally if i can run development tools, that would be perfect. 2). Run in tablet mode and hookup to a projector if needed to present materials or just use in tablet mode for media consumption or web browsing.

333239
333239

I see your point but a 'hybrid' is the worst of both worlds - too heavy to be a good tablet when its folded up, when its open, reaching over the keyboard to touch the vertical screen is far from ideal too. I recommend getting any sort of proper tablet to use the Windows Metro/RT/Modern UI to do tablet-type things (mostly consumption). Just use your existng laptop/desktop for desktop mode - productive/creative type-things. Windows 8 has some great new features for desktop too but it is not an essential upgrade.

DWFields
DWFields

Ok, I'll grant not everybody does, but Hewlett Packard, Toshiba and many other OEMs have sold touch-screen PCs for at least the last three years, so if you have a newer all-in-one PC or even one of the newer laptops, then you may already have a touch-capable display and you've simply ignored it.

Skruis
Skruis

and I'm running it on my multi-mon desktop which is what you would consider older hardware and so far some of the conveniences have outweighed the drawbacks. I like that you mentioned VPN support in Windows 8 specifically because despite the other things that I like about Windows 8, I absolutely hate the VPN implementation. Before Windows 8, I hated installing 3rd party VPN clients but now I actually prefer them than the built-in method because if you're debugging a VPN connection, it's constantly kicking you back and forth between the charms bar and the desktop. It's absolutely brutal but it's also the only brutal thing I've experienced in Windows 8. I know 'why' VPN connections are in Metro because the 'network connections' portion is in Metro and they want to manage the entire 'network connection' experience from Metro but as far as the Windows VPN client goes...it is not happening so much so that I'm actually going to put time into learning that new Direct method that's come out in the last couple of years but been refined in Windows 8/Windows Server 2012. Maybe that will save me from VPN support nightmares. All that being said, I mostly prefer the convenience of having some of the metro apps on my desktop like the Xbox Companion (Smart Glass) app. I have a 360 in my office connected to my stereo and I use the companion app to select the music I want to play and to add it to my queue. It brings up clickable buttons that correspond to various inputs on the 360 controller so I can actually 'control' the 360 from my desk without looking for controller. It's neat and I do prefer the OneNote MX app over the full OneNote app for the very basic simplicity of it. It just 'works' and I don't have to fuss around with the more advanced features. I kind of find it odd how 'examined' the Windows 8 experience is and how many assumptions and inappropriate user tests are held up as examples. I'm not saying the system is perfect, obviously the VPN metro/desktop fiasco shows that it isn't, but I think it's funny the 'conclusions' that are being made before it's really gotten out there in the hands of the average users.

randmart
randmart

Why would anyone want to have to reach from the keyboard up to the screen to move the cursor or select and action? Talk about bad ergonomics. Touch screens are great for handheld devices but horrible for others. Users will figure this out and rebel against being force-fed a touch screen OS for non- handheld devices.

cra69_2000
cra69_2000

Why do you even write for? To me it seems ever time you write a page it's not worth reading or it is so worthless. I do not understand why this company even gives you a job writing. You do not need a hybrid to take advantage of Windows 8. The system is better than both of its predecessors in so many ways and that's without a hybrid. I just wonder if ZDnet hires hobs off the streets to wrote their articles sometimes. You see so much of the advice that is given not worth a crap and you can not connect with the ordinary computer users. Most of the people writing articles are so disconnected from the ordinary users to even write an article. IT people that I have seen are so disconnected with the average computer user. Then I see this article and read it and just wonder where in the hell do they find these people. I guess they can make anyone a writer now days and look so smart when in reality they are so dumb. Come on do a better dam job at writing and quit giving people bad advice. I know I know you think everyone should be using Linux but that's where you are so wrong Linux is years away from being a dominant desktop operating system for the average user. Don't get me wrong I love Linux but hell Im a computer geek or nerd. The average user or users I tried to get to use it hate it. They want Apple or Microsoft. Apple said it best it just works. Yea you got all these google Android phones. You got the users who wish they never seen those phones because of so many problems. Pull the battery, turn the power off, throw it down and stomp it to get it working all the time. Windows 8 is good and so many advantages without a hybrid! Stop giving bad advice and write articles for people who use computers not for yourself or the IT geek beside you. Come on I see why people have stopped reading this crap and why they talk so much crap about the writers on this site. Come on be for real and use some common sense if possible or if you have any. Come on be for real and stop the advertising and write the truth because I am about to join the millions that have gone away just because of the crap on this site. Sell your hybrid to a company but not to us because some of us know better and are tired of the crappy writing. Oh and maybe you should get a real job one that you do not write articles.

otrohd193
otrohd193

I set up an older dual core machine and it works great. I just set up a current gaming class machine (unlocked i5, 16 GB, SSD) massive software of all kinds and it works great. I've run Windows 8 on a couple other machines in VMWare boxes and they worked fine. I love some of the new features, and best of all....it's fast. Real fast. World of Warcraft works perfect :-). I have spent a couple of hours learning some new ways to do things and switching back and forth within the new and old interfaces is a breeze. I'm starting to really like it. Don't love it yet, but I like it a lot. Some of the new resource monitoring and performance tools are gorgeous. I started out hating the new interface, and I'm still not used to it completely, but it's going to work out fine. I will probably upgrade all my machines immediately upon general availability. This is a strong OS, and I only see it getting better. Now please, please, please Microsoft, give me a version I can use on my Transformer!!

colecrew
colecrew

Works great on my Dell inspiron duo.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

shortcuts like that and do the actual move the mouse. In most cases of using the mouse it's a lot easier to just right button click and select 'copy' in the displayed sub-window, then do the same to select 'paste' for where you want it. However, touch screen is NOT an absolute answer and it is NOT as good to use as a mouse is for fine selection. For most productivity work a touch screen system is actually a backward step.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As a MacBook user, when have you interacted with W8? Your suggestion, however valid it may be, lends more strength to the position that W8 wasn't developed with existing systems in mind.

Skruis
Skruis

It had a major positive effect on my multi monitor setup. I'm curios, what issues did you run into?

cybershooters
cybershooters

Have you tried testing it with "average users"? Tried that already, "violently hated it" is not too strong of a term. Join it to a domain and you can't run Windows 8 apps as an administrator. And you have to have UAC turned on apparently as far as I could see. However "average users" noted that in legacy programs the color scheme is a nightmare, for example if you have something that was originally designed to work with Windows classic, it isn't there anymore in Windows 8. Scrolling backwards and forwards looking for tiles, hated that, etc. Getting confused between IE starting up in desktop mode or in the start screen. Nobody had anything nice to say about it, I gave up.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

I don't know who down-voted you, I don't see anything worthy of a negative vote (but I get a lot of those myself!), but I've been using a touch screen monitor on a IBM ThinkCentre desktop that runs my POS system. The OS is Windows XP SP3, haven't bothered to even update to Win7. Most of the time I don't use the touch screen as much, but my employees do. I prefer keyboard shortcuts. The point I'm trying to make is that touch has been around for a long time, not just since the iPhone arrived on the marketplace. My POS works quite smoothly as well, no issues in 2 years I've been using it (I bought my store from a previous owner). I've also got a mouse for navigation...the user has a choice of 3 interactive devices! As for "reach from the keyboard up to the screen", well now, in the 30-odd years I've been around these infernal contraptions, for the vast majority of those years I tried in vain to prevent people from doing just that...reach up from the keyboard and touch the screen. You might not think it natural or ergonomic, but by golly, they do it all the time...I still have an aversion to finger smudges on the screen!

DWFields
DWFields

Yes, I do agree that Windows 8 is far better than most naysayers want you to believe. On the other hand, this writer's 'comment' is so aggressive and scattered that it is very difficult to make out what he's trying to say. Plus 1 for opinion. Minus 1 for communications.

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

I was wondering how it might do on one of those. I have an XPS M1530 and it runs great on mine, and despite what Jason Hiner says, it is not confusing and awkward. It does take a little getting used to, and there is a learning curve, but once you learn which corners do what and when to right click, then it is fine and I like it.

DWFields
DWFields

In fact, it's faster and smoother even than Win7 on those machines.

ASteinberg
ASteinberg

I use Mac, PC, iPad and iPhone. If you have a good scrolling and pointing device, you're OK. I just suggested to use something like Apple's built-in touchpad or Magic Mouse/Trackpad. Those devices are just great and would be perfect for Metro UI.

Skruis
Skruis

My wife is as average as they get when it comes to pc skills and she's constantly asking to use my Windows Slate to play her games and browse the web. Its a shocking change. You can't just put Windows 8 in front of someone and say "test!". After they're exposed to the interface for a while, Most will opt to stay in Windows 8. My point was that these spot tests aren't very accurate and that any 'omg, the users will HATE it!!!!' is just guessing.

GSG
GSG

Way back in the olden days, we had a mainframe with dumb terminals and these tethered light pens that we used to select fields and items with. Our arms got really tired and we had lots of neck and shoulder pain with our arms up like that, so we eventually had to figure out as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. I'm sure the touchscreen monitors will be much easier to use as you had to really press that lightpen into the monitor to get it to register, but I still see that it would take some getting used to. Of course, when we first started using the mouse, I thought it was the most horrible thing and that I'd never get used to that either.

DWFields
DWFields

I might agree that holding your hand up next to the screen for extended periods gets uncomfortable, but that's as much a matter of muscle tone as it is the choice of software that would force you to do it. I can be quite sure that if a game or something comes out that requires incessant screen touches you'd probably get a few complaints, but if the screen is right behind the keyboard like it is with most laptop-desktop systems, lifting your finger to touch a tab or key a radio button won't be difficult or painful at all on anything else. When you're working with graphic arts, whether photography or digital painting, you're probably wanting to work directly on-screen anyway because the mouse is so non-intuitive by comparison.

DWFields
DWFields

... virtual machine? Yet Windows XP, Windows Vista and even Windows 7 have performed better on Apple's Macintosh machines in Bootcamp than on eqivalently-equipped (and priced) Windows-only machines for the last several years. In fact, ever since Apple adopted the Intel processors. So if the statement is made that Windows 8 performs even better than Win7 on a Mac, then most certainly it will perform better on any other PC and this has been demonstrated by a number of tech analysts and bloggers who are using the RC even on the old "Vista Capable" machines and older. The thing is, ASteinburg's point about the type of pointing device--like Apple's Magic Mouse and touchpad--can take advantage of the touch capabilities of Windows 8. You can already find similar technology mice and pads available for generic PCs in any decent computer store. (I said similar, not identical.) I've personally used touchpads for over a decade in Windows and Macs since they've been USB devices for at least that long.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but running something as a virtual machine doesn't always reflect the performance when installed on bare metal. Either way, if I wasn't willing to upgrade a pointing device to use W8, I'm certainly not willing to buy a Mac to run it virtualized :-)

DWFields
DWFields

If you set up the (formerly known as) Metro screen with all the apps you normally use, access to these apps gets much easier and you become more productive. File folders? Same thing. You're not stuck with the labels Microsoft gives you to start with--you never were (unless you got your machine from one of those 'stuff the machine with preview-ware' places.) Underneath its a leaner, cleaner and faster kernel.

eaglewolf
eaglewolf

And your wife is using Win 8 'to play her games and browse the web.' Not work. There is a world of difference. I can't even begin to imagine using Win 8 for my normal, very intense work that requires a level of productivity that can't be provided by the Win 8 UI. There was another comment earlier by an appreciative Win 8 user who stated he could have Xbox and a music player running. And the others who have it set up as a gaming machine. Again, not 'I'm-getting-paid-to-work-and-produce' uses where these things aren't even remotely under consideration Work = work. Play = play. Microsoft has already stated they want Win 8 to be the best entertainment o/s that exists. They have also stated they're locking everybody into a system that they, themselves, think is best suited for a tablet - not a desktop. And, there is no way I could do my job on a tablet - ever. Microsoft has thrown the non-toy users under the bus. They are very clearly saying if you need to be productive, go somewhere else.

DWFields
DWFields

... once they get used to the different look. They both saturate their desktops with icons for apps and files to the point that they have to search their entire screen every time they want to find something. One of them already has a touch-screen Toshiba all-in-one PC and simply loves the fact that all she has to do is point at the app or file and it launches without having to do anything else. The simplicity of the "Modern" interface will make that much easier as she'll be able to read their titles on a properly contrasting background. After all, once you're in the application you want, it's going to work just like it always has--only faster.

Skruis
Skruis

On my desktop in my office. The Slate is just more accessible...like any other tablet but the one gotcha has been that her favorite app/game is much easier with touch but that's an app issue and not so much an OS one.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Has she used it on the desktop yet? I can easily see W8 on a tablet device; it's designed for that. No one plays games where I work, and many are blocked from accessing the Internet.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

as you needed with the old CRT monitors. Modern capacitive touch is extremely sensitive and accurate, also. Bring that display in close, angle it somewhere between typical keyboard angle and vertical for comfort and suddenly you don't get that neck and shoulder pain you describe.

DWFields
DWFields

Some jobs will always require a keyboard. But as a writer myself (only published once and already out of print) I can definitely see the benefits of touch screen for some tasks. I don't have one since I'm using an '07 iMac with a 20" second display, but I'm seriously hoping the next-generation iMac does have touch since it's obvious Apple is taking OS X in that direction. You've got the advantage at the moment because Windows is already touch capable and I will seriously admit that Windows 8 is appealing. I'll always keep a Mac on my desk but I'm seriously tempted to put a Windows box next to it. Your complaint about the screens getting dirty? With the right cleaning cloth--silk or a microfiber for instance--a polished glass screen is very easy to keep clean. I've used iPhones and iPads for years now, and I've never had to worry about a dirty screen; the arguments about fingerprints turned out to be less than accurate simply because they're so easy to clean. Even in a clean-room environment, it's quite possible a touch screen is easier to maintain than a conventional keyboard--though I'll admit if you're a touch typist some sort of keyboard overlay will be highly recommended. Still, an overlay is easier to clean than a conventional keyboard.

GSG
GSG

I agree that for some tasks, the touchscreen monitor just might be a good tool. However, for jobs that require a lot of keyboard usage, I don't see a touchscreen keyboard working well. As far as what I do goes, I don't see ever using a touchscreen. The details of what I do is just too small to make it easy to use without a mouse, and having the lower angles, would not be workable either. But, that's just me and my job. I'd like to see some sort of easily applied and removed film for a touchscreen. Now, we have covers for the monitors and keyboard condoms in the surgery suites. If they had a larger touchscreen, and the application was built to optimize touch, this would really streamline their processes. The problem is that the rooms are sterile, and the equipment has to stand up to rigorous cleaning, and the covers have to be replaced very frequently.

DWFields
DWFields

You assume that the display will always be vertical and 18-24 inches away from you as you type, when you may instead by typing right at the base of the screen. You also have to note that you probably held the light pen like a normal pen (everyone I saw using one did) whereas using your finger is, literally, pointing. Technology has been striving for a true "point and click" for a long time and up until now the mouse has been the easiest to use, even if not the most intuitive. I, for one, have used touch pads of one sort or another for over ten years and always found it easier to drag and tap but at the same time have always wanted the simple ability to touch the display. Of course, I say that now and I keep my two displays well over three feet away from me simply because I hate using the bifocal portion of my glasses. My point is that we're not going to stay with the style of computing we currently use. We may still have external monitors that can hang on a wall, maybe even using our HD televisions as hi-res displays, but our I/O will likely be a hybrid keyboard/display device that will sit where your keyboard itself now rests. As such, that 'pain in the arm' is a non-issue.

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