As I write this, I can see the dual progress bars crawling with seeming infinite slowness across the screen attached to the Hewlett-Packard workstation on my right.
I keep wondering how a computer that’s supposed to be so fast seems to be installing Windows 7 so slowly. Yes, that’s right, a computer I’ve had for three days now will be running Windows 7 once the installation is complete.
But you might recall that I’m the guy who kind of liked Windows 8? If so, you are correct. But a couple of years of using a touch-based interface on computers without touch screens has a corrosive effect.
After my review of Microsoft’s then-new OS, I went out and bought a couple of copies, installing one on an HP P6 desktop and the other on a rather elderly HP xw4200 32-bit workstation with dual monitors. Both are solidly in the keyboard-and-mouse camp.
Once the update to Windows 8.1 came out, allowing you to boot directly into the Windows Desktop rather than the Start Screen, the computers became more usable. How usable? One machine resides in the lab and is used only for testing where it’s necessary to confirm that things actually do work with Windows 8.
The other sits in the middle of my office where it’s available to visitors and relatives who need a computer and the Windows 8 user interface works surprisingly well to discourage unnecessary or frivolous use.
The only other sign of Windows 8 around here is on a Surface tablet, where it works pretty well, and on other tablets that I receive for review, where it also works well. Clearly, Windows 8 is a dandy solution for working with touch-based computers.
But then there’s this newly arrived dual Xeon powerhouse in the form of an HP Z620 professional workstation. This one is here because its predecessor failed so miserably at the simple task of doing things like “operating,” that it was replaced under warranty.
No, it’s not running Microsoft’s latest operating system even though it’s one of HP’s latest and fastest computers. The reason is that I use a keyboard and a mouse for my work, whether it’s writing stuff for eWEEK or running Adobe PhotoShop or LightRoom. And yes, I could have asked for Windows 8 when I bought the computer, but I chose Windows 7. Productivity is very important to me and Windows 8 doesn’t do anything to help productivity.
Windows 9 Needs to Reach Business Users Sooner Rather Than Later
But Windows 9 (currently known as “Threshold”) is allegedly coming in less than a year. Will that be the really modern operating system that would complement my really modern computer? By all accounts, it might be.
While Microsoft isn’t saying anything about Windows 9, the tech press is full of reports. And while some seem far-fetched, others, such as those from the highly regarded Mary Jo Foley seem likely. So what will we see with Windows 9? And more to the point, will I be able to move from the now long-of-tooth Windows 7?
Hopefully I will. Microsoft, having realized somewhere along the way that hardly any business and enterprise users had touchscreens for their desktop computers, is apparently going to make Windows 9 so that it arrives with more than one type of interface.
For touch screen users, there will be the tiled interface that we recognize from Windows 8. For people with keyboard and mouse computers, like nearly everyone in business and most people who create content, there will be a Windows Desktop. There may even be a Start Button and matching Start Menu. Equally useful, you will be able to run Modern (nee Metro) apps from within the Windows Desktop. You won’t need to continually switch between interfaces as you do now.
You will, however, probably be able to switch between interfaces as you do now if you want to, but it won’t be mandatory as it is now. With tablets, like phones, you will get the tiled interface. I have no idea whether devices such as the Surface Pro will still allow you to switch between the desktop and the tiles. One hopes that you will, if only because it seems that the Surface Pro is becoming the professional tablet of choice, which means some users might want to use desktop interface.
So when will all of this happen? The current rumors are that Microsoft may have a preview version of Windows 9 (or whatever they decide to call it) toward the end of 2014 and may release it to the public in the spring of 2015.
If Microsoft plays its cards right, perhaps Windows 9 will be the kind of solid, well-accepted version of the OS that Windows 7 has been. But what matters is that the company has to meet the needs of their customers as they actually are rather than what the wish they would be. Otherwise, people will continue to do as I am and load the older operating system on to their brand new, state-of-the-art computers.