Windows 8: A Touch Too Far?

I’ve spent the weekend playing with a new Windows 8 computer as well as a Microsoft Surface tablet. My first impressions so far? Isn’t it a pity that Microsoft ruined Windows with all this touch stuff.

I’m going to keep playing with both and trying not to have a knee-jerk reaction. But Microsoft’s big picture with Windows seems to be that touch-capable devices are part of our future, so we’d better touchify everything.

The problem is, what works on a desktop computer doesn’t necessarily work on a tablet — or on a non-touchscreen computer.

With Windows 8, trying to open the important “charms” sidebar panel is consistently a challenge. I have to get my mouse in the right spot and hope that it opens up.

At first, I thought this was a problem unique to running Windows 8 virtually on my Mac. But I found it’s the same issue if I try to use my mouse to open the panel using a shiny new Acer touchscreen built for Windows 8.

In contrast, sliding that panel open when I touch the screen is super easy on the Acer. Problem solved. Just touch! Except, you know, I can’t touch when I’m using an external monitor.

Indeed, I run three external monitors normally as shown above, and that leads to another issue. The Metro / Modern tile-based interface that Microsoft is pushing for Windows 8 won’t let me run different tiles on different screens. Crazy. Windows, which for long had better multi-monitor support than the Mac, now takes a step backwards with its new interface (if you stay in Desktop mode, then it’s fine).

As a result, the entire tile interface that should be the future of Windows 8 is useless to me. But I’m still forced to go into a Start screen and do a lot of pinning to get back to the “old” Desktop-style of work I need. It’s like having one of those horrible layers that phone manufacturers sometimes want to shove on top of Android.

Another example — to close a program, I have to drag it off the screen. Why? Because that make sense if you’re on a touchscreen device. On a desktop, with a big external monitor, that’s instead a huge unnecessary swipe where a click on a close button would suffice.

As for Surface, as I’ve continued to use it, I find myself wishing that Microsoft had gone the Apple and Android route and decided that it would be a different OS than Windows 8. I know, Windows RT (the only version of Windows that you can get on Surface right now) is a different OS than Windows 8. But it feels like the same one, and it’s supposed to have some commonality.

But that leads to frustration. Windows RT doesn’t have many apps, so it’s off to working in the browser — which sometimes wants to interact with the “old school” desktop. Meanwhile, things like PowerPoint run in “tile mode” but when you’re done, they dump you again into a Desktop that can’t run anything. More of my first (and some second) day impressions can be found here: My First Day With Surface, In Tweets.

I just don’t know that we needed to have Windows 8 be pushed so much into this touch-and-tile world. So far, there’s little I’m finding to draw me back into Windows 8 after I left Windows 7 for the Mac three months ago. But we’ll see.

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://profiles.google.com/classichits1 Carla Ackley

    I was just thinking this yesterday that Windows has gotten yucky and time to go the Mac or something else. I used to use Apple a zillion years ago (1983), and am a diehard Windows fan, but Windows 8 might be the wrong direction. Not sure yet. Will depend when I eventually upgrade to it.- *IF* I upgrade to it. Might holdout for Windows 2016 Holographic Version. haha

  • Eric

    I look at it like this..options exist for both touch and desktop (hence both options on a machine vs a tablet) and you get to choose which one you want to use. WIN key + C opens app specific charms quickly and you can navigate the options with your arrow keys…not a hassle at all when on a desktop.. and you can use touch when on a touch device to do it.

    I like Win 8 personally BUT I think they should have done something more with letting people know how to accomplish touch tasks w/a keyboard and presenting it as a choice between different ways to operate your machine(s).

  • Leanne Waldal

    I remember the first time I used a GUI and a mouse after ever having used command line. It took a while. I think change is good. I wonder if touch will be a similar transition or if it just won’t transition with the current huge population of users. There weren’t many people using computers when I first used a GUI and a mouse. Touchtyped this — in the new version of touch typing not the touch typing I learned 30yrs ago :)

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I guess I don’t feel my operating system should be requiring me to learn a bunch of key commands just because it’s really designed for touch.

  • JoelWhite

    I had the same feeling after using it. The whole time I kept thinking “they’re deserting their current market base in order to chase after Apple”. That’s the wrong direction if you ask me.

  • http://about.me/andrewgirdwood Andrew Girdwood

    Google’s pitch that Android was for touch and Chrome OS was for devices with a keyboard was looking pretty odd a few months ago – my own Windows 8 experience suggests they might have been right after all. Time will tell.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yeah, though the Android argument fell down with Google TV. What’s touch about that :) But I agree. I’m feeling like it does make more sense that they have two different operating systems rather than one trying to do both things.

  • http://about.me/andrewgirdwood Andrew Girdwood

    Yeah – TV is awkward. Having tried Microsoft SmartGlass for the Xbox on both my Android phone and my Windows 8 laptop – it’s the new Microsoft development I’m most buzzed by. It turns my TV into a touch device via proxy. I touch my phone and the TV responds (okay; you could argue you ‘touch your keyboard’ … but it’s the interface I’m thinking about).

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    Hi Danny…

    Great site and enjoy your appearances on TWiT. We have the Frankenstorm and now we have the FrankenSystem aka Windows 8.

    The Surface is good hardware, but Win 8 RT and Win 8 is pretty crap I think. The tile interface is a colourful task switcher; it’s like going back to DOS / Windows circa 1991.

    That may make sense on a phone or small tablet, but on a laptop or desktop where most of us still get our real work done? I think not.

    Good luck to them, but not for me.

  • habib

    This is what I cannot seem to understand: Why are Windows 8 users
    being forced to use an operating system with two separate UIs?

    Why didn’t Microsoft release two editions of Windows 8: Desktop and Touch?

    For
    the Desktop edition, they could have kept all of the new features of
    the Windows 8 desktop, replace the traditional start menu, and remove
    Metro. Additionally, Desktop users could have the option of enabling
    Metro through a downloadable update.

    As for the Touch edition,
    they could have removed the desktop completely replacing it with Metro.
    This would have allowed tablet users to have an ideal interface. And
    like the Desktop edition, they could enable the desktop through a
    downloadable update.

    This isn’t a very complicated solution, and I
    know that I’m not the only one to think of it. So, the question
    remains: Why didn’t Microsoft do this? They instead decided to force all
    Windows 8 users into using an interface that revolves around touch even
    if their systems weren’t made for it.P.S. I have tried the RTM
    version of Windows 8 and found it to be a touch related operating
    system. It was an OS that would not allow me to get any real work done.
    If, on the other hand, I could have used the Windows 8 desktop without
    any sort of interference from Metro, the OS would have been perfect in
    my opinion. And yes, I did heavily use it for a week before making a
    decision

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesandkayla.abrahartveares James Abrahart

    Windows 8 comes along and suddenly everybody forgets how to close stuff using the most common keyboard shortcuts! Anybody need an Alt key to go with their F4?

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