I discovered that our University had a site license to Windows 8.1 and Office 2013 so I decided to load them up on a virtual machine on my Mac. What I discovered was a very Apple product.
The narrative on Windows 8 is that it was a divided operating system trying to combine touch and desktop in the one place and failing at both. But I wasn’t trying this on a touch screen and just on a desktop where there was plenty of expressed frustration. What I found was very pleasant. The Windows Live Tiles screen is the centre of the user experience. You start there and you go back there by pressing the start button. Live tiles are great. They are a combination of bookmarks, app launchers and widgets that tell you stuff like the weather and news. You can resize the tiles and organise them for emphasis. Once you have that you find yourself coming back to that screen all of the time and are more willing to use apps in full screen mode. It is a great work experience because it is one touch to get you to where you want to be. It is like a hub and spoke system.
I enjoyed it so much that I looked for a similar thing on the Mac. But you don’t have that. The launcher, bookmarks and widgets are all separate so you can’t just click one button to get back to it all. If anyone knows of anything that can replicate that please let me know.
The thing about Live Tiles and how it directs you there is how Mac an experience it is. Windows users are frustrated at the control but as a Mac user I appreciated it. This is a fundamental difference I wrote about some months ago. Put simply, Windows 8.1 moves away from the keyboard as the locus of control and makes it all a more Apple experience.
Moreover, when you look at it objectively, no one comes close to Microsoft Office for a work suite. To be sure, PowerPoint is inferior to Keynote (even the upgraded version) but other than that, Office dominates. It is a shame Microsoft haven’t tried to capitalise that by moving beyond Windows.
Now to be sure, I’m not switching any time soon. Why should I given that I can have the best of both worlds. I’m just saying that this time around Microsoft took things in a new direction. Whether that is a good thing for their bottom line is hard to tell but for new users on Windows, they will likely have a good experience.