Windows 8 Consumer Preview Part 2 - The Pain Points

So in my first post dealing with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I talked about how I loved the integration of Microsoft's services and that this connected Metro future looked like quite a bold and bright future for Microsoft. Now I want to talk about the pain points, where I feel Microsoft has to make some changes before handing Windows 8 to consumers.

Keyboard and mouse use of Metro has to be my biggest complaint so far. Don't let that fool you, overall the experience is much improved from the Developer Preview of last year, but still falls short in my opinion. My problems come from the fact that many of the various actions that need to be done with the mouse with no real indication that you can or should do them without someone telling you before hand. In Windows 7 Microsoft removed the "View Desktop" icon from the quick launch bar near the start menu and moved it to the far end of the taskbar next to the clock, but in doing so changed the texture of the corner to give it a raised button-like appearance so consumers knew that that there was something to try down there.

The current start button replacement of moving the mouse into the lower left hand corner pops out a start screen icon, but if you move your mouse out over the icon, it disappears. It's only after sliding the mouse up the left side of the screen to enable the view of recently opened apps that the mouse can be pulled away from the edge of the screen and the entire displayed thumbnail is clickable. To me this is an action that once activated putting the mouse over any part of the thumbnail image that pops out should be considered fair game.

Looking for settings. This is something I can tell Microsoft is still trying to figure out. Right now quite a few of the everyday settings you need to access on your PC for general use are loaded into the Metro interface. But a good chunk of Windows 7's Control Panel lives on in the desktop environment. The problem lies in the fact that some options live in both, some only in one, and in the case of managing WiFi networks that the computer remembers, I can't find it in either. This particular function brings in some behavior that I think shows where Microsoft is headed and perhaps it being a beta of sorts shows this work as in-progress. From the Charms menu, you can launch the WiFi connection panel that slides out from the right side of the screen and shows available wireless networks the device can connect to. This makes sense. When in desktop mode, clicking the wireless icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen brings up this same simple panel, no further advanced options. To me this says Microsoft is working to bring the majority of all basic functionality setting into the Metro interface, which I think will be a win for ease of use on the consumer's end.

The problem lies in the fact that seasoned Windows 7 veterans are going to be lost looking for advanced settings. Perhaps I haven't found it yet, but I am still unable to locate the area of network settings where I can manually enter a WiFi network's SSID, password and settings. In my case for a enterprise wireless connection I was trying to set up.

My biggest fear of all is that Windows 8 will show a Microsoft in transition, one that isn't quite sure how to keep the desktop on the same level as the Metro interface. A Microsoft that puts out a great product in Windows 8 but ultimately teases the consumer that Windows 9 will be the real show stopper. Microsoft doesn't have time to wait for Windows 9 to get it right like they were able to push Vista aside quickly for Windows 7.

Apple showed today at their iPad launch announcement that they are the one company that is poised and ready to show consumers the way the future of computing will look. Microsoft's vision of that future is decidedly different, and perhaps even better, but if Windows 8 is seen as a touch or tablet only OS, Microsoft loses their biggest strength in being installed on millions of desktops around the world. We may be on the way to a post-PC world, but Microsoft's success relies on their ability to start their own march to the post PC world from the PCs they currently dominate.