Despite rumours of my demise, mostly from senior managers at a certain major tech company I suspect I’m now getting into the home stretch of what has been an extremely busy time writing my three forthcoming Windows 8 books (Troubleshoot & Optimise Windows 8: Inside Out, The Windows 8 Power Users Guide and Windows 8: Out of the Box). It’s not been easy I can assure you but I’m now in the home straight and getting ready to deploy Windows 8 myself.
I thought you might interested in what I’m doing here to get ready to use Windows 8 in my home and work life and why I’m completely moving away from Windows 7, despite most definitely being a “content-creator”. I say this because deploying Windows 8 won’t be like moving to Windows 7 or from XP on to Vista. In order to get the very best out Windows 8 there comes a need to accept that it’s a very different beast to what’s come before.
Despite feeling a little ambivalent towards Windows 8 when it was first officially unveiled last September I’ve now been using it on my laptop for many months, every single day. After all, I needed to be using it to write about it. I needed to get under its skin, learn absolutely everything about it and become as familiar with what it is and how it works as I am with the back of my own hand.
After all this time spent using it I’ve grown very fond of it and I’m looking forward to using the new Start Screen apps in anger, especially as they mature and third-party apps grow in number, functionality and polish. I’m looking forward to the release of the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) which I expect at the end of July so much that I thought I’d share my enthusiasm here with you (I am a Windows MVP after all and that’s what Microsoft like us to do [to the nay-sayers I'll comment on Apple in a bit... read on]).
I’ve been very lucky that my laptop, and I’ll talk more about the specific hardware I’m now using and why shortly, has a touch screen and I’ve recently sold my own self-built 1st gen-quad core Core-i7 machine, complete with 6Gb RAM and an AMD Radeon HD6850 graphics card with 2Gb of GDDR5 memory to a friend as a gaming rig for him while I have replaced it with an all-in-one. The primary reason for doing this was to finally, and once and for all banish the tower from my living room, but there were other considerations too. So here’s the current hardware line-up and why.
HP TouchSmart 610-1230 – All-in-One PC
This is my new PC for the living room. It comes with a dual-core Sandybridge i5 running at 2.7GHz with ability to clock up to 3.4GHz when busy. It came with 6Gb DDR3 RAM as standard but I’ve upgraded it to 14Gb and it comes with a healthy 1.5Tb hard disk and an AMD Radeon HD 6450A (1 GB dedicated) graphics card. Crucially for me this machine comes both with a multi-touch 23-inch screen and the whole screen slides down and forwards (as you can see in the image below) to enable more comfortable touch use.
This is in fact an older PC, having been out for over a year now and having since been discontinued. It does have the distinction though of being the only PC able to hunker down for touch use on a desk. This was my primary reason for buying it despite it being somewhat under-powered compared to the top-spec Core i7 machine it replaces.
Dell Precision M6600 Workstation
My main work PC hasn’t changed and is a true workhorse of a laptop. The Dell M6600 is configurable to an almost comical degree and mine comes with a 2.5GHz Sandybridge Core i7 with 8Gb of DDR3 RAM and nVidia Quadro 4000M graphics with 2Gb of GDDR5 memory. There’s a four-point, 17-inch full HD touch screen, GPS, TPM chip, SIM card clot and the 80Gb SSD I pulled out of my last desktop PC before I sold it sitting alongside a standard 750Gb HDD for files. This is a do it all machine which, to be honest I needed to write the Windows 8 books because I needed to be able to write about all this functionality.
ExoPC Slate 64Gb
Primarily used now just for talks, presentations and work (I’ll be buying an ARM Windows 8 tablet later in the year, though probably just a 7-inch one as I’ve found they’re much more comfortable in home use than 10-inch tablets), this is one of the first generation of new Windows tablets and sports a 1.6GHz Atom processor with 2Gb of RAM and a 13-inch screen.
One thing you’ll probably have noticed here is that now every single one of the computers I use at home and at work has a touch screen! This is quite deliberate believe me as while it’s perfectly possible to use and be completely happy with a non-touchscreen computer running Windows 8, using it day to day for months has taught me that having a touch screen interface does enhance the experience of using Windows 8 noticeably.
For example it’s now extremely common that for some tasks, such as shutting down my laptop, I’ll reach for the screen rather than use the keyboard. Navigating around the Start Screen is something I’m as comfortable using the touch-screen or a mouse for, and I’ll use either one (or maybe even both) depending on what program or app I’m looking to launch.
I’m also finding myself, and this is the most important part, using touch on the Windows 8 desktop quite a bit. Don’t down-play this as the improvements that have been made over Windows 7 are significant and noticeable.
This is how I plan to get the very best out of Windows 8. I’ve set up my computers this way, and bought the new PC, because I’ve identified how I want to use use Windows 8 and how I can get the best out of it. This experience will be different for different types of people. For example in The Windows 8 Power Users Guide I detail how hard-core desktop users can reconfigure the Start Screen as a more OS X-esque widget dashboard (in which role it works extremely well I might add).
I would urge you to give Windows 8, the Start Screen and apps a go however, especially as they mature and become more complex. As an upgrade over Windows 7 it’s certainly worth it and I now find some of the ways Windows 7 works annoying.
To answer the Apple nay-sayers who have probably been seething all through this post about “Well he would say that wouldn’t he, he’s in Microsoft’s pocket!” all I will say is this. If Apple had recently announced a touch-screen all-in-one iMac with a retina display I would most definitely have bought one