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Life and Tiles of a Win8 Convert: Where do I go from here?

Life and Tiles

Well, it’s been a slice but my self-imposed Windows 8 lockdown has finally come to an end. After three months on Microsoft lockdown, I am now free to do whatever I want. I can ditch Windows 8, throw my Surface RT in the trash, delete Skype, buy an iPhone, anything. And it feels good.

In contrast to this new found freedom I have decided to stick to Windows 8 until the end of the year. For the next 10 months I am going to keep Windows as my primary operating system. My experience with Windows 8 so far has been mostly bad, but I have invested enough time and money into the ecosystem to convince myself to finish up the year before making my final decision. Ten months is a long time – more than enough time to enhance the overall experience and make me forget about the last three months of quasi-hell.

If you’re just tuning in now, my first time using Windows 8 involved a lot of chatting with support staff and hours spent downloading OS updates one at a time. The keyboard on my Lenovo Yoga 13 started falling apart within seven days and I quickly realized I am the only person in the world that doesn’t use Google. I also stuck a knife in an SD card slot and literally ran across Toronto to buy the last Lumia 920 in stock at some mall. I can’t say any of this has been fun, but I guess it hasn’t been completely awful either.

So despite my shitty experiences, there are enough good ideas in Microsoft’s latest OS to keep me hopeful it can live up to the potential.

SkyDrive treats me like I have value and has yet to let me down. I like my Surface, I use it all the time and my Yoga is fun, though poorly built. I’m not entirely confident the Yoga will last until the end of the year, but if it breaks down I will try to let all of you know. My Lumia, on the other hand, is great. I just got a replacement from my wireless provider to fix a minor issue and I’m enjoying another shot at a scratch-free device.

So despite my shitty experiences, there are enough good ideas in Microsoft’s latest OS to keep me hopeful it can live up to the potential. The ever-updating Live Tiles come to mind, they make catching up on updates breeze. I’m also a big fan of the new interface and wish the desktop would be obliterated altogether, though we need a 50/50 app snapping feature. It’s also unbelievably nice to have menus on a PC that aren’t filled with hard-to-read text and too many buttons. Microsoft just needs to introduce the white-on-color theme to more areas of the OS, like the Control Panel.

Also the Share function is great, but I’d like to see it built upon. Why can I only share to apps I have downloaded? Microsoft needs to build its own mini applications into the Share button so that users can send content to anything from Facebook to Pocket or Pinterest. I want to see a list of social networks, not apps, but OneNote can stay.

The core apps are desperate for an upgrade. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, “Bring alias support to the Mail app!” The News app is another squandered opportunity, and is missing a ton of sources. If independent developers like the folks behind Pulse or Flipboard can deliver content options then it should be a no-brainer for Microsoft. There are a lot of factors that may make or break my decision to adopt Windows, but the most crucial is the app situation. Microsoft needs to throw all of its weight behind developers and bring some innovation to Windows 8 on the phone and desktop. Even BlackBerry is putting more effort into this department and that is really, really sad. Up your game, Microsoft!

But regardless of the trials and tribulations, the last few months have been a major learning experience and helped me to grow as a tech user. I feel more at ease when using different operating systems and hardware, I understand too well how hard it is to create an enjoyable user experience, and I now know why people love Apple so much. There is something wonderful about accessing a piece of technology, or a group of technologies, without having to worry about broken updates, missing features, or sub-par hardware. Windows 8 is a long way from offering that same dream-like utopia, but I do have faith that it will get there someday.

Right now, however, all I want to do is switch my default browser from Internet Explorer to Firefox and never look back.

If you have any other questions about Windows 8 that I didn’t cover in Life & Tiles ask me below or on Twitter @andrewkalinchuk. Thanks for reading!