Windows 8: A Beautiful Disaster

Sony VAIO Duo 13

I returned a Sony Vaio Duo 13 convertible Windows 8 tablet today after one week of use.  When the Sony salesperson asked me why, I said "It is a beautiful disaster, but that's not your fault."  I believe my experience has context for the near future of Corporate End-User Computing and user acceptance.

The Sony hardware is beautiful.  Intel 4th generation Core i5 Haswell fanless low-power CPU, flash drive, beautiful screen, integrated pen input, backlit keyboard, SD/Memory stick slot for expanded storage, HDMI.  You could not ask for more in terms of hardware (other than the expensive i7 upgrade).  Plus the device has a very high "cool factor".

The problem is Windows 8.  Specifically, the problem is Windows 8 trying to be a tablet and a desktop OS all at the same time.  This leads to a schizophrenic experience.  You want to stay in the finger-friendly Metro interface, but applications keep forcing you into non-finger-friendly Desktop mode with messages like "This plug-in requires desktop mode, switching to desktop mode".  Also, most major applications, such as Microsoft Office 2013, do not work in Metro mode.  You end up spending most of your time in Desktop mode even if you keep trying to go back to Metro mode.

Many industry analysts have attributed the 14% drop in PC sales in Q1 2013 to poor user acceptance of Windows 8.  I mentioned this to the Sony salesperson as well and he was sympathetic.
Apple Keeps Desktop and Tablet OS Separate

Congratulations to Microsoft for trying to take the lead with a platform that is both a tablet and a desktop.  Apple still has separate desktop and tablet operating systems.  Apple sticks to Mouse for the desktop and finger for the tablet.  The question remains "Is combining a tablet experience and a desktop experience on one device making life easier or harder for the end user?"  iOS and Android devices have a high acceptance rate due to ease of use, portability and long battery life.  They also benefit from all applications being written specifically for touch use.  Using a tablet is a consistent easy user experience.  Using a hybrid device like a Windows 8 convertible or tablet is not a consistent easy user experience.  Do I touch the screen or touch the trackpad?  Do I swipe the edge of the screen or the edge of the trackpad?  Even though I can use my finger in the desktop interface, the controls are too small for my finger.  It is this same reason why VDI on a tablet is problematic.  Displaying a desktop designed for mouse use on a device that has no mouse becomes difficult.  VMware created Unity Touch exactly because of this problem.

We are still reliant on the desktop experience in business due to certain applications that only run on the desktop such as Outlook group calendaring and Microsoft Office editing.  That being said, users have shown in the millions that they enjoy the tablet experience.  We may see over the next few years that users will continue to carry multiple devices - tablets for light mobile computer use and laptops for legacy desktop applications.  Windows 8 is not yet at the point where tablet and laptop can be combined into one device that increases ease of use.  I will continue the search.