Computing

Windows 8, Why Won't You Let Me Love You?

Most of you already know this but it’s worth putting it out on front street: I’m a Mac user. I have a 2011 11-inch MacBook Air, and because of problematic hardware and a buggy OS, I hate it. Ever since the Developer Preview of Windows 8 hit the net, I have had some version of Windows 8 sitting in a virtual machine on my Mac. Now I’m one of the users stuck in limbo thanks to Microsoft’s as yet unexplained decision to only offer upgrade copies of Windows to Australian users rather than a full version. Microsoft, why won’t you let me love you?

I had intended to do a post about whether or not Windows can win over a Mac OS X Lion user, but when I figured out that I couldn’t run a full version, it felt wrong writing it.

Between Windows 8 vs Max OS X Lion I think I’d choose the former, simply because it respects what a computer should be and gives that experience to a bunch of different devices. Let me explain.

Mac OS X Lion is a route marker for where Apple is going with its desktop operating systems. Apple is trying to make OS X a platform where you’ll never have to see the command line ever again. It wants it to be smooth, easy to use and fluid right out of the box. The way the company seems to be doing that is with iOS. More and more iOS features have been slowly creeping on into Apple’s desktop space, as has the “walled garden” ideology. ‘Play by our rules, or get out,’ says Apple.

Now I’m not someone who needs to see a command line as much as an engineer, designer or coder would, but I like having the option there, so if something needs to be tweaked, changed or modified, I can do it by pumping in a bit of code and adjusting the operating system into something the manufacturer didn’t think of. Surely that’s my right? To infinitely tweak hardware that I have paid for? Apparently not. Apple is taking the restrictive mobile environment that it made and is pulling it upwards into the desktop operating system environment. Yuck.

Windows 8, while slightly more restrictive than previous versions of the operating system, is taking a different approach. Microsoft wants the desktop experience to work on multiple devices, dragging the idea of a traditional desktop computer into a tablet, phone and convertible. That’s the approach I like.

I don’t mind a locked-down environment on the smartphone side from Apple because it’s led to a great curated app experience that platforms like Android just haven’t been able to deliver yet in my opinion, but moving that into the desktop space — a space where traditionally the experience is exactly what you make of it — feels wrong.

So when I went to my local computer and software emporium to purchase a full copy of Windows 8, I was told that I could only purchase an upgrade license. When I went to the Windows 8 launch event in Sydney, we asked the local managing director if we could buy a copy. She ducked and weaved around the question like a pro, and when we left the event, journalists were given upgrade licenses only as review copies. No thanks. I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is a fatal flaw for Microsoft: not letting people from other ecosystems in to theirs.

Microsoft needs one in the win column for Windows 8, and it just can’t get one if it’s not letting people install new operating systems in parallel to others, like Mac OS X. It painstakingly built two great feet for itself, and now it’s decided to blow one clean off.

As far as I can fathom, to upgrade my virtual machine to a full version of Windows 8, I have to go and buy a copy of Windows 7 of all things, then plug in the upgrade key. That’s fine and it’s probably what I’ll end up doing, but people like my Mum and Dad wouldn’t know to do that. They’d just think it too hard and return the copy of Windows 8 they bought back to the store and go on using Mac.

Worse-still, people who know their way around the internet who don’t like being screwed by this stupid decision by Microsoft are more likely to go and pirate a copy of Windows 7 just so they can upgrade, or even just pirate the whole damn OS. Not that we encourage that sort of thing.

Pull up your socks, Microsoft. We don’t want to buy new hardware just to use your operating system. Let us choose to use what we want. Let us love you.


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