Is Windows the better OS X – Windows 8

Some time ago I wrote about why Lion is such an awful development.

Today I would like to – very uncommon for a Mac blog – recomment Windows 8 as an alternative.

Probably everyone of you has already been punished by having to use Windows 7 and I fully agree with you that even Lion is much better than the current Windows edition. However Microsoft obviously has learnt from its mistakes and they really have put a lot of effort in the upcoming release to make it something that is very pleasant to use. If you have had a chance to put your hands on one of the new Windows Phone devices you have already seen what Microsoft is up to. (Even though I wonder what took them so long!)

Windows 8 actually does not come with any great new super duper features but what really is enticing is that they have fixed so many of the things that keept a lot of Mac users from switching to Windows. Let me list some of the improvements:

Updates. For some reason MS never managed to create a useful update manager. While Mac OS X easily updates itself, Windows keeps downloading hundreds of updates every month (why don’t they bundle them) each requiring a restart.
But this has changed in Windows 8. No updates are downloaded silently and will not force you to reastart anymore. Instead Windows will consolidate all the restarts in a month, synchronizing with the monthly security release. And even then it will not just force reboot (as Windows 7) but will ask you if you have time to install the updates. You have 3 days time to let the system install it before it forces the restart-and-install procedure. And even this force restart will not interrupt your work (like in Windows 7) but will wait until you log out or your computer goes idle.
I think this is a great improvement and is one annoyance less. Learn more about this on the official Windows blog.

Store. MS, too, will introduce an AppStore for Windows. However this will be much better than Apple’s AppStore as it will not put such high restrictions to the Apps. While Apple only allows certain Apps there, Microsoft will allow almost any (secure) software to be in its store. As Windows 8 also introduces the Metro-Touch-Dashboard (like on Windows Phone) the main purpose of the Store is to distribute Metro-Apps. However also regular Windows Applications can be put on the store and be downloaded there. The only difference is that Metro-Apps are sold by Microsoft (like in the Mac AppStore (by Apple)) whereas normal Windows Apps still must be bought from the developers own shop. This is a great improvement over the Mac AppStore where Apple forces developers to use Apples purchase system and takes 30% of all revenues. In the Windows store developers will profit from the additional promotion of the store but will be able to keep 100% of the revenues and have full control over pricing and licensing details (like easily offering rebate events).
Also the Windows store is much cleaner and easier to navigate and search. While the Mac AppStore is just awfully inconvenient, slow and unstable. You find details about the new store here.

Startup. On a Mac starting your computer is quite nice to look at. Though running a Unix system the user will never see any 80s style DOS-Command screens. Just the Apple icon. On Windows this always was very awful and all low level work like installing a new system was just like it was with Windows 95. Not so in Windows 8. MS created a whole new startup design looking gorgeous from the beginning. No more DOS consoles, no ugly pixel graphics. In fact everything looks like on Windows Phone. And they even redesigned the famous blue screen which is so surprising that I share it with you here.

Also an improvement is startup time. MS claims to start Windows 8 in 7 seconds on an SSD and in under 30 secs on a HD. This is the counter evolution to Mac OS which for me took 40 secs to boot on Snow Leopard but now takes 1 min 30 secs on Lion and (I tested it) on Mountain Lion (that is more than double).

Languages. I always enjoyed the possibility to have the possibility to easily switch languages on Mac OS X. On Windows this has always been impossible. If you buy a US version you cannot switch to Spanish or German. On Windows 8 this is now easily possible just like on the Mac. (This of course is not a great achievement since Apple has it for years but it is also one annoyance less when you have to work on Windows)

Resources. Microsoft claims that Windows 8 will only need less than 300 MB of RAM. This is just awesome  considering that Windows 7 took at least 400 MB.

Explorer. Every Mac would agree that the Windows Explorer just sucks. It is slow, ugly and difficult to use. But now after 20 years it has been completely redesigned having the very useful ribbon interface you know from MS Office. So now the most important functions are easily accessible from the menu bar which can even be fully customized or completely hidden. Also MS repaired the picture view which now acts as you would expect (like auto rotating pictures)  and revamped the copy process.

Design. Of course we use Macs because of the design. But honestly Apple has not made any progress since the introduction of Mac OS 10.0 and I think the Mac OS looks a bit out fashioned. Whereas Windows 8 – particularly the Metro interface – just looks stunning.

There are tons of other cool new features in Windows 8. I just wanted to point out the most striking ones. If you are interested have a look at the official Windows 8 blog, where the engineers describe all new features (there are lots of screenshots, too).

I will definitely get a PC and try out Windows 8 when it’s released in summer. I have already tried out the beta of Mountain Lion and I can tell you that it is not worth upgrading. It feels like the world turned upside down: Apple does not make any progress while MS will publish the most polished operating system in summer catapulting itself from bottom to top on the list of the most advanced and well designed products.

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