Its something out of a movie that has a cheesy villian in it, pulling all the strings in the show to make things happen the way they want. Like Dr. Evil and his ridiculously ugly cat, Microsoft wants desktop and cloud domination once more with Windows 8 and is willing to pull all the stops to make sure that buyers and users of Windows 8 will use the Metro interface (even though I can’t call it that anymore) for better or worse.
Previous builds of Windows 8, specifically the Developer, Consumer and Release Previews (discounting the weekly leaked builds in between) allowed for a script to be applied on start-up that allowed users to boot straight into the desktop of Windows 8, bypassing Metro completely. The functionality was still there if you hit that Windows button but you’re no longer forced to use the Live Tiles interface by default.
While this would have been great for network admins and even users who liked the upgrades under the hood but didn’t want the glitz and glamour offered by Metro, its no longer an option in the RTM build leaked a week ago on Torrent websites. The start-up script has been blocked and even apps that attempt to recreate the Start Button and menu on the desktop interface have been blocked from editing the GUI. While I completely understand Redmond’s reasoning for this, its borderline insane to not give users the option to choose.
Consider that when Mac users got Snow Lion everything was switched around a bit. Apple edited the interface and the default to how you navigated through the interface to make it better for power users and other Macbook and iMac owners in general – but, rather crucially, there was the option to turn everything back to the way you preferred. The perceived lack of innovation by the company that started out of a class with Bill Gates and his friends throughout the eighteen years of using the same basic interface has forced Microsoft to do something drastic, with Metro being the answer we were all given.
As a long-time Windows user, an ex-desktop support technician and a journalist, I see why and where Microsoft saw reason to make the transitions it has thus far into an OS that’s fully Web2.0 compliant, but not allowing the kind of customisation the Windows platform has always been capable of is sure to step on more than a few toes. Metro is an interface that requires some adjusting to and I’m sure network admins in charge of a roll-out would have appreciated the option to force the desktop mode via group policy or a script slipped into an ISO image for easy cloning of the proper network environment. Users not familiar with the interface will be initially confused, killing productivity in more ways than one in the first two weeks of proper use.
Don’t get me wrong, as you’ll see in my second part of Windows 8’s analysis, there are a good few ways in which Metro works and does positively affect productivity. But less-savvy users and those who have schooled themselves into a particular way of doing things will struggle in the beginning.