Windows 8 (what's the point) 1

Regular readers of the blog may have noticed that when Windows 8.1 was first released on the 18th October, I’d said I would valiantly try and give you a full rundown on my view of the new features… when I could get the pesky thing to download.

The reason for my silence on the subject since then was because…well, to be honest, I didn’t really have anything to say. 

The main focus on the update is the return of the Start button.  Yep, it’s back, but we were never great friends to begin with, and I didn’t miss it too much when Windows 8 was first released. 

With 8.1, clicking on the Start button only takes you to the metro interface.  You have to perform an extra right click to get to the old style Start menu, and given that I still spend most of my time in the desktop mode, using the toolbars along the bottom to access my apps (even more since the update), going backwards and forwards to the tiles isn’t really an issue.

Another talked about feature is the fact that you can now see all your apps in one place, as thumbnails.  Great, but I don’t really need it.  I use the much improved search bar on the right, type in the first few letters of the app, and it brings up the option to click straight away.  For me, this is a more productive way of finding apps, but it kind of makes the thumbnail layout slightly redundant.

I’m not a fan of clutter so I don’t have a lot of tiles on my home screen.  So the ability to resize tiles depending on their relevance and how often I use it isn’t a big deal seeing as that all I want is the weather, the news, and Twitter.  Everything else – Excel, Word etc., I’ll use when I’m in desktop mode.  But I can see how the ability to personalise the tiles would be a benefit for some people.

I don’t want to make 8.1 sound too much of a damp squib because I think the work Microsoft have done on aiding user experience is useful.   I think the reason I’m not especially excited is because I’ll stick my hand up and say I was quite happy with Windows 8 to begin with.  There was a lot of things to get used to, a lot of which wasn’t helped by Microsoft’s scant regard for user initiation (they’ve already admitted that this was the biggest mistake they made with Windows 8).

There are some things with the new version, like configuring your programmes, which you still need to know how to do yourself.  But for people who are upgrading to 8.1 straight from Windows 7 and especially XP users (who need to upgrade to a newer version shortly due to Microsoft ending their support in April 2014), they will find it a slightly easy journey than those of us who dived straight in with Windows 8.

But I’m open to any new technology that can aid efficiency and improve experience, and Microsoft’s aim for familiarity across all devices, with a focus on touch screen usability, will be hugely beneficial to our business.  It’s all heading in the right direction.

So although I’m not amazed by Windows 8.1, there is something that I am amazed about, which is much more worth talking about.  I’ve got a new laptop.

It’s a HP Spectre XT.  It looks great and it’s more of an ‘ultramobile’ than a laptop given its thin size and weight.  But the best thing about it by far is its speed and processing power.

Using the latest Intel Core processor combined with Intel’s Rapid Start Technology, from a cold start I can start using my apps in less than 30 seconds.  So that means if I’m in a meeting and just need to show someone something quickly, I don’t have to ask them to talk amongst themselves for 5 minutes whilst the hard drive boots up.

Same when I’m starting it up in the morning.  There’s not a great deal of things more irritating than that staring into space, twiddling your thumbs waiting feeling whilst you’re waiting for those 3 magical words – CTRL, ALT and DELETE.

Fortunately my laptop just has one button and passcode entry to log in which makes things a lot speedier.  Bill Gates himself confessed recently that Ctr Alt Delete was a mistake and it was all IBM’s fault, but Windows 7 and XP users will still have to live with it. 

My apps load in less than a second so I can be reading and replying to emails within half a minute of switching the laptop on.

Following on from Warren’s blog, in this real time world where we all want everything done quicker and more efficiently, processing speed plays a massive part.

I’ve tried to think about how much time I’ve actually saved since I’ve had the HP Spectre XT – it must be getting close to an hour a week given how much I’m travelling about and need to restart my computer. 

I’ve also saved a great deal more in pure sanity.

In retrospect, I guess it’s a good thing that 8.1 hasn’t changed my life all that much – it shows that the Operating System is becoming part and parcel of my everyday working life and I’m simply getting used to it. 

What’s more important than being dazzled by new features, is being able to work more efficiently and collaboratively with my colleagues using technology.  Now that the hardware is catching up with the software, that’s a much bigger step in the right direction.