Windows 8 Upgrade: Ready

Windows 8 upgrades will be coming to current Windows users on October 26. The question now is whether or not you should take Microsoft up on their fantastic offer to upgrade to the new OS for only $39.99. Some doomsayers claim that Windows 8 will be bad for everyone, but it’s true value will be determined by what you use a PC for.

As everybody should know by now, Windows 8 introduces the radically different start menu. It used to be called Metro, but now it’s just the Windows 8 UI after Microsoft found out that Metro was already taken by a Germany company. It’s definitely the most controversial aspect of the new operating system. Our commenters have expressed their love and utter contempt for the new look, but it really all comes down to the same question once again – what do you use a PC for?

Windows 8 and the new UI is going to be fantastic for consumers. Everything that you could ever want to enjoy in life – movies, music, games, etc – are all available at your fingertips in the new UI. It might take a little getting used to at first, especially with a laptop trackpad, but you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve been using the Windows 8 release preview on my two-year-old laptop for the past month and it’s second nature now.

Those who come out swinging against the new UI use their computers for more than just entertainment. These people use computers for work or for general purposes. They’re not interested in Windows 8 for its easy to use UI or its immediate access to all of their songs or movies. They just want to send emails to potential clients or work on an Excel spreadsheet. That’s where Windows 8 hits a major snag. It’s not that great for productivity at the moment.

Now, I’m not saying that Windows 8 can never be great for productivity. The stuff that Microsoft showed off in the latest version of Office looks great, but it’s the same problem ran into when Microsoft switches to a new version of any software. There’s a pretty steep learning curve and people are far too comfortable with older versions. Most businesses still use Windows XP and they will probably upgrade to Windows 7 before 8 due to its relatively easy learning curve.

The learning curve is definitely going to be Microsoft’s greatest obstacle as they move into the Windows 8 era. The OS was obviously designed for tablets and they pushed it to desktops to achieve parity across all platforms. They will need to convince business owners and regular desktop users that Windows 8 can be just as effective, if not more so, at completing everyday tasks. Thankfully, the Classic Shell add-on really goes a long way to fixing the various productivity issues that plague Windows 8.

My month with Windows 8 has convinced me that Microsoft isn’t quite there just yet. The separation of the new UI and desktop kills any momentum I was having in the new UI. Having to switch out of the new UI and go to desktop mode just to launch Firefox really slows down the experience. That may no longer be the case once more apps can launch inside the new UI.

For now, I would exercise caution when it comes to upgrading to Windows 8. If you use your PC for more than just content consumption, sticking with Windows 7 is probably your best bet for now.