As a dutiful software geek, on Friday I couldn’t resist checking out Windows 8 on a touchscreen.  

And as a Monty Python fanboy, I’m a big fan of the expression, “And now for something completely different.” That stodgy old software company in Redmond?  Well, who woulda thunk, but they served up exactly that with Windows 8.

So on Friday, we at Rocket Matter bought an HP TouchSmart Envy.  The device itself is elegant, but it reminds me of Concordski – kind of a Soviet ripoff of a much cooler technology.  The analogy in this case would be the iMac.

We’re an all-Mac shop at Rocket Matter, and it was funny to buy a PC after so many years of computing elegance.  The power adapter was a big ugly brick and the packaging looks like it housed a power drill, not a cutting edge computer system.  Hey Mac users:  How funny is this?

The packaging and accessories for the Windows 8 HP Envy not exactly what we're used to seeing.
The packaging and accessories for the HP Envy is not exactly what we’re used to seeing.

In terms of the benefits for law firms considering whether or not to update to Windows 8, here are some initial thoughts:

1)  I Felt Stupid.  Oh So Stupid.

I am a software engineer.  I’ve used Unix-systems, Macs, PC’s.  The Metro user interface, which is characterized by a lot of beautiful color-tile widgets, is very different on Windows 8, and I got confused easily.

One thing is that Microsoft mercifully lets you do is get back to a more traditional Windows Desktop setting, and I got confused if I was supposed to use that or the new Metro interface.  For instance, the system comes with IE.  But again, feeling stupid, I couldn’t figure out how to open multiple tabs.  So I downloaded Firefox, but I needed to use the Desktop mode to work with it.  So as much as I am enamored by the beautiful tiles in Metro, I was in a traditional Windows environment most of the time.

2)  Install was Problematic.

One thing I noticed is that Microsoft tries to get you to login to your Microsoft account at every step of the way.  If you’ve ever used Hotmail or Live.com, you have an account with Ballmer and the boys. But it’s to the point of silliness, and it’s prohibitively annoying.  Case in point: even when I launched Skype, I was prompted for my Windows login, even though I have my own Skype account.

Also, the first time we went through the initial machine configuration screens, we got a traditional and very familiar greeting:  a Windows error.

Windows 8 Error Message

 

3) I Was Up and Running with the Tools I Use.  Kind Of.

I’ve completely embraced cloud tools (I should – after all I run a cloud-based legal software company).  So when I  first logged in, I was able to access Skype, Pandora (via Firefox), and Evernote.  Dropbox doesn’t have a Windows 8 app, but at least you can access files through a browser, though this is far from ideal.  And Rocket Matter, which is completely browser-based and cross platform compatible, functioned perfectly.

Skype appears to have embraced the “less is more” user interface philosophy to the point of not being able to figure out how to do some basic things.  For example, I wanted to add a friend to my contacts list, our CFO Mike Moore.  But even when I typed in his Skype Id, I had to pick from a list of dozens of Mike Moores to connect with him.  This took me 30 minutes to complete.

4) It’s Definitely Cool And Fun to Use.

The Metro interface is different, and it is really beautiful.  It’s not like what Google did with Android where they ripped off Apple’s iOS. You won’t be seeing UI infringement lawsuits here. 

Metro really is an evolution of user interface, and it’s exciting to think what Microsoft will pioneer in this space.  Don’t forget, these are the people who brought us mass-market gesture-based interfaces with Kinect.

However, it will take businesses some time to get used to using the new interface.  It’s not a leap forward, it’s two or three generations ahead.  I’m pretty tech-savvy, and I’m clearly flummoxed at times. My strategy is to rely on the Desktop mode, and wade into the Metro mode more and more over time.  It’s engaging enough that it has got its claws in me.  I look forward to playing around with it and learning more.

5) You Can Control the Computer With Your Nose

I’m not sure if this of much use to attorneys, unless you’re so busy that you’re doing things with both hands, but you can control Windows 8 with your nose. Allow me to demonstrate in this video.