A first look at the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro, also by the world’s worst videographer (me)!
A video of me unboxing the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro, by the world’s worst videographer (me)!
I have been running Windows 8 for a while now (as many people have, given Microsoft’s approach to releasing “previews”). I started playing with it just after the //Build/ conference in 2011, and switched to running it full-time on all of my day-to-day computers back in June. I even blogged a bit about my initial experiences, but I stopped because there was not that much to write about. It is my personal experience that once you get past the initial shock of the user interface changes, doing day-to-day work on Windows 8 is not all that different than Windows 7 (note I am referring to Windows 8 here, not Windows RT).
I really like Windows 8, but I am not sure I would upgrade to it “just because”. If it is on a computer I buy, I will enjoy using it, but will likely not upgrade any more machines.
But…there are some things about Windows 8 that annoy me to no end. Like most things Microsoft does, Windows 8 is 80% great, and 20% ranging from annoying to intolerable. Here are my top 5 issues (at least for today).
It Is Not Finished
This has been said by many reviewers. Some refer to it as not finished, others as schizophrenic. Still other descriptions have been even more colourful.
My issue is specifically with the features which require you to switch to the traditional desktop to do things.
One example is computer settings. While the Settings charm allows you to get to some settings (either directly or via the Change PC settings link), the vast majority of settings require you to jump to the Desktop and open the Control Panel, just as you always have.
Sorry, Microsoft, that is just plain lazy. If there is a setting to which you want users to have access, then present it through your Modern UI.
Another example is Windows Explorer. Why do I have to go to the Desktop to move files around, look for files, etc. I can see maybe having the Desktop Windows Explorer there as a last resort, but I should be able to do anything a normal user would want to do with files through the primary UI. If Microsoft cannot figure out a good way to use the Modern UI paradigm to implement file manipulations, then it isn’t a very strong paradigm.
The Mail App
I am torn on my opinion of the Mail app. Actually, no I am not – I hate it.
For the most part, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it (other than the lack of support for POP3 – I mean come on!). There is also nothing especially right about it either. It looks like pretty much every other mail client out there.
When I read the post Building the Mail app, it is clear that the team put a lot of thought into how to build the Mail app. Unfortunately, much of it was wrong.
Yes, it supports various “Windows 8 glitter”, like sharing contracts, search, Live Tiles, pinning accounts, etc. But is that enough?
I really would have liked to see email “reimagined” a little . The way it came out just looks like traditional email prettied up a little (very little). Could no one imagine any strategy using the Metro design language/Modern UI to actually make working with email better?
The PDF Viewer
What could go wrong with a PDF Viewer, right?
Well, how about not remember things like how I use the software? Or at least giving me the ability to tell the software what settings I want to change?
The big one for me is Continuous versus Single Page reading. I like to have PDFs in continuous mode. And, every time I open a PDF in the PDF App, I tell the app I want to use Continuous view. And every time, it forgets.
I know this is a nit-picky kind of thing – but it is endemic in Microsoft’s Apps. To not remember my preferences automatically is bad design. To not even allow me to set my preferences is unforgivably bad design.
Ok, this is another very small thing, but I run into it so often that it drives me nuts.
Open the SkyDrive App, select a file, and click the download charm. You are then presented with a UI to allow you to choose a destination folder, and a button that says “Choose this folder”. So far so good, right?
Click the button. The button then switches to say “Ok”. Congratulations! You have now added one completely useless interaction to something I will do all the time. Yes, I might have selected the wrong folder, but it is hardly irreversible. If it is the wrong folder, I can move it. Don’t annoy me on every interaction, just to handle the “exception” case.
I am not talking about the Office Desktop applications here, or even the Office RT applications, but about the Modern UI/Windows Store apps – OneNote MX, and Lync 2013.
Both of these are cute proof-of-concept sort of apps, but they are functionally really disappointing. I sympathize that the Office team was probably brought into the game quite late, and that they were in middle of their own major product release cycle, but better not to release anything that what you have. Neither of these are good examples of Modern UI apps, and some of the missing pieces are really stupid (why can’t I change the pen colour in OneNote MX? why can’t I pin a User or Group from Lync to the Start menu?)
There are other things that bug me, but these are the five which are top of mind today. I also kind of annoyed at some of the limitations of the App development model, but that will have to wait for another post!
Among the Windows 8 devices I have been very anxious to see are Samsung’s ATIV SmartPC line. There are two main versions, the 500T, powered by an Atom processor, and the 700T powered by a Core I5 processor (note there is also a Windows RT version of the ATIV).
In particular, I was really looking forward to seeing the 500T. With the Atom processor, it runs a full version of Windows 8, rather than running Windows RT. The Atom processor would also seem to give better battery life, and keeps the price more in line with what people want to pay for this type of device. And the kicker (for me, anyway) is the inclusion of the S-PEN and an active digitizer to support note-taking, a big bonus in my books.
Based reviews like this, I was pretty excited.
Well, now comes the problem…I live in Canada.
The versions being sold in the US (for slightly cheaper) both include the S-PEN/active digitizer. Not so for the versions in Canada. Samsung Canada has confirmed to me via Twitter that the Canadian versions do not have the pen, and reviews I have seen indicate that they will not even work with other Active Digitizer pens.
Others may not place quite as much important on the pen as I do, but this makes the device a non-starter for me.
I have received no justification from Samsung as to why Canadians should pay more for reduced capability. I would love to see their reasoning.
Check out my new blog The Windows 8 Experience where I will be documenting my experiences trying to live and work with Windows 8 as my primary OS.
(this blog isn’t going away – the new one is just for a special topic!)
With Windows 8 rumoured to go RTM near mid-year, and released before year end, I thought I would hazard a few predictions about its acceptance/adoption:
- Apple users will hate it. Why? Because it is not from Apple, and nothing cool can from from anyone but Apple.
- Linux users will hate it. Why? Because it is from Microsoft, and Microsoft is the root of all that is evil in the universe. Oh, and it has a GUI.
- Android users will hate it. Again, because it comes from Microsoft.
- Many Microsoft fans will love it, but will be afraid to admit it in front of their “cool” Apple and Android friends.
- Microsoft Marketing will fail. I hope this is not the case, but the last half dozen years or so leads me to believe that Microsoft cannot communicate with consumers (except XBox consumers, and gamers are a little different anyway)
- Other than on a tablet or other touch device, no one will upgrade to Windows 8 until they absolutely have to (unless I am wrong and Microsoft marketing hits it out of the park).
I don’t think these are particularly high risk predictions!
As I have played with Windows 8 (both the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview), I have gotten the distinct feeling that it has been developed assuming a right-handed user. For example, access the system charms works much more consistently with my right thumb as opposed to reaching across with my left hand.
Tonight, while reading through some of the developer documentation for the consumer preview, I came across the following statement:
Apparently it is ok to ignore 10% of the population when designing your user experience.
This has always been my view of Microsoft’s tablet strength, and the competitors’ glaring weakness. For me, without a viable input method (and the onscreen keyboard is not a viable input method for anything more than 140 characters), existing tablets are nothing more than one-way consumption devices.
I, too, used slate tablets + OneNote for all of my note-taking. Not just in meetings, but when I was brainstorming, researching new ideas, collecting and annotating content from the Web, etc.
I have OneNote notebooks with every note I took from 2003 through 2008, all searchable, and all with me all the time. The only reason I stopped was because my slate tablet died a slow death, and all of the newer Tablet PCs I have tried are complete crap for handwriting (mostly because of the introduction of and focus on touch).
However, this is just me, and the way I work. As I discussed in a previous post, this is not the case for millennials (or however you want to label the up-and-coming generation). For my kids, handwriting is awkward and slow. They would much rather type things, even on smartphone keyboards, or onscreen keyboards. Writing is an absolute last resort. Look also at the fact that a number of education departments are now removing cursive writing from the curriculum. For better or worse, in the next generation, handwriting may become almost unknown.
So for Microsoft, Windows 8, tablets, and handwriting, it will ultimately come down to (as it almost always does) answering the question who is your target market?. If Microsoft is going after the same people who buy iPads, and Android slates, then handwriting may not be much of an advantage at all.
In fact, it may just make those people think “more old fashioned stuff from Microsoft”.