I have been playing with my Win8 Ultrabook for the last week, gradually exploring its features. My friend Louis Columbus tells me Microsoft has bought into “Personas” in its development philosophy simulating how different roles navigate its software.
I think they forgot one persona – that of a tourist who enters a US WalMart on a Sunday after church visit. Lots of crowds, few employees to help you navigate the store even for the staples you are looking for.
My shopping trip:
a) I try a DVD to make sure an external drive works with the Ultrabook. Nothing. It recognizes the drive but Media Player will not play The Big Bang Theory. I am about to return the drive, when I learn the DVD player is only available in the new Media Center. So I upgrade for $ 69.99 to Win8 Pro and sign up on a Microsoft page to get free codes for the DVD player. They don’t arrive till the next day, when I realize the Pro upgrade already included the DVD player. To make me feel even dumber, a friend shows me a site where I could have got the Pro upgrade for $ 39.99. If I had bought a Win7 machine, the upgrade would have been even cheaper. Thanks, Microsoft for penalizing your early Win8 adopters.
b) I am surprised the machine does not have Skype pre-installed, now that it is a Microsoft property. I sign into my Skype account and try to download Skype for Win8. The link takes me to the Microsoft Store where it says Free Install. Except there is no button to download anywhere. I Google Skype for Win8 and navigate to the same page. I give up and download Skype for Win7
c) Not exactly a staple (though many bloggers say it is Microsoft’s best single product ever), but the search for Windows Live Writer turns in to an Easter Egg hunt. I email and tweet the Microsoft WLW handle for the 2012 version download page – no response. Several fellow bloggers sent me links where to find it - Windows Essentials, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Live Spaces. Other Microsoft employees say “oh yes, it is still alive” but not provide the download page . The Essentials page throws you off by saying it is the XP version. When you run the exe. if you are not careful it installs many more apps than the Writer. Best single MS product ever? Not so sure after this experience.
There were plenty of other little surprises. During the initial set up, the process takes you through several pleasant pastel colored screens, and then bang –blank screen. You have to do a hard restart. It is a reported problem but machines keep getting shipped with it. Basic features like Restart and Safely Remove Hardware require you to consult the user manual or surf the web.
As David Pogue wrote in the NYT, Win8 tries to be too many things for too many people with its TileWorld AND its traditional desktop UIs. In its infinite wisdom, Microsoft has chosen to release not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 versions of Win 8– RT, Basic, Pro and Enterprise. I guess all the personas whispered their conflicting demands in Microsoft’s ears. So Pro deserves a DVD Player because those users fly more and need that functionality? Basic users stay at home and use streaming video more than Netflix DVDs so don't need the DVD player?
Like WalMart, Win8 is dense. There is so much there. Just finding it is frustrating. It gets better as you spend time in the store. You learn where your brands are, you learn to avoid certain hours, you learn to self-check-out.
In the meantime, my wife listening to me cuss through the week reminds me: Run down to WalMart and get us a Win 7 machine before they disappear. Yes to replace the XP machine we bought before Vista crowded them out.