I recently bought a new laptop. As is usual these days, it came with Windows 8. This was my first “Windows 8” computer, so I was a bit surprised by the experience, despite what others have reported.
Here’s what it came to:
- Remove adware, trialware and other junk: 1 hour
- Apply all available patches from Windows Update: 2 hours
- Install useful apps (e.g., firefox, acrobat reader, skype, etc.): 1 hour
- Upgrade to Windows 8.1: 12 hours (overnight – 3.5GB download!)
- Fix up Windows settings to make Windows 8.1 less annoying (that whole start screen / metro thing is an abomination on non-touch devices): 1 hour
Total to make the Windows 8.1 system usable: 17 elapsed hours, of which about 2 hours required my involvement.
No wonder people buy Mac’s!
I’m a frequent Linux user, so next I shrank one of the partitions and installed Ubuntu 14.04:
- Shrink Windows partition: 5 minutes
- Download Ubuntu 14.04 image: 5 minutes
- Burn the image to a USB flash drive: 5 minutes
- Install Linux, including a full set of apps: 10 minutes
Total time to add Linux plus all the usual apps to this laptop: 25 minutes.
The irony is that the Linux install is (I think) much more user friendly. None of that Metro/Start Screen/Modern junk with jarring transitions between full-screen and Windowed apps.
I’m biased, sure, but in both directions:
- Our company’s products install on and integrate well with Windows — I want Microsoft to succeed, at least in the corporate space.
- I’ve been a long-term Unix user, so I’m probably more productive and certainly more comfortable with a shell than a GUI.
Still – the difference in installation experience and in the quality of the resulting desktop environment is significant, and not in Microsoft’s favour.
Ultimately, people will choose what they are familiar or comfortable with. Most users will buy a computer based on price point and will live with whatever junk it came with. Compatibility with hardware and apps is a big decision factor, and I expect that support for shiny-and-new printers and scanners is probably a point in favour of Windows. But for the average user, whose PC is used to browse the web, access e-mail, write the occasional document, etc. — Linux looks to me like a much nicer option than Windows.
That’s not good for Microsoft.