After two years of being highly skeptical about everything Microsoft – especially if you consider how positive I was after attending TechEd 2010 – attending another edition of TechEd sorta won me over again. The promise of a integrated holistic (yes even MS itself uses this word now) management platform finally seems to be fulfilled with System Center 2012 and even Server 2012 without the whole suite seems to all about integration, open standards and the acknowledgement of the fact that for some people and companies there is no cloud like their private cloud.
I even installed Windows 8. Most of the reviews I’ve seen have been ambiguous to say the least. At TechEd 2012 I saw tablets running Win8 – on that platform the Metro UI looks and feels more modern then IOS. Obviously most of the way you interface, the strong connection to cloud apps and the ability to federate data from different sources have been well stolen from Apple. But true multitasking (even if you can only run two apps next to each other on one screen) is a big plus. The fact that you can use your regular Desktop apps on those (non-ARM) devices might be an advantage as well – but a lot will depend on how well they are suited to be used with a touch interface.
Now running it on your desktop…or laptop is a whole different matter. The absence of integration between the Metro and Desktop worlds is a big problem. I don’t mind having nice looking apps to do certain jobs – like reading a book or watching a movie – I do mind being able to ALT-TAB through both these full screen apps and my desktop apps. And I don’t mind having 10 ways to alter my settings – as long as lead to the same set of settings. I need to know what to change and where to change it.
If you read any of my previous articles you know I have a special interest in proxy servers. Well hang on to yourselves – Metro gave us another way to define a proxy. Metro apps bar IE 10 Metro don’t use WinINET or Winhttp – their proxy is defined in a Group Policy Setting. If you want to read which look here.
There is also the so called improvements for multi monitor setups. When I ran the pre-install wizard it told me Ultramon wasn’t supported so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. What I got was:
- An customizable dual screen taskbar. Finally
- Hotkeys to move Windows around like it was in Windows 7 – but no buttons in the right hand corner of each window like in Ultramon or similar utilities
- Metro on one screen, the Desktop on the other. Now at first that made me really happy. If they won’t integrate maybe I can run them next to each other on different screens. But no – selecting a Desktop app will minimize my Metro….
The Desktop itself is faster, more responsive and I don’t care for the Start button that much. I wonder if the Rolling Stones were still getting royalties from way back when MS used Start me up at the Windows 95 launch – but I doubt they will care either. Press the Windows button and start typing – you get a nice quick list of suggestions be it regular programs, applets that change settings or individual files.
The Metro apps are good to have on my laptop at home when I want to look at some photo’s, chat or look up random stuff on Wikipedia. But I hope I’ll be able to turn it off on my workstation at work, unless Microsoft finds a way to access both worlds in a unified and seamless manner.