Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 in reality

Q Geekery, Tech Opinion Leave a Comment

I’ve mashed together Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT because the two are fairly similar.  One is optimized for phones, and the other is optimized for tablets (and includes a watered down desktop mode).  Because of the aspects that I’m going to focus on, the two fit together.

Let me say this about the new Windows platforms–I don’t hate them.  Let’s face it, the live tiles and big colorful icons are pretty.  The operating system is fast, responsive, and suffers from less glitches than most other operating systems have at this early age.  In short, it’s visually appealing and it works fairly well.

OK, so where do the problems lie?  Well, it’s all in the name really.  It’s called “Windows,” but most everything is a full-screen app.  Windows seem to be objects of the past.  But that’s not really the thing I have trouble with.  When you pick up something running Windows, you’ve got certain learned habits and expectations for how whatever you grab will work.

With Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, the old way of doing things is largely gone.  In RT, you can find the Control Panel through search, but it’s not obvious, and most of the settings are still linked to brand new menus that look and feel a whole lot different from previous Windows menus.

Is all of that bad?  Not necessarily, but it does mean that expectations need to be fully set before the public starts playing around with the devices.  Microsoft has done a terrible job at preparing people for the change.  Maybe they should have changed the name so that people would understand that this is something completely new, I don’t know, but the reason the new Windows platforms are getting so much hate is because they do not act like the Windows devices we’re used to.

Outside of divergent expectations, there are a few more problems.  The platforms are new, so there isn’t a thriving ecosystem around them yet.  That means that you may not be able to find an app or accessory that you want.  Windows Phone also suffers from very iOS-like customizability issues.  It’s locked down pretty tight, so if you don’t like the way MS has done things, either become friends with a hacker or get something else.  People have brought the classic start menu back, and some have managed to get legacy Windows programs running in RT, but the processes can be tricky and risky if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Oh yeah, did I mention?  Windows RT looks and feels like Windows 8, but you can’t run legacy Windows programs on it.  Be careful what tablet you buy, should you go the Windows route.  There are even Windows 8 tablets for about the same price as a Surface RT (though the build quality on the Surface RT seems pretty awesome).

That leads me to my next point.  The HTC 8X and the Lumia 920 are awesome phones.  They’re built well, look good, and their fast.  The downside is that lacking ecosystem.  If it catches on, we’ll see a whole lot more support in the near future, so that could be a limited-time issue.

My most major beef with Windows Phone 8 (and RT) is the fact that you can’t install a true third party browser.  You’re locked into IE, which is the same problem that got Micorosoft into antitrust trouble not all that long ago.  IE isn’t as horrible as it used to be, but Chrome and Firefox are still better.  Microsoft is taking away choice, which I am never a fan of, to lock you into their platform completely.  This is bad juju in my book.

So, things that Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT need to become true winners:

  • more customization–I can adjust just about everything in Windows 7, give me some more of that, please.
  • Third party browser support.  Don’t lock us into IE, I beg you!
  • More apps!  (this will come with time and popularity)
  • More phones/tablets
  • Lower prices on the Surface tablets.  Seriously, the price on the Surface Pro is ridiculous, and the RT tablet is at least $100 too high.

Let me (and others) know what you think

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