Tech

Am I the Only Person in the World Who Thinks Windows 8.1 Is Great?

| Mon Feb. 24, 2014 2:08 PM EST

The AP reports that Microsoft is prepping a Windows update: "Just one year after the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft issued a free update to address some of the gripes. The system now lets people run more than two apps side by side, for instance, and its Internet Explorer browser lets people open more than 10 tabs without automatically closing older ones."

Atrios comments: "Whenever I read about Windows 8.x I just shake my head."

This is something I'd usually address in a weekend post, but I was busy this weekend and I'm curious about something. I apologize in advance to the millions of you who couldn't care less about this.

Here's what I'm curious about: why is there so much griping about Windows 8.1? (I'm talking specifically about Windows 8.1 here, not the original Windows 8 release.) I ask about this as someone who's used both an iPad and an Android tablet extensively, and was surprised at just how much I like the Win 8.1 tablet I bought last month. I mostly got it as a lark, but it's been great. The tile interface is really nice: smooth, clean, and functional. The menu interface, which brings up menus by swiping in from the sides, is very handy. And if you don't like the tile interface, you can just boot directly to the old-school Windows desktop and never see it again.

Now, I'll admit that I haven't used Internet Explorer for at least 15 years, so I didn't know about the tab thing. That's kind of dumb. And getting rid of the Start button on the desktop—probably the single biggest source of complaints—was mind-bogglingly stupid. Still, you can fix that with a third-party add-on in about two minutes. It's really not worth whining about.

This isn't to say that Windows 8 doesn't have issues. There are some annoyances here and there, and the app ecosystem is anemic compared to Apple and Android—though, to my surprise, I managed to download very nice apps for every single application I care about. But overall, I've found it to be the best tablet OS I've used. The tile apps I've installed are mostly excellent; performance is good; I like having both a real file system and a real copy of Office; and it allows me to install a full desktop browser, not a stripped-down piece of junk that chugs along like a Model T. Practically the first thing I did when I got the tablet was to install Firefox and hit the sync button. That was great! A browser that actually does everything I want; supports all the add-ins I like; allows me to write blog posts without compromise; and has great performance. Android can't touch that, and it drove me nuts on my Asus tablet.

Obviously my reaction is based on the limited set of things I personally happen to do on a tablet. I don't listen to music or play games, for example, so I have no idea if it's any good in those areas. But I'm curious to hear from other folks who are using Win 8.1 on a tablet. Do you like it? Or does it really have lots of serious drawbacks that I just haven't run into?

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