Slightly off-topic from typical gaming related news, but I thought I would start a conversation since many devs and gamers I talk with often discuss this OS or that OS as "The Next Big Thing"™. The general consensus I get from the public is that Windows 8 got off to a rocky start given the changes they've made to the interface. From a gaming perspective Microsoft has only added incremental updates to DirectX 11 since the release of Windows 8.0. Microsoft today has released Windows 8.1 RTM and it comes with DX 11.2 (IMO nothing big, but some convenient updates). Despite public backlash against tiles and Windows apps, Microsoft decided to release the update via the Windows Store app (oh the irony). They also forgot to mention that you need a special update for Windows 8.0 in order to download 8.1. Not off to a good start. So I just finished the update and after waiting just a little over an whole hour for it to finish, I'm regretting it big time. My standard desktop account was replaced and I'm now logged in using my online Microsoft account. Seriously? You have to go to your account settings and tell Windows that you don't want to do this. It's also amazing that anyone who rushes through the installation will automatically opt-in to sending Microsoft a ton of private information. It's incredible how much Microsoft wants to know what you're doing. I held off doing it because I didn't want to blow away my time, but this weekend I'm defiantly going back to Windows 7. Pop that DVD in and I'm never looking back.
But aside from this terrible experience I had, I've been seeing a lot of push lately for alternatives. We all know where Valve stands with Windows and their desire to move into the living room with Steam Machines and they're progressing along nicely with that. There's also other people competing for that space such as Ouya, Gamepop, GameStick, and a host of less popular micro devices running on Android or Linux that offer smart TV enhancements to the living room. Of course there's also the big players Xbox One and PS4, but then you have nVidia promoting the future in PCs and that Battlebox is the future for high quality gaming (at a price that will dig into your bank account).
Everyone's competing for space now. Canonical, the company responsible for working on the popular Linux distro Ubuntu is moving into the mobile front as well. Their operating system does what other phones haven't, to bridge the PC and mobile devices together. To run the same Linux apps and games on your PC as well as your phone. Plug a keyboard, mouse, and monitor in and you have a portable PC. This is pretty much what I've been asking for a long time, so if they can do a good job then maybe this will turn out to be "The Next Big Thing"™
So it's all interesting stuff and I'm happy with the competition and direction the market is going in. I think the times ahead are going to be very interesting and exciting. As for Microsoft... This is of course my personal opinion, but I always imagined the Windows 8.1 update would be Microsoft's way to redeem themselves. After installing this 8.1 update and seeing it for what it really is, I can't help but think Microsoft just dug themselves a bigger grave. I was content with Windows 8.0 despite it's negatives, but this update was enough to make me now want to jump ship and throw away a weekend reinstalling everything just to go back to Win 7.
Yeah, Win8.1 is too little, too late. It just doesn't work to try to cram two different UIs into the same OS the way they're doing. I'm sticking with Win7 as long as I can, and if I have to use Win8 I'll disable all the Metro stuff as much as I can and install one of those apps that gives you the start menu back.
Hopefully with Win9 they will straighten this out more. MS has had this good/bad alternation going on with Windows for a long time now. I wonder why that is.
The motivation for windows 8 is now obvious, Microsoft wanted a single OS across PC/Tablet/Mobile to catch up with Apple, they failed.
What they do now probably will define their survival.
If they come up with a good product in the next iteration, they will bounce back. They have enough money to survive one duff product (unlike most game development companies).
If they don't, they will start to fade away. It will take a hell of a long time for them to die. They won't go bust over night, won't just close the doors and go quietly into the darkness, but the time it takes for them to release two products is enough that people will find and come to love other solutions. What the most popular other solution is remains to be seen.
I'd be fine with two different UIs, as long as I can pick which one is the "main" one and which one is the "app".
There's one thing that keeps windows as the de facto desktop environment: the third-party software catalog.
And assuming that backwards software catalog will keep them alive indefinitely is also pretty relative. Sure, there's 20+ years worth of stuff that only works on windows, but at least some of it can run in wine, and definitely runs in a virtualboxed windows, so having a windows host isn't necessarily mandatory - and these solutions just smooth the way until replacements are available for the "next big thing".
(And no, the apps for ios won't kill windows as long as you can't do any "serious work" on ios devices)
There's a little analog I'd like to point out. When palm os was the king of mobile, the competition (arm-based, more versatile devices) were booed by the press, saying there's no way they can succeed, because they're not compatible with palm. I wonder how many people still care about that particular software catalog?
It looks like Google is starting to be the winner in the deal. More and more people are just buying a cheap Chrome computer. Android is starting to win the telephone market. Google gets it. You don't force people to buy your product or only use your store. You just put it there. You give people more choices, not fewer.
The OS is becoming secondary to the internet. Has been for quite a while. Eventually, we won't have discussions about the OS because it won't matter.
Windows has been the developers choice up till now, but they are starting to screw it up. Balmer was a complete idiot about the tablet market, at first refusing to admit there was a market, and then trying to imitate it with the pc market. There are some gestures that will work for the pc, but what they are trying to do isn't going to work. We use a keyboard. It's our primary input device. Gestures may be useful for secondary operations. We don't need big icons with animations. We have a larger screen. We don't need one UI to rule them all. Tablets have a function and need a different UI. They are primarily an entertainment device. PC's are primarily work devices. The only good news coming from Microsoft is that Balmer is retiring because he's been a nightmare for the company. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but he's not a good CEO. Microsoft should be competitive in both tablets and phones right now. They had the money and the expertise. That's what poor leadership does. It's fine for what you already have, but it's not good at growing market share. Anyway, I can get by with Windows 8 because I can develop games and serf. It's crap, but it still basically works for what I do. And the reality is, the competition is even worse. Linux isn't user friendly no matter how hard they try, and Apple is worse than Windows for development because they are control freaks.
If only Linux had the same hardware compatibility as Windows, plus some specific dev environments... then I would consider switching to Linux as my main OS. But drivers hunting and the lack of mainstream apps easily become a nightmare under Linux. I end up wasting too much time with things that are not directly related to development itself. And wine solves the lack of apps problem only partially.
Besides hardware compatibility, there is the additional problem that most people are using Windows anyway, so why switch and have the extra effort of compiling for both platforms, from the harder one?
Win8 seems to run a few apps quicker (at least for me). But it has some really useless and nonsense "improvements". And I don't like the new tendency for privacy invasion... I don't have illegal activities, but I don't like the 1984 idea either.
Addendum: last time I tried the change was when I got my brand new i7 notebook. I told to myself that at that shiny new note I would have just Linux, and from there that would become my main development OS. One week later, after having read and tried half a billion suggestions throughout google results to make the builtin nVidia videocard work (needless to say that none worked), I switched back to Win7 --- which, of course, worked smoothly and flawlessly at first try --- and forgot about having Linux as my notebook OS.
Oh my God. Just to shut my mouth up, the thingy now works. After posting here, I tried updating Bumblebee (for notebooks with hybrid intel/nvidia videocards) and now... it works. Just great! =)
Yeah, what I've found for linux is you can't have new hardware. If it's a year or two old, your chances are a lot better at getting drivers that work.
Not always. I recently tried installing a Linux distro on a laptop I bought in 2003, and it refused to recognized that my hardware wifi-button was on (RF_KILL issue, iirc). I was not the only one with this issue, there are a billion posts online from people with the same problem, and no fix in sight... Needless to say, Windows didn't have this problem. I installed it, and it was ready to got.
Another time, many years ago, I was installing some drivers for the ATI card in that laptop, and I remember I had to go in and manually patch up the source code for these brand new drivers, because they were written for an older kernel :s
Well, I run linuxes an all my machines, I haven't got a single problem with drivers in last like 8 years (well I had to write one or two drivers, but for uncommon devices, for which there were no Windows drivers anyway, so I wouldn't count this one).
The wifis were a bit of problem, but for 99% of them you can use generic driver (with little fine-tuning). Ehm and of course buy laptops from vendors that are Linux friendly, others deserve to either add Linux support, or slowly bankrupt (at least I won't buy anything from them).
I still like Linux a lot. Linux is very likely to become my main OS in the upcoming months. Last time I tried (about one year ago) the nvidia accelerator did not work for me. But it's working fairly well right now, so I am back to the gradual switch plan.
Also, just to be clear, when I said that Win8 ran some apps quicker, I was comparing to Win7.
I am preparing myself for a definitive switch. Win will be kept in my desktop for some time, but eventually I'll switch all machines: Linux will become the primary OS, and Windows will live in a smaller, secondary boot or even a virtual machine.
This is about time.
As for me, I still have Windows on two machines (laptop and one desktop) - it is basically for porting applications and gaming. I still play a lot of games on Wine (immortal Heroes of Might & Magic 3, DotA 2 (to Valve - your linux clent & installation sucks hard, please hire a Linux programmer, not some garbage than can port code to single specific distro and with the newest kernel (= e.g. Valve, f*** you) ... so I gotta run on WinE) for example), but not all run smoothly and there are bugs in some (F.e. Skyrim, still glitchy on graphics).
Porting is a childplay for me, as I create my own makefiles and use only minimum libraries that are portable (libc, sometimes gtk/qt for gui system, and such... not unportable garbage like stdlibc++ that has different implementations across operating systems, or such).
There are some gestures that will work for the pc, but what they are trying to do isn’t going to work. We use a keyboard. It’s our primary input device. Gestures may be useful for secondary operations. We don’t need big icons with animations. We have a larger screen.