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Paul Allen: Windows 8 'promising' yet 'puzzling'

Microsoft cofounder's verdict: 'Does certainly require adjustment'

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Billionaire investor Paul Allen says he's bullish on Windows 8, but it seems even the co-founder of Microsoft has struggled with what he describes as some of the more "puzzling aspects" of the new OS.

In an in-depth review posted to his personal website, Allen says he has been working with a preview release of Windows 8 for a few months, and that while he has been "impressed" and "excited" by it, the experiment hasn't been entirely painless.

"Windows 8 does certainly require a brief adjustment period before users become familiar and comfortable with the new bimodal operating system," Allen writes.

"Bimodal" is the word Allen uses to describe the new OS's twin user experience, which offers both a traditional, Windows 7–like desktop environment and the blocky, touch-centric UI of Windows 8's new Start Screen. Although Allen says he appreciates both modes, like most of us he found it disconcerting how the OS kept bouncing him between the two.

"In Windows 8, users will be surprised when they are switched unexpectedly between the desktop and Windows 8 style applications," Allen writes, clearly not having got the memo that we're supposed to call them Windows Store apps now.

According to Allen, users can avoid some of these sudden transitions by adjusting Windows' file type associations, and he explains how with detailed instructions.

But in other cases, he says, the problem is that Windows 8 simply doesn't make a clear enough distinction between its desktop and tablet-centric UIs. For example, it includes a Windows Store version of Internet Explorer and a desktop version, but although they're both named the same thing, they're actually completely different applications – so different that they can't even share the same bookmarks.

Allen also found – surprise, surprise – that although the touch-centric Start Screen might be great for tablets, its UI was often counterintuitive when running on a desktop PC with a traditional keyboard and mouse combo.

Some of the touch controls are hidden, Allen writes, and there aren't any on-screen clues to let users know how to find them. Also, he says some of the swiping, sliding, and scrolling controls didn't translate well between the Windows 8's two modes.

Despite his list of complaints, however, Allen has a suggestion for anyone who has been underwhelmed by Windows 8's new UI: Get used to it. Bill Gates's former business partner says most of his gripes are really no big deal, and that even desktop PC users "should be able to pick things up without much trouble."

"Touch seems a natural progression in the evolution of operating systems, and I'm confident that Windows 8 offers the best of legacy Windows features with an eye toward a very promising future," Allen writes, adding, "I hope this helps."

You and Steve Ballmer both, Paul. ®

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