Adaptability in the PC World

Windows 8 has caught a lot of flak for having a touch-centric nature, and many have lamented the dual nature of its UI. I've heard so many complaints from people who think that Microsoft "can't make up its mind", or "is suffering from schizophrenia", and would like to see Microsoft's main OS get separated out into a tablet and desktop OS, much like Apple's iOS/OSX offerings. But something about Windows 8's hybridized, all-over-the-place nature has left me surprised and pleased, and to me, it's just about worth any complaint that people level at this Brave New World for Microsoft: the incredible variety in hardware choices in Windows 8 machines. Never before has Windows simply worked like this on so many different form factors, and I would argue that this variety in hardware, which comes from the pure adaptability of the software, is a sort of shot in the arm for the declining (yet still incredibly substantial) PC market.

It seems like this is the first time that I could experiment with new hardware approaches with any degree of confidence. I no longer think that buying something like an Inspiron Duo is a ridiculous mistake; my next purchase could be something along the same lines.

Nothing like these new approaches has worked before. Remember netbooks? Remember touch-screen laptops circa 2005? Remember every single portable computer that strayed from the basic laptop design, only to meet middling sales and essentially no consumer adoption? Well, I remember them too, and I think OEMs remember them as well. Mass market adoption of the new, unique designs ushered in by Windows 8 might encourage OEMs to do more awesome, new shit, or even revive those old designs that failed a little less than a decade ago. It might even give us a new "standard" design, one of the same level as a laptop, tablet, or desktop.

The touch-centric nature of the UI is what's spurring this new innovation, frankly. Manufacturers basically never went all in on different, new approaches like they are right now, because consumers don't need, want, or purchase innovation without use; it feels like W8's new interface is prompting manufacturers to throw literally everything at the wall and see what sticks, in the space of a few months.

It's important to note that part of this new confidence stems from the incredible levels of responsiveness and graphical prowess that you can find on a thin, light computer (a la Ultrabook). Intel, Nvidia, and AMD are simply making faster, better chipsets. As more and more computing power gets shoved into smaller and smaller builds, a consumer could start to feel like they won't probably won't get shuttering, crap performance on just about any machine they buy today, and that is a claim I or anybody else simply couldn't make even just two years ago. As more machines start meeting consumers' basic requirements for performance, our form-factor options start to increase.

I may not purchase a Win8 machine in the next months, but if I don't, it won't be because of a lack of interesting form-factors and changes to basic design; it'll be due to the lack of discrete graphics. That's the last hurdle for me. I want to play games on my main machine, and I want to be able to take my huge music collection with me wherever I go; I won't step down from my current laptop's limited graphics chipset (AMD Radeon HD 5650, which functions like shit in Win8; can't wait for better drivers!) when I move to my next machine.

I've been looking for these sorts of strange, new choices for years now, and I love that I'm finally getting them at a storefront. Adaptability in the PC world is about to explode. All I'm waiting for is for one to include discrete graphics.

And maybe a good trackpad.