Long Opinion/Rant: Microsoft lost a change in future computing.
Let me start this by saying this is personal opinion, just like any official article at The Verge or any other forum post. And that this is my first one based to my new experience what is the future. If you don't like personal opinions, please step out and enjoy.
TL;DR whiners, you can leave now as well as you are not going to read 1908 words either.
"You are holding it wrong" whiners can leave now too.
This new experience what I got started a week ago. My workstation display died after serving great 7 years. It was one of the cheap 24" WXUGA display what cost only 295€ as new (and those who doesn't know, WXUGA means resolution is 1920x1200) and it replaced my previous 19" SXGA display (1280x1024) what was as well a cheap (210€) on the year when Windows XP was released (2001).
Now I was seeking a new display, running Windows 8.1 and otherwise upgraded workstation for 3D rendering, photo manipulation, video editing, writing (English is my fourth language, as you can see it is a terrible), browsing and of course gaming.
So I started the search for next great monitor with low price but I found a problem, most displays are now stuck to "Full HD" resolution. 1920x1080 is unacceptable to workstation. It isn't even good for movies as the 16:9 isn't the ratio where movies are presented. But it was not the problem as I didn't watch movies but edited 16:9 material. But writing, browsing and photo editing was terrible experience with 1920x1080 resolution. Just way too limited.
So I found a average priced 27" WQHD display (2560x1440) for 549€ price. Because I couldn't find cheap 4:3, 5:4 or 3:2 ratio display and all were just 16:9, it was acceptable as resolution was high enough to give vertical space needed.
But for that price you can't get quality. Right? The manufacturer stated in specs that display had IPS panel and 4ms grey-to-grey speed. Huge contrast etc.
So I ordered the display and waited two days it to be delivered to nearest post office.
And from there it started, Windows 8.1 what I had learn to hate after weeks of its usage in first days, it hit me against my face again. Start screen is terrible on larger resolution display. Windows 8.1 as is goes over the acceptable user experience.
But I didn't suffer long, as I found few days later the answer for odd things, what was that the display panel was not 8-bit per channel, it was 6-bit per channel. Many manufacturers are doing same thing with IPS panels as what they did with TN panels. They dither the colors. So each RGB color scale has two stops what looked terrible. Some photos with people the face could look like it was smashed or sky was covered JPEG compression artifacts.
So the display was returned.
You can't get good and cheap, you need to buy two?
Searching new display with tablet, reading reviews, manufacturers specs for panels what display manufacturers used. And then I found a new display what was possible pre-order, price only a 559€.
But for that price you get UHD-1 display (if someone doesn't know, it is 3840x2160 resolution) and size is 28". Pivot, IPS, 10-bit per channel, 1ms white-to-black. Sounds fancy, right? Competitive displays at lower resolution and 27" size included USB3 hub what was interesting, but price difference was only 50-100€.
I wondered how does Windows 8.1 work with even larger resolution display?
It doesn't. I found out that on first minutes after log in. Start screen is unusable, charms bar is unusable, last used Metro applications are hard to get. And the desktop side didn't work much better, Windows just was not designed for larger resolution with lots of windows.
Windows isn't actually designed for work or creative environment at all. You can't allocate windows, assign shortcuts to windows, bind windowmanager functions or create simple rules how windows needs to be opened.
You need third party applications to even give some of the needed functions but they don't work so well.
Few years ago I owned a 15.6" laptop what had average resolution at that time, only a 1280x800. And it was pain as it was Windows Vista machine. No, the Windows Vista did run perfectly fine as expected, but the resolution was problem. Just launched Microsoft Office 2007 was required software by work for file compatibility reasons to other workers and customers. And the Ribbon design was again on face. Too large, too limited and huge mess. Why I can't see the content and have easy access to tools? Later Microsoft addressed this by releasing a tool to make custom Ribbon styles. But that time it was way too late as company had changed to OpenOffice.org (today they use LibreOffice).
Microsoft Windows 8 required specific user interface made by Microsoft.
When I started to use Windows 8 it was fun and exciting. I hyped it to friends and co-workers how fast it was and how much easier it to use as I can get quickly to my applications etc etc. You know the story.
Weeks passed by and my experienced was totally different. I wondered WHY!?
Then I got it, I did not have correct user interface to use Windows 8!
I didn't want to get laptop with touch screen as I am not going to raise my hand from keyboard/mouse to do things. If I am going to use keyboard most of the time when front of the computer, I want it to be painless as possible. I need shortcuts, I need functions and quick bindings. When at once I can have open over hundred windows open in one hour for research and cross reference I need easy way to manage all that. Editing photos can result that I have 10-15 photos open same time and using content from each other. Editing video can require I have as well dozens of clips what I need to preview and pause separated.
Windows 8 was causing me much more problems what Windows 7 was ever.
So because problem was in me, I made decision I need to change. I got Microsoft designed and manufactured user interface. I bought Microsoft keyboard and mouse designed for Windows 8.
And I was so naive, I had heard so much about how amazing Windows 8.1 is and how it fix all what Windows 8 had and brings new features. And that you need a good user interface to use Windows 8.1.
Now I have mouse what has a Start button in it. I have keyboard what has shortcuts to all Windows 8.1 functions.
It is still terrible use.
Windows 8.1 and 4k display
Windows 8.1 managed to destroy my user account from my computer in previous patch. No problems as I had backups made on that hour before I updated.
But I was happy from it because now I could get little better fresh start with Windows 8.1.
New display, new user account and files on backup server.
But it just doesn't work. Microsoft has totally forgot that the computers are not for people who like to read facebook, click Like-button all day along, make skype calls to their friends while drinking coffee.
The core function of Windows was the windows. Windowing Manager has not changed on Windows since Windows 95! Sure Windows 7 brought snap feature to get windows to either side or full screen but that doesn't work on high resolution display!
All Windows 8.1 functions and shortcuts are useless for high resolution displays. They keyboard and mouse are useless. Start Screen is even worse as moving mouse around takes effort and it is harder to see things as there is large area to look.
And no, the search functionality doesn't work. You can't always remember application name or file name and type it.
How hard it is to get a small area with content I use most often, with quick access to content no matter where it is? There was nothing seriously wrong in Start Menu as is.
Designers at Microsoft lives at era where computer display resolution will always stay at 1280x800 level. Now the most common resolution on laptops is 1336x768. That is terrible!
It isn't better than 1280x800!
1920x1080 is terrible for computer use!
And when you get 4k display, you get more content and better accessibility to it.
But it requires that the graphical user interface gives you the power to use the higher resolution features.
Microsoft dropped the ball
It is amazing how with 4k display it is possible to have 8-10 PDF pages open at once and you can easily read everything. Possibility to have 4 PDF pages, a web browser window and couple text editors open at once is huge booster.
But it isn't enough. We do multitasking, we work on something and then we swap to another task. So having dozens of windows open at once isn't good. We need to have possibility to group tasks and separate them each other.
And Metro doesn't offer that at all. Windows windowmanager doesn't allow that at all. Third party applications offering help are third class.
At late 80's I used lightpen on PC. It was like pen on Microsoft surface, you could draw, point and click and move files on GEM. But it didn't work so well as mouse did in other tasks than drawing.
Mouse and keyboard are still best user interfaces to computer when needed to work with files and content creation or when sitting on chair at front of computer.
My 4k display is located at such distance that I can't touch it in normal sitting stance. I would not gain any benefits to move it closer.
All the Windows 8 features like charms bar are results of terrible design. Even in Microsoft own usability testing they found that over 70% of the users didn't find charms bar usable. The start screen was not far from that either. But they were forced to ship Windows 8 as it is only by political reasons.
Microsoft was forced to change the graphical user interface when they still have users forced to use their software. So they can force them to learn new way how to use computer so switching to other system in future would be behind learning curve, even if being better one.
The windowing environment isn't results of just one idea and then stick to it. It is results of decades usability research and studies and have evolved a lot on other systems than Windows. Microsoft dropped the ball on long time ago by not implementing features what would have helped a lot of their customers.
My 4k display is what it was marketed. 10-bit per channel, no dead/stuck pixels, contrast is awesome and viewing angle well over 170 degree. Color calibration made small but clear difference but can I enjoy from the new display with Windows 8.1?
You can have cheap and good, without required to buy a two. But some things shouldn't change because change is required as it ends up to worse situation. Windows 8 overall has been one of its kind what has been pure mistake.
But it is my personal mistake, it is my personal suffering and I need to live with it.
On next few days I am going to try out how other windowing environments works with 4k display.