The Teenager Perspective
A few months ago at Tech Ed, Microsoft provided everyone at a press/analyst gathering with a slate pre-loaded with Windows 8, so I came away with Samsung device and various accessories to play with. When I got this home, my teenage daughter (14 years old) asked to have a look, and about 15 minutes later she declared "This is SOOO much better than my iPad". I haven't seen much of the device since because she has been practically living on it, while the iPad has sat there with a flat battery gathering dust.
So what's the appeal to a socially-oriented teenager who, like all her friends, is an obsessive multi-tasking online communicator?
My daughter calls out a few things about the Samsung that she really likes. Firstly, there's the versatility. The Samsung came with a docking station into which can be plugged a monitor, network cable, keyboard, mouse, and any USB storage device or other peripheral you want. Windows 8 is then very slick in the way it handles docking and undocking - you simply drop the slate into the dock or remove it at will, and within a few seconds the machine sorts itself out. Great if you are doing homework at your desk one minute, then rushing out of the door to a sleepover the next.
Mentioning homework, the other thing my daughter likes is that the machine runs Microsoft Office, so she can do all of her writing and creative stuff as usual. From a leisure perspective, while she likes the Windows Store and some of the early Windows 8 apps, she has not surprisingly highlighted the relative lack of software available compared to the iPad. However, this seems to be more than made up for by the fact that she can access all the websites that she and her friends visit habitually and "they all work as they are supposed to", which is an indirect reference to the constraints of Mobile Safari on iOS. Thoughts on the Learning Curve
The interesting thing in all of this is that never once has my daughter commented on the Windows 8 user interface. Looking over her shoulder, she happily flits between desktop and touch mode, and just gets on with it. This further confirms to me that UI related concerns commonly expressed by reviewers are more to do with lack of familiarity (perhaps sometimes accompanied by an unwillingness to make the effort) rather than inherent usability issues.
Having said this, familiarity among existing users is obviously an important consideration in a business context. Hitting a mixed ability workforce with replacement tools that are new and unfamiliar can lead to friction, productivity issues and a spike in calls to the help desk if users are not prepared for the change.
Given the usual lag between consumer and enterprise adoption of new Windows releases, the good news is that there are likely to be at least some members of the average workforce familiar with Windows 8 by the time it is rolled out, and the availability of co-worker support is not to be underestimated. There's then always the option of end user training, even though this is something that often gets overlooked.