Kicking off the Microsoft event at MWC last week, president of Windows and Windows Live, Steven Sinofsky, launched the “Consumer Preview” beta version of Windows 8, before its anticipated official full version launch this coming autumn.
With Android having scaled rapidly from smartphones to tablets, and Google Inc. looking to gain traction for its Chrome OS in netbooks, Microsoft has realized it must move fast if it is to retain its software dominance in PCs, as well as elsewhere across the compute continuum. Windows 8 is the firm's first major play at coming up with a unified operating system that can scale across all levels of devices, from computers to tablets, consoles, phones and more.
Especially exciting with this Windows launch is that for the first time, the software stack will also be available on ARM architecture, not just x86 devices. For consumers, this means that the choice becomes a software decision, pure and simple, without the extra complications of having to take the hardware into account when opting for an operating system preference.
So my two questions are:
1. Does Windows 8 require a touch screen? In some applications, like wall displays that the user can actually walk up to, no problem. In other cases, like wall displays that are impossible to reach, or even desktops where the largish display is somewaht out of reach, it would be nice to have an alternative to the screen swipe. My suggestion is a mouse pad sort of device, that a user can swipe remotely. Or even swiping with a mouse pointer, perhaps.
2. Remember how MS IE became intrinsic to Windows, during the reign of Win95? Once installed, you could not delete it, and eventually it became mandatory for Windows Updates? Well, is Microsoft playing this same game with Bing over Win8? I kind of got that impression from the pictures.
Why do you say that? Just curious. I actually think it's got a lot of potential being able to span across such a large range of devices and work well with both touch and keyboard/mouse input. It's flexible, looks good and modernizes things quite a lot. What is it you think is disappointing about it?
I can see a lot of consumer interest in the Metro UI for tablets and phones, but for non-touchscreen laptops & desktops, it strikes me as a little weird. All those tiles just make you want to reach out and touch the screen, or gesture at it or something like that...not use a mouse & keyboard.
Microsoft are following (as you rightly point out in your article) rather than leading, and given their history in the PC market (monopilistic policies) it would take a lot for them to gain consumer trust in the mobile market. They are starting with a disadvantage already as a result, and it would take something truly innovative from them to redress the balance, something I am not seeing at all. That is why I said it is too little too late.
I really hope they did a lot of work under the hood. The UI changes kind of look like: The moved the task bar to the right vertical, removed the "3D" shadowing on window borders and replaced a hierarchical menu structure with a bunch of single color boxes.
I downloaded the consumer preview and, if I can get it installed in a virtual machine, I'll have an opportunity to see for myself. I do think Win7 was a big improvement over Vista, but I'm skeptical about Win8.
It isn't clear to me whether the big tile look is the only option for UI. However what ought to be clear to Microsoft is, they don't want to repeat the dud that WinVista was.
So, I have to believe that some of my (our) first impressions are missing some optional UIs?