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?
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 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.
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?
It seems to me that Win8 is going to be a "consolidated" OS for both tablet and computer. User has an option to choose between different UI - keyboard and mouse or, touchscreen. Win8, as well, consolidates the GUI of all platforms - smartphone, tablet and PC. It is a logical and smart move. Who would want to keep changing/ learning UI as they use different devices at any moment?
I already have Android, iOS and Windows devices, plus a digital camera and MP3 player with their own UIs. Each was no doubt "intuitive" for their designers, but requires fresh learning for me. Alas!
Now Windows will have a fresh UI in part to look hip. More learning for me.
As always with new OSes, the question is what real new hardware do they enable. For Win 8 its ARM and touch screens. An important bit of catch up for Microsoft, but it doesn't really move the ball forward for the industry.
Final issues that will determine its success: How robust is the OS and how fast is the responsiveness on various x86 and ARM SoCs?
Rick has a point here. Vendors of each of these new devices always talk about "intuitive" UIs, but from users' standpoint, it's always yet another fresh learning and more trials and errors -- by fiddling with the UIs. It's one of the reasons why I remain skeptical about whether consumers are so eager to leave the familiar UI for yet another new UI just because the vendors say so.
Well, on the other hand, there's a whole generation that is now growing up with "touch" as a natural interface, and for them, this will be a very natural and intuitive experience. I think Microsoft has to move with the times and with the generation... I'm sure it will probably be a bit of an annoyance for people who are used to the older version, but people will get used to it very quickly and will forget they even had to get used to it. I see that happen so often these days. I actually think this is Microsoft's best OS yet, and I can't wait to have a seamless experience across several devices! That will be a welcome change and one well worth adapting to, in my book!
Yes, but Sylvie, this brings back my repeated question: does anyone do any work anymore? Or is everyone just passing the time of day tweeting to one another or reading facebook pages on the run?
The touch screen does not work well in any setting where the user is not within easy reach of the screen. For that matter, if you have to be using a keyboard anyway, even with a laptop, it might not be so great to have to reach out and swipe on the screen whenever you want to styart a new app or browse a different web site.
Absolutely. My parent's generation devoted no mental bandwidth to the arcane details of how to accomplish tasks on computers. Today we are forced to relearn basic skills every time Windows or Office is re-released. WHY? What benefit does a legacy user gain? As a minimum, there should be a button to "Behave Like Windows 98" or "Behave Like Office 1997". Since we have automated translators between human languages, this task should be trivial.
Last week, I bought Asus ET2400 desktop with Windows7 touchscreen, 3D support. I wonder what is new in touchscreen even after such PC touchscreens, IPhone, IPad, etc. First of all, the initial look of Windows8 does not attract me. However, eager to see how the competition goes.. as a future innovator.
All I see are pretty pictures that home consumers will love. Big tiles all over the screen make the computer illiterate say "Oooo, pretty."
What does this do for me, as an Electronics Designer? Will my applications run faster? Will it absolutely force application developers to use the APIs instead of directly running the hardware? That's the biggest reason for application instability and crashes.
User interfaces bore me, I'm still using the "Windows Classic" look on XP-64. What difference does it matter if my window borders look "curvier"?
My desktop doesn't need touch screen, can you imagine running wires around a schematic with your fingers on the screen? My arms feel sore already!
Gripe, gripe, gripe, that's all I do. Happy days!
Microsoft has the most to lose in this evolving world of Cloud Computing and Virtual Apps. I believe the success of Windows 8 is critical for Microsoft to remain in their dominant position. When Vista was released, there was no Tablet Computers, touch-screen smart phones, or Google Android OS. Putting out a sub-par product such as Vista (or for those older readers Me) is a public relations problem, but has no real long-term affect.
However, the whole computing environment is undergoing a fundamental change, and Microsoft has seemed to be slow to recognize the potential long-term affect it could have on them. This seems to be an attempt to bring them back to relevancy in this new environment, as much as an update of an operating system.
The Metro UI looks ugly. I don't think it looks good on a phone or tablet, and it looks even worse on a traditional PC. There's just nothing elegant about it, just blocks of kindergarten color and simple typefaces.
Microsoft seem to have teamed up with Nokia on having a collective funeral, what a shame.
There is a broken logic in One Size Fits All. It never does.
Think, say, how terrible a steering wheel would be on a bicycle or how terrible handle bars would be for a car! Different form factors are best served with different interfaces.
This exactly the same mistake that Microsoft made with WinCE, but now they are making it the other way.
Remember when Microsoft rolled out WinCE? It had the old "start button" UI just like a PC. Nobody could convince Microsoft that this was a terrible UI for a handheld device.
Finally Microsoft have gone away from the start button UI for mobile, but now the idea has traction they can't stop dragging the idea onto the desktop where it is a terrible idea.
To be fair it looks clean and neat but there is this big but, would it perform so smoothly on a real mobile device which people carry around is the big question. And I really wonder how much of battery drain these tiles would cause due to their always on presence.
At least they could have changed the name IE to something snazzy and kept it light but they are headstrong aren't they..
I think it's a really clever strategy from Microsoft; leverage their dominance in PC to make consumers familiar with their smartphone UI. Carriers say they want a 3rd "ecosystem" for smartphones (divide & conquer) and Microsoft is stepping neatly up to the plate. My understanding is that you can run either/or of the two UIs on a PC? I have a Nokia/Microsoft smartphone (Lumia 800) it's very easy to use
It seems to be Window software engineering is an adhoc engineering keep changing in short period of time, this means window users, has to keep buying new versions..... endless addicted to buy window OS, why not Window engineering group sit down to think very very deep your future plan of Window software direction, be your software upgradeable from here and there for a longer period of upgrade of features and function before a complete new consolidate version !!!