Despite Apple standing ready to crash Microsoft’s own October 26 Windows 8 and Surface tablet launch party early with its own crunchy set of mini iAnnouncements on October 23, excitement is building over Microsoft’s latest Windows OS.
Delivering a blended tablet and desktop OS obviously wasn’t easy – it has taken years for Microsoft to get here, adapting the Windows Phone 7.x interface and taking it full screen – tablet-sized and larger.
Previous mobile Microsoft devices tried to shoehorn in the desktop and mini menus paradigm – think Windows CE and Windows Phone 6.x devices that had none of the later shells which attempted to out-do the original iPhone and its follow-up, the iPhone 3G – before succumbing to the iOS and Android onslaught and disappearing in favour of the now superseded Windows Phone 7 platform.
Windows 8 – and its subset, Windows Phone 8 launching on October 29, is Microsoft’s attempt to dramatically simplify use of the OS while preserving the Windows 7 desktop.
Whether using the interface formerly known as Metro, or Windows Style UI, or the Windows desktop, or a combination of both, Windows 8’s new start menu makes it easier than ever to launch programs and search for information, to access system settings, re-order and re-position apps, to download new apps from what will be an ever growing library, to effortlessly multitask across several apps, to run two or more apps at the same time on the same screen with ease, and easily control using any combination of touch, multi-touch, mouse and/or keyboard input.
Much of the criticism of Windows 8 surrounds the fact there’s a new default “main screen” interface, a new way to “click” the start button, four new “hot corners” that give mouse users instant access to features that could be activated by touch or swipe (if available), among other interface changes.
Microsoft does have a very short animation during the installation of Windows 8 that shows you can move your mouse to the right hand corner of any Windows 8 screen to bring up the “charms” bar and one of the two (!) start buttons you now have available to you – contrary to claims that the Start button has been taken away.
Indeed, it has been taken away from the “desktop” view, but it is easily replaceable in various ways as we’ll cover in a moment.
It seems obvious that Microsoft should simply make a short video that shows users the new features, new keyboard shortcuts and new ways to do things, but unless something like that is coming on OEM brand-name machines, a video is obviously too logical a thing to do, so end-users will have to learn by themselves, buy asking friends, by reading articles on the Internet, by watching videos someone else has made on YouTube, by buying Windows 8 books and by trial and error.
Here's Microsoft's short WIndows-8 pre-launch countdown video ad - this Windows 8 article continues below, please read on!
However, the thing is, once you know what the new commands are, and how easy they are to invoke and use – what might have seemed like some vast and extremely curvy learning curve turns out not to be so curvy after all – which is further cushionable by being able to easily install a Start Menu replacement, of which there are various free and paid versions - with Classic Shell one good free example.
Windows 8 running on Intel processors, be they the new “Clover Trail” Atoms that promise long battery life and low price alongside a new level of dual-core Atom-powered base-level performance, or the more expensive and less battery efficient but fully powered Core i3, i5, i7 and AMD processors, is already delivering Microsoft’s version of the MacPad Air tablet hybrid I’ve been wishing Apple to launch for some time now.
I had expected iOS 5 might have launched some stunning new interface after the Windows Phone 7 OS launch, but whatever iOS X hybrid goodness Apple is cooking up behind the scenes, it has certainly kept it well hidden, especially as iOS 5 and 6 have proven still so insanely popular for consumers and developers, as Apple’s October 23 harvest is about to unveil unto the world.
Clearly, the iOS overhaul into iOS+ or even the fully powered, fully hybrid iOS X in the style of Apple-ified Windows 8 is yet to come.
Microsoft hasn’t had the luxury of time on its side, for despite hundreds of millions of Windows 7 sales, iPads, Macs, iPhones, iPod Touches and Apple’s entire ecosystem has grown ever stronger.
Microsoft has taken Windows 8 on a long journey of developer betas, previews and release candidates, and has done all it can to excite developers as much as possible well ahead of time, presumably to not only to unleash as big a pile of Windows 8 apps on October 26 as it possibly can, but to ensure as big a pipe of upcoming releases as possible.
Once Windows 8 is out the gate, into stores and people’s hands – whether through upgrades of existing desktops and laptops, or the purchase of Windows 8 ultrabooks and brand new tablets and tablet hybrids – the market is real, and developers can see if monetising their efforts is easier and more profitable on Windows 8 than Android – after iOS efforts first, at least for many developers today.
There is the potential for confusion with Windows RT tablets which run on ARM processors, and Windows 8 tablets which run on Intel or AMD x86/x84 processors.
Traditional desktop software, such as MYOB, Quicken, Office 2010, Firefox, Open Office, Chrome, Adobe PDF reader, Norton/Kaspersky/AVG/BitDefender/Trend Micro etc Internet Security and the Windows software and games you can still buy in stores to install from a CD, DVD or USB stick (or download from anywhere on the Internet) will require a Windows 8 tablet or computer with an Intel or AMD processor.
Windows RT tablets running on ARM based processors, the way that most smartphones and iOS/Android tablets do, cannot run any of the traditional Windows programs that you can download or buy.
These tablets will have longer battery life and thinner profiles, but they’ll only be able to run apps that are made available from the Microsoft Store.
Both Windows 8 Intel/AMD and Windows RT ARM tablets will have the Microsoft Store, and both tablets will be able to run Microsoft Store delivered apps – the full screen, full size apps that tablet users are well familiar with.
Both Windows 8 and RT will need a thriving ecosystem of Microsoft Store apps to offer customers, whether free or paid, to be a stellar success, but Microsoft has known this and has prepared as best it can, knowing how far it has been behind iOS and Android.
This article, with new Microsoft Surface video, concludes on page two, please read on!