Windows 8, with its tablet-style tiled interface, has been around for a couple of months now, with Microsoft’s programming hotshots beavering away at squashing early bugs to avoid another Vista fiasco. Microsoft has highlighted such features as photo-sharing in the cloud, streamlined management of contacts, and the Metro update. It’s Windows first big push into the tablet sphere , where Vermont has been losing market share to the new(ish) kids on the block – Android and iOS. The Windows 8 OS has been designed to run on either tablets or standard PCs, and follows iOS and Android with its live tile touch interface.
Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has indicated that Windows 8 will officially be released in 2012, and judging by this preview, we look forward to it. Microsoft has kept its powder dry with regard to mobile computing so far; iOS arrived in 2007 and Android followed in 2008 but Windows Phone 7 surfaced only in late 2010. Windows 7 was designed for PCs, in an era before the explosion of smartphones and tablets. Windows 8 will be fully backwards-compatible with Windows 7 – anything running in Windows 7 will run on Windows 8.
The new OS has been designed with minimal hardware demands, so it will run on smaller,less powerful mobile devices. This consideration for low-spec hardware means Windows 8 can run on ARM or x86 architecture, and at the launch Microsoft demonstrated the OS running on a variety of PCs, notebooks and tablets. So the new OS can handle different devices, different chipsets, and different screen sizes. Google has been having trouble with just such issues with its Android OS.
The Metro UI from the Windows Phone 7 OS has been scaled up to fit different display sizes.
The whole look and feel of Windows 8 is that of a mobile platform ported to the desktop rather than the other way around, and it takes advantage of the cloud – Windows 8 will emulate Apple’s cross-syncing between devices and the cloud. The new email client sets out your friends and contacts on a grid of square photos, each of which can be clicked for info. The photo app can download images from Flickr, Facebook or SkyDrive once you’ve logged in, treating remote cloud storage as if locally stored. Both email and Skydrive can sync with Windows Phone Mango devices. It also seems that Xbox Live will be ported to Windows 8.
All those new social apps can be accessed via keyboard shortcuts for instance Windows-Z opens the app bar and Windows-C opens the Charm menu, a new hybrid search-and-share toolbar. Task manager has also been redesigned, so now it can be viewed as a list of apps or as a full view with usage stats for each process. Remote log-in features are simplified as are multi-monitor displays, and switching between the desktop and Metro interfaces is accomplished with a single click.
The new OS features boot protection, so that if users attempt to boot a tablet with an infected USB stick, the system will fail to launch. Obviously Windows 8 accepts mouse, keyboard or touch input, but there’s also a digital pad interface which can be used with a stylus for drawing or writing.
Microsoft estimates that 400 million people will eventually move to Windows 8. From what we’ve seen, perhaps this could be the OS that finally kills off XP and perhaps even the number one operating system in the world, Windows 7.
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