On the 13th of September 2011, Microsoft released the developmental preview of Windows 8. Everyone at the Microsoft BUILD event was given a tester Samsung device running the Windows 8 DTM to get a feel for Windows 8. They also released the DTM .ISO for the general public to download and install on their own machines.
Microsoft has not mentioned any fixed released date, however, considering this is a DTM, the earliest that Windows 8 can be released will be Summer 2012 or potentially up to early 2013. Since this is only a developmental build of Windows 8, it is much too early to determine its success and whether or not it is an “iPad Killer”. However, below are five things that will be Microsoft’s assets:
Number 1: App Store
Number 2: Supporting both Metro UI and Windows 7
Windows 8 supports a new user interface named “Metro” inherited from the Windows Phone 7 and also Windows 7 as an application on top of the Metro system. One of the main advantages of this is that any computer running Windows 7 will be able to run Windows 8. One of the reasons for Windows Vistas failure was because of the lack of hardware support for Windows XP systems. By supporting Windows 7 as an application, all current Windows 7 application will also still function in Windows 8. All this backward support bolsters the number of applications available to Windows 8 beyond only the Windows new app store for metro style application. Currently, Microsoft’s own applications such as Microsoft Word are still only a Windows 7 application. However, Microsoft themselves are planning to rewrite Microsoft Word and the suite of applications into a Metro application, more suitable for the new touch screen form factor.
Number 3: Tablet concept
The general concept of the tablet in the market currently, such as the iPad and Android, is a scaled up version of a smartphone, which does not have the capabilities of a fully-fledged computer. However, Microsoft is focusing on the tablet from another perspective. Instead of being mainly an entertainment device, Microsoft is pushing Windows 8 as a fully-fledged computer on a tablet. This gives Microsoft a unique selling point against other tablets. Rather than carrying two devices, an Android or iPad and a laptop, if Microsoft is successfully with Windows 8, it would be possible to carry one fully fledged tablet computer, therefore being much more portable. Microsoft would like to provide portability without sacrificing productivity. From user reviews and video previews, it is clear that Microsoft did some things correctly to make it easier to use such as tweaking the keyboard to fit different situations. However, Microsoft still needs to improve the Windows 8 preview to make the experience even more fluent and productive.
Number 4: Supporting ARM
During the BUILD Conference, Microsoft announced that everything about Windows 8 demonstrated during the conference will also run on the ARM architecture. Previous generations of Windows only supported the x86 (both 32-bits and 64-bits) architecture. The x86 architecture is strongest in the computer segment with Intel being the biggest supplier of chips. However, on the mobile segment, ARM architectures are the majority. ARM is more energy efficient, making it a viable choice for mobile to increase battery life. By supporting ARM, Microsoft is acknowledging the tablet market, and the need for a more power efficient chip to increase the run-time length of Windows 8 on a tablet. ARM also supports instant-on, which is a feature that is not supported by Intel. This will provide users with instant gratification needed in a good tablet. It also moves Microsoft into a territory Windows had previously never touched.
Number 5: More human… less computer
In previous versions of Windows, the operating system was not very friendly. Only the very computer literate users were able to understand the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), and even fewer would be able to fix the errors. In Windows 8, Microsoft has changed the contents of the BSOD (despite all the changes, it is still blue…) to make it easy to understand even to technophobes. Instead of spurning out garbage code, Microsoft has changed it to “:( Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle, and now it needs to restart. You can search for the error online: ERROR_CODE”. This change makes it clear to the user that: one, the computer ran into a problem; two, the computer needs to restart; and three, it clearly tells the user the name of the problem so that they can search for a reason for the BSOD. The use of the smiley “:(” also makes it more lighthearted compared to old BSOD screens. Besides improving the BSOD screen, Microsoft also made changes to the installation process. Whilst previous versions of Windows took close to an hour to set up with loads of steps and information to fill out, Windows 8 only goes through the minimum needed and hence set up time is much shorter. The instruction screens for the set up screen is also more personal compared to previous versions. If the set up process for the final version of Windows 8 is similar to the DTM, most of the general public will be able to understand and setup a computer by themselves, rather than only the computer literate.
Overall, it is not possible to judge the success of Windows 8 at this stage, especially since it is only a developmental preview, but also because it will be released so late into the tablet game. However, the above are several reasons that demonstrate why Microsoft’s Windows 8 concept is not way off the mark.