There has been a lot of buzz around the early concepts for Windows 8 in the past couple of days and quite frankly it has been a lot to digest.
It’s funny because there has been so much secrecy and silence and then boom! - a ton of information in one day (yesterday June 1, 2011).
OK so what to make of it all?
To give you some background, I’m a former Microsoft MVP and have been writing about Windows 8 since November 5, 2009.
I’ve written approximately 405 blog posts about the operating system on my site Windows8update.com and It has been interesting to see how concepts have evolved in the 19 months since I started.
Let’s start with a caveat
I acknowledge that Windows 8 is still very early in the development cycle.
While they are rumored to be near Beta, a lot of things are still very subject to change.
Having said that, let’s take a look at what we know so far.
The new tablet UI looks like this:
From the past couple of days, here are the relevant points that have been revealed about Windows 8.
- Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same system requirements or lower than Windows 7
- Windows 8 re imagines every level of the Windows architecture — the kernel, networking, storage, devices, user interface
- The new OS is REALLY FAST and FLUID.
- There seem to be 2 interfaces – One for tablets and touch and the other for traditional desktop.
- The 2 interfaces (at this point) seem to be in the same OS.
- It has live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.
- You can switch between apps by just dragging them in from the side.
- Although the new user interface is designed and optimized for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard
- There are rumors of less versions of Windows 8 than the traditional versions of Windows 7 (Enterprise, Home etc)
- IE10 will be introduced with Windows 8
- Switching between the live-tile UI and the usual desktop is instantaneous.
- The tablet tiles have a very slick feel to them.
- You can also do a split-screen interface, where you see both the new and the old UI side by side.
- With Windows 8, apps are all optimized for touch.
- PageUp and PageDown buttons will allow you to move between tiles on non-touchscreen devices.
- It will have a new mode called “always on, always connected” – It’ll permit for instant wake-up from sleep and keep the ARM tablets constantly connected to the web.
- It will allow tablets to connect to USB sticks
- UEFI engagement will help with speeding up boot times – systems with SSDs in them could go from a cold boot to the Start screen in under 6 seconds.”
- It will require a minimum of 1366 x 768 resolution for the best Windows 8 experience. 1024 x 768 will be the absolute minimum for the new UI fanciness and 1024 x 600 will let you run Windows 8 in the classic desktop mode.
That’s a lot to absorb but it sounds very cool so far.
My thoughts are the following:
It makes sense now that Steve Ballmer said that this was the riskiest thing that Microsoft have ever done with Windows.
Steve Ballmer was right (never thought I would say that) – they are throwing all the chips on the table.
This is a reimagining of Windows the likes of which we have never seen.
Now, the fact that they kept access to the “old” UI is a smart move and guarantees that if the tablet interface is not your cup of tea, you dont ever need to use it.
There are a thousand different questions at this point but they will be answered by Microsoft later.
Here is my main concern..
I heard Julie Larson-Green say Windows has been reimagined to be more “Modern” – not easier to use but more modern.
There is nothing inherently sexy with having a tiled interface. While tablets are all moving in that direction, the real challenge is making sure that users can get to what they need in an intuitive manner.
When it comes to these user interface issues, less is more.
I desperately hope that Microsoft are studying and reverse engineering Apple’s UI principles because they are the reasons their Ipads and I-products are successful.
My mother is in her 70′s and can use an Ipad. It’s not confusing because it works as expected and things are easy to find.
Based on what I have seen so far, the reimagining of Windows 8 looks cool but it’s too early to say it looks simple.
There was a lot of talk about applications talking to each other and interfaces etc.. they need to abstract users from the tech stuff as appropriate.
That will be the key to success in this regard.
As an aside, I have an Iphone and an Ipad2. I have tried the tabet UI of Windows Phone 7 before in a store for 20 minutes. It seemed nice but it hands down does not compare to the use and simplicity of the Iphone.
If Microsoft build something that is really cool and geeky but isn’t grandma friendly, say goodbye to both grandma and the enterprise.
Large companies dont need to deploy apps with a steep learning curve, they will just stick with Windows 7 and stubbornly refuse to upgrade (like the XP Vista debacle).
I give Microsoft tons of credit for being bold and taking risks…lets hope they pay off.
That’s my rough take on it so far, let me know what you think….
Leave your comments below.