Yesterday, Microsoft took the covers off one of their most ambitious projects in years, one that could arguably place the company back into the limelight they lost in the tug-of-war between Apple and Google. The unveiled Windows 8 operating system was designed specifically with touch and tablets in mind, borrowing heavily from the Windows Phone 7 interface, a decision which has us excited because this looks like the most consumer-friendly (and colorful) Windows OS ever. We spotlight a few reasons why you might want to get excited (we are)...
What's evident upon watching the video above is Microsoft has tablets on their mind. And even though they say Windows 8 will work with a mouse and keyboard (perhaps in conjunction with their upcoming/delayed swipe-touch mouse), the OS demo reveals a laser beam focus upon the tablet experience. Frankly, it's the best thing we've seen since iOS, exhibiting what we believe is a better execution of touch-based operations than either Google, RIM and their ilk have produced in the race to catch up with the iPad. Love it or hate it, the iPad is the leader in UI design, but what we respect about the direction Microsoft has taken here is less "copy and paste" and embarking in a much more risky vision of the user experience on mobile devices, from the phone to the tablet, all the way to larger PC screens.
Key features of Windows 8:
- Fast launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.
- Live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.
- Fluid, natural switching between running apps.
- Convenient ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so you can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows.
- Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.
The "live tile" system will be recognizable to both Windows Phone 7 and Zune users, giving users access to apps and updated information within the tiles. An interesting feature is the inclusion of a split-style keyboard for vertical oriented tablet typing, something that should make typing on a virtual keyboard possibly easier for newer user of tablets. We also liked the swipe down to switch to other open windows option, alongside the colourful-modern GUI throughout.
What we didn't like was seeing elements of the old Windows operating system underneath, revealing itself when certain applications are launched. But this could be just where development is at with Windows 8 (out of habit, we keep wanting to type OS 8) and refinement of application UI is likely to evolve as the release nears a planned 2012 launch. In any case, this is great news overall for Windows and OS X users alike, simply for the fact the Windows 8 preview raises the bar in regards to consumer-oriented touch devices/interfaces beyond some of the clunky-awkward tablet UIs that have yet to bridge to a wider audience (yes, we're pointing our fingers at you, Android, aka "Dude OS 1.0").
Not sure this OS X user is going to "switch", but we're definitely interested in installing the future version in dual boot mode and giving Redmond's latest creation a fair shake. We like what we've seen thus far...let's see if they can deliver a better experience with less pop-ups, bloatware and malware that has crippled the Windows experience for many, elements just as important as the graphical and performance improvements exhibited above.
What do you think about what you've seen with this preview?