Windows 8 Revealed – Windows Goes Metro
Early this week at their BUILD developer conference in Anaheim, California, Microsoft revealed the next iteration of the Windows Operating System codenamed Windows 8.
Windows 8 takes an entirely new approach to a PC operating system in that it’s designed from the ground up to work on a PC/Laptop or on a Tablet.
Having an OS that is designed to work as well with mouse and keyboard as it is with touch gestures was always going to be a challenge for Microsoft but with what they’ve shown of Windows 8 so far, it looks to be quite interesting.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the entire design is very similar to Windows Phone 7, this is a very distinctive style that Microsoft are proud of called ‘Metro UI’.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has recently laid out plans for one unified ecosystem across all MS products, meaning you can expect to see more and more of the Metro design in the future. Ballmer wants users to have a fluid and intuitive experience from whether you’re using a PC, tablet, Xbox 360 or Windows Phone 7.
It remains to be seen if this will turn out to be a good or bad move, if someone doesn’t like the Metro UI at all this will drive them away from all Microsoft products completely.
That said the thought behind it goes further than simply having the same style of icons on a home screen/dashboard, things like accounts and content being linked across the different platforms.
Microsoft are also very adamant that Windows 8 running on a tablet isn’t actually a tablet, they’re still calling them PC’s because Windows 8 can run full scale programs that current tablets need dumbed down versions of such as Photoshop.
We’re still a tad skeptical about trying to cater to the desktop user and touch/tablet user with the same UI, it has the potential to try too much or it could be a genius idea that others try to imitate in the future.
In Windows 8 the old (current) desktop is still accessible but it’s not the standard desktop, it’s actually an app. Windows Explorer and all its related programs you’re used to are not being killed off, rather shoved to the background. They’re still there, just as separate apps and not as in your face as the Metro design is.
We haven’t had a chance to get our hands on Windows 8 developer build just yet but we have heard that Windows 8 works just as well with a mouse as it does with a finger and considering the massive amount of businesses use Windows on a daily basis this is comforting to hear.
Naysayers were quick to call out Microsoft as dumbing down Windows for an “iPad” generation but this is far from the case, in fact one really useful and cool enterprise-targeted feature of Windows is ‘Windows to Go’.
The feature allows users to simply carry an install of the operating system with them on a USB drive along with their files and it will contain the core drivers necessary for Windows 8 to avoid the need to download updates on the host PC.
If the USB drive is removed mid-use your work will freeze for 60 seconds to give the user enough time to replace the drive and will resume instantly. If the drive isn’t replaced after 60 seconds the system will simply shut down.
Xbox Live will be heavily integrated into Windows 8 also, in Metro style of course. (We touched on this here.)
Users will be able to track their Gamerscore, achievements, message and add friends much like current Windows Phone 7 users can do right now. Xbox Live on Windows 8 will also have Music and Video tabs, what we’re expecting to get with the upcoming XBL Dashboard update this fall.
It will also include turn based gaming and the strong possibility of real time gaming across multiple platforms, something that could be a really big game changer.
Imaging playing Halo Reach on your Xbox against your friend on his Windows 8 PC, that has tons of potential.
Microsoft have also cut the boot time of Windows considerably with Windows 8, extremely faster than even the most powerful rigs can load Windows 7 now. This is done by a clever technique of keeping the kernel session on the disk, rather than ending the kernel and user session as Windows 7 does now.
They claim this will make boot times on Windows 8 anywhere from 30 to 70 percent faster than current tests done by Microsoft.
Full technical explanation can be found on the Windows Blog.
It’s too early to call Windows 8 an iPad killer, it’s far from there right now. It has the potential and the space to grow and be a serious challenge for Apple, especially with Microsoft’s drive and support behind it.
The idea of one unified experience across PC and tablet, Xbox and Windows Phone could be the greatest idea Microsoft has had in a long time. It could drive people who have one or two of the platforms to consider the others which is a boost Windows Phone 7 could do with right now.
There’s so much more to this amazing OS. We’ve barely scratched the surface here on what it’s capable of and what other cool or hidden features it has but between now and release rest assured that we will be sharing every little detail we can find on Windows 8.
Judging by the timeline of Windows 7’s release, we think it’s safe to expect Windows 8 to be finished and released around this time next year.
You can download the developer build now but it is just that, a developer build. It’s going to be buggy and prone to doing strange things so if you really want to download it, do so at your own risk and on an old laptop or pc, not your primary one.
I’m a Windows fan, I use Windows Phone 7, Windows 7 and do most of my gaming on my Xbox.
Windows 8 looks amazing and as long as Microsoft put 100% into it, I think this could be the start of something really special.