Thursday, June 2, 2011

Early thoughts on Windows 8

I know, I know. There hasn't been too much about Windows 8 released. However, we did get a look at it recently via a video released by Microsoft themselves. You can see it here:

I find the operating system to be interesting. It's clear that they took elements from Windows Phone 7 and I'm looking that as both good and bad. The good is abundant. The startup/lock screen is taken right from Windows Phone with modifications to the landscape type screen opposed to the portrait you get on a Windows Phone 7 device. In the video, Jensen Harris talks about tiles being better than icons. Having worked so much with Windows Phone 7, I can tell you that that is true. It's so nice to get quick information on the home screen without having to launch each application. I love seeing my email counts, appointments, the weather, and all sorts of other information without doing something with each app.

This new interface looks like it's going to be great for slate PCs. It looks extremely finger friendly and I can't wait to try out that new thumb friendly keyboard. Swiping between apps looks nice and easy. Let's not forget that it's honest to goodness Windows, not a big version of Windows Phone 7. This is clearly a quality answer to Apple's iPad.

But that's part of my concern. I know that Windows 8 is just a code name and that it could get renamed at any time, but wouldn't this be better labeled as Windows 7 Slate Edition or something of that sort? What benefits are there for a traditional desktop PC? For my Shuttle desktop PC which I run with a keyboard and mouse, I see myself dropping out of that touch friendly GUI and using the old-school Windows 7 look. I have no interest in putting this on my desktop PC. If I had an MSI WindPad 110W, I would load it on in a heartbeat! I can see the naming being very important on this one. If I don't have a touchscreen display, am I really going to get much out of this? Now don't be mistaken. I love that MS is creating an operating system for slate PCs that's full Windows so I can run my Windows programs on it. I also avoid buying a second copy of a number of apps (Steam games come to mind). However, MS needs to keep in mine that the naming and target audience are going to be important.

One of the things Harris says is that the new touch friendly platform allows people to develop apps using HTML5 and Javascript. Now that's great and all, but what about the tools Windows Phone 7 app developers are using? The parallels between this new GUI and Windows Phone 7 are clear. I'm not a professional app developer, but I would imagine it would be easier to port my WP7 app I created using Silverlight if this new platform worked with Silverlight. Now it's important to note that they didn't say it won't work with Silverlight, but I imagine Microsoft would be all about sharing that their Silverlight platform has a new place to be used. This might be a nice addition. I don't know. Any WP7 developers reading this, let me know what you think.

My final big concern I see in this is that I didn't see too many MS apps or services running on the slate they showed. Am I going to get a nice finger-friendly version of Zune? Windows Live Messenger? Will I get an Xbox Live tile/hub like I do on Windows Phone 7? I'm surprised I didn't see Windows Media Center on it. That's already pretty finger friendly (but I have the feeling MS is letting WMC fade away in the sunset). If Microsoft wants me to take this new GUI seriously, they need to show that they are as well and start showing these sorts of things.

I know that this is sort of our first introduction to Windows 8 and I'm sure that there's a lot more for us to see. It's kind of like a first date. We learned enough to keep us interested, but kept enough back for us to be interested in that second date.

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