Microsoft has unveiled its latest operating system at a recent conference in California. I have to admit it: Windows 8 looks pretty slick. So slick, in fact, that I think Apple should be quaking in its boots.
Which? Computing’s Sarah Kidner argues that we’ve seen it all before, and that the new Metro interface (their way of describing tablets) is just another version of what Apple and Google already offer with iOS and Android.
And to an extent, I agree – after all it’s very difficult to reinvent the wheel, but what Microsoft does appear to have reinvented is Windows.
One big difference, one big improvement
Windows 8 bears some resemblance to Windows 7, and the tile-based interface looks quite similar to the Windows Phone 7 operating system (OS), but it has one major difference that sets it apart from Microsoft’s previous desktop OS.
It’s a difference that sounds quite dull on the surface, but a difference that suggests next year may be the year of the Windows tablet, and that Apple and Android finally have a serious competitor.
This difference is that Windows 8 won’t require Intel-compatible processors like previous versions of the OS have. Instead, Windows 8 will work on products powered by ARM-designed processors. These processors draw less power than Intel processors, and as a result have become de rigueur on many smartphones and tablets, which, by their portable nature, can’t pack heavyweight batteries.
I handled one of the first decent Windows 7 tablets I’d come across recently and was impressed – others had fallen short way off the mark, but the OS had been clearly built for desktops and then modified for touchscreen. Windows 8, however, has been built for the desktops and touchscreens – well certainly in the case of Metro.
Tablets an extension of a PC
Finally, we have a low-drain Windows OS that’s been designed for tablets. What’s more, with its SkyDrive cloud-computing integration users will be able to wirelessly access all of their content from any Windows 8 device.
OK, Apple has shifted countless iPads but while many iPad owners will be Mac users, most will be PC users who see their iPads as a separate device. What Windows 8 would offer is a tablet that is an extension to a PC user’s desktop – which, if it works well, is a compelling proposition.
Until Google’s Android reared its head, Apple seemed to be enjoying a pretty cosy ride. Android and iOS have since then carved their own niches and appeal to quite different users.
Neither have really had to worry about Windows OS, which had been losing ground for sometime. But I think both will now have to sit up and pay attention – because come next year the battle of the tablet OS will become a three horse race.
Are you as excited by Windows 8 as Ben? If not, make sure you read the other side of the debate, argued by Sarah Kidner: Microsoft shows-off Windows 8. Stop all the fuss
Are you looking forward to the launch of Windows 8?
Not sure - I'll have to check it out for myself first (37%, 368 Votes)
No - Windows 8 doesn't appeal to me (36%, 358 Votes)
Yes - I want a Windows 8 PC/laptop (18%, 179 Votes)
Yes - I want a Windows 8 tablet (10%, 98 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,003