/ Technology

Microsoft shows off Windows 8. Stop the presses

Lots of hands clapping

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

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Two Which? Conversations with the same title? 🙂

I’m not going to pay money for anything sold under the Microsoft name. They need to change their name and if Windows 8 turns out to be like Windows Vista then everyone should be given a free upgrade to a version that works properly.

Stop the press if you want, but I will stick with Mac OSX, even though I have no great love for Apple as a company.

Aha – if you look very closely you’ll see there’s a small – but crucial – difference!

Sorry – they are not the same Conversations.

I believe the phrase is “stop the presses” ie. The printing presses need to be stopped because of a late discovery of a big newspaper story. And can’t remember last time I bought software… I’ll get Windows 8 when I buy a new computer

Roy Gill says:
15 September 2011

Microsoft should be made responsible for making their operating system work and not expect us to pay more and more money for them to correct their mistakes. If you bought a car that did not work properly you would throw it back at the garage but the software companies seem to be able to write their own laws regarding returning any faulty software and the govenment seem to be powerless to do anything about it.

I use another operating system that’s becoming popular and it’s called “Ubuntu”. Using Ubuntu instead of Windows means: no major problems, no viruses, no disk defrag, does not get slower over time and it “just works”. I’ve become sick and tired of Windows misbehaving and I’ve been using it since Windows 95 came out and despite all their fancy marketing, there are still problems in every version of Windows and you always need a much more powerful computer and lots of money to buy and run the next version.

Okay Ubuntu is not perfect, but you can install Ubuntu (or get someone else to do it for you) when you already have Windows installed and it will setup a “dual boot” so you choose to boot up either Ubuntu or Windows when you switch on the computer. Therefore you still have Windows untouched for things that don’t work with Ubuntu, but you also have the safety and reliability of Ubuntu for Internet use. It comes pre-installed with LibreOffice (an alternative to Microsoft Office), and you only need to install the “restricted extras” from the “Software Centre” to enable playback of mp3, Flash Player, Java etc. You will never have to worry about installing something malicious – just use the “Software Centre” when you’re connected to the Internet, search for what you want and just click “Install” – it’s that easy and it’s safe. You can also install programs like Google Earth just by downloading them from the vendors’ websites and double-clicking on the downloaded file, as you would do in Windows.

Conclusion: I won’t be rushing out to waste my money on Windows 8!

It sounds interesting. Although I don’t get why so many people are down on Vista, it’s what I’ve used for several years since I upgraded from XP and I think it’s OK. Sure I want to get a new computer and upgrade if I had the money but it works and I like it so I’m not in any rush.

The problems of Windows Vista have been well publicised and there is still plenty of information on websites. I am disappointed (though not surprised) that Microsoft did not offer Vista users a free upgrade to Windows 7.

Bobby Roberto says:
23 September 2011

Two problems I see, one is that every second version of Windows is a dog eg Vista and the other is that many of the Windows apps may not run on the ARM processors.
So for my money “will it work” is a more important question than “has it got a super user interface”

Niemand says:
23 September 2011

“Windows 8 looks pretty slick. So slick, in fact, that I think Apple should be quaking in its boots.”

I read on after this waiting for the line that exposed it as a spoof. But it seems Ben is serious.

I watched Mr Sinofsky’s presentation, in which his colleague presented the new interface. The interface looked horrible, childish even. I think Apple will be laughing in its boots.

People have said the same about the appearance of Apple operating systems. Don’t forget that corporate users will go for Windows 8, though a lot have still not made the transition to Windows 7.

Macs are fine for you and me but if corporate users move away from Windows it will be to something like Ubuntu and not to Apple.

Niemand says:
23 September 2011

“People have said the same about the appearance of Apple operating systems.”


The demonstration did not impress me. The icons looked childish and initially, at least, it looked very clunky to use—endlessly scrolling along to get to the right hand group, for example. I know by using an inverse-pinching movement she was able to zoom out, but what she demonstrated just didn’t come over as streamlined.

On another note, a comment I’ve read a lot, and with which I agree, is that Microsoft are playing catch-up. They follow where others lead.

MJenkins says:
23 September 2011

If they are going to be using ARM processors, can we have an updated RISC OS. It was always much better and far ahead of Windows (and of MAC in some ways)

Interesting. Until Apple released OS Lion I would have said Apple were pretty impregnable. But, although OS Lion may well have been a step forward technically for many it has been seen as a huge step backwards in design and operator ease of use. This is largely because Apple seem to think they can disregard the traditional evangelical faithful Apple user in favour of the new breed of young Apple iPhone and iPad users into social networking. However I fear they may yet find the new breed user lacks the loyalty of the traditional Apple user and may be rather fickle in their choice of the latest technological devices if something newer comes along. For that reason, yes, Apple may well need to either do another fantastic leap forward in introducing new futuristic technology overtaking everybody, or realise the hard way that even Apple can get it wrong…..

Like ive said before im an xp user tried vista and 7 both have there good points but will be unsupported by 2015 (uness u have vista bussiness or 7 pro or entaprise) which is only one year after xp becomes unsupported then we are all forced to use windows 8 or above which is all touchscreen based which begs the question where does that leave us traditional pc users that doesnt want or need windows 8 they should relauch windows xp with sp4 plus updates as a low cost alternative to windows 8