This article focuses on Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT and then goes on to consider how these operating systems and the Metro UI they share is creating a unified cohesive ecosystem with Windows Phone 8 and Xbox. The 4 screen paradigm for Microsoft, read more to dig in ~
A Luke Warm Reception for 8
Microsoft launched the latest version of their flagship operating system windows yesterday into a lukewarm desktop PC environment. Laptops and ultra-books have become the mainstream norm in business, and Windows 8 will run on most of these as well. Windows 8 unlike all other versions of windows makes use of an innovative and unique user interface that seems most fit for touch screen computers. Windows 8 is so optimized for touch screens, they even released a arm/tablet version of Windows 8 called Windows RT. The new surface tablet from Microsoft was also launched, making use of the new Windows RT. Most of the reviews have concluded that Windows RT is not polished and "needs to be finished". Feedback on Windows 8 installed power computers indicated that a fresh install is almost required in most cases as the update from Win 7 does not work in many instance. I hate to admit this, but I am actually excited about Windows 8. For the first time in my life Microsoft has gone out on a limb with their flagship OS to embrace a new user interface that is truly interesting, albeit not optimized for computers without touchscreen input. Some reviews and even some within microsoft have called Windows 8 "Clunky" on desktop computers. Many businesses are staying clear of the initial launch of Windows 8, having only recently enjoyed rock solid drive support for legacy and state of the art peripheral hardware on Windows 7.
A lot of work went into optimizing windows 8 to take advantage of your hardware without hogging resources. Boot-up optimizations we released through an innovative hibernation implementation that cache's app settings/ and back-end files and user (current information) to the main drive, so that during boot all of this stuff does not have to load from scratch: resulting in vastly improved boot times: the fastest of which will come from SSD enhanced OEM laptops custom configured by system makers to make use of this new hybrid hibernation boot sequence in Windows 8.
Application, rendering, 3D, gaming and workflow performance on Windows 8 has proven to be very similar to Windows 7. In some instances W8 is faster and in some instances W8 still needs to be optimized.
The Aero "eye candy" interface is gone. The aero interface that launched in Windows Vista was a total GPU resource hog. Back then, mobile hardware was mostly unable to smoothly accelerate Aero along with any other GPU requiring software, giving rise to laggy graphics performance, overheating and system hangups on underpowered hardware. By the time that Windows 7 launched, most computer hardware in full powered desktops and laptops was able to run Aero with other GPU intensive apps smoothly. Aero was a resource hog through and through, causing the GPU to run constantly, giving rise to battery drain acceleration in laptops that run it. Along with the battery drain, Aero constant use of the GPU also overwhelmed the thermal management in most laptops. Thankfully this is gone in W8. You can also disable Aero in Windows Vista and Windows 7, and if you are running those operating systems on anything other than a gaming computer, I would highly recommend turning Aero' off.
The Personal Computing Market is Changing
Cheap computer hardware is relatively fast now. Consider that a second generation iPad has the computational performance of the Cray 2 super-computer. For casual internet use, most laptop computers and desktops are very overpowered. This powerful hardware is great for power-users that are editing video, doing 3D design, game development, art, engineering, software development and other resource intensive tasks: but for the casual user that writes documents, browses emails, surfs the web and plays a few light games, most of the hardware is completely overpowered.
In many ways this hardware greatness is great for the future of computing. It means that small highly portable battery powered computers are going to realize ever improving real world battery life performance. Many who use computers in a mobile setting while traveling have been dreaming of a laptop with true 24 hour performance. While we are not there yet, all day laptop battery life is two Intel CPU development cycles away (right now we are on Ivy Bridge, next is Haswell, then Broadwell: the 14nm broadwell fanless CPU's will usher in the era of full day laptop battery life, especially where the laptops are used for "light" tasks.
Apple has been touting the phrase "post pc" ever since they launched their first generation iPad. I don't think we are in a post pc era by any stretch of the imagination. I would argue that an iPod Touch is a PC (personal computer). If anything we live in a PC+ era, where desktop class performance from 2000 now fits in the palm of your hand.
Speaking of what fits into one hand, the new Microsoft Surface does not. It is larger than the 9.7inch iPad, and even Apple admits that the iPad is a "two hand" device, even going on to trumpet this fact with the launch of their new smaller iPad mini. The MS Surface arrives in a world that begs the question of who it is for.
I will quote a relative of mine, who upon obtaining an iPhone 4 proclaimed "I no longer even use my iMac, this thing does everything I need a computer to do".... I remember thinking "he must not play second life or any other power computer requires games"
Speaking of gaming: even that is changing. Mobil app's are redefining the software and gaming markets. While the MS Xbox 360 may reign supreme kinect enhanced glory at the moment, traction in the console gaming market is being eroded by gaming growth in the tablet, phone and MID markets.
OEM's and Consumers
Pondering the OS Upgrade
Do you remember the XP momentum that continued with the launch of Windows Vista? Today we see a similar issue with W7 still burning as the core OS in the hearts of so many computers. It has taken a while for W7 to gain market traction over XP, and it still does not command the market for windows OS's completely. Now with the launch of W8, a lot of people are asking "will I really gain anything by upgrading from W7? Sadly the answer for many is not only no, but many who tried to upgrade their W7 machines to W8 were thwarted by a failure that required them to do a clean installation from scratch. MS is hard at work trying to resolve this issue but beware, you have been forewarned.
In the business world there is an even greater hesitation about Windows 8. Having been burned by hardware driver issues with Windows Vista, enterprise users of MS's OS are leery of switching over to Windows 8.
Read the news about Win 8: a lot of "meh" essence has been expressed about it!
Building a Unified Ecosystem
This is where W8 really shines. When you combine an X-box, Windows Phone 8, Windows RT tablet and a full powered Windows 8 computer with a hotmail account, you have a cloud synced cohesive unified metro UI eco-system.
Apple is perhaps most renowned for the fluidity between their OSX computers and IOS powered phones, tablets, mids and TV adapters. Apple has nailed the 4 screen solution and rolled out simple to used and highly useful features like air-play, which havs given many normal people access to something very cool!
With the Metro UI in Windows 8, Widows RT, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox, Microsoft is finally tying together their once independent platforms into a unified cohesive whole that we can legitimately call an eco-system. Now MS has to seriously focus on refining that eco-system with fluidity in order to give Apple some real competition. Forget not that we also have Google competing to create cross device mindshare and market penetration with Android, Chrome OS are their ubiquitous search/knowledge engine technology.
Lots of Interesting Things to Come
While I am not a fan of windows anymore, I will give Microsoft props for moving in a bold new direction! I like the idea of another large company lighting a fire under Apple, if that can be said about this moves made towards metro-UI..... I might even give windows 8 a try on my big steam-roller desktop: I have a spare SSD to load a fresh version on, but because a full version of W8 is selling for $100, I am going to hold off! I would pay $30 or $40 for it, not a hundy.... keep dreaming MS while I keep moving forward on Ubuntu and OSX..... that newly announced Chromebook is looking mighty interesting too ^^