It has been described as a “reimagining” of Windows – the brand new Windows 8 was unveiled to an enthralled audience at the Build Conference in Anaheim, California, a week ago. So as a vision of where Microsoft sees the future of computing, what can we expect from the new operating system and will it really achieve its goals?
Best of both worlds
Microsoft Windows 8 aims to be the best of both worlds by playing both sides and being designed for mobile and desktop services.
Phone users will be thrilled to hear that it makes the most of the Metro interface, which was one of Windows Phone 7’s most striking features. It is a slick panel-based user interface that sets coloured tiles against a plain background with the tiles easy to move around if you want to customise the device. This is particularly useful on tablet devices as it makes navigation so easy – but it could be more problematic on non-touch enabled PCs which have to use a standard scroll bar at the bottom.
Thankfully however, anyone who is put off by the Metro interface will be relieved that Microsoft hasn’t abandoned its fundamentals and instead has simply revised its desktop. For example, one of the main tiles on the primary home screen is for a desktop in the traditional Windows mode with familiar functionality for PC users including a file system, jump lists and a version of Explorer. However, one notable change is how programmes can be browsed from the “start” button. Instead of being presented with a list of recent programmes and documents, the user will get an all-purpose search icon that is not dissimilar to the search function on a Mac.
Other key features of the new Windows 8 system include inventive touch controls which were a hallmark of the Metro interface, such as the virtual keyboard and a lock screen that provides a nice combination of an alert screen and a screensaver. Even logging in has been made more fun thanks to a facial recognition option.
The device will come with a number of Apps already familiar to smart phone users including Internet Explorer 10, RSS feeds and a bespoke Twitter client. In addition, Windows 8 promises a mere eight second boot time – that compares favourably to the 30 seconds needed by Windows 7. Overall it seems Windows 8 is a halfway house allowing it to surge into the tablet market without making too many changes for PC users.