Windows 8- due to launch in 2012, got a big reveal today by Microsoft. They've posted up a video on building Windows 8 that gives us some tantalizing clues about the next-gen operating system. While it was designed and optimized for tablets, Win 8 will function with a keyboard and mouse.
This is Microsoft's attempt to corner the whole personal computer market with one sweeping OS. Windows 8 will function on ARM chips, which means it'll be able to work on mobile devices without sacrificing efficiency.
The Start Screen:
Your eyes do not deceive you. Windows Phone 7 has metastasised into a desktop OS. This slick, colorful carpet of glittering tiles is Redmond's vision of the world's computing future. It looks exactly like their smartphone platform (which has had extremely lackluster sales) and lacks every previous visual characteristic of Windows.
"Tiles are better than icons", we're told, they give an app "space to show its personality". This is BS-speak for "we're bringing widgets to your desktop". Windows 8 is as much a mobile OS as it is a traditional PC OS.
The Ergonomic Keyboard:
The Windows 8 touchscreen keyboard may be a stroke of brilliance. In addition to offering a traditional touch keyboard, Microsoft's next-gen OS offers a split, ergonomic keyboard. Clumping the keys together on either side allows for comfortable typing while holding onto a horizontal tablet. It's too early to tell if human hands will actually prefer this new configuration.
One major benefit of having dual-displays or one huge display is the ability to monitor multiple windows at once. Win 8 looks to bring that sort of functionality to smaller, single screens. You'll be able to drag apps alongside other apps, and alter the make-up of your screen for optimal productivity. The system is designed for touch interaction, but it's easy to see how a mouse could drag-and-drop to accomplish the same end.
Shared File Systems:
The most exciting development of Windows 8 comes from Microsoft's attempt to unify file storage across devices and apps. All of your networked Windows machines will be able to share content with all of your apps. So, using your desktop, you'll be able to pull photos from any of your compatible tablets, laptops and smartphones. And any app on your computer will be able to pull photos from any other app.
Even if every other 'innovation' Microsoft has touted here proves a bust, this might be enough to make Windows 8 worth using. The current state of file management across devices is just astonishingly inconvenient. Today's user has multiple devices he uses to create video and picture content. Any platform that can unify file storage across all those gadgets will have a powerful pull.
Is Microsoft Abandoning Ship?:
The desktop market is shrinking, and mobile devices play an ever-increasing role in user's daily lives. Microsoft has sat back for the last few years and watched as Apple and Google have eroded their central position in most people's computing lives. Windows 8 represents a wild, risky leap from their present precarious position to an unknown future.
Windows Phone 7 has had a very slow start, and far from a universally positive reaction. Yet Microsoft plunges ahead to bring it to the desktop. It's a gutsy move, but what's far from certain is whether or not it will prove to be the right one.