(Now that finals are over =])
Windows 8 represents a very different fundamental approach to the design. Following the likes of Android and IOs, it has shifted its focus from Enterprise to Consumer. Ideally, this version will cater to both crowds, it will still have the desktop for the Enterprise, while the Metro UI will cater to the consumer. So has Microsoft created a successful follow up to windows 7? Let’s break down the OS for both crowds.
Remember netbooks from a few years ago? this represented the first sign of demand for a device that is “fast enough”. By “fast enough” I mean a device that has the ability to browse the web, read emails, play media, and a few light games/apps here or there. Not everyone needs an 16 threaded, number crunching powerhouse of a computer, in which the majority don’t. This represents the emerging tablet market.
What differentiates the OS when Android/IOs, and arguably Win7 can accomplish the tasks above? The user experience. Where as the traditional desktop OS is more complicated and usable only with a mouse and keyboard, the Tablet OS’s are quick, simple and touch orientated. We see a shift in the design language to make information up front, simplifying the experience. The OS acts as a platform to facilitate these new types of applications.
Windows 8 does a few things to bring its OS in line with its peers.
First to address quickness, it has kept requirements for Win8 the same as 7. In fact, many under the hood changes actually reduce memory use, and increase efficiency. Remember booting up? it’s now on average 30-70% faster than it was previously. Throw in an SSD and you are looking at a 15s average boot time. How fast does your smart phone start?
To further improve simplicity and user experience, Win8 has taken a few steps into improving the App ecosystem. First they have made controls contextual to the app. Rather than having layers of menus listing out controls for every application, Win8 relegates settings, search, send and other functionality to the charms bar, regardless of the app. Coupled with the Metro UI spanning across Xbox, and Windows phone, it should eventually become a familiar interface to the public even without owning a Windows device.
Speaking of Metro, this will be the defining factor of its success in the Consumer space. Win8 has at minimum, the same capabilities of any other tablet OS today. The difference falls on the Metro UI. If the consumer is willing to enjoys the new UI then it’ll be successful. Personally I’m a fan of the UI, I feel it is simple, and beautiful, yet sacrifices no functionality. It has a very fast way to switch apps without holding or pressing a button, and you have the ability to use two apps simultaneously. small yet noticeable advances in the tablet space. Although it isn’t without its problems, I find that for daily use, it is minor.
Let me say this right now, I don’t think Windows 8 will succeed in the enterprise side. Not at its current form in the preview.
The change in UI throws such a huge wrench into the equation, I’ve talked to a couple IT managers, first comment is “what is with that metro start menu?”. The menu means retraining the entire workforce, and extra support for tasks that have a different workflow.
Another problem is, as of currently, Metro Apps feel very clunky at best with a mouse and keyboard. especially when used in a multi-monitor setup, though these rough uses cases will be smoothed out by launch; they are not efficient use of the screen canvas, and bring no improvements to productivity. Honestly I personally do not use a single Metro Application on my desktop. In which not using is fine, but what is the point to upgrading to Windows 8 if not for the application platform?
Now this being said, there are numerous under the hood changes that improve IT management scenarios, but I don’t see this outweighing the cost of retraining the workforce. I believe Microsoft’s hope lies in public/personal adoption of windows 8, which will reduce the retraining required greatly. As more and more windows 8 devices flood the market, eventually people will learn how to work it.