I’ve been reluctant to pop the seal on this article. I don’t want anyone to mistake this article for an endorsement of Windows 8 or as encouragement to run out and purchase a bunch of upgrades the moment it is released. Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system is currently in beta testing, or “Consumer Preview” in Microsoft’s vernacular. So what is new?
- Mobile-Centric – The primary changes are centered on touch screens. Of course this means that Microsoft is going after Apple in the mobile device markets. Touch screens can also be used with desktop computers, but are currently only practical in niche industries. The default layout, called Metro, is laid out with a series of tiles that can be grouped in any way the user desires. Of course, users can also opt to use the traditional desktop that they may be more comfortable with.
Below are a few of the features of Metro:
- Hot Corners – mousing over the corners of the screen triggers helpful tasks like revealing the Start menu, revealing open apps, etc.
- Gestures and Commands – Like the Apple touchscreens, Windows 8 offers lots of fun, helpful tasks that can be accomplished through a series of finger movements on the screen.
- Apps – Microsoft has embraced the idea of apps that can be installed side-by-side with traditional applications. The Windows Store will rival that of Apple and Google, but it remains to be seen if the same level of care will be taken to ensure that the apps are well vetted before release.
- Mail – Early users have complained that the Mail app has been simplified too much. The intent was that it have a clean, simple interface. While that requirement was met, I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes here before final release. Please note that this application is not a replacement for Microsoft Outlook. The Mail application replaces the free Windows Live Mail application.
- Internet Explorer 10 – Can we please not talk about IE 10? It has lots of new features, faster and easier browsing, blah, blah, blah. After my frustrating experience with IE 9, I don’t even want to think about IE 10.
- SkyDrive – Cloud backups and remote file accessibility is a must in today’s world and Microsoft is pushing SkyDrive as their integrated solution in Windows 8. In many ways, I think users will be more comfortable with the interface it provides than with Apple’s iCloud.
Most of the other enhancements in the Consumer Preview (e.g. Calendar, Messaging, Weather, People, Finance, etc.) won’t really benefit business users except perhaps on their phones and tablets. If, however, users also upgrade to MS Office 2012, they’ll receive licenses for the mobile versions of Office 2010 as well so most of these apps won’t even apply for mobile devices.
So, what is the verdict? At this point, I don’t even think it’s a cop out to say that it’s too early to tell. It’s good to see that Microsoft isn’t far behind the mobile-friendly curve. Like Windows 7, Windows 8 appears to have some solid stakes in new some new territories and a few improvements on the hard work of Apple and Google.
We continue to be very pleased with Windows 7 so we will have to hope that this roll-out goes as smoothly and that the end-product is as stable. We’ll be sure to let you know just as soon as we have enough information to form a solid opinion. In the meantime, try to ignore the hype…and we’ll try to do the same.
If you have questions about upgrading any of your software programs, give Promethius a call at 317-733-2388.