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Monday, June 11, 2012

Would Your Personal Computer be ready for Windows 8?

Is Windows8 Microsoft’s answer to Apple? Is it really what you want for your computer instead of MAC? . The company has taken its existing Windows operating system, with all its strengths and all its problems, and parked it in a box it now calls Desktop adding a new touch-friendly, mobile, secure, operating system complete with its own app store.

It is now closer than ever to launching. The operating system is being shown off in release previews, users are able to test it and Microsoft is promising better and better experiences with each new launch. It’s clear that Microsoft believes Windows 8 is one of its most significant launches in an awfully long time. Furthermore, it’s apparent that the company’s loyal followers are just as excited to get their hands on the software giant’s latest creation.

A key component in Microsoft’s strategy is tablets. Windows has so far been left out of the tablet market, causing an immense amount of concern among Microsoft’s investors. What’s worse, the company’s vendor partners have continued to warm to Google’s Android platform, making some wonder if Windows’ chances of actually succeeding in the tablet market are far slimmer than one might expect.Microsoft has carefully avoided giving this a name, preferring that we should just think of it a Windows, but the new platform is called the Windows Runtime and the design style Metro. Metro is not, on the whole, something which Microsoft’s existing customers want. Windows 7 succeeded because it was unequivocally better than Windows Vista: faster, more reliable, and with useful innovations like its improved taskbar from which you can launch applications.

Everyone wants to try Windows 8 Consumer Preview. You have downloaded the software and installed it leaving just one task left: actually using the thing.

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview drops you in at the deep end. Unlike Windows of old, which has taught users how to handle the user interface with mouse tutorials and bouncing arrows, Windows 8 just dumps you at the lock screen. Swipe or drag that out the way, and you are faced with the brand new Start screen. This will be a bit of a shock to existing Windows users (which is to say, virtually every person on earth who has ever owned a computer), and getting to grips with the Windows 8 interface is going to require some effort.

Ever since we stepped into 2012, there have been predictions about how this year will be all about Windows 8. Almost half the year has passed, and we have seen Microsoft dish out the testing versions of Windows 8 in the form of the Developer preview and Consumer preview. Today, the software giant put forth the Windows 8 Release preview, the final public rollout before the highly anticipated Windows edition hits store shelves.

So, the question arises - Is your PC ready to upgrade to Windows 8?

The rollout of Windows 8 has very important implications for not just Microsoft but everyone in the tech industry.  In normal times, most people are unwilling to reconsider the basic decisions they have made about operating system and applications.  They have spent a huge amount of time learning how to use the system, and the last thing they want to do is start learning all over again.  That’s why the market share of a standard like Windows is so stable over time.  But when a platform makes a major transition, people are forced to stop and reconsider their purchase.  They are going to have to learn something new anyway, so for a brief moment they are open to possibly switching to something else.  The more relearning people have to do, the more willing they are to switch.

Windows 8 is a revolutionary transition in Windows, easily the biggest change since the move from DOS to Windows in the early 1990s.  Consider the wreckage that was created by that transition: Apple’s effort to retake the lead in personal computing was stopped dead, the leading app companies of the time were destroyed (Lotus, WordPerfect, Ashton Tate, etc), IBM was eventually forced out of the PC business, Microsoft, formerly an also-ran in apps, became the leading applications company, and a power in server software as well.

Will the Windows 8 transition be as disruptive?  It is impossible to say at this point.  But huge changes are possible.  If the transition is successful, Microsoft could emerge as a much stronger, more dynamic company, leveraging its sales leadership in PCs to get a powerful position in tablets, mobile devices, and online services.  On the other hand, if Windows 8 fails, Microsoft could break the loyalty of its customer base and turn its genteel decline into a catastrophic collapse.  The most likely outcome, of course, is a muddled middle.

Whatever the outcome for Microsoft, what is certain is that because so many people use Windows as the foundation of their computing, the transition to Windows 8 will produce threats and opportunities for everyone else in the tech industry. Play your cards right and your company could grow rapidly. Mess up and you could be the next Lotus. You may love Windows 8 or you may it, but if you work in tech, you would be a fool to ignore it.

Although Microsoft calls it Windows, and a lot of Windows code may still be present under the hood, Windows 8 is a completely new operating system in every way that matters to users.  It looks different, it works differently, and it forces you to re-learn much of what you know today about computers.  From a user perspective, Microsoft Windows is being killed this fall and replaced by an entirely new Operating System that has a Windows 7 emulator tacked onto it.

The main Windows 8 interface is based on Microsoft’s Metro design language, which was supposedly inspired in part by the directional signs used in public transportation. Metro emphasizes typography (big words in clean fonts) and simple monochrome images, like the signs you would see on a subway platform.

Metro looks incredibly nice.  The graphics are clean and bold, the animations are smooth, and overall it is one of the most visually literate things you would have ever seen from Microsoft.  You will still be amazed that Metro is a Microsoft product. The simplicity of Metro is very appealing in many ways, especially when viewed against Apple’s interface, which is becoming more and more encrusted with strange textures and bits of faux 3D gewgaw.

Speaking of miscommunication, Microsoft didn’t clearly tell users that the Windows 8 preview is a one-way installation.  The word “preview” implies to many people an advanced sample that you can play with for a while and then toss aside.  But unless you have the original installation disks that came with your computer, the Windows 8 preview replaces your current Operating System and can’t be removed.  Even if you do have those disks, on many PCs (including mine) the factory install disks wipe the hard drive and do a new install from scratch, deleting all your files and applications.

Microsoft did disclose this information on the Windows 8 preview site, but the disclosure was written in bureaucratic language that didn’t make clear the risk, and what’s worse, that text was below the “Install” button, meaning a user could easily miss it.

If you want a measure of how many people missed the warning, do a web search for “uninstall Windows 8”.  Be prepared to read some angry commentary.

I think the next round in this cycle of frustration is going to come early next year, when the Windows 8 preview expires and preview users are required to purchase Windows 8 to keep their computers working.  The fact that there’s an expiration date on the preview is something else that Microsoft didn’t prominently disclose.

If Windows 8 is a problem, what is it going to do to a typical Windows user who just wants to get work done and does not have time to learn something new?  And what sort of support burden is it going to put on the IT managers of the world? At TOPS Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (www.tops-int.com) we believe that unlike the last few years Microsoft might just have something to put them back into the driving seat of this space.

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