Microsoft's early reveals of Windows 8 may have centered on its flashy tablet aspects, but victory will only come with persuading IT pros and power users to jump aboard.
The majority of buzz surrounding
Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 has centered on the operating system's support
That's understandable, considering the
white-hot tablet market-not to mention the novelty of seeing Microsoft's
strategy to conquer that market finally under way. It also means that Windows 8
desktop-centric aspects have taken something of a backseat for the moment, at
least in the eyes of most observers.
But trust that Microsoft will start
pushing Windows 8's desktop-and-keyboard aspects, if only because the company
needs to convince power users that the operating system is capable of meeting
As demonstrated by Microsoft during the
opening day of its BUILD conference, Windows 8 is capable of seamlessly
transitioning between a touch-centric user interface (as represented by a set
of colorful tiles) and a more traditional desktop environment. Windows and
Windows Live division President Steven Sinofsky claimed during his BUILD
keynote that the two interfaces will cooperate with "no compromises."
Onstage, he flipped between Windows 8's
desktop and tablet modes. Windows 8's tablet interface embraces the "Metro"
aesthetic pioneered by Microsoft's Zune and Windows Phone software, drawing
away from the "Aero" design used in Windows Vista and Windows 7. And when it
flips to desktop mode, Windows 8 does offer a "look" that's chunkier and more
blockish than Aero-although, given this early stage, it remains to be seen
whether this is anything close to the final look.
On the power-user side of things,
Microsoft has revamped the task manager with a heads-up display and the control
panel with granular controls for power users.
Windows 8 also continues the lessons
learned from Windows Vista, whose aggressive alerts and pop-ups sparked a
firestorm of user complaints. With the upcoming operating system, the alerts
(or at least, the alerts shown at BUILD) are subtle, with small text positioned
near the bottom of a particular screen.
Other capabilities include ultra-fast
boot, picture password (which involves tapping parts of an image to access the
system) and the Windows 8 app store, which will list win32 apps in addition to
"Metro" apps. IT administrators and developers will have the ability to run
multiple virtualized operating systems on the same physical machine.
During his keynote, Sinofsky insisted
that technology had evolved enough in the three years since Windows 7's release
to justify the creation of a whole new operating system. He argued that the
rise of mobility, particularly in the consumer space, made it essential to
build a platform capable of running on tablets. But if Microsoft wants Windows
8 to be a hit on the scale of Windows 7, it will have to convince business
users and IT pros that Windows can continue to play the more traditional role
of robust operating system, with all the compatibility, interoperability and
complexity that entails.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.