Microsoft is aiming to satisfy users of both tablets and traditional PCs with "Windows 8." In the process, an analyst says, it could threaten Android's tablet plans.
Microsoft is taking a radical new direction with "Windows 8,"
abandoning many of the traditional Windows hallmarks in favor of a brightly
colored, tile-centric interface apparently designed to play well on everything
from tablets to desktops.
(Windows 8 is actually an internal Microsoft code-name for
the project. Its final moniker might change by the time of its rumored release
date in late 2012.)
Windows 8 will not only feature all-new apps tailored to
that interface but support legacy programs such as Office. In
an official video
detailing a few of the operating system's capabilities,
Microsoft showed Windows 8 running the current version of Excel, in an apparent
bid to convince the productivity-minded that their needs will be met.
Some analysts seemed sold on Microsoft's radical new
"It has the markers of a post-PC product: Windows on ARM
will enable more ubiquitous and casual computing experiences; touch-first will
make Windows more intimate and physical," Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with
Forrester, wrote in a
June 1 blog posting
. "If Microsoft executes well-and brings Windows 8 to
market by 2012, which they haven't officially said they will do-it will stave
off defection from OEM partners to alternative operating systems, and from
consumers and enterprises tempted by Apple's platform."
Furthermore, she sees Windows 8 as potentially giving
Android some major headaches. "Consumers prefer Windows to Android on tablets
by a wide margin: 46 [percent] of U.S. consumers considering buying a tablet
prefer Windows on that tablet, compared with 9 [percent] who prefer Android,
according to a Forrester study conducted in January 2011."
Those manufacturers whose Android tablets crashed and burned
in the market, she theorized, could turn to
Windows tablets-although Apple's iPad will continue its market
dominance: "If Windows 8 tablets hit the market in 2012, they'll be
third-generation iPads-no easy feat, and we expect Apple to maintain at
70 [percent] market share into next year."
But others have been quick to point out potentisl flaws in Windows 8.
"Windows 8 is trying to have it all, and I don't think it
can be done," Daring Fireball's John Gruber wrote in a June 1 posting
. "You can't make
something conceptually lightweight if it's carrying 25 years of Windows
baggage." That alone, he argued, makes it an ineffective competitor to the iPad
and its focus on speedy, streamlined interactions.
In crafting a new platform capable of operating on both
tablets and traditional PCs, Microsoft evidently hopes to move its Windows
franchise into a new era while finally establishing a brand presence in the
rapidly burgeoning consumer tablet market. But can Microsoft effectively hit
both the power-user and lightweight-tablet markets? Until the company offers
more exhaustive details about how Windows 8 will work, that remains a big