Windows 8 Preview: Windows Phone 7 Meets the PC
Microsoft has taken the veil off the mysterious Windows 8, and it’s both brilliant and questionable. Windows 8 is essentially Windows 7 with Windows Phone 7 layered on top, and it performs remarkably well. It’s even got me, the biggest Apple lover of all time, looking forward to Windows 8. Read on for some details, including the official Microsoft YouTube video demonstrating the new technology …
Much like Apple has done with OS X Lion, Windows will support full-screen apps and multitouch interactivity. Microsoft’s strategy here is to make Windows 8 a multiplatform interface. So run it on your regular PC and run it on your tablet PC — the device intuitively will have the proper user interface.
The start menu of Windows 8 is the “start screen,” with a Windows Phone 7-style interface users can flick through. All the tile-based apps users have come love on their Windows phone are there. Users can multitask between these new-style applications easily by flicking from the left screen in, and get a list of options by flicking from the right screen in. Touch keyboard comes standard. Full screen Internet Explorer 10 looks identical to IE on the Windows Phone 7 and it’s both snappy and useful.
So here’s the good stuff: Microsoft realizes what consumers want (or don’t) when it comes to touch-based interfaces. The amount of work that has gone into making the touch-GUI of Windows 8 clearly shows Microsoft wants users to live inside there as much as possible. Everything from weather, e-mail and browsing to videos, photos and games can exist inside the start screen. Microsoft has done a good job of creating a ubiquitous and friendly interface across its product line — Windows Phone 7 users will feel right at home, but even without a touch screen, keyboard and mouse users can take advantage of the many features of the start screen. Microsoft has even built in some file system-level control, so users can manage their photos and music. (Developers will be happy to know that HTML5 plays a prominent role in start screen app development.)
For better or worse, behind the portal is regular old Windows, essentially Windows 7. There are no GUI changes. So despite the UI overhaul, Windows 8 is still Windows, and that means users still have driver issues, BSODs, antivirus and the myriad other issues that come with running Windows. That said, Windows 8 tablets will be infinitely more intuitive and useful, and it’s a step in the right direction. With all of Microsoft’s work on the new UI, I hope the next version of Windows will also include an overhaul under the hood.
Windows 8 is slated for release in late 2011 or early 2012, and I look forward to being able to play with it. There’s a whole slew of questions I have, but none of them are worth asking until I can get my hands on a working version, which hopefully, will be very very soon.