windows8_screenshotWith the pending release of Windows 8 beta (a.k.a. Consumer Preview) it seems that all sorts of people are publishing their positive and negative blog posts (see Windows 8 – to be or not to be? and Why Windows 8 Will be A Flop!! and Five Reasons why Windows 8 will be dead on arrival )Windows 8 will be a failure. What is totally perplexing to me is that people seem to have made up their minds about the new OS before they have even used the final product. I have no doubt that there is much more to be announced by Microsoft this month regarding the OS which may or may not change peoples minds but this is a post to talk about the what is known today and why this is NOT going to be another Windows Vista like many people claim it will be…

Great Fundamentals

This is a topic which I have never seen when people talk about Windows 8. Steven Sinofsky during BUILD Keynote showed that the developer preview consumes less system resources than Windows 7. He even when on to say that this will improved even more over the Windows 8 development lifecycle. But even at the early stage of the development it uses less CPU and RAM which directly translates to better performance and improved battery life. Microsoft have also stated that every single computer that runs Windows 7 today can run Windows 8. Meaning that Windows 8 will be able to run on pretty much any computer that has been made since Windows Vista.

If you remember  Windows Vista had hardware specs that more than doubled from Windows XP. This was made very evident to me when I loaded Vista that my father’s desktop computer with 512mb RAM. The system certainly meet the minimum specs for Vista but it was OMG slow….(Stay with me here) I then upgrade the same system to 1gb RAM and the performance improved greatly with Vista. Much later I again upgrade the computer to Windows 7 and again the performance was much improved… Now with the upcoming Windows 8 his computer will again use less RAM and CPU and thus again get another  performance improvement.  

(My Point)

This means that every single computer sold since Vista (and some before) will be able to run Windows 8 better than Vista or 7 almost without exception. Meaning there will be a MASSIVE base of computers today that will be able to run Windows 8 better than the current OS. This is a VASTLY different story to than when Windows Vista as it only ran well on all but the newest computers (and even then some did not work well)…

Excellent AppCompat

Again Windows 8 will be able to run any application that work in Windows 7, this was a vastly different to the story with AppCompat when Vista can out and I know first hand was one of the big reasons why enterprise were slow (or did not) adopt Vista… Not having this barrier will mean that any company that has made the jump to Windows 7 will have a much smaller effort to run Windows 8. Couple this with all organisations  that have Enterprise Agreement licences will already own Windows 8 not to mention the similar deployment method (as they are now) it all but eliminates the technical or financial barriers to adoption in the Enterprise… (Not i say technical and financial… More on this later).

No Compromise Tablets

Clearly the market for Tablet computing is currently booming and Windows 8 UI is optimised for the touch UI. Having used Windows 8 on a tablet device for the past 3 months I have no doubt that its new UI is great for touch device. Even some of the optimisation for the Desktop such as the improved touch keyboard make it a much better to use… But its not all about the UI. The fact that the Windows 8 will support ARM processors means that we will see computers running Windows 8 with 10+ hours battery life and instant on/off. These are clearly some key features that are needed for Microsoft to compete against the the iPad and other slate devices…

I would also point out that browsing the web using IE (not metro) will allow users to have a truly no compromise web experience touch experience by allowing browser add-on’s such as flash and Silverlight or even the new ability to make Facebook to Skype calls from within the web page. This is something that the iPad can certainly not claim and one that android devices only partly support on a few slate devices.

So when you combine a rich table/touch experience with the full desktop experience and the ability to easily use a keyboard and mouse it makes a 100% no compromise consumption and creation computing OS… Something I am sure that Apple and Google would love to be able to claim with their respective OS’s.

Marketplace Appeal

The Windows 8 Marketplace is going to be huge… Even if in worst case only half the number of Windows 8 licences are sold as Windows 7 there are still going to be hundreds of millions of installed of Windows 8 users for developer to sell their apps. I believe this above all other efforts is what is going to attract developers to the market place… not WinRT, not the ability to use the language of choice… not the familiar developer tools… but users. When you have a big audience you can sell your apps to then the developers will come running because more users = more sales and more sales = more money and more money = more developers…

Desktop + Metro UI

   I would expect that someone looking at the Windows 8 UI for the first time their initial response will be something like… Whoa that is different!!! and of course they would be right. A lot of seasoned Windows users might even feel put off by the new menu… but that is all it is… a start menu. While the start menu is certainly an important part of Windows for over 15 years something that has become really obvious with using Windows 8 a lot is that its not something that is actually used all that often… Certainly the Metro Start menu in Windows 8 will probably be user more often when there are more useful Metro Apps available however for now the desktop is certainly where i still expect to spend most of my time using Windows 8.

My biggest concern is if the UI is going to be great on devices that do not have touch? That I am not sure. I have certainly posted before about this Better Together: Windows 8 + Microsoft Touch Mouse and some of the recent video’s form CES (see Video: Windows 8 build 8175 hands-on (via TheVerge) has show better keyboard/mouse integration with the Metro UI however will this be enough? I don’t know… But i would point out that start screen on the iPad is only a grid of almost completely static icons while the Metro start menu is a grid live tiles. One is small and static and the other is large and dynamic… A difference yes, but in practical terms how much different is this to task launcher of other products…

Personally I have not spent much time in the start menu as the list of applications are limited and all the programs I use often are pinned to the task bar. So I really have not immersed myself in the new UI… I do think that some of the new ways to use the Metro UI are very nice but are not all that discoverable so i wounder how a person with no knowledge of the new Windows 8 interface will discover the new feature.

My only concern right now with the Metro UI is the lack of discoverability of the charms, and task switcher when you swipe from the edges of the screen… I can only assume that Microsoft will have do something to make this more discoverable. We will see..

(There is the obvious solution as a first run video intro for new users but this could get very old very quick somewhat like the Windows XP video that plays for the first time you install the OS. If it were up to me then I would probably add the pop-up tool tips but make sure that they only run for a user that is starting with the OS, not a seasoned using an existing profile… )

In closing…

It is clear that Windows 8 is going to have a far more features (Just see my other post  What is new in Windows 8 ) than what I just mentioned above… Some of these feature are pretty amazing and some are not so impressive, but the list of improvements are long and is as of now still not complete. We are certainly going to learn a lot more about Windows 8 later this month when the consumer preview is released and it is already clear that Microsoft are definitely taking some risks with the new UI. Weather these risks will pay off of not nobody know but what Microsoft are certainly not doing is making that same mistakes of Windows Vista that much is sure…