Note: This article was written prior to Apple’s WWDC event.
Microsoft have announced Windows 8 and to be honest, I’m impressed. I’m impressed because I didn’t think Microsoft had it in them. I didn’t think they would be able to throw caution to the wind and really come up with something different. I’m impressed, but I’m not entirely convinced.
If you take a look at the first video below, you can’t help but be impressed by what Windows 8 may be able to offer tablets and other touch devices. It looks slick, it’s full of clever ideas, it’s… not what we would traditionally expect from Windows. So why am I not entirely convinced?
As a touch OS Windows 8 is promising. The fluidity of the UI and the well thought out menu placements are just the beginning. The tiles representing apps are much more useful than a traditional icon. Being able to snap multiple apps on the screen at once is really handy. The keyboard that splits into two halves, providing access to all the keys under your thumbs is clever.
Some questions arise however, which I think Microsoft have successfully avoided thus far despite their claims of Windows 8 being able to adapt to all different kinds of devices.
I am yet to see a demo of Windows 8 in portrait mode on a tablet. I personally use my iPad in portrait mode 90% of the time. This is something that will differ from one user to another, but I fear Windows 8 may not give you the option. You see, PC’s and laptops don’t have a portrait mode. In the Computex demo, you’ll see that if a tablet device doesn’t have a 16:9 display, functionality is limited (ie. no more snap function), which doesn’t give much hope to there being a portrait mode.
How powerful would a tablet need to be to run Windows 8? With all the talk of Windows 8 adapting to a range of different devices, does it mean the minimum requirements will be the same across all of these. My guess, it’s not going to be cheap (or pretty).
Which brings me to my final point, and it’s one you’ve surely heard by now. I have no doubt Windows 8 will be able to adapt to a large number of devices, but as mentioned above, there are already limitations that arise from this strategy. Navigating the new environment using the page up/down buttons just doesn’t seem right. The need for Microsoft to still have the option of reverting to a traditional Windows environment reinforces this. Which is the difficulty Microsoft will inevitably face. Windows has been ingrained into so many people that a drastic change could cause chaos. Though credit is due in their attempt to break the shackles and take a step forward. We’ll find out soon enough in which direction.
Building “Windows 8” – Video #1