When Microsoft announced Windows 8 last week at its Build Conference, it was abundantly and immediately clear that Microsoft was taking a step in a very different direction.
That new direction: apps.
Microsoft demoed Windows 8 for tablets, one half of the Windows 8 story, where the entire operating system revolves around “tiles” representing apps.
Will this approach work for Microsoft the same way it’s worked for Apple?
Microsofts Live Tiles are simultaneously app icons and widgets.
A Live Tile changes based on information from the app it's representing, like a stock price, a weather report, a news update, or a friend's new profile photo.
In this way, Live Tiles offer at-a-glance information first and foremost, and are the focal point of Windows 8.
With such a huge emphasis being put on full screen 'apps' in Windows 8 for tablets, the Windows Store will have to sell a giant variety of apps for any occasion, work or play.
Most consumers seem to be using tablets for playing games, browsing the web, and checking email. If Windows 8 could offer professionals and corporations a solid set of productivity applications (give us Microsoft Office and Quicken for tablets), Windows 8 could really stand out.
Windows 8 not only puts the emphasis on the consumer, but takes the emphasis away from the web.
Once again, Microsoft wants to change the conversation by bundling in essential apps that will fit the needs of the majority, and limit the amount of time spent searching.
Like in Windows Phone 7's quite odd (but true) advertisements, the goal is to deliver the information you need as quickly as possible.
Internet Explorer is not the best internet browser, by a long shot.
In Windows 8, Internet Explorer has received a total revamp. It's incredibly speedy, defaults to full screen for spacious browsing, and doesn't even include Adobe Flash.
We repeat: it's a default desktop browser that doesn't include Adobe Flash. Microsoft's ear is to the ground and has its eyes on what's next with Windows 8, despite the risks involved.
Like in Windows Phone Mango coming very soon, apps in Windows 8 will work well together.
Say you want to share a link from Internet Explorer. You can drag your finger in from the tablet's right bezel and activate the Share 'charm.'
From there, you can pass off the link to the Email app, or to other social apps (pictured).
Microsoft's new News Reader app for Windows 8 gets rid of gunk (like ads) on websites.
Does this mean Windows 8 might ship with less 'bloatware' like virus scanners, application trials, etc? We really hope so.
For any tablet to put up a decent fight against the iPad, it will need tons of fun recreational apps.
Windows Phone has struggled with market share for a number of reasons, but one big one is lack of the apps people love on iOS and Android.
In order for people to make an easier switch to a Windows 8 tablet, Microsoft needs to convince top app developers to get onboard.
For Apple, getting big time developers onboard has been a top-tier priority. Just look at Apple's print and video ads, which generally advertise third party apps.
For most people, Twitter means checking updates and posting updates. The great majority of people are not flying through cascades of Tweetdeck columns and pop ups.
For most people, Microsoft's demo app [email protected] will be enough.
[email protected] embodies the Windows 8 mantra that 'the native way is the better way.'
Windows 8 boots at lightning speed.
Once you're up and running, you're free to use the 'Desktop' version of Windows 8 for anything you can't do in the new Metro interface that's the core of Windows 8 for tablets.
This new kind of 'backwards compatibility' ensures a much smoother transition from the past to the present, and gives Windows 8 tablets flexibility no other tablets can compete with.
Windows 8 for tablets will bring the focus back to consumers. The operating system takes the iOS approach by offering fewer back-end options (just look at that control panel!).
For millions of 'power users' out there, Windows 8 might sound like a death trap. But the fact is, most corporate execs don't care about outmoded notions of 'business apps.' More and more companies are converting to iOS devices, even if it's a little bit more trouble.
Why? Because we are no longer in a place where corporate customers have to compromise functionality.
Apple loves to boast that when you pop open the lid on your new Mac, you can immediately start blogging, making music, and creating web sites.
When you turn on your Windows computer for the first time, there should be some fun stuff to do right off the bat. Here's a simple piano app Microsoft included in the developer preview of Windows 8.
We spent a few minutes learning the first few bars of Clair De Lunes by Claude Debussy. In past versions of Windows, we would've spent this time registering the computer and uninstalling the 'bloatware' it came with.
Windows is a notorious resource hog. Windows 8 should change that.
It only takes 281 MB of RAM to boot up Windows 8, compared with 400 MB or more to boot Windows 7. Windows 8 should give you more room to breathe when you're doing a lot simultaneously.
One glaring omission from Microsoft's Windows 8 announcement was any idea for how users will multitask in Windows 8.
Without a doubt, it's easier to multitask on a desktop computer, but just ask the iPad how tablet multitasking goes over. Windows 8 multitasking will be on par or better than the iPad's, since it will likely include screenshots of apps instead of tiny icons.
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