Tech to Watch 2012: Windows 8 Finally Answers the iPad

Windows 8 on a Tablet

The Windows 8 operating system is Microsoft’s long-awaited answer to the iPad. But this touch-friendly OS isn’t just designed for tablets. By late 2012, the software will find a home on everything from laptops and slates to huge all-in-one PCs. Microsoft says that a beta version of Windows 8 (and the accompanying Windows Store) will be available in February

Similar to Windows Phones, Windows 8 sports a Start screen with dynamic Live Tiles and sleek panoramic interface. Although the OS has been optimized for touchscreen input, it also supports mice and keyboards. This is a vastly different strategy than Apple’s, which is using iOS for phones and tablets and Mac OS X for computers.

Why It’s Important

Today, Windows XP still accounts for 38.1 percent of global desktop operating system usage. Microsoft is hoping to convince the more than one billion people who use Windows to upgrade—and to fend off Apple. As part of that effort, Windows 8 supports ARM processors, in addition to Intel and AMD x86 CPUs. These low-power chips will enable fanless designs with long battery life.

“Windows 8 is a big deal for the industry,” said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis of NPD. “It’s a radical departure from what Microsoft has done in the past. And they’re being pushed in that direction by smartphones and tablets and Android and iOS.”

During our hands-on time with the Samsung Windows 8 Developer Preview PC tablet we found the Metro UI responsive and the hardware impressively fast. We also appreciated the pen input option, and look forward to what hardware makers will do with the platform.

How It Will Change Your Life

The look and feel of Windows is getting the first major overhaul in several years. The traditional Start menu has been replaced with a whole new look and feel. Live Tiles present more info at a glance than static icons, and you’ll see lots of full-screen apps in Microsoft’s new Windows Store, from productivity tools to games. This UI could prove jarring, but users will be able to fall back on the more traditional Windows environment and run desktop apps.

This dual-pronged approach worries some analysts. “Depending on which application you open, you may be getting the new UI or the old UI, which can be clunky,” said Al Gillen, program vice president at IDC.

If you can’t wait to play with this new OS, it is possible to get it now by setting up your PC to dual boot Windows 7 and 8. Simply follow our step-by-step directions.

Outlook

The early reaction to Windows 8 has been mostly positive. However, it’s not clear whether Microsoft’s one-size-fits-all approach for tablets and PCs will resonate with consumers. “The other players in the market view the tablet as the upscale smartphone OS, while Microsoft looks as it as a downscale PC OS,” said Baker. “How they execute that will be critical.”

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  1. i told u so.com Says:

    its def a downscale PC version. I myself have been using the windows 8 developer version since its launch months ago on a HP Touchsmart 300. I must tell you this, Ive developed for almost every OS in the US, and besides Webos (which is still the best OS on the planet) Windows 8 has got it. Even as a developer version is trumps anything on the market in terms of PC and tablets. I use the swipe at the edge to pull up and multi task alot, (I notice it now and then that its now pretty much second nature). How everything social is intergrated on the live tile end is perfect even with the weather. Then having the access to the desktop is perfect (dont listen to these dumb invester about clunky its far from that) How the transitions are make it a beautiful transition when switching between the two (like windows phone 7 changing landscape to portrait the animation). IMO microsoft with windows 8 and windows phone 7 will take every market share there is out there leaving Apple behind it since most people who dislike Microsoft will still want a all in one complete non fragmented eco system which is only apple (google is too far fragmented and will continue to be).

  2. Gary Ryckewaert Says:

    I absolutely love my windows phone 7.5!!! It is such a refreshing change from the ios and android home screens alone. It is a very sleek and sexy UI…I am really hoping it blows up and brings more great things. I am looking forward to getting a new laptop with windows 8 as soon as it becomes available, it is going to rock my computer world!! LOL. Peace

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