Never has so much been at stake for Microsoft in a single product release. After the successful launch of Windows 7 in 2009, the company continues to rule the desktop, but has faltered in the emerging tablet space. The next version of its popular operating system, codenamed Windows 8, is designed to bridge the gap between PCs and slates, but will it be enough to help the world’s leading software company catch up to its competitors in the mobile space when it launches sometime in 2012?
Just as important, will Windows 8 have the kind of compelling features that made Windows 7 a must-have upgrade for consumers and businesses alike? We’ve gathered together the top 8 announced or rumored features of Microsoft’s upcoming OS so you can decide for yourself.
Say goodbye to the Start Menu, at least when it comes to the main desktop. Microsoft has demoed a flashy new user interface filled with touch-friendly live tiles that show everything from the news to your social media updates. Windows 8 also supports full-screen HTML 5 applications on the desktop and the ability to switch between apps with a single swipe to the left or right.
“Tiles are better than icons,” Jensen Harris, Director of PM: Windows User Experience Jensen Harris said in a demo video. “They have a little more space for the app to show its personality. Like the weather app can just show you the temperature without you having to open it.”
Despite the slickness of the new OS, Microsoft may have a hard time convincing users that an interface which looks more like Windows Phone 7 than Windows 7 will work well on non-touch devices.
"On a PC where you are still using a keyboard and mouse, or a laptop, where you don’t necessarily want to touch your screen, or only rely on a touch pad, I think it’s a harder sell,” said ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. “I just can’t see myself--the way I work, and the way that I know a lot of other people work--having to click through those tiled boxes on the screen in order to find a program."
Fortunately, a traditional style Windows desktop will be available for apps that require it. However, it's not clear whether users will be able to disable tile mode entirely.