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Dated: Jun. 11, 2011
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Windows 8 is the newest operating system destined to be released from Microsoft, and from what they’ve revealed, they’ve got a whole lot of changes ready for the end-user. Far from redesigning the system from the ground up, they’ve settled on pulling inspiration from their popular Windows Phone and from tweaks they’ve made over the years to the iconic Windows look.
The most striking change is the new Welcome screen, a screen designed around an easy user experience with multiple selectable, colored boxes on the screen that, according to the prototype, can link you to everything you’d need to use a computer for- the press conference release shows a link to a Windows Store, the user’s email, picture gallery, investment portfolio, weather report, calendar with to-do list, Twitter feed, Video album, and a link back to the desktop. It seems to be a bit much, but it certainly seems to be a great benefit to those who are perhaps not as used to computers. Its design is heavily reminiscent of the interface for the Windows Phone, where everything is viewed as colored tiles and can be manipulated with the user’s fingers. Time will tell whether or not Windows 8 will be touch-screen sensitive, but all signs are positive.
The Start Screen seems to be the focus of the changes shown during D9, with implications that it’s designed for both tablet computers and home computers. “It’s ‘no compromise’ and that’s really important to us”, Windows President Steven Sinofsky. It makes corporate sense- tablet computers are the “next big thing” according to multiple computing and tech magazines, and to create an operating system that would work both with tablet computers and home computers with their vastly superior processing power is a no-brainer. Why develop two operating systems for two devices when you could simply design one operating system that can be scaled up and scaled down as needed?
The best part is that, clearly visible on the press released images, is an icon that returns the user from the Start Screen to the desktop, where the interface is being tweaked but not changed as severely as from Windows XP Basic to Aero, the Windows Vista default theme. Minor aesthetic changes are visible, with the most noteworthy being that the boxes that enclose the “minimize”, “maximize”, and “close” buttons are being eliminated, leaving just the icons in the corner of the window. Hardly groundbreaking, but the Windows interface has already been more or less perfected by numerous iterations of change.
A new addition to the OS seems to be the Windows Store, a method to purchase, view, and review applications online. It’s ideologically similar to the Apple Store, which is incredibly popular among Mac aficionados. This could be a step in the right direction, since it would certainly provide an organized and central database of applications with corporate oversight and direction, but it could just as likely become a monolithic pseudo-dictatorship like the Apple Store, where Apple has been known to remove applications it had approved just days prior, with no warning or explanation. Microsoft has been known to be more lenient than Apple on issues of free speech and third-party design, but it’s still something to watch out for. It could be a blessing in disguise, or it could be a nightmare waiting to happen.
Perhaps most importantly, Windows 8 is being designed to use even less system resources than Windows 7, certainly a step in the right direction to those users with older, earlier-model computers that couldn’t handle the resource-hog of Windows Vista. It’s a step in the right direction for the creators of the world’s most widely used operating system, and one that points towards increasing accessibility even for those without the means to purchase new computers regularly. It’s a good corporate philosophy, and one that sheds light into the internal processes and procedures of Microsoft.
Windows 8 seems like a step forward in the right direction no matter which way you look at it. It’s focused on end users’ ease of use, and has plenty of innovation sparked from the ever-popular smartphone market, which has some of the most intuitive and easy to use software out there. It’s designed to be usable on older computers and leave newer computers with plenty of processing power left over for anything taxing. The operating system will be the same on both tablets and full-sized computers for maximum compatibility, to the point where one could probably use the exact same programs on both computers.
Since the operating system isn’t far into its development cycle, it’s hard to tell whether it’s going to be worth its asking price or not. For those who have just upgraded to Windows 7, it might seem like this upgrade is coming far too soon- the general population is still upgrading from Windows Vista and even Windows XP, and it’s likely to be fairly expensive per computer, as operating systems tend to be. Sure, it looks nice, but only time will tell if it’s really worth upgrading to Windows 8 from the critically acclaimed Windows 7. One thing’s for sure, though- if Windows 8 is as much of a quantum leap forwards from Windows 7 as 7 was from Windows Vista, it’ll be worth the price of admission and more.
Here’s to hoping that the guys at Microsoft can keep up with the hype.
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