Windows 8 has been released and previewed this week a Microsoft Build 2011 and the common consensus among tech enthusiast is that Redmond has some pretty innovative technology on its hands. This should come as no surprise to the tech community. Microsoft spends millions of dollars on research and development and have taken their time putting their tablet (among other computing devices) OS together. Yet, what is the potential of the Windows 8 features in the greater tablet ecosystem?
Microsoft has admitted that the current builds of Windows 8 tablets at Build are being shown on sub-optimal hardware. So, let's cut that out of the question (no talk about the fan!) and focus on Windows 8 features. Does Metro change the game? How do Apple and Android stack up?
For reference to some of the design decisions that Microsoft has made with Windows 8, see ReadWriteWeb writer Scott Fulton's great breakdown of some the quirks in the developers' build.
Windows 8 is fundamentally the sum of the two 7s - Windows Phone 7 + Windows 7. Hence, there is a lot of PC-like functionality built into Windows 8. That means that, at least in this early stage, Microsoft has built two Internet Explorer 10 browsers into the platform. One is for the Metro tablet system and the other is for the desktop. The purpose of each will be to run either mobile or PC-based Web apps.
Microsoft's approach to Windows 8 is almost the inverse of how Apple is approaching their marriage of iOS and Mac OS X. Microsoft wants to put more PC into the tablet. Apple wants to put more mobile into the PC. At least in terms of design. That is glossing over several aspects of each company's design decisions but the general point is relevant. See the sidebar on the right to see more of what Windows 8 is instituting.
What about the obvious Windows 7 features built into the user interface of Windows 8? Hubs and tiles everywhere. This is a cross between what iOS has done with its application icons crossed with what Android does with its embeddable widgets. Hubs and tiles have now also been given a PC element, with access to the control panels and permission settings. The user interface of Windows 8 is like a cross-breed of a cross-breed. Windows Phone 7 + Windows 7 + Android + Apple, all in the familiar trappings of Microsoft design. Will it work?
Mat Honan of Gizmodo stated yesterday that "If You Already Hate Windows 8 Then You Hate Technology." It is mostly an argument against fanboy-ism in tech. He makes a good point. Windows 8 does a lot of great things. Apple may always be the leader in UI and design, but Microsoft's focus on functionality has a place as well.
Let us know in the poll and the comments what you think of Windows 8 design and how what Microsoft is working on will trickle down to other tablets, app development, HTML5, UI and UX. Microsoft has thrown a big rock in the water. If you do not think that the ripple will not affect the ecosystem, you are nuts.