Windows 8: do-or-die for MS PDF Print E-mail

Microsoft unveiled its next major release of Windows, Windows 8, to some mixed reviews this week.

Ovum principal analyst Richard Edwards says the new operating system (OS) will essentially be do-or-die for Microsoft, and if it doesn't succeed it will be “game-over” for the Windows PC as we know it.

The pre-beta version of the OS was released for developer preview on Tuesday. Windows 8 appears to be the most radical design overhaul to date, borrowing many elements from the Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft reported on Wednesday that just a day after the release, developers had already downloaded 500 000 copies of the Windows 8 preview. The surge in interest has sparked speculation that the new OS may have the potential to rival the Apple iOS.
The new OS is functional for both PCs and tablets, incorporating touch-screen capabilities. Microsoft also says the new OS is designed to sync easily with the Windows Phone 7.
A revolution
Strategy Worx MD Steven Ambrose says: “Windows 8 is actually a revolution, for many it will be a step too far. Microsoft has highlighted how much touch interfaces and touch-style devices will dominate computing in the future.”
President of the Windows and Windows Live division at Microsoft Steven Sinofsky unveiled the preview of the OS at the BUILD conference this week, saying the company was building on the foundations of Windows 7.
“We reimagined Windows,” said Sinofsky. “From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise.”
According to Sinofsky, Microsoft is also looking to leverage its 542 million Windows Live users to drive revenue – and this is expected to be accomplished through apps.
Ambrose says the Start screen takes some getting used to, but the overall feeling of the new OS is fluid, intuitive, and very advanced.
“The OS has come a long way from Windows 7 and not only in the user interface. Ease of setup, speed of booting and the overall fluid and responsive feel of the OS is impressive, considering it is not even beta, but an early developer preview.”
Bold move
Edwards says: “Scheduled for release in 2012, Windows 8 has a similar look-and-feel to Microsoft's mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone 7, although users can switch back and forth to the classic Windows interface if they prefer.
“This is a bold move for Microsoft, as previously the company has tended to follow the market in terms of user interface design.”
The new OS is also said to deliver richer security features, faster start-up times and longer battery life. Edwards says the fact that it will run on a much wider range of devices and chipsets also marks a major shift for Microsoft.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Skype in its biggest purchase ever to get back the “cool” image it lost after it launched the largely unsuccessful Vista operating system several years ago.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted this week that Windows Phone 7 sales haven't met expectations. "We haven't sold quite as many as I would have liked in the first year. I'm not saying I love where we are, but I am very optimistic on where we can be."
App importance
“In an app-centric, consumer-oriented world, Windows 8's success will undoubtedly be measured by the revenue Microsoft drives through its new Windows app store,” notes Edwards.
“We believe that making a success of the Windows Store will be a big challenge for Microsoft, but failure is not an option, as the company desperately needs to generate a new revenue stream as sales in other areas of its business decline.”
Edwards says that given the current “bring your own device” mind-set, the timing of Windows 8 is ideal.
“Business users have seen the Apple iPad, Android tablets, and the BlackBerry PlayBook in the workplace, and are excited by these new form factors. But the only way to deliver traditional, Windows-based, line-of-business applications to these devices is by investing in expensive IT virtualisation technology, and so a Windows 8 touch-based slate PC could be a winning combination.”
Advancing computing?
According to Ambrose, Windows 8 highlights how fast computing will change in the near future, with fluid touch-based interfaces dominating, along with instant-on and tablet-style functionality, blending seamlessly into everyday computing.
“The real magic of the new OS is in the developer tools on offer, which make impressive cross-platform tools easy to use and applications simple to create,” says Ambrose.
“Overall, the Windows 8 developer preview is a little inconsistent in the application of the interface, and has a few bugs, but is a clear indication that Microsoft understand the tablet revolution and have evolved their mainstream OS to cater for, and in fact advance, the computing environment, without giving up any functionality that power users have come to depend on.”
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