Thursday, October 25, 2012

Microsoft launched Windows 8

Microsoft has just launched it Microsoft Windows 8 Operating System, which will hopefully bridge the gap between laptops and touch screen devices and make tablets a productive working environment (which are definitely not under Apple iOS and Googles Android). Microsoft made a very dramatic move and significantly changed its operating system, whose previous version, Windows 7 has sold more than 670 million copies (yes 670,000,000 copies!).[1] As I will cover shortly in my Windows 8 review (Windows 8 Beta was available for a while to test drive the new Operating System) this is an end of era in Microsofts history. Windows as we know it in the past 17 years (since Windows 95) has gone and this completely new thing, still called Windows and changed ground up to be an OS choice for both touchscreen devices and laptops, is, well at this point of time for me, not Windows.

The design of Windows 8 clearly shows that Microsoft thinks, touchscreen devices are the future and laptops will be history thanks to Windows 8, which will transform tablets to something merging laptops and tablets (with docking stations maybe). There are 4 versions of Windows 8 to choose from: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows 8 RT. The first three runs on standard PC CPU and Windows 8 RT, which is technically an entirely different operating system than the first 3, runs on ARM-based processors. You will have several options to upgrade to the new OS other than buying a new Windows 8 PC. You can for example download Windows 8 from Windows web site and upgrade your current version by paying something around 35 USD (for existing Vista, XP and 7 users).

Microsoft 8 is a great leap to some direction. In my opinion it is to a right direction and time will tell if it is forward or down the hill. But I was really not expecting this entire shift which is completely closing the OS lineage from Windows 95 to highly successful Windows 7 and creating a completely new OS lineage.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, introduces Windows 8
Photo - NBC News

How different is it from previous versions of Windows? Since Wednesfay, I answer this question by referring to a story told by Oo Gin Lee in Digital Life (The Straits Times). He let's his 9 years old daughter to play with Windows 8 for 15 minutes (on a laptop) and the little girl asks "Papa, can I please have Windows instead" lol :D Like her, I have almost only knew Windows except my early teens with Commodore 64 (yes I am old) and a brief year with pure DOS (no, I am not that old). Then on that faitful day in 1996, in the computer lab of my university, I have typed "WIN" at the command prompt of DOS and the world of wonders of Windows opened in front of me. I went in and never looked back.

Once upon a time Windows. This is Windows 3.1.  If you find this
ridiculously primitive, try searching images of Windows 1 and 2.
 Then a few months later, Windows 95 came (actually it came in August 1995 to world but came to our computer lab more than a year later). At the time, it looked like futuristic. Unlike 3.1, this was really an operating system on its own. Yes, it looks primitive from now but do not be harsh. We are talking about a time when the best available hardware for the man on the street was a Pentium 166 MMX with 64 MB RAM and 2GB harddisk and the super computer in the faculty building was half the specs of an iPhone of today. And although it looks primitive now, as you can see from the screenshot below, it is very similar to all Windows version we have lived in the past 17 years.

Windows 95
 And in these 17 long years, we got so used to the features of this new operating system that Windows 8 is not for us. Just think about the good old Start button which survived until Windows 7. Windows 8 does not have it and without it for a while, I felt like that uncle I met in a vfarm years ago and tried to teach how to use Windows with mouse (he had only used DoS for years). Although Windows is redesigned from ground up to  be a natural OS for touchscreen devices, the new interface on the desktop made me feel, well I am sorry to say this Bill Gates because I am a fan, sick and I have panicked. I have panicked because new PCs will be launched with only Windows 8 from now on and for a second I had this crazy idea to rush to Funan Digital Mall and stock as much as Windows 7 laptop as I can! I said, this is blasphemy against the gods! An OS without start button! This is madness ...! Oh no, this is Windows 8.

I must admit I have panicked when I saw this.
This is blasphemy ! This is madness!
Madness ..? This is Windows 8!
 But luckily, I was exaggerating. Windows 8 Start Screen is, luckily, like a skin on the top of Windows 7. So if you prefer working in the good old Desktop mode there is a pre-installed Desktop app (yes app :( ) and when you run it, something almost like desktop is launched. Another shock, Microsoft have taken out the Start button from the Windows forever and expects you to get used to call programs, apps! This ain't iOS. I still refused to conform, and luckily many early Windows 8 beta testers were like me. A company named Starcdock saw our pain and created a program (ah God forgive me, it is an app) called Start 8. It puts aWindows 7-style Start menu with Windows 8 enhancements and boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop. Worth every penny of 4.99 USD paid! After Start 8, I have really had some kind of hope to get used to this new beast (no I am not ready to call Windows 8 a Windows OS).

Since Microsoft is calling plain old programs as apps now, they are naturally providing a must have for apps: Yes an appstore. Windows 8 Store currently has 1,000 plus apps and the number looks like a joke compared to half a million apps in Apple appStore. But unlike Apple's one, whose numbers are inflated mostly thanks to the zillions of copy cat apps like multiple PDF readers, this store is clean and lean with full of quality applications. Of course some key ones are missing, like Google Maps (well for a PC user it is not a big deal).

As I have written before here (Microsoft Surface - The tablet I was waiting for?), I am hoping that some laptop, tablet hybrids with clever docking mechanisms will let me have a single machine to work, play and communicate on. I am even hoping for an innovation which combines a smart phone, tablet and laptop. You dock phone into something and it becomes a tablet, than dock tablet into something and it becomes laptop. So I can carry the phone part or tablet when I am out (i.e. out for a presentation) and then plug tablet into a dock at work and it becomes a PC. unplug it from office dock and plug it to home dock, and it becomes my home PC.

[1] - Microsoft launches Windows 8

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