Yesterday Microsoft, a company for years weighed down with the failures (perceived or real) of the Windows OS, made an impressive attempt to turn their ship around in showing off Windows 8, a plethora of new PC’s and tablets from other manufactures and their own new device, Surface.
I watched the entire two part event. First the OS and then a section about Surface. My first and immediate reaction is that I can never remember seeing Microsoft employees speaking about their products in such an earnest and passionate manner. It was refreshing and infectious.
I have yet to hold a Surface in my hands and my experience with Windows 8 is limited to a demo version running on a device at a Microsoft store in San Jose. What I do know about both of these things are that they clearly have gone through an epic amount of design and group think and both are beautiful. What I also know is Surface, by all accounts, is a wonderful piece of hardware but ironically Windows 8, from a company that historically is software company, is a brave innovation that holds promise but will need to grow into the shoes its trying to fill.
First Windows 8. During all of the demos done during the event I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, those devices look really nice, but man Windows 8 looks really confusing”. The bottom line is that for the first time since way back in the late 1900’s when we last had to learn a new Windows UI, we all have a whole new learning curve to go through with Windows 8. It is totally different. Literally, we gotta start again from the basics. It’s no longer just a “start” button in the lower left corner.
The screen is now filled with tiles, and each tile does different things from being places to start apps, to pushing information to you and being one touch shortcuts to everything you want access to. All of this is highly customizable, and you even open your device with a new password system that uses a custom-designed gesture you create with a picture from your library. You can push, pull, swipe, touch and all with two, three or more fingers (or mouse). And all the demonstrations were like that scene with Tom Cruise in “Minority Report” as he easily interfaced with a holographic UI. Each person on stage smoothly moved around the UI by touching the screen of the device they were on and made it look easy, although it was hard to follow and figure out what exactly they were doing. I looks mighty cool, but it is going to take some time to learn it.
There is a version that runs on PCs and a version that works on handhelds, called Windows 8 RT. The latter is a scaled down version but the idea is that no matter which one you’re working in it is an almost identical experience.
Get use to that because if you buy a new Windows PC, tablet or smartphone device – its going to have Windows 8 on it. Good news is that any PC that is now running Windows 7 will work with Windows 8 and the upgrade cost is cheap, $40.
The Surface presentation was a solid 45 minutes of a company making the case Microsoft has produce a device that rivals any currently on the market. The amount of words, video and pictures dedicated in showing off just how finely design, manufactured and built Surface is pretty much uncountable. If you learn anything about Surface is that it looks and feels like the Rolls Royce of tablets. And by the reviews that are out Microsoft has built a really impressive device, and may have actually, *gasp*, done something cool!
So, if you’re interested, and you should be, below is a list of links of reviews from people that have hands-on experience. I have no idea if Windows will succeed with either of these, but I appreciate the attempt and its good to see a company feeling like they’ve really achieved something good.
Windows 8 Reviews