Redmond set to unleash next-gen OS on us this year.
At Microsoft’s BUILD conference in California in September last year the company showed off Windows 8 and gave us a lot of information about what the next generation of its operating system will be like. Even though Windows 7 has been a big sales success, concerns about slow uptake, especially in businesses, have popped up from time to time.
In the latest worldwide figures from StatCounter about desktop operating systems, Windows 7 has the lead over Windows XP, a situation that it has just recently acquired (in October 2011). That means an OS released in October 2009 has just passed an OS released in 2001. Surely that can’t be a very comforting situation for Redmond.
Add to that, that Windows XP is still the number one OS in large markets around the world, including China, and we suspect that this is a headache that Steve Ballmer is making his teams work hard at – how to get users to switch to Windows 8 faster than they did to Windows 7. It certainly doesn’t help that research company Gartner has said it expects the uptake of Windows 8 will be slower than that of Windows 7.
The developer preview version of Windows 8 that was introduced at BUILD last year has, by all accounts, been well received. Undoubtedly we still have lots to find out about Microsoft’s plans for the OS, even after CES last week.
So how will Windows 8 be received once it is officially introduced?
Obviously we don’t know, but one key issue, I think, will be how well Windows 8 runs on existing hardware. Microsoft’s Vice President of Windows, Steven Sinofsky, said last year, “everything that runs on Windows 7 runs on Windows 8.” For Microsoft’s sake, I hope that’s true even though I fully expect the latest 2012 hardware will run the new OS better than computers from 2011 or earlier.
One other thing I think will be important is the integration between touch and traditional interface. Windows 8 will just be “one operating system,” for both tablets and computers; that much has Microsoft said. For example, on a computer with a touchscreen, you can use the Metro interface for touch, and what looks like Windows 7 with keyboard and mouse. How well apps, information and other types of integration works between the two modes will be important for usability.
I am actually very excited about seeing what Microsoft comes up with for Windows 8 and how it develops over the coming months. Hopefully, after the public beta has been in circulation a while, Redmond will announce a launch date. Then we can start preparing for what is set to be another big Microsoft Windows launch.
Photo by BUILDWindows.