Grading Windows 8

September 26, 2011

 

Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, the latest version of its Windows operating system, to software developers at a four- day conference in California last week. Developers tested the new tablet-optimized OS on a prototype of Samsung’s Windows tablet and some say its immersive user experience might have what it takes to become a serious contender in the tablet market.  

Business Insider says it is super-fast, responsive, and its gesture-based interface could be the most usable interface on the market. It resembles Windows Phone software, Microsoft’s smartphone OS. Users interact primarily through ‘Metro applications’ that are represented by large tiles, which are laid out in a grid. The tiles are easy to navigate, a swipe to the right, for example, pulls up a menu that acts like a home row and allows you to jump back to the start screen, settings, sharing, devices or search.

It’s doubtful that Windows 8 can break Apple’s stronghold on the market. While reaction to the new OS and tablet has been mostly positive, it just isn’t on par with the iPad.  Mat Honan from Business Insider says to forget about the second generation, Windows 8 doesn’t even come close to offering what can be found on the original iPad. The Metro apps, for one, don’t deliver on all of Microsoft’s promises. The tiles on the Start Screen are supposed to display live information, but seem to lag.  Apps like Twitter and Facebook, for example, only display older Tweets and messages repeatedly, and weather apps don’t display current temperatures. Additionally, the tablet has a fan that runs almost incessantly and the OS is reportedly ill suited for video, even after updating your Flash player and installing beta 11, Business Insider reports.

However, while Windows 8 doesn’t appear to have what it takes to dethrone the iPad, it has the potential to gain more traction in the tablet market than Android tablets, or Research in Motion’s PlayBook tablet. At the very least, Windows 8 will probably entice more buyers than tablets that run on Windows 7.  

Compatibility is key to the success of the new OS and tablet, according to InfoWorld. Microsoft executives say it runs equally well on the tablet, desktop and notebook computers. It is also designed to share many of the same features. Whether it can deliver a seamless user experience remains to be seen. If it does indeed run as smoothly as promised, Christmas could come early for Microsoft next year when the company is expected to release products using Windows 8. 

With a compatible OS in its arsenal, Microsoft could tap into its existing customer base and perhaps rejuvenate interest in PCs with its touch-first design. In any case, establishing a presence in the quickly growing iPad-dominated tablet market could mean huge gains for Microsoft — its earnings have fallen short of analysts’ sales estimates for the past three quarters. The global market for tablets is expected to rise to 275.3 million units by 2015. Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for Microsoft.