Tech: Windows 8 - One Experience to Rule them All?

Microsoft's new operating system certainly holds plenty of promise

Published: Apr 3, 2012
Tech: Windows 8 - One Experience to Rule them All?

Microsoft recently announced availability of the consumer preview version of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system—it’s been several days since I’ve been taking it for a spin and the experience has been interesting indeed.

The primary driver behind the Windows 8 experience is its new ‘Metro’ interface—already popular on current generation Windows phones. This new interface consists of a start screen populated with various applications represented by ‘tiles’. These tiles can dynamically display real-time information such as Twitter updates, photographs from your Facebook friends, news from your favourite websites and more.

Information on these tiles can be configured and the tiles themselves can be moved around the screen for a custom layout. Depending on the device Windows 8 is running on, you can either tap-and-swipe (for touchscreens), or click and drag (for keyboards and mice.)  The corners and the edges of the screen now have special importance—flick your finger in from the left edge and cycle through a list of running applications, grab the title bar of an application and flick it to the bottom to close it, move the mouse pointer to the upper left edge of the screen and a list of running applications pop out the side. A new feature called ‘Charms’ delivers quick access to common tasks depending on the application being used. For example, you can quickly share an online article via email or import images from a connected camera.

Though this interface introduces several new concepts, it is well thought out and quickly becomes intuitive.

Windows 8 seamlessly integrates several online services: From its own SkyDrive cloud storage to other services like Flickr, Facebook, Linkedin and more. So you could start writing a document on a desktop, sign in to Windows 8 on your tablet and take up where you left off. Windows 8 is also designed to run on a variety of devices ranging from tablets all the way to high-end computers.

There are a few downsides though. For example, there is no easy way to close an application—Windows 8 takes care of this innately. Then there’s no Start button or Start Menu: Access to all programs is completely via the Metro-style Start screen. Finally, most applications now run in full screen mode so applications like your browser fill the entire screen, with toolbars and address fields only appearing when needed. This looks great in most instances but isn’t always useful, like when you want to run two applications side by side for comparing or reviewing.

Being as this is a preview version of the operating system, I’m hoping these niggling shortcomings are addressed before it finally goes to market. But based on what I’ve seen, Windows 8 certainly holds plenty of promise and I have high hopes for the future of my desktop.

(This story appears in the 13 April, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Ashok Pai

    Win8 will make sense on their surface platform. Something that's like a table and you can freely move your arms. Grafting that UI onto desktop would be a mistake, as your arms would tire after repeated use.

    on Apr 5, 2012
  • Cherideng2012@hotmail.com

    I used the preview for a couple of days but decided to move back to Windows 7 as I found it too cumbersome on my laptop. I think Windows 8 has more potential on touch screen devices. Read more: http://forbesindia.com/article/appraisals/tech-windows-8-one-experience-to-rule-them-all/32634/1#ixzz1r8pSCKZc

    on Apr 5, 2012
  • Mrigank

    I used the preview for a couple of days but decided to move back to Windows 7 as I found it too cumbersome on my laptop. I think Windows 8 has more potential on touch screen devices.

    on Apr 3, 2012
  • Coolsap

    I have no doubts that this version will also fail unlike Vista but not even as closely successful as Windows 7. Windows is going the RIM way. Enticing the consumer market rather than focusing on the Enterprise market. Will Enterprise be happy to pick up this version of Windows. Imagine the kind of disruption they will go through when employees try to adjust to the new cool Windows 8 which is hardly their need. Intuitive. It will definitely take time to adjust to a complete new Operating System when you are already used to something for years. I saw this version in a Microsoft Information Session in my college and Microsoft programmers were trying to convince students on the product as in how easy it is to develop or use the product. I hardly saw any enthusiasm among students. Wondering if the effort is worth - not offering anything substantial for a highly profitable target audience and at the same time not been able to "wow" the other audience.

    on Apr 3, 2012
  • Stal_e

    Tiles look good but what what about those little awkward icons in start screen. They look way too small. Should make them look like a bit like live tiles.

    on Apr 3, 2012
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