Microsoft previewed its much-awaited Windows 8 which could best be described as one OS to rule all devices -- tablets, notebooks and desktops alike.
After announcing that it will be crafting Windows 8 ground-up for ARM chips at CES 2011, it was surmised that at last Microsoft would be crafting a light-weight tablet-specific OS.
Intel further underscored the aforesaid expectation by detailing that Windows 8 for ARM architecture will not support legacy applications much to the ire of Microsoft, which responded to the leak by stating that Intel's statements were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading.
The leak led many to believe that at last Microsoft had acknowledged what industry analysts have long believed that Windows OS and tablet interface do not complement each other. Microsoft has been struggling to deliver a successful tablet for a decade and at the root of its problem is its fixation with Windows OS. Thus, developing an ARM-based OS ground up underscored Microsoft's change in strategy from slapping Windows OS on various form factors like tablets.
It was ultimately viewed that Microsoft will follow Apple's strategy which has separate OS for different devices - iOS for iPad and iPhone and Mac OS X for iMacs and MacBooks.
However, Microsoft's sneak peek of its upcoming Windows 8 puts to rest all such assumptions. Microsoft described the Windows 8 OS based devices as: A Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse.
The Windows 8 which has been called an immersive UI brings Windows Phone 7 tile-based UI to display apps. The UI is not merely for tablets but will also replace the Start Menu on Windows 8 for desktops and laptops as well. Windows 8 also brings swiping gesture for navigation through applications.
However, Microsoft's strategy to offer the best of both the worlds - touch apps and legacy apps - on the same OS reveals that Microsoft is attempting to stretch the OS too far.
The Windows 8 OS strategy reveals that Microsoft's' tablet view is still skewed. Offering legacy apps like Windows Excel and Word on tablets raises questions as to whether it will find adoption among tablet users.
Recently, Microsoft upgraded its Windows Phone 7 OS which will be released under the moniker Mango. The upgrade integrates with Microsoft's online resources Xbox, SkyDrive and Microsoft Office 365. The upgrade consolidates the smartphone experience around social media. It offers a hub like interface which assembles content around subject-specific hubs rather than showcasing grid-like independent apps.
The Windows 8 OS is a merger of WP7 and Windows legacy apps. However, Microsoft has not revealed as to whether the previewed Windows 8 is the only version. Intel had revealed that Microsoft is crafting four versions of ARM-based Windows 8.
It is also not clear whether the previewed Windows 8 is the OS which will run on ARM-tablets.
Current demo is merely a preview of the UI for Windows 8. However, one wonders if desktop and laptop users will fancy a touch-based interface. Apple offers Magic TrackPad which brings touch interface to a pad. Gestures available on iPad can be replicated on TrackPad.
While Apple is ahead of the game in touch interface, it has restrained from putting touch features on the screen on a desktop. Thus, one waits to see if users will warm to the idea of touch UI on laptops and desktops which is rather cumbersome ergonomically.