Microsoft released a preview video of a working prototype of the next version of Windows, currently called Windows 8. I believe that name will stick since the last Windows with a name ‘Vista’ has a bad rep not shared by Windows 7.
In addition, Microsoft held a live demonstration of Windows 8 at the all things digital conference. The timing of the demonstration is clearly aimed to take abit from Apple’s upcoming announcement at its WWDC of Mac OSX ‘Lion’ and the next version of iOS.
Two things are immediately apparent. The first is that Microsoft is focused on tablets in this version of Windows. The second is that they are borrowing heavily from the Windows 7 Phone look and feel without fragmenting the operating system between desktop and tablet. Fragmentation of the operating system between different hardware types has been a concern regarding Android that Microsoft is being careful to avoid. So far though, I don’t see any particular reason why a Windows 7 desktop user would want to switch to Windows 8, but also no reason why they should shun it. All in all it looks like a Windows 8 tablet would be a fun device to use, while not needing to use a watered down version of the Windows software like Office. It looks like a Windows 8 tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse might be considered a ‘laptop replacement’ far more than an iPad. At one point in the demonstration, they swipe to a desktop containing an Excel spreadsheet and a word document. Everything looks and behaves like a windows 7 screen. That may be one of the most important parts of the demonstration. It means that the windows tablet will have a place to run all of your legacy windows applications. With an iPad or an Android tablet, if you have even one ‘must have’ Windows program, you will have to carry around a laptop in addition to your tablet, which defeats the point. Not so with a Windows 8 tablet.
While a tablet device is the clear target of the demonstration, I can easily envision it being a nice launching point for a Kinect-equipped console, with the user gesturing rather than touching the screen.
There is one other thing I would like to see on the Windows 8 tablet. Where they brought up the Windows 7 type desktop, I want the possibility of it to actually BE my desktop machine, so that I can have all 8 cores of processing, 16gb of RAM, and 1tb of storage, rather than have the pain of running an Excel model on an Atom or ARM processor. In other words think of the possibility of utilizing a Windows 8 tablet as a peripheral to a desktop computer.
My final thought in watching the video -Always watch for Version 3 of a Microsoft product. Word versions 1 and 2 did not make a dent in Wordperfect’s market share. Excel versions 1 and 2 was nothing compared to Lotus 123. Windows 1 and 2 sold almost nothing compared to the first big seller, Windows 3. It takes three versions for Microsoft to figure out how to do something better than the rest. This looks like a version 3 of a serious tablet OS.