September 13, 2011
Windows 8 Peeks From Behind Its Curtain Today
Microsoft will give the general public a peek at its next and highly crucial operating system today at the Build Conference in Anaheim California, USA Today is reporting.
Windows 8, expected to be released sometime next year, cannot be merely another upgrade for Microsoft, it needs to be, instead, the core of the tech giant´s future if it is to remain relevant as the shift to the post-PC computing era unfolds.
“The stakes are huge,” Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT, told USA Today's Byron Acohido. “The company must play outside its comfort zone, but if Microsoft succeeds, the potential opportunities could be significant.”
Although traditional PCs remain the most widely used computing tools still to this day, the installed base of Windows desktop and laptop computers is projected to top 920 million next year, according to market researcher Gartner.
Microsoft, however, has fallen behind as consumers and increasingly office personnel spend more time using touch tablets and smart phones to work, play and socialize. Sales of smart phones will soar 56 percent, to 467.6 million, this year, while sales of touch tablets will grow nearly four times, to 69.8 million this year, Gartner claims.
Internet-connected mobile devices are all the rage but most are not using any form of Microsoft software, leaving the Redmond company out in the cold. The ever-growing popularity of Apple´s iPhone and iPad and Google Android smart phones have spawned an entire market of graphical, touch-enabled software applications.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, once a leader in smart phones and PDA´s, has struggled to maintain momentum in the mobile market and its touch tablet offerings have been left far behind. Windows 8 therefore is crucial for the software giant. The next generation OS is not only designed for PCs, but it is also made to work on tablets as well.
So Microsoft has its work cut out for itself and the tech world is waiting to see if the company can create an OS that works seamlessly on both mobile devices and traditional PCs.
“Windows 8 PCs and touch devices need to be compatible with Office and also possess some capacity to run the mountains of older Windows business apps that companies are loath to just toss away,” Al Hilwa, IDC´s director of applications development software, told Acohido.
Neither Apple nor Google can currently do this, relying instead on their own office software. Apple has its iWork suite, which can open and read Office documents while Google is pushing its web-based Google Docs.
“The issue with the iPad is that it does not run PC applications,” Hilwa continued. “This is an opportunity for Microsoft to come up with a new, clean positioning for tablet PCs.” Should Microsoft redesign Office to work with a touch interface, for instance, that might be the impetus for businesses to “move to all-Windows-8 PCs and mobile devices,” says Hilwa.
The long-standing Achilles heel of Microsoft and its primary obstruction to most of its issues is its own business culture. Redmonds management must make the call on which older Windows business apps will work on Windows 8 PCs and touch devices and which ones will not.
A large part of Apple´s success is its ability to cut off official support for legacy products, freeing up talent and time for future offerings and streamlining current products. Microsoft´s history of maintaining support for an ever-aging software only adds complexity and frustration to new software which ultimately slows the adoption of new products to its users.
So there are big hopes for Windows 8, it must come out when promised, despite a history of software being pushed back as it is debugged and it must be a credible rival to whatever is available at that time, not just to the software that is in use now.
These are big hopes to put on one company, even one as large as Microsoft. But if anyone has a chance to take a bite out of Apple, Microsoft is certainly capable.
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