Windows 8 is the latest edition of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, due for delivery to customers in Fall 2012. The company wants to position itself at the intersection of three converging markets: personal computers, tablet computers, and smart phones. Microsoft’s main competitor, Apple, already has an operating system that covers its personal computers (iMac and MacBook), tablet computers (iPad and iPod Touch), and smart phones (iPhone). Microsoft is locked out of the exploding tablet and phone markets because its operating system, Windows, only runs on personal computers.
That will all change with Windows 8. Microsoft has designed an operating system that will work across all computing platforms — personal computers, tablets, and phones. This will be a challenging transition for long-time Windows users who are accustomed to a certain user interface will have to adjust. The familiar desktop and start button are being discarded in favor of panels — like apps on an iPhone or iPod — called “Metro.”
What It Means for Users
Getting rid of the desktop architecture will make Windows 8 start faster than ever before. When users reach the Metro screen on Windows 8, they will click on large graphic buttons that link to the most popular files or applications. For instance, users who frequently check e-mail or surf the Internet will perform those functions by clicking on a dedicated graphic mounted on the Metro screen. This will speed up access to the most popularly used programs but it necessarily limits access to less frequently used programs. Users will have to search for files or programs that are not pinned to the Metro panel, which could pose problems for users who just want to browse programs.
Clash with Business Users
Windows 8 also marks a fundamental shift in Microsoft’s marketing strategy: while previous versions of Windows were designed with business users primarily in mind, Windows 8 is clearly designed as a consumer product. This could make adoption by business users go slowly, or some businesses may choose to keep Windows 7 until another version of Windows is produced. Many heavy-use business users have already started complaining about how Windows 8 ignores their core needs: accessing the Microsoft Office suite and an array of specialty programs unique to each particular business. For instance, sales firms may heavily use SalesForce but never touch Adobe Photoshop, while graphic design firms have completely opposite needs. Business users will have to manually search for specialty programs that are not pinned to the Metro menu, which will take extra time whenever a user switches programs.
Despite complaints from business users, Microsoft has made a smart long-term decision with the release of Windows 8. Instead of forfeiting control of the consumer personal computing market to Apple, Microsoft is trying to stake a claim in tablet computing and smart phones. It is critical to Microsoft’s success that it move away from the declining personal computer market and diversify into tablets and smart phones. Consumers should be pleased with the user-friendly new features that streamline features for the average user.
Sarah writes for Principal Corp a leader in the consumer electronics and managed services industry, Principal specializes in Office Systems and fax machines amongst other practical IT based solutions.