Sunday, October 28, 2012

Windows 8 Launches: A Big Step for Microsoft

Considering the fact that 'Windows' is a platform that often draws extreme reactions from technology fanatics, I was wondering how all of us would react when I got an invitation from Kunzum Travel Cafe to attend the Delhi launch event of Microsoft's Windows 8.

Now, I don't belong to either of the factions, I don't hate Windows and I don't love it to bits either. I know it has it's flaws and sometimes I wish I could move to another platform but I know I won't, primarily because, (i) everyone around me is using it so there are no issues of incompatibility, and; (ii) all my favourite games are on Windows.


But having said that, I admit that my laptop has both Windows 7 Professional and Ubuntu installed in it for moments when Windows might refuse to boot up (yes it has happened).

The Devices:
The Dell XPS Duo 12
Now, lets talk about Windows 8, I won't bore you with all the technical details about it, you can get that on many websites by now. When I reached the venue I noticed that the very gracious people at Microsoft India had ensured that we all get to spend enough time not just with the OS, but also with the multitude of devices that it is launching with. Despite the crowd, no one was rushed through the devices because there were just so many of them on display. Not being a big fan of desktops anymore I skipped the huge All-in-Ones and went for the Notebooks and Ultrabooks at first. On display were both touchscreen and non-touch laptops by all the big OEM partners of Microsoft. Some of the touchscreens didn't seem very responsive but then maybe it was us who were a little ginger about touching laptop screens. After a while I went to check out the mutants that transform from being a laptop to a tablet at the twist of your hand. A capital idea but every time I tried to do that, I was worried that I might break the hardware before the OS is even launched. Maybe in a few months someone will come up with a rugged design that can be transformed with one hand?

The UI:
The tiled 'Start' button on a Windows 8 tablet
Now, most of you have seen the screenshots as had I but what I wasn't prepared for was how sorely I would miss seeing the Start button at the bottom left corner of the screen. Oh and it took a while to figure out that there is a 'desktop' on this. Another blogger friend wondered out loud about the absence of 'Accessories' in the tile-based interface, you can read his views about Windows 8 here. A quick question to the very helpful Microsoft team informed me that I can invoke Notepad/Calculator, etc., in much the same way I do now. Instead of hitting the windows button and typing the name as I do, on Windows 8, I swipe from right to left on the right side of the screen and type. This gesture invokes the Search command and you can search for apps, files, software, everything.

Apps?
An App in Windows Store
Did I say Apps? Yes I did. Windows 8 will run your popular mobile apps and games on your laptop/desktop. The social and communications apps will dynamically update on the start screen like they do on your Windows Phone. The sneaky people at Microsoft got some of the major Indian websites and app developers to quietly build Windows 8-specific apps which were showcased to us. There are apps for travel, shopping, banking, news, music, games, well you get the gist. The Windows Store has also been made to look like an app where you can browse for and download all these apps from.

Microsoft has partnered with 14 manufacturers who have collectively put on sale 250 devices in various form factors that have been available from 26th October in 2500 stores across 100 Indian cities. Now I was also expecting something about Microsoft Surface but they are currently tight-lipped about its launch in India.

So, would you get Windows 8? If you want, you can upgrade your current OS to Windows 8 for just INR 1999 from their website.

Tempted yet?
If you ask me, I am not yet convinced about upgrading to Windows 8. I like my Windows 7, I don't like the idea of having to swipe on a laptop/desktop and the worst of all, I do not like how Microsoft doesn't want me to install another OS in a machine that I paid money for. Why should I need to rely on another software to do something that I am doing directly right now? Sorry guys,  I don't like this bit.

But yeah, I do realise that my next laptop will probably be a Windows 8 laptop and who knows, it might also have a touchscreen that I will play Fruit Ninja on. Spending some time on the machines at the launch, it seemed to me that the fancy looking dynamically updating tiles is more of a cosmetic thing, inside. Once I was past that, its still the same Windows that I have been using for years, and that's not a bad thing. While Microsoft races to catch up with the kids who have been brought up on the Apps-rich interface with a new logo and UI, the oldies among us will still find quite a few things that we have been using. Of course there will be a few challenges at the beginning but that's all part of the game. Isn't it?

P.S. - Have you seen the new Windows 8 TV ad? I think I like it quite a bit. Take a look here.

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