Microsoft will release the new version of its desktop operating system, Windows 8, in October this year, replacing Windows 7, which this summer is due to surpass worldwide sales of Windows XP and become the most popular operating system.
Windows XP was a solid, reliable and trusted operating system. It was a remarkable six years old before Windows Vista replaced it. Vista was years overdue and seemed to suffer perpetual delays as Microsoft undertook fundamental reengineering to its code in order to provide a more secure operating system.
The security improvement was achieved but Vista was unloved, most users, even in technical businesses like Why Settle, decided not to upgrade, sticking to the faster XP. By contrast, Windows 7 is loved by all.
Windows 8 is as big a departure from the norm as Microsoft have undertook since Windows 95 blew away the old file structure and interface, introducing the ubiquitous Start button. The new operating system is designed to work across desktop, tablet and phone. It borrows the Windows Phone 7 tiled look, which provides easy access to applications and can present live data even when the app has not been executed.
Windows Phone is a great operating system but it has struggled to gain traction among users and the less said about existing Windows-based tablets the better. Microsoft have watched Apple and Google carve out strategically important niches with tablets and phones, providing a base camp for them to potentially eat into Microsoft’s dominant position on the desktop.
The hope, for Windows Phone users (like me), is that Windows 8 provides the critical mass necessary for developers to write apps which will now work across phone, tablet and desktop. The hope for Microsoft is that Windows 8 will allow them to stop acting defensively and take a proper share of the tablet and phone markets.
It’s a risk. Right now, few desktop users see any need for a touch screen, the mouse and keyboard are their desktop tools of choice. They may be confused and irritated by Microsoft’s decision to try to make gains in mobile markets with their new desktop operating system. This release could determine who we buy our software from 10 years from now.