Earlier today, Microsoft held an event in New York to officially launch its new Windows 8 operating system. Just ahead of the 12.01 AM launch time for the new OS, the presentation focused on the improvements made in Windows 8 for a wide range of systems, as well as the paradigm-shifting nature of the release and the importance of the Windows Store for apps.
There were no major surprises during today's presentation. Attendees were given a comprehensive overview of Microsoft's new operating system in a presentation that focused on the versatile and foward-looking nature of Windows 8. The company showed the evolution of the PC, from the pre-internet era all the way to the cloud computing, touch-screen obsessed world of today. Windows 8 was presented as a new chapter for Microsoft and the PC.
The first thing we noticed about the event in NYC today was the significant air time given to Microsoft's various Windows 8 hardware partners. The majority of the presentation showed the new operating system running on a variety of partner hardware, with Redmond's own Surface tablet receiving little attention. This was partly to emphasize both the wide range of hardware form factors available, and that Windows 8 is designed for all PCs, not just those with touchscreens.
However, the move also hints at the company's willingness to actively highlight the work of those companies who expressed a sense of alienation at Microsoft's decision to enter the hardware market. The Surface tablet was given its own event later in the day, but its lack of significant mention in the main presentation is of considerable note.
Microsoft was keen to highlight the improvements that Windows 8 offers to existing PCs running Windows 7. The company claims that upgrading to the Windows 8 system has the potential to improve the performance of your existing hardware, with the biggest draw being faster boot times and a cleaner UI. Comparisons were made with the launch of Windows 7 three years ago, with major performance improvements highlighted, such as halved boot-up times and an average of one-second internet connection times.
Windows RT was given a lot of love during the presentation. The team was keen to highlight the advantages that the stripped-down OS has over other mobile platforms. We've seen a lot of the demonstrations before (such as the “right under your thumbs” UI demo), but today Windows RT looked just as smooth, slick and responsive as its competitors. Benefits of the RT OS were also highlighted, most notably the compatibility with a wide range of Windows peripherals right out of the box, such as popular printers.
Perhaps the most significant part of Microsoft's presentation today was its focus on apps. The stakes couldn't be higher for Redmond in this department. You only have to look at iOS to see how a world class app selection can put an OS on top, and keep it there. Microsoft's Windows 8 store will have the largest selection of apps of any app store at its launch. While this is a fairly promising statistic, it's also clear that it's there to hide the fact that Microsoft's store will be a little light at launch if you're used to Apple or Google's now generous offerings.
In addition to Hulu, Netflix, Kindle and a host of other big name applications, Microsoft will also be offering a compelling set of in-house apps at launch. In addition to the optional Office 2013 suite, devices will come with a selection of Bing apps. The Finance, Travel, Maps, Weather and Sports applications are all full-screen, aesthetically pleasing additions that provide a lot of functionality right from the off. There's also full Skydrive integration, as well support for Xbox Music, Video and Games. The fully optimized Skype app, revealed earlier this week, was also highlighted, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claiming that it presents “the best Skype experience on any device."
Cross app searches were a key feature of the presentation. This is one particularly cool feature of the new OS, where you can make one unified search that lets you access information from any compatible app via the use of a slide-out menu. You can search for a place of interest on Wikipedia and instantly switch to Bing maps to find out where it is. This is a pretty cool feature, and one that appears to work seamlessly.
Microsoft was also quick to point out that systems running Windows 8 Pro will have full access to all Windows 7-compatible desktop apps. If you look at it that way, then Microsoft is way out ahead of the competition, with untold millions of applications available for download.
Though there were no major surprises during today's event – what Microsoft did present was a clear view of its own future. It's “shunned the incremental” with Windows 8 and created a truly different OS that's touch-first and app-centric.
Only one question remains: will you be upgrading to Windows 8 in the coming days and months, or do you still have your doubts about the operating system's new look and feel?