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Windows 8 Preview

This week’s article is dedicated to the software that played the most important part in Personal Computer Development and that not only shaped the IT environment but also shaped entire generations. I am talking about Windows, of course. Besides being the virtual tool that made PCs a reality, it was also the perfect way to introduce inexperienced computer users to the outlandish world of Information Technology.

Unfortunately, present times aren’t the best for Microsoft and their flagship product. Tablets and Smartphones have taken the IT world by storm and are enticing and seducing more and more users. If the mouse was the method of choice for interacting with the last generation of devices, tablets and phones are now ushering in the new “touch” era.

Even so, Microsoft is set on striking back at these devices by releasing Windows 8, an operating system that keeps all its predecessors’ assets and also incorporates touchscreen functionality. The purpose is to create an unified operating system that works on PCs and tablets alike. It’s safe to say that the Redmond based company has managed to pull this off but whether it will be a marketing hit or not, remains to be seen. The main issue of concern here is that Windows 8 is such a departure from traditional Microsoft design that it may cause users reluctance to explore it and use it.

If you have used or at least seen a Windows Mobile phone then you are probably familiar with the colored tiles used for apps and you won’t have any problem adjusting with this kind of interface. However, since Win Mobile devices aren’t really the most popular ones nowadays (under 4% market share) the number of users that will find the interface a familiar and intuitive one will be extremely low. Even so, the great thing about it is that everything under the colored tiles happens in real time. Weather forecasts, tweets, notifications – every change or new event is displayed instantly. Win 8 also comes with a complete app toolbox including apps for photos, videos, social networks, music or messaging.

Even if people may not be used with the interface, it is no doubt an attractive one. Because the main goal was to create an unified operating system, Win 8 works slightly better with touch motions than it does with mouse and track-pad gestures. To access system commands users need to swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left one. Swiping in the opposite direction reveals all running apps and thumbnails. To close an app all that’s needed is to drag it to the bottom of the screen. There are many more similar commands that don’t require a lot of getting used to. The only question remaining is whether people will want to get used to them or not.

There are also several other factors influencing the possible growth or demise of the new Microsoft OS. For example, sensing competition, Samsung will ship all its devices with a special app that will allow customers to switch to the conventional desktop/start bar view. A Desktop tile is also available in Win 8 but without any Start Bar. Intel stated that once users get past the “reaching up and touching the screen” motion, they will find the new Operating System extremely easy to use and even fun. Personally, I agree with this because people are already used to touching and tapping on their mobile phones and tablets all day long. Moreover, having a larger screen in front of you that you can swipe and tap to issue commands makes you feel like you are playing in the latest Sci-Fi blockbuster.

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