There is no doubt whatsoever that Microsoft needed to find a way to truly reinvent itself. Visually it all started with what was once known as the Metro UI, and what has now become a more benign "Windows 8 Style Interface." Nevertheless, the UI is different.
It is also, by now, no surprise to anyone as to what it really is. The enterprise knows what it is, the public knows what it is, and many in tech media have already weighed in on it in depth. All that is left is for Microsoft to actually make it available – and that’s the point of October 25, 2012 – which Microsoft dearly hopes to be a replay of when it released Windows 95 – Microsoft's best moment in its history.
Microsoft's success with Windows 8 (Win8 – which we'll use as shorthand to mean all of Windows 8 different core components: Big Windows 8 itself, Windows 8 OEM -for its hardware partners, Windows RT – for ARM-based tablets, and Windows Phone 8) won't be a matter of technology or the UI or new "touch" capabilities so much as it will be a matter of simply generating enormous interest and excitement for Win8.
Generating excitement, something Microsoft did manage to accomplish when it announced the Surface tablets, is the single most important thing Microsoft must make happen today.
Before we get into today's launch event, let's point out that the Win8 team has a recent blog post that focuses on Microsoft's advertising campaign for Win8 and provides video clips of the ads. It's worth taking a look at as it shows various TV ads the company is hitting the street with. We've already provided some insights on the Win8 advertising campaign, which Microsoft is funding at a cost of approximately $1.5 - 1.8 billion – an amazing sum of money.
The key question for us is whether or not Microsoft can ensure that it does not end up pontificating and lecturing us about the already extraordinarily well-known virtues of such things as touch, visually stimulating UIs, mobility, cloud-based storage and tablets.
How'd Microsoft do today?
Steven Sinofsky, Mr. Windows at Microsoft, took the stage first and took us through Win8's birthing process. Sinofsky points out that Win8 is entirely compatible for "older PCs" that only use keyboard and mouse for input, and of course points out that with a touch screen Win8 truly comes to life.
Sinofsky notes that a rather amazing 1,240,000,000 hour of testing have gone into creating Win8.
Over 1,000 PCs have been certified for Win8 use as of today. We will see light, thin fast laptops at $300 price points, we'll see higher end Ultrabooks – complete with touchscreens. Sinofsky has also noted that Win8 ushers in an entire new generation of touchscreen-based all-in-one PCs. The Windows Store – which will have its grand opening at 12:01 am October 26, 2012 – delivers both Windows 8 apps as well as Windows RT apps.
Upgrades from Win7 to Win8 Pro start at a special discount price of $39.99.
We'll have our own Ultrabook Win7 to Win8 upgrade review coming up in a different article – stay tuned for it. Once we’re able to run the download and upgrade directly through the new Windows Store, we will do so.
Microsoft next takes us through a variety of both Windows 7 machines upgraded to Windows 8, many pure-bred new Windows 8 machines – tablets and Ultrabooks with touch (as well as stylus-enabled), convertible laptop-to-tablet devices – and a few Nokia Lumia 920s to complete the picture.
And of course, the Surface. The offerings range from low end devices to the very high end – there appears to be no real compromises on the low end. Very, very nice!
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is finally up – he more or less underscores all of the things that the device demos showed off, including note that the new Internet Explorer 10 has all sorts of new touch features that Microsoft expects will need to the creation of new kinds of Web pages. He also points out that Xbox SmartGlass will allow a user to pair up a Windows 8 device with Xbox and control an entire home media center. If Xbox is in your home, this is very cool.
Ballmer next notes the tight integration between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – and notes that we'll learn a lot more about Windows Phone 8 on Monday, October 29, 2012.
OK, time to step back and assess. Ballmer is most assuredly not preaching, pontificating or otherwise boring us today. In fact, he's generated enthusiasm.
Well…that's an hour's worth. The official Win8 launch is now a done deal.
Coming only two days into Apple's iPad mini, iPad 4th gen and other Mac launches, we were anticipating that the Microsoft event would be a letdown, something that did not quite capture the user imagination, and perhaps a total failure. It was none of these things. True, the setting was not nearly as grand as that Apple put into play, but it didn't matter. True, Microsoft did not have a slew of employees sitting in the front rows actively clapping, but it didn't matter.
We think Microsoft got its message across.
The new Win8 interface is about "going live" and being able to interact fully with any device – whether an "old school" PC, a touch PC or any of what looks like will evolve into a significant number of new tablet choices. Will users find the new UI confusing enough to quickly move on? We have our various internal TechZone360 arguments about it, but we believe it will drive Windows forward.
Win8 holds its own on style and image. And on mobility.
Quite honestly, we believe we can now say that the Android tablet in the enterprise is now officially dead as an industry. Apple iPads in the enterprise…there is going to be a truly competitive battle here, and that it a very good thing indeed.
On the consumer front, consumers will absolutely not be able to dismiss Win8 devices out of hand. They need to be fully scoped out.
We'll conclude here by noting that we're now anxious to get our Windows Store-based Win7 to Win8 Ultrabook upgrade up and running. More on Win8 then.
TechZone360 Senior Editor
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