–By Grant Lloyd, CTO Softline and Sage AAMEA


Grant Lloyd

Microsoft’s prolific marketing machine refers to Windows 8 as “Windows reimagined”.  Whilst the somewhat cynical view may be that the new OS from Microsoft, slated for release in late 2012, may only be following a trail blazed hitherto by Apple, the much anticipated event may more significantly (or even ominously for some) be the strongest indication yet that the PC era is slowly drawing to a close.

Through a necessity imposed by its predecessor’s prodigious historical desktop- and server-side successes over two decades, Windows 8 will by all accounts be somewhat schizophrenic, catering as it does to the demands of traditional desktop users with a marginally improved offering to that of Windows 7, whilst simultaneously within a single OS, embracing touch devices, new hardware architectures, mobile devices and a programming model more identifiable for having its roots in the web rather than some form of desktop ancestry, based as it is in HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript.

Propitiously (or perhaps worryingly), the last time Microsoft effectively “combined” two operating systems into one, via the release of Windows 3 in the early ‘90’s, packaging at the time both MS-DOS and a new Windows GUI on the PC simultaneously, the “event” (pun intended) heralded the ultimate demise of DOS as a broad-based PC OS of choice, ushering in the “new era” of graphic user interfaces, event-driven programming and multi-threading on the desktop…..

Perhaps Microsoft Office 15 best illustrates the earth shattering nature (at least for Microsoft) of the new OS best through its redefinition of the web, rather than Office, as the new platform for Office 15.  And, whilst fundamental paradigm shifts such as this are at the core of the Windows 8 design philosophy (look to the development environment for yet another example of fundamental design shifts, remember .net?) it is perhaps the “exactly different” natural comfort of a second major 2-in-1 OS in twenty years from Microsoft which promises the most and induces “stickiness” for existing Windows users without compromising on the “sexiness promise” and irrefutable portability advantages of an “iDevice”.

After all, would it not be comforting, at least for a while, to take a break from the relentless treadmill of mobile technology evolution and trust your Windows desktop OS with your mobile devices too?

And perhaps maybe, just maybe, this “hybrid” approach could transition a life-time of desktop investment and most importantly historically aggregated data, into an elegant, future-proof alternative embracing the best of the desktop of “old” simultaneously with the mobility and connected services of the “new”?  Oh, and I forgot to mention, through a single OS…..

So, is there an elephant in the room then, I hear you ask?

Perhaps….. but in my opinion, not likely.

Whilst paradoxically Microsoft’s greatest asset, a universally enviable installed-base of desktop users may yet prove to be its albatross, it would at least on face value appear that an expansive desktop user-base may in fact embrace the duality of this schizophrenic OS in much the same way that Windows 3 made slow yet inexorable progress in the ultimate extermination of DOS.  As Blackberry and RIM’s early innovation almost inevitably yet inadvertently gave birth to the prolific and successful range of Apple devices and iOS, perhaps too, Microsoft’s first experience at late-adoption from an OS perspective may prove the ultimate undoing (or re-niche-marginalisation) of these offerings.

So whilst I am not sure THEY can claim imagining everything about connected services and data in the cloud, Microsoft marketing is indeed correct to a point; Windows 8 truly IS “Windows reimagined”.  Don’t write of the idea of Windows 8 just yet….. it makes a lot of sense, and it really looks good too.

…..oh, but don’t go and forget about Android either!  J