Something funny happened to me down at Microsoft’s Build conference, held this week in Anaheim. Something rare. Something unusual.
I wanted what I saw on the keynote stage, and I wanted it bad.
I’m talking about the new look-and-feel of Windows 8. The Metro user interface. The seamless transition that it encourages between devices in many different form factors: desktops, servers, tablets and phones. The user experience looks fresh and compelling, and frankly is the most innovative update that I’ve seen to a Microsoft desktop operating system since Windows 95.
As mentioned above, it’s rare for me to have that type of reaction. I didn’t have it upon seeing the first iPhone, for example. In fact, Apple has only done that to me twice, with the MacBook Air and the iPad. (Both of which I purchased promptly when they appeared in stores.)
In fact, I can only think of a few other times I had that reaction. Upon seeing the launch of a particular version of Mathematica (I forget which version). The launch of the Cobalt Cube, an innovative small-business server that Sun Microsystems acquired and killed. Steve Jobs demonstrating the second-generation NeXT pizza-box workstation. Not many others.
Downloading and installing the Windows Developer Preview, including tools, onto one of my lab machines is on my to-do list. (Microsoft gave every paid attendee at Build a Samsung tablet with the Win8 beta and tools preinstalled, but those were not offered to press attendees like yours truly.)
Another big push with Windows 8 is to HTML5. While Silverlight and other plug-ins will still be supported, and there’s indeed a strong commitment to Silverlight, the message was clear: HTML5 is the future. That’s welcome news, of course; with Apple also on the HTML5 bandwagon, it’s the safest bet in town.
Finally, there’s the push to touch-screens. Microsoft is using the touch-screen to differentiate Windows from Mac OS X. Apple has been very clear (at least under Steve Jobs) that touch-screens were for mobile devices, and not for iMacs. A plethora of computers built for Windows 8—including desktops and notebooks—will have touch-screens. Let’s see where this goes: If consumers choose Windows because of this, expect Apple to embrace the touch as well.
As for now, I look forward to seeing how well the developer preview runs on a four-year-old Asus X50RL laptop. Should be interesting!
Alan Zeichick is editorial director of SD Times. Read his blog at ztrek.blogspot.com.