Most of the news from Microsoft these days surrounds Windows 8 desktop OS which is anticipated to be released to the general public as early as October this year.
In support of the new OS, Microsoft has updated many of its development tools including Visual Studio. This new version of VS allows development of the metro-style apps that make Windows 8 so exciting. One caveat – you need to load Visual Studio on Windows 8 to develop the metro-style apps. The installer identifies the host OS and configures appropriately.
With Windows 8, Microsoft has really embraced the touch-based functionality. This OS was clearly designed for the tablet space and to compete with the iPad.
I loaded the Consumer Preview when it released at the end of February. I used an old Mobile Computing pen tablet, Virtual Box vm and a brand new Samsung Series 7 slate. Clearly the Samsung was the winner, but I was impressed that the pen tablet worked as well as it did. All components were detected and configured. The Virtual Box vm performed very well as would be expected.
At the end of May, Microsoft released the Windows 8 Release Preview. There has clearly been a lot of work under the covers in this latest version. I did an in-place migration and it went very smoothly. The only option was to perform a reload and ‘keep nothing’. As with other Microsoft OS upgrades, the installer moved the previous version to Windows.old folder. I was easily able to retrieve downloads, etc. that had been saved. Initial thoughts are that the latest version is more stable and feels like a finished product. The App Store works well and there are quite a few games, news readers, etc. available. The included Mail app works well connected to Gmail or an Exchange server. Note: annoying feature – the preview of the Mail app does not allow the mail account password to be changed. You must remove the account and re-add. I am sure this will be fixed in the final release.
As mentioned, Microsoft has updated Visual Studio in parallel with Windows 8. This has now been announced as Visual Studio 2012 and will be available in several favors as in the past. This includes Blend for Visual Studio which is an app design tool focused on creating the UI. Visual designers should find this more friendly than working directly in VS.
Windows 8 vs. iOS
To be fair, it is tough to compare all tablet/slate devices to an iPad. I will certainly try…
First off, this release from Microsoft seems to be the first real touch-based desktop OS. While there is a ‘real’ traditional desktop behind the start screen the real magic is in the metro-style start screen. This has been referred to as NUI or natural user interface. It takes about 5 seconds to get used to the swipe-able start screen. The icons are either static or live tiles. The live tiles show app data, for lack of a better word in the tile before the app is opened. For example, new emails will cycle through on the tile. Kinda cool. Windows 8 is also designed to be more ‘connected’. You can choose the option to associate your Microsoft Live account to the OS login. Users of SkyDrive or OneNote, to name a few apps, will find this helpful.
I believe where Windows 8 departs from the typical tablet OS is that it is still a fully functioning desktop OS. By selecting the appropriate tablet, corporate IT departments could offer this as a desktop/laptop replacement. While the original Samsung Series 7 Slate does not have 3/4G, other and future models will. There are USB slots available, front and rear cameras, SD card reader, HDMI output and other useful functions that are not available on the iPad (today). iOS 6 which is scheduled to be released this fall appears to offer a lot of new functionality, but the hardware is still what it is. The Samsung Series 7 is also a bit more expensive. A 64GB Samsung is about $950 and a 64GB iPad 3 is $849.
Bottom line thoughts: for the mobile user that carries a laptop and an iOS device today, a Windows 8 tablet could be a suitable replacement.
Monday (6/18/2012) Microsoft announced that the company will be releasing an in-house developed tablet designed for Windows 8. With this move, MS is officially targeting the iPad market.
I have been using the Samsung Slate 7 with the general release on Windows 8 since it was released in October. I have MS Office 2013 installed as well. The application performance is very good. I am working to get my hands on tablet hardware designed specifically for Windows 8. I still would not rush out and load it on standard desktop (non-touch screen) hardware. It has been very interesting to be part of a team that is working to develop a mobile touch app.