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News Week of September 11, 2011

Microsoft Demos Windows 8 – Focus on Multi-Device Usability... Is this enough to capture the Tablet market?

At the Build Developer Event, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 including a new user interface which offers easier to use touch functionality.  Below is a screen shot of the desktop for Windows 8.  It includes multiple icons (called live tiles) that look very similar to Windows Phone 7 – Showing e-mail status, calendar, contacts, Facebook status, etc. 

Although Microsoft has announced this new UI, it is optional for developers to build their applications for it.  Current applications that are compatible with Windows 7 will run with the same UI features in Windows 8.  However Microsoft is encouraging developers to create new versions of their applications to take advantage of the new UI and touch features.

Also, Microsoft has reduced the boot time to around 10 seconds which is much better for users.  

Although these enhancements are great for improvements Windows users, I am not convinced that Microsoft has gone far enough.  Clearly there is a market with the current generation of Tablets (iPad and Android based devices) where users want functions that Microsoft has missed.

Here is a list of the functions that I believe Microsoft has not addressed with Windows 8:

1.       Instant on – While reducing the boot time to 10 seconds is great, existing tablets boot instantly.  Instant on is closest to sleep in Windows 8 however I expect that users will see a lag in response time.

2.       Alarms and downloading e-mail when off – Existing Tablets download e-mail when the device ‘s screen is off.  Also, they notify users of events such as appointments and alarms using sound and vibration.  It will be interesting to see if any Windows 8 devices offer vibration and are willing to perform background functions like these while in sleep.

3.       Size and battery life – The size of the device is related to the size of the battery.  Current tablets offer small form-factors with over 10 hours of use.  Windows has struggled to keep up on the hardware front with these functions especially at a reasonable price.

4.       Ease of use – Current Tablets focus on having quick interactions with users however the functionality is usually simplified as well.  This contrasts with the complexity of existing windows applications which are more complicated.  A great example is Microsoft’s decision in Windows 8 to increase the complexity of Windows Explorer to include over 100 new functions in a ribbon even though over 80% of the usage is with only 10 functions.

5.       Device cost – Existing Tablets using Windows cost more than tablets from 3rd parties.  The current hardware requirements include multi-core CPUs, larger hard drives/SSD drives to store the OS and applications on.

6.       Control over the OS and hardware – Apple controls all functions of the OS and hardware for the iPad.  Android is open source which allows hardware manufacturers such as Samsung to customize the OS as well as the hardware however the OS experience is different on each device.  Microsoft’s model is focused around delivering a standard OS to hardware OEMs.  Microsoft’s approach leads to a standard experience for most users (except when OEMs add bloatware).

7.       Applications – Microsoft is pioneering a new UI format for applications.  So if you want the new Windows 8 experience, you will have to wait for OEMs to create new apps to support them.  This is in contrast to thousands of applications for the iPad and Android.   Clearly the developers will have to decide what they want to do – go after a larger market based on Windows original UI with billions of customers or develop for a new UI and wait for the sales of Windows 8 to allow users to run them.  This decision further splinters the developer’s capabilities to address different devices because they have to build for another platform.

With all of these issues, it will be interesting to see what hardware OEMS create to run Windows 8 with.  Hopefully we will see good Tablets that are available for less than $500.   (Source: Chris De Herrera)

Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by ChrisD
Rating: 2.05

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