Microsoft Windows 8 Arrives

Craig Buckler

Today’s the day. Following yesterday’s launch in New York City, Microsoft Windows 8 is commercially available.

The rise of the web has caused many to question the future of Operating Systems. Netscape was saying as much 14 years ago, but Windows survived (admittedly, Microsoft contributed to Netscape’s demise but their ideas didn’t mesh with the technical realities of the time). While Microsoft has lost ground to Apple and Google in recent years, their OS continues to dominate the home and business markets. However, PC sales are in decline as people switch to consumer devices such as tablets.

Whatever your opinion of Microsoft, you can’t accuse them of playing it safe. Windows 8 is a radical departure from previous versions and the company is attempting to blend OS concepts on PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones and the Xbox. The key changes:

The Interface Formally Known As Metro

  • The Start button has disappeared 17 years after its triumphant arrival in Windows 95.
  • The interface has a flatter, cleaner, simpler look.
  • Microsoft has taken a ‘mobile first’ approach; The Interface Formally Known As Metro (TIFKAM) provides large active desktop tiles.
  • Applications can be downloaded and installed from the Windows Store.
  • The OS supports native HTML5, CSS and JavaScript applications.
  • It has a redesigned logo!

Thankfully, Microsoft has replaced their plethora of versions with three primary installation types:

  1. Windows 8
    the version for the home market.
  2. Windows 8 Pro
    Windows 8 with professional features including Remote Desktop server, file encryption, virtualization, VHD booting, etc. Windows Media Center is not included but will be available at additional cost in a Media Pack.
  3. Windows 8 Enterprise
    Windows 8 Pro with features to assist software management in larger organizations.

You can upgrade from any previous version of Windows for just $40. If you’ve purchased a Windows 7 PC recently, a reduced $15 offer is available.

There is also Windows RT. This is only available as a pre-installed OS on ARM-based Surface tablets. RT provides a similar walled-garden approach to that used by Apple. There appears to be fewer restrictions, but only Microsoft can provide software able to utilize core features of the system.

Microsoft is targeting the tablet market and will be releasing their own hardware devices. Time will tell if they can beat Apple at their own game. To be fair, Microsoft were creating tablets a decade ago but they were never particularly successful. Windows was not ideal for the devices; RT can only be better.

Finally, Windows 8 heralds the arrival of Internet Explorer 10. We’ve been waiting 19 months for IE to catch up with the competition and provide the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript features we take for granted on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. Whether Microsoft can keep up with the rapid pace of browser development is another matter — I’m disappointed IE10 won’t be available on Windows 7 for some time.

Like many, I will be installing the final version of Windows 8 today. Watch out for a full review on SitePoint soon…