With the typical excitement that goes along with yanking USB cords from your mouth, Microsoft presented Windows 8 this week at BUILD conference Aneheim, with a precision and five-fisted blur of app-kickin’ karate chops that dropped the jaws of Windows users and Apple users alike. Microsoft is showing Windows 8 to be an OS that takes an equally capable touch/mouse interface and spreads it across multiple devices like a shiny layer greased gadget spittle. Yes, it’s lookin’ pretty slick, but how does it affect engineering, product design, the software we use and where we use it? Here’s a quick overview and a few things you’ll want to know.
Windows 8 Overview
Windows 8 is the sly codename for the next version of Windows speculated to launch at the end of 2012. The Developer’s Preview is already available and ready to install on everything but ARM devices. We’ve downloaded and have been testing it out over the last couple days just to see what breaks and what possibilities exist for future software development and product design.
First, you’ll be happy to know device drivers are not automatically installed at this point, so be prepared get that internet connection fired up and drivers installed. After that, you will actually be happy to know that all programs and fucntionality you have in Windows 7 in exactly the same as in Windows 8. So what’s the big deal? Well, it begins with on startup. From being faster to boot up and logging you in to accessing files and your most used programs.
The beauty here is the ‘Metro’ UI and the backend processes going along with it. Now, at first it feels like a skin or overlay – a new Dashboard that collects your apps and options – on top of the Windows desktop UI you’re familiar with. Having both in the same environment is an important part of what’s adding to the buzz about device usage, even though I doubt the Windows Desktop UI would ever complement small mobile finger jabbin’. That’s where Metro comes in and where we’ll see more development, from both Microsoft and developers, over the years. With an intuitive interface and inclusion of a Windows App store, METRO is the new OS for Microsoft as they transition to an increasingly mobile market.
Windows 8 Screenshots
Who’s gotcha covered? Here’s a brief glimpse at what the Metro and the Windows Desktop looks like at this point. A lot of these images have been around, but you’ll want to notice the ones we grabbed from our own installation which show the Windows Desktop and other programs. Interested in seeing other screenshots? Let us know in the comments.
What to Know about Windows 8
Substantially faster. Startup, program launch and accessing files you need. Part of this is in the layout of the Start screen. Just a dashboard, yes, but a responsive one nonetheless. On top of that, faster Search and faster, easier options setup.
It’s Made to Work on Tablets and Workstations
We have this installed on an HP Z600 Workstation, but it could also be installed on a Samsung Series 7 Slate with the same functionality. On top of that, you can sync your setting and profiles across your Windows 8 devices and with Metro, and any app that needs to be, linked to Skydrive, the reason to have a device that isn’t Windows compatible decreases.
The Windows App store is where you will get your software
The Developer’s preview is out for a couple reasons, but mostly to give developers the opportunity to try their hand at app development well before the official release of the OS. With an app store dedicated to Windows OS and software developers able to access the options of app interaction and Skydrive, there are big possibilities for product design and engineering software.
It’s not that different from Windows 7
In the end, there’s no need to worry. If anything, Windows 8 has the best of Windows 7, plus better performance and touch-screen functionality for those that will have touch-screens. That in itself is bound to make it a bit different from Windows 7, but underneath it all, the programs you use now can be the same programs you use then. The same connected devices you use now can be the same connected device you use then.
Some other points:
- Windows 7 programs will be fully supported in Windows 8
- Swipe/Touch works just as good and with the same motions as a mouse does
- Touchpads can be used to navigate
- The Start screen speeds up program access and launch
- The same version will work across Windows 8 devices
- You can sync setting across Windows 8 devices
- The Metro style UI is not a skin or overlay (Even though it feels like one)
- Apps will be able to interact together
How it affects Product Design
So, you look at this and really you think, they just added a dashboard and called it something fancy. They did. You would install it now and use it, generally, as you use Windows 8. What’s ultimately going to have an affect on product design and the software we use is the proliferation of touchscreen devices, mobile device and product development software developed for the Metro portion of the OS. We’ve been thinking there’s going to be a shift toward iOS/OS X/Android support for CAD Apps, because Microsoft really hadn’t revealed anything convincing about their plans for the future of device or software interaction. That, I believe, changed this week. However, with Windows 8 launch a year and a half, or even six months away, that leave Apple and Google with a few more releases and a few more development cycles to disrupt the whole cohesive device environment Microsoft is headed toward.
If we do get to a Windows 8 launch and product developers haven’t jumped off Windows (which is likely) we’ll be at another transition point in hardware that will assuredly be set up to function smoothly with Windows 8. And we’ll also be at a transition where software (created by the large CAD vendors or independent software companies/developers) can be accessed quickly through an App store without the need for resellers or site logins.
And finally we come to an interface that’s more touch capable, able to sync across Windows 8 devices and easier to navigate. That will bleed over to the design software, the tools we use to interact with it and the other apps that will be developed to complement them. Why hasn’t it happened already? Well, because it hasn’t been Windows.
If you’re a developer, interested in testing out Windows 8 or simply finding out more about it and this ‘Metro’ UI everyone is talking about, you can download Windows 8 from the Microsoft Windows 8 Developers Area. A Windows 8 Guide is also available.
Images: Courtesy Microsoft