Windows 8 unveiled at BUILD – Microsoft looks to the future of operating systems

September 14, 2011

Windows 8 has been unveiled in all its glory. With its new operating system, Microsoft is drawing a line in the sand and looking only to the future.

You will, by now, likely have seen the Windows 8 unveiled by Microsoft at the 2011 BUILD developers conference. If not then check out this Life Hacker video of the most important parts of the keynote, read Mary Jo Foley’s account of what we do and don’t know about Windows 8 at this point, read an in-depth guide by Engadget, and see what a self-confessed Apple fanboy makes of it all.

In a nutshell: Windows 8 is very different from any other version of Windows that has come before. The basic architecture remains the same, but the Metro UI is the default, with the desktop of old now seen as nothing more than an app. Some programs will still reside on the desktop, but most will come in the form of apps. Customization and touch are important factors in Windows 8, underlying the tablet-centric feel to the whole thing.

It should be remembered, especially by those already condemning Windows 8, that the version on show at BUILD is just the pre-beta developer preview. The product that will end up being installed on millions of computers from 2012 will likely be very different. For starters everything will actually work as it’s meant to. Well, unless Microsoft releases another Vista-style mess into the wild.

I would hope the Redmond-based company will have taken all those lessons from Windows 7 on board and wait until the product is 100 percent perfect before releasing it. Vista is now a very capable operating system, but it never recovered from the poor first showing, certainly in the eyes of mainstream consumers.

Microsoft cannot afford to get Windows 8 wrong. This is a key release for the company, paving the way for it to transition from menu-heavy operating systems of old built just for traditional PCs to intuitive, finger-controlled operating systems which can be run on whichever form factor consumers adopt in the future.

What I saw unveiled in the keynote at BUILD suggests it’s on the right track, but I’ll personally be reserving judgment somewhat until the beta release shows up, likely at the beginning of next year. Windows 8 is a big gamble, but it’s one Microsoft needed to take.

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