FIRE UP your flamethrowers, Apple fanbois, we're about to enrage you all because we think that the Windows 8 PC operating system (OS) could be the most significant thing to ever happen to tablet PCs.
Forget the Ipad, because Microsoft is going to shift its paradigm before the coming year is done.
We are serious, because for once Microsoft seems to have thought about its OS and will deliver features that make the next version of its ubiquitous Windows OS an Apple beating proposition.
First, it's got a tablet interface that looks like the company has actually hired some usability engineers with some touch-based user interface (UI) experience. A recent video demo of Windows 8 showed off a system that's far more modern and useful than Apple's IOS that Steve Jobs slapped onto the Ipad. Apple has always failed to understand that with a 10in screen you need to do more than just replicate the layout of the much smaller display on the Iphone.
Where are the dynamic icons? Where are the widgets? And why can't we customise the look and feel? Perhaps Apple will address some of these issues in its IOS 5 update due out this year. Or perhaps it will hurtle along offering the Iphone and Ipad with the same outdated UI it has had since it launched its mobile devices.
But the real genius of Microsoft's Windows 8 is that it will run on both ARM and x86-based systems. This allows hardware firms to make Intel-based laptops that can turn into tablet PCs, like Lenovo, and will let Asus turn its Eee Pad Transformer into a fully-featured Windows 8 laptop. While Android 3.0 Honeycomb works well on Asus' device, imagine how much better it will be when you can use the new Windows touch UI with the undocked tablet, but switch to the full version of the OS when you connect the keyboard.
What's more, a Windows-based tablet doesn't have the moronic reliance on that bloatware Itunes. Again, Apple could address that huge failing with IOS 5 and its new and imaginatively named Icloud service, but we'll bet it won't. Windows is free to develop for. Software developers will be able to build apps for it without first running them past Steve Jobs, and they will be free to sell the apps without being forced to cut Microsoft in for a big piece of the action.
With Windows 7 Microsoft built an operating system that actually works out of the box for the first time. It looks like Windows 8 might just do what Apple has so far failed to do and create an interesting and diverse tablet software market where business and professional people will be able use their expensive tablets to actually get work done.
And with DirectX for fast, powerful ARM processors like the Tegra Kal-el and Texas Instruments OMAP4 planned, it looks like Microsoft could turn Windows 8 tablets into games consoles, too. With gamers and games developers significantly invested in Microsoft's platforms it's not a stretch to imagine that this could seriously harm Apple's attempts to be taken seriously in gaming. µ
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