Is Windows 8 Microsoft’s Crowning Glory?

The grand dame wields her ugly head upon the precipice and things change. This could be the the sum  total of Microsoft’s move upon the computer industry come October. Some expect there to be a major shift in the wings of the tablet market as the behemoth technology company moves to  grabs 12 percent of the tablet industry with the public release of Windows 8 and the Surface tablets.

Grand  Critique

The Redmond company shares that grand appellation with its partner company Apple in Cupertino and to a less extent Google and a few others. But Microsoft sits up high with Apple holding crowns as historical progenitors of the desktop market. Crowning positions command waves of approval and disapproval.

The approval is rather locked in. With an operating system that’s on over 92 percent of the world’s desktops, five hundred million users pay the license fees and the company maintains the dominant position in the business corporate market with its server and database software.

Accordingly, criticism fans the waves as grand dame had seem to sit back on her laurels. But over the last decade, her revenue stream had merely tripled from $23 billion to $70 billion by 2011, great globs of money. This explains why erstwhile CEO Steve Ballmer, who perhaps cannot be fashioned in today’s tight leather pants, is still there.

Critics have deplored the company’s lack of innovation in face of its powerfully driven partner, Apple. But, as we shall see, they were wrong. “Partner” is used here instead of “competitor.” It may be best to see these two companies as leaders building and propelling the consumer technology market together. It’s the simple formula of one leaping forward while the other bounds over the leap into new territory – over and over again.

Of course, the last leap was Apple, who went ahead of all with the iPod and the iPad. Under Steve Jobs, Apple practically defined a new industry in mobile technology. There were cries that Microsoft, having experienced setbacks in smartphone technologies, was sitting behind and was just not innovative enough.

Crowning Glory?

But the critics have been apparently wrong. Microsoft has not been merely sitting on its laurels. From the responses of the consumers and developers who have reviewed the Preview versions of Windows 8 and after over 100,000 changes that have been integrated,  it may very well be that Windows 8 and the resulting Surface tablets may become crowning glories.

The company has not so much moved sluggishly into the tablet terrains as it has moved carefully and with great skill. Some had suggested that Microsoft was too big and that it should break up its outfit into smaller parts, or that it should simply move the Windows division into a corner company all by itself.

But as Steve Ballmer was only too happy to point out, Windows 8 and its Model UI representing the tablet promise, are integral parts of the old Windows calling card. A careful look at the new OS does demonstrate the seamless fit for what Ballmer calls a “seamless consumer experience.” Microsoft has simply wielded its ugly head to yield a few powerfully innovative thrusts. The company had never left the playing field.

Industry forecasters Gartner now projects that by 2016, latecomer Microsoft will have an 11.8 percent share of the tablet market. What’s more, from the news rumblings of phone maker Nokia, Gartner projects Windows Phones, sharing the benefits of Windows 8 technologies, will replace Apple by 2016  to become the second largest smartphone producer by 2016, with Android the first.

Indeed, Windows 8 has some has a few positive workings under the hood. Are they worthy of a crown?

Windows 8 Release Preview

As Microsoft’s newest operating system, the pre-release version of Microsoft Windows 8 has emerged from early vetting stages among developers and consumers, with satisfactory results. Several cosmetic changes are being made, but extensive changes appear to no longer be required, and on August 15, Windows 8 was released to OEM companies for fall production. Holding its breath, Microsoft stands behind a formal October 26th release date for a new OS that is poised to become a game-changer in today’s computer world.

‘Metro,’ was initially used to describe the innovative, tablet-friendly user interface. The word is being dropped because Microsoft couldn’t resolve a copyright conflict with a German company. Regardless of its name, this new interface, in combination with a refined Windows 7 engine, could once more propel Microsoft ahead in the area of technological innovation.

The user interface allows Windows 8 to bring the same, unifying multi-touch functionality to desktops, laptops and tablets. It will power desktops and laptops based on powerful Intel and other processers, and with the Windows 8 UI, it will splash and land firmly into the world of tablets based on the definitive mobile-tech, less power-hungry ARM processors.

Starting Up

Powering up their computers, Windows 8 users will now see a Lock screen that, by using their mouse or touchpad with an up-swiping gesture, will take them to a Login screen. You can either sign in or use a “password-touch” gesture to unlock this screen and enter the Start screen. All this is done pleasingly fast and smooth as Windows boots up.

The Start screen consists of graphic tiles representing apps and pictures. The tiles are arranged into groups that swiftly slide from one to the other using a similar gesture or movement on the touchpad or mouse. The Start screen of original tiles is always available through a mouse click at the lower left corner of the Windows screen.

Multi-Touch Functionality

These swiping, sliding and pinching in-and-out gestures are, of course, characteristics of tablet touch-screens functions. They are similar to the multi-touch smartphone technologies successfully innovated and sharpened by Apple, leading that company to the forefront of mobile technology with development of its iPhones and iPads.

Microsoft’s own Windows Surface tablets incorporating the multi-touch screens with Windows 8 UI are due to come out the same time as Window 8. The Surface represents another Microsoft milestone similar to Apple in that the tablet hardware is being produced in-house, wielded to the new OS. They are being produced as Surface Pro models based on Intel processors, and Surface RT – Run Time – models developed on ARM processors.


Clicking or swiping from window corners offers various controls. Swiping from the right side on the Windows 8 Start screen brings up the Charms bar that gives you icons for searches, sharing, and the start menu. In turn, the start menu brings you back to the Start screen titles, devices and settings control.

Swiping from top left, you can get a list of all the apps or recently used ones and can switch between them. App icons are dragged across the screen to open for use. Closing apps involves a simple down swipe to the bottom of the screen as the app disappears.

If Windows 8 demonstrates seamless adaptation across tablet, laptop and desktop platforms as it advertises, Microsoft could renew itself once again as a major leader of innovation. So far, in face of its distracters, many of whom are expectantly Apple-biased, the OS has generated plenty of support and praise with the ease, speed and fluidity of its UI. It’s still possible to access the old Explorer and Start screens, but starting tiles will certainly be the winner and a game-changer of the future.