Links and first thoughts on Windows 8 at Build.

First off let me begin by saying that I didn’t go to Build, I’m basing most of these opinions off of what I’ve seen reported on the web.

First Impressions

The very first thing that kind of surprised me about the Windows 8 announcement was that this OS is very much aimed at the tablet market, it may have some phone integration, but this isn’t really aimed at the phone market at this point in time. This was a bit of a surprise to me since the phone market at this point is a lot larger than the tablet market. The only real success so far in the tablet space has been the ipad and nothing else is really competing with it. It just surprised me that Microsoft didn’t go after the more established phone market at all with this announcement.

The other thing that really hits me about this whole announcement is that Windows 8 won’t be shipped until Fall of 2012. After watching Apple pull off these type of big announcements year after year and having an actual working product to sell the week of the announcement, it just shows the big differences that each company has taken to selling their products. Microsoft is trying to pull in developers and the enterprise with this announcement ahead of the final shipping of Windows 8, which is what it’s always done, because they’ve always been targeted at the enterprise market. Apple on the other hand is directly targeting consumers with their announcements. The question then becomes which group is best to target if you want to sell tablets and personally I think Apple has the better idea here. Enterprises right now are still working on upgrading from Windows XP, it will probably be a while before they upgrade to Windows 8.

User Interface

The user interface as expected was the new Metro UI that Microsoft has been using on the Zune and Windows Phone 7. I’ve never used the Metro interface, although I’ll be using it on my Xbox pretty soon, it looks like a nice clean interface and everyone who uses it seems to love it, but it has yet to have commercial success. Here is a video comparing it to IOS 5 on the ipad. The two newest things with the UI are the charms which are small side applications that you can access with a swipe to the right and the “pro” interface which is basically the old Windows 7 interface for compatibility with older applications. I really like the idea of the charms, especially the sharing app which I could see people using quite a bit.

New ARM Support

Windows 8 will also be available on ARM processors as well as the standard x86 processors that Microsoft always supports. This is a good thing, since the ARM processors do a lot better job of handling power saving than the x86 architecture has supported so far. But this does come with a big caveat, Windows 8 on ARM won’t run x86 applications. This could be a major deal killer for a lot of enterprises, you’ll basically have to choose between having good battery life or being able to run your legacy applications. It also makes the ARM processors look like second class citizens compared to the x86 processors, which in turn will probably kill sales of the Windows 8 ARM tablets. Not a good idea.

Plugins

Then there is the plugin situation. It looks like there are two different modes you can run IE10 now, one is the regular web browsing mode where you can use plugins the same as you have in the past. The other mode is the Metro browser mode which does not allow plugins to be used at all, similar to what Apple does now on IOS. (It also kinda reminds me of the old Active Desktop.) The idea here is to allow backward compatibility with the “pro” mode, but to switch to a HTML 5 only solution in the future. For the future though this puts a lot of pressure on IE10′s HTML 5 support, if these new Metro apps are going to work, IE will have to be a good solid foundation for them to build off of. Which lets face it historically, IE is one of the reasons people looked to plugins in the first place. It would be awesome if you could replace the Metro browser with Chrome or some other browser, but I doubt that this will happen.

Things I really like

I really like the new Blue Screen of Death and the new Windows 8 app store looks like a good step in the right direction. The cloud syncing is also another good area whose time as come. Also the Windows 8 on a stick idea is awesome as well.

Further Reading

Obviously I haven’t had a chance to fully go through everything that Microsoft has put out this week, no one has, but here is a list of resources I plan on looking at in the next few weeks to try and sort through the picture for developers:

Mike GriffithLinks and first thoughts on Windows 8 at Build.