Eight. A number that holds significance in so many ways depending on who you talk to. You know it as the celebrated successor to the larger-than-life number seven, which by all accounts was hard to succeed given its popularity. You may not know that it is the atomic number of Oxygen. It is also considered to be a very lucky number in both Chinese and Japanese cultures. There are eight bits in a byte. There are eight planets. In Judaism, Hannukah is eight days (as my daughter likes to remind me). And who could forget the "eight maids a-milking" on the 8th day of Christmas. So one is left to wonder if it is just sequential coincidence or choice that the new version of Windows is aptly titled Windows 8.
Well, the traffic was murder, you know. One of those manure spreaders jackknifed on the Santa Ana. Godawful mess. You should see my shoes - Fletch
I've been using Windows 8 Consumer Preview now for about three weeks, and it is quite wonderful. Soon, there will be numerous books and You Tube videos covering every single feature. You don't need me for that, at least not yet. Instead, think of me as the noise filter. The proverbial Dolby Noise reduction of technology. Therefore, I thought that my first blog on it should speak to what is going to happen when it gets released. So, if you'll climb up here into the front seat and take ride, we'll talk about it.
I started out running Windows 8 as a virtual machine on my Windows 7 Samsung laptop. I was surprising impressed with how polished and smooth it was running. Then, as they say here in the South, I went whole hog. I fearlessly upgraded my most important PC (my office machine) to Windows 8. I know what you are saying right now. "Gee, why don't you just ski down a snow covered mountain in a Speedo. Sure you'll be fine as long as you stay in the sun." Well, I've got news. It was effortless. Really, it was. Not the skiing; the upgrade. It went so well in fact that I was left feeling a bit empty and unchallenged. This couldn't be a Microsoft product. So I went back and did it again, on a different machine. Then I did a side-by side install with Windows 7 . Four installs of all different types and not a single snag. Like riding a bike with no hands. What has Microsoft done here? I'll tell you: something very un-Microsoft.
Who Went Mobile First? The Who In 1971
Here is a link for all you folks born A.W.B. (aka After Windows Began) . By the way, that was 1990 for those of you reeling in the years. Just a little fun ;) People young and old have been transformed into device-toting mobile citizens. Think about the power in the palm of your hand. You can pinch and swipe without being punished or arrested. You can text with no hands. You can fly over Big Ben, the Taj Mahal, and Graceland in less than a minute. You can change your airplane seat without speaking to an agent. And, of course, you can slice flying fruit without making a mess (no Ginsu required). So why can't you have this ease of use on your PC? It is about to happen thanks to Windows 8. See, for the first time in over fifteen years, Microsoft got up from the desktop PC and looked at the world. And what did they see? Well, to begin with, a world with fewer PCs. They also saw lots of smartphones and tablets. But looking a bit deeper, I believe they saw disconnected, dysfunctional disparity amongst these devices. And folks, it wasn't just their own products (ie Windows Mobile, Windows 7, Xbox). For years, Apple has quietly struggled to get iPhone features injected into OSX. And Google continues to fight the uphill battle with the likes of Big Red (aka Verizon) to keep the Android experience consistent across devices while marching towards the desktop business (think Chromebook, Google Docs etc).
I also believe they observed that while all this computer technology was in hyper drive, companies (including themselves) really forgot about the desktop OS and interface. CPUs, memory, hard drives, LEDs...the list goes on and on. Monumental advances in all...except the desktop OS and interface. Doesn't matter if you are OSX or Windows. It’s the same ole' 20-year old analog. Here is your screen, your keyboard, and your mouse. Now go to it. Talk about sleeping at the wheel of the getaway car. My friends, I give you motive and opportunity. Read on.
To Boldy Go Where No One Has Gone Before
So what did Microsoft do? Well, while standing up from the PC, they rubbed their chin and raised their index finger and said. "Ah-ha." They figured out that the OS IS the interface and the interface IS the OS. Now, if you are Microsoft, what do you do with that little diddy? Easy, you forge creativity and build something the world has not seen. Something seminal; something fundamentally and uncharacteristically different; Something..well…un-Microsoft. A future-feeling, fresh looking interface to seamlessly rule and run across all of your device. Your phone, tablet, and PC. Wow. That's the whole enchilada. No way. It can't be done This is you shaking your head back and forth here. There's the phone, uh, then the tablet and the PC. All different yet "looking" the same. That's like crossing the streams. And Dr. Spengler warned us about that. Better charge up your proton pack. Windows 8 isn't the same old interior wrapped in a new body style with the addition of navigation and self-parking. It's an entire new class of vehicle never really seen before. Squeeze this between your ears for a moment. Apple didn't invent the smartphone. They reimagined and refined it. I know you don't remember but the Internet was loaded with critics on both sides. It will fail, it's overpriced, it is revolutionary, it will do your dishes and water your plants. What the hell is an app? After all that pre-emptive fodder had passed, people were intrigued and enticed. As they dove into the device, people adapted, accepted, and fell in love with it. Apple succeeding in changing the status quo of smartphones, the important word here being "changing." People have forgotten what it is like to experience this phenomenon with Microsoft. It's been the Apple show for so long that everyone just assumes that no other company can innovate any longer. And if they do, well it will stand cold and dark in the long shadow of Cupertino. Windows 8 will not reimagine or even change the OS-interface experience. Nor will it define a new standard. It will define THE new standard that others will painfully rush to mimic. Need proof? Within days of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview release, Apple hastily pushes out OSX Mountain Lion. Then comes the announcement of Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean) arriving mid-2012 when Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is barely on 1% of all Android devices. Both were efforts to say "hey, look over here." Feeling a little pressure are we?
Riding On The Metro
Windows 8 is blazing fast and will run on your current hardware. That's right. You won't have to buy new gear. First time that has happened in a while, huh? Let me make it better: Windows 8 runs faster on your existing Windows 7 gear than Windows 7! You will notice it the second you boot up. And it really just takes seconds. Like 15-20 seconds. No, I'm not kidding.
After the quick boot, you will be introduced to Metro. Metro is the name of your new desktop. And man it is cool. Metro brings the smartphone and tablet look and feel to your desktop. You add widget-like items called "tiles" to your desktop (think weather, email, social media, instant messaging, stock updates, news etc.) onto your screen, all of which are alive and bristling with real time info on a stunningly pretty screen. All this info right in front of you without opening up a single window. Metro will seem very familiar and natural, yet a bit awkward at first. Natural because you've been using your smartphone and you will get the idea. Awkward because it is a PC acting like a smartphone. I've caught myself reaching to my monitor to swipe and move things around which, by the way will work if you have a touchscreen monitor. Without one, your mouse and keyboard will work just fine. Oh, and know that the old desktop is still tucked away under Metro...just in case you want to go old school.
Space, The Final Frontier
I like Metro a lot. Now that I have seen it on a phone and a PC, I can't wait to see it on a tablet. I think business and corporate users will love it on tablets but will need to warm up to it on the desktop. Microsoft understands this and has quite a trick up its sleeve come October. And it will send Metro into orbit. No, people aren't going to go out and buy up all these touch screen monitors. We already hate those finger smudges all over our smart phones and tablets. You think we will put up with them on our computer monitors? No way. So swiping your screen is out. But what if you swipe the air in front of your screen? What? So you're saying that the air in front of your screen becomes...well...a touch screen? Yes, yes I am. Hmmm, sounds like Minority Report doesn't it? Well, it is hear and it is very real. If you are an Xbox user, you have had this technology for a year or so. It's called Kinect. And guess what? Microsoft has baked it into Windows 8! If you are not familiar with Kinect, it's quite incredible. You can learn more about it here . Move forward in the video about a minute and a half and watch. Within 30 seconds you will be captivated and your mouth will open wide enough to catch a swarm of bees.
So here is how this is going to go down: The Kinect bar will fasten to the top of your monitor and "space" will become your new interface. You walk up to your PC and it will log you in by "seeing" your face. Then, you move around the Metro interface by moving your finger around the air in front of your screen, as if you were using The Force. Yes, you will still use your keyboard and mouse for non-finger-friendly tasks. It is still faster to use them for Excel and Word stuff. But, you don't have to. I predict that within the year you will see manufacturers start to build the Kinect technology directly into monitors, similar to web cams. When you become Kinect-enabled, your PC experience doesn't change; your life will change. Really, it will. In fact, I firmly believe it will be bigger than when you got into (or should I say onto) the Internet.
Learning How To Unlearn
Windows 8 isn't about learning a new OS; it's about allowing yourself to un-learn the old one(s), and the old (and sometimes bad) habits that go with them. See, we've all been trained to go to the Start button for everything. And while it is convenient to do so because hey that is where everything lives, it becomes less efficient as time goes by. This is especially true if you install a lot of apps. Put another way, you spend too much time trying to find the app you need in the sea of selections within the Start menu. Windows 8 changes that thinking by implementing an instant search feature. Tap the Windows key on your keyboard, type "ou" and Outlook immediately jumps up for you to launch. And it is way fast. It takes a little thought the first week you use Windows 8 since you are reaching for the start button and it isn't in plain site. However, once you start using the process I described above, you will work faster.
Folks, I want to assure you that I didn't just come back from a Windows convention wearing a tin foil hat. Nor did I consume an entire bowl of Microsoft nachos before writing this blog. I am genuinely excited about Windows 8 because of what it will do in addition to what it represents. And this is coming from a guy who has been neck deep in the Android world for a few years. Windows 8 demonstrates that imagineering is alive and well at the Big M and not limited to those "other" technology companies we hear so much about. It doesn't really change the game. It ends it and begins a new one. And the last time that happened in the Microsoft world was in 1995 with the release of Windows 95. It too was new, different, and disruptive. And it was also greeted with great fanfare and criticism. But in time people adapted, accepted, and fell in love with it, even on a Pentium 75Mhz which, I am sad to say can't even run your car GPS. Don't be scared. It may all sound a bit ominous and concerning. Change always feels that way for many people. It's all good. If you are using a smartphone or a tablet right now (which most of you are using one if not both), you are going to feel surprisingly comfortable with it. Funny how Google and Apple have been teaching you how to use a Microsoft product and you didn't even know it! Shhh. Don't tell them.