Windows 8

There’s been a lot of discussion on the internet predicting the success of Windows 8, and I can’t help but insert my thoughts into the discussion.

I think the battle will be fought with the tablet form factor, and the new and important technology that Microsoft is releasing is WinRT.

What is WinRT?

WinRT (Windows Run Time) is a new framework, a sandbox if you like, which hosts applications and provides them with access to the services that the operating system provides, like files, web cams, location etc etc… Applications that run in WinRT can be written in C++, C# or JavaScript (basically hosted in IE10) and all have access to a common API. These application appear in the ‘live tile’ user interface, and not in desktop mode.

The lower power (ARM) devices running Windows 8 will only support WinRT, whereas the more powerful devices (such as laptops and desktops) will also have the traditional Windows Desktop.

Why are WinRT devices important?

The iPad has had a good head start and there’s a lot of ground for Microsoft to cover here. The quality of the Android tablets doesn’t seem to be there (at the right price point) and the OS is not quite there either, although it’s getting very close.

However, it’s a big market, and there are a few areas where Windows 8 is strong.

  1. Price. If rumours are to be believed, the Surface will launch at $199. This is unbelievably cheap given the specs of the device.
  2. Developer Friendly. You can develop for WinRT in Javascript, C++ or C#, each seems to have equal footing on the platform. That’s a large developer community that can hook straight in with a relatively small learning curve. Visual Studio is an excellent IDE, and the development and testing process is straight forward.
  3. Enterprise. With WinRT, IT departments will be able to bypass the app store, and load their applications directly on to the device. Allowing IT staff to manage tablets as just another Windows device will be a good reason to choose Windows 8 for field staff or corporate types.
  4. Azure. WinRT devices are going to have relatively low storage capacity, so cheap scalable storage in the Microsoft cloud compliments this limitation. Push notifications, and the ServiceBus in Azure should also play well together. The Media Services piece provides an easy to consume set of services to facilitate video content. WinRT devices will be internet devices, and Microsoft have a serious internet capability to back this up.

Not another Vista?

My concern is not that this will be another Vista, I think there is some real benefit to this OS. It’s faster and leaner than previous versions, and I’ve enjoyed using it over the past few days.

My concern is that it’ll be another Windows Phone 7. An OS that looked really promising – with some brilliant ideas, but ultimately failed to deliver high quality applications. Consumers will decide whether Windows 8 is any good based on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay and YouTube apps. Developers will ultimately make or break this.