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Tag Archives: Windows 8

Windows 8 – are you ready for change?

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Windows 8 is less like an upgrade and more like a reimagining of the Windows desktop.

The line between desktop and mobile devices is blurring but, rather than let Apple lead the way, Microsoft has seized the initiative with Windows 8. The new tablet-style interface is likely to appeal to the iGeneration, but it might come as quite a shock to old-school PC users.

Windows 8 drops you in the deep end by launching into the new “Modern UI” interface (formerly known as “Metro UI”) which was borrowed from Microsoft’s smartphones. Instead of the traditional Windows desktop you’re now faced with a row of icons which you can click to launch common applications such as your email or the browser.

The Modern UI icons are actually live “tiles” which change to give you updates — for example the Weather tile displays today’s forecast while the Mail tile scrolls through your inbox. When you click on a tile it launches that application in a single full-screen window. Once you learn your way around it’s possible to complete many day-to-day tasks without leaving Modern UI, which is exactly what Microsoft is aiming for. Similar to Apple and Android gadgets, Microsoft wants to make it easy to get things done without struggling with the traditional desktop interface. If you’re familiar with Windows Phone 7 handsets such as Nokia’s slick Lumia 900 then you’ll probably feel quite at home with Modern UI.

Of course the difference is that Android and Apple’s iOS are designed to run on touch-friendly handheld gadgets, whereas Windows 8 is intended to run on desktop computers. In actual fact Modern UI is design for Windows 8 on desktops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Windows 7 can be rather clunky to use on a tablet, but that should all change with Windows 8. When you’re using a touchscreen gadget you’ll be able to flick and tap your way around Modern UI just like an iPad.

Microsoft expects that touchscreens will become more common on the next generation of notebook’s, particularly the super-thin Ultrabooks. Unfortunately Modern UI is less intuitive on a traditional desktop when you’re reliant on a keyboard and mouse. For example some of the gesture-based commands require you to move the mouse to the corner of the screen to trigger menus. The concept is similar to Hot Corners found in Mac OS, but it’s likely to be quite foreign to many Windows users.

It is possible to push Modern UI aside to use the traditional Windows desktop, but you’re in for a bit of a shock. The Windows Start menu is gone, having been the centrepiece of Windows for almost 20 years. You can still pin items to the taskbar and it is possible to find your way around, but it does take some time to adapt to the loss of the Start menu. The move to Modern UI while losing the Start menu is going to present a steep learning curve for some people, but if you persevere you’ll find Windows 8 has plenty to offer. If you’re an old-school PC user you might need someone to hold your hand to walk you through the changes with Windows 8.


Microsoft’s "Free" Office 2013 has its strings attached

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MS Office 2013

Microsoft is going full steam ahead on what amounts to a massive flip of its user interface, at the centre of which is the move towards Windows 8 and the interface that was known as Metro. It’s Metro no more — or at least Microsoft is asking developers not to use the word Metro due apparently to a pending legal dispute over the Metro trademark — but it’s still a big shift for many users. Microsoft’s very committed to this idea, though, in a way that it hasn’t always been willing to change over its most recent history. How can I tell it’s serious this time? It’s not only remaking Office, its other cash cow franchise aside from Windows into an interface-formerly-known-as-Metro friendly, but it’s also offering access to Office 2013 for absolutely nothing.

Yep, that’s right. The office suite that used to cost you hundreds of dollars can be yours for the low, low price of absolutely no money at all. Sort of. You’ll still have to pay for the download, have 3.5GB of space, and it’ll only work on Windows 7 or Windows 8 machines, for a start. It’s also only a trial version, so it’s not yours forever. You’ll need a Windows ID as well, but if you’ve ever had a hotmail account you’ve got one of those. Hotmail too is seeing a don’t-call-it-Metro lick of paint as well, transforming into Outlook.com.

New interface aside, the other big things that Microsoft’s keen to promote with Office 2013 are the touch-capable features — which makes sense, given that the Windows 8 operating system that accompanies Office 2013 includes Tablet options — and saving to the cloud, or at least Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service. That’s the default for saving any kind of document; if you want to save a “local” copy, you’ve got to specifically request to do so.

Microsoft’s not offering Office up for free just out of the kindness of its heart; indeed as a big business it’s not entirely conclusive that Microsoft has a heart to speak of. Allowing users early access to Office 2013 not only helps Microsoft iron out any bugs that might be present, but also gets you used to using the suite before its full commercial release, further cementing Office’s status as the de facto standard. If you’ve ploughed countless hours into creating Office 2013 documents, you’re much less likely to then decide to switch suites, especially if your data is handily tied into Microsoft’s own cloud solutions.


Do We Want Our Computers Dumbed Down Into Tablets?

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Steve Jobs famously said we live in a post-PC era, but you’ll pry my desktop operating system out of my cold dead hands.

There’s a disturbing push to turn our desktop computers into overgrown tablets, whether we like it or not. We’ve recently seen the release of Mac OS 10.8 aka “Mountain Lion” and it continues Apple’s relentless push to blur the line between Macs and iPads. The move might appeal to fresh iGadget converts looking for cross-platform consistency, but old-school Mac users are less likely to be impressed.

Previously Mac OS 10.7 “Lion” saw the introduction of an iOS-style App Store for managing desktop applications. Many people saw this as the First Horseman of the iOS Apocalypse and feared that Apple would move to lock down Mac OS even further the same way it rules iOS with an iron fist. The release of Lion also saw the introduction of full-screen mode for some applications which slavishly copied iOS design concepts even though they often didn’t make sense in a multi-tasking desktop environment. There were lots of other little iPad-style changes which seemed to put style before functionality.

Apple has continued the iPad-ification of the Mac with Mountain Lion, although this time around it feels like less of a shock to the system than the leap from Snow Leopard to Lion. With Mountain Lion at least some of the new iPad-style additions are actually functional rather than simply cosmetic. The iOS notification system and dropdown menu (an idea which Apple “borrowed” from Android) has been brought across to the desktop. iCloud, iMessage and Reminders have also been integrated into Mountain Lion. They still need work, but these additions clearly have the potential to be useful rather than simply iCandy.

While Apple tends to be a trendsetter in the mobile space, it’s actually Microsoft which is leading the charge to merge desktop and tablet interfaces. The upcoming Windows 8 sports the tile-based Metro UI interface which has been seconded from Windows Phone 7. By the end of the year you’ll see Metro on Windows 8-based desktops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. As with Apple’s efforts, Metro seems more practical on a touchscreen handheld gadget than on a desktop computer.

What’s interesting with Metro and Windows 8 is that Microsoft has taken the extra step baking touchscreen compatibility into desktop versions of Windows. If your desktop or notebook computer is blessed with a multi-touch display, you can tap, flick, pinch and scroll on the screen just like a tablet. Such functionality was available for Windows 7 but we only saw a handful of compatible devices and some like the Acer Iconia dual-touchscreen notebook were too cumbersome to be taken seriously.

Metro could help drive the take up of touchscreen desktops and it seems inevitable that Apple will eventually go down this path as iPads and Macs merge into the one touchscreen platform. Yet it remains to be seen if that’s what people actually want from their computers. Some of us actually prefer to put aside our touchscreen gadgets when it comes time to actually get some work done. Microsoft and Apple might have touchy-feely plans for the future, but some of us would prefer they keep their hands off our computers.


Windows Isn't "Expensive" Any More

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For many years, if you wanted a full boxed copy of Windows, it would cost you a fairly hefty sum, into the many hundreds of dollars if you were after the top tier version of whatever Microsoft’s current operating system happened to be.

Things were markedly different if you were buying a new PC or laptop, where the cost of the operating system was built into the purchase price as part of what’s called an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) licence. OEM licence pricing details were always closely guarded by Microsoft’s retailer agreements, but those who sought to get refunds for that part of a computer purchase often found themselves clutching at less than twenty dollars, if that.

There’s no doubt that this served to help propel sales of new hardware — there wasn’t much point in buying a new windows licence if you could very nearly get a whole new computer for the same kind of price, in essence. At the same time, though, it’s a distinct disincentive for existing users with perfectly serviceable hardware to upgrade, because the high cost of the software is undeniably painful.

Which is why Microsoft’s announcement that it’s going to offer very reasonable prices for upgrading to Windows 8 was a very pleasant surprise, as it would seem to go against the company’s history in a very marked way. Windows 8 could be running on your PC this October for around US$39. I’ve got to qualify that in US dollars, because that’s what Microsoft does, and it’s worth noting that this is for a downloaded upgrade version of the operating system only; if you want a boxed DVD version, that’ll apparently cost $US69 instead. That’s for the full Pro version of Windows 8, by the way.

If you’ve purchased a new PC or laptop since June 1st, it’s an even cheaper proposition; upgrading a new system from Windows 7 to Windows 8 will cost $14.99 as long as you do it before January 31st 2013.

All of those prospects are for upgrades from anything that’s at least running Windows XP, although you’d have to be both lucky and extremely frugal to be running something that was utilising an older Windows OS and still qualified to run Windows 8. If you’re looking at buying a completely new Windows 8 licence, it’s likely to be quite a bit more expensive — although Microsoft hasn’t specified exactly how much that will be.

If you’re buying a new laptop in the coming months, it’s expected that retailers will have full systems with Windows 8 in them sometime in August; for upgrading software systems the expected launch date is October.

So why the big change of heart from Microsoft? Partly it’s a matter of market pressures; Apple’s offered the last few upgrades of its OS X operating system for under fifty bucks — and will do so again with Mountain Lion, the upgrade to OS X due this month. Microsoft’s pretty keen to take Apple on head first, and aggressive operating system pricing is part of that strategy.

Microsoft’s also taken a gamble with Windows 8, given the completely revamped Metro interface, and there’s only way that it’ll gain the kind of traction it needs to get developers on board with it, and that’s by having a critical mass of actual Windows 8 users. At the kind of prices Microsoft’s offering Windows 8 upgrades for, it’s quite likely that the operating system will be adopted much more quickly than previous versions.


Do We Want Windows On A Tablet?

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Will Microsoft’s Surface gain any traction with consumers?

Microsoft Tablet PCs have been around for more than a decade, but they started out as cumbersome beasts mostly targeted at business users. It wasn’t until Apple delivered the slick iPad that consumers took notice of tablets — not just because the iPad was cheap and slender but also because the interface was much easier to use than fighting with Windows.

The takeaway lesson from Apple and later Android’s mobile gadgets was that, with a little polish, smartphone operating systems tend to scale up nicely for tablets. Microsoft has a slick mobile OS in Windows Phone 7, soon to be Windows Phone 8. Yet instead of porting this promising OS and its ecosystem to a tablet, Microsoft insists on cramming Windows 8 onto its new Surface tablets.

Tablet PCs slimmed down after the rise of the iPad but, despite Microsoft’s assurances, Windows 7 wasn’t as user-friendly on a tablet as iOS or Android. The fact is that most people come home from work to get away from the Windows PC on their desk. The last thing they want to do is keep fighting with Windows when they’re sitting on the couch.

Now Microsoft promises that Windows 8’s Metro interface will offer a smooth tablet interface, but it remains to be seen if it can win people away from their Apple and Android wundergadgets. When you look at most of the tasks people want to perform on a tablet — such as browse the web, check emails, play games, watch movies and view photos — there’s no reason to mess around with Windows on the couch when Android or iOS will happily do the job.

As if Microsoft wasn’t at enough of a disadvantage, not all of its Surface tablets will be able to run standard Windows applications — which would seem to defeat the entire point of buying a Microsoft tablet. The entry-level Surface tablet will run Windows RT on a low-powered ARM processor, a similar chip to what you’d find in a low-end notebook. Only apps specifically written for Windows RT will run on the Surface, so you won’t be able to tap into the existing wealth of apps for Windows on your desktop or Windows Phone 7 on your mobile.

Instead Microsoft wants to reinvent the wheel. It expects us to commit to yet another platform, even though we’ve already invested heavily in Windows, iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 apps. If you’ve already got an Apple or Android smartphone, it probably makes sense to buy the same flavour of tablet. But not even Windows Phone 7 users have a good reason to embrace Windows RT on the Surface. It looks like the upcoming Windows Phone 8 handsets will be built on the same code as Windows RT, but Windows Phone 7 handsets can’t be fully upgraded to Windows Phone 8. So Microsoft expects Windows Phone 7 users to throw everything away and start again, while iOS and Android’s app stores go from strength to strength.

It will only be possible to run standard Windows desktop applications on a Microsoft tablet if you opt for the more expensive Surface Pro. This will run a full version of Windows 8 Pro on an Intel Core i5 processor, and cost around the same as an ultrabook.

It seems that Microsoft is working towards cross-compatibility between Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT, but for now it’s a mess compared to Apple’s offerings. Even the somewhat fragmented Android market is finally getting its act together, with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich designed to run on both smartphones and tablets (just like iOS). Microsoft die-hards might embrace these new tablets, but for most people Surface could be a case of too little, too late.


Want Windows 8 For Free?

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I’ve written about the impending release of Windows 8 extensively over the last few months, but that’s been largely on the basis of Microsoft’s own announcements regarding the latest iteration of its operating system software. This month, Microsoft’s taken the same steps it took with Windows 7 and released a “consumer preview” edition of Windows 8 that you can download right this minute if you’re so inclined.

Microsoft’s offering up the ISO of Consumer Edition in both 32 and 64 bit versions as a direct download from its servers for anyone who cares to grab them. If you’re keen, head over to

windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/iso

and choose the language (English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German or Japanese and then whether you want the 64-bit or 32-bit version. Generally speaking that should be the 64-bit version, especially if you’re going to install it on a system with more than 4GB of RAM, as 32-bit Windows can’t “see” any RAM above that limit — actually technically just above 3GB, in fact.

There’s a few caveats there, however; for a start, the 64-bit English download itself weighs in at a hefty 3.3GB, which will take both some time and some serious chunks of your data allowance to actually download. It’s supplied as an ISO image — that’s essentially an archived CD image, although it’s also possible to convert a USB flash drive to perform the same function. From there, it’ll install in much the same way that existing Windows operating systems do, with the only remaining catch being that this is still early software — the full retail version of Windows 8 is expected to ship later in the year — and it’s also time-limited software. When the full version of Windows 8 ships, you should be able to migrate a consumer preview version into the full version of Windows 8, but it’ll cost you whatever Microsoft decides to charge for it. Still, if you’re keen to see what Microsoft’s got just around the corner and have a spare PC — which needs to have the relatively moderate specifications of a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16-20GB free hard drive space and a DirectX 9 capable graphics card — it’s well worth checking it out. Bear in mind that if you do install the consumer preview onto an existing Windows PC and choose to install the operating system as an “upgrade”, you’ll overwrite the existing operating system — which almost certainly isn’t your best move!


Understanding Windows 8 Tablets

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When Microsoft announced Windows 8, it was with a renewed focus on taking on the most popular computing commodity of recent years, namely tablets. Windows 8 will feature a standard desktop interface along with a new touch-based interface, known as Metro.

Microsoft refers to Metro as a “design language”, which is a fancy way of saying that products that are Metro compliant will have a consistent font and design look. Microsoft’s current look for the Xbox 360 console is Metro-based, but the most prominent product that Microsoft’s brought to market to date has been the Windows Phone 7 operating system; if you want a taste of what Metro on Windows 8 will be like, Windows Phone 7 should be your first port of call.

Metro isn’t just Microsoft slapping a skin on Windows 8 and continuing on its merry way with desktops and laptops, however; it’s also the core way that a new version of Windows 8 will run. Historically, Windows has primarily been written for Intel’s x86-based architecture, and that doesn’t change for Windows 8. What comes on board is a version of Windows 8 for devices running on ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) processors. ARM processors aren’t the devices used for most desktop or laptop systems, but they are widely implemented in the tablet and smartphone space, due to their lower power requirements, which means that Windows On Arm (officially WOA) will most likely first appear on tablet-style products.

This isn’t Microsoft’s first stab at Tablets; many years ago Microsoft launched Windows XP Tablet Edition with great fanfare but, aside from some very niche markets, virtually no traction in the market. Windows XP Tablet Edition was in essence a touch-capable (but not terribly functional) version of XP; subsequent operating systems from Microsoft have included touch compatibility but little of great significance was done with it at an application level.

There’s a significant change present for Windows on ARM, however, and that’s due to the fact that ARM isn’t x86; no legacy — that is,  existing or old Windows applications — will run at all. Instead, new WOA applications will have to be written from the ground up.  Microsoft’s likely to supply most of its applications in WOA forms. It’s already known that versions of most (if not all) Microsoft Office applications will have WOA equivalents, although they may only run in the desktop mode, even on tablets. Internet Explorer will also be bundled for browsing purposes, and while it’ll be Internet Explorer 10 in name, it won’t support plugins that will work on the x86 version of IE 10. That means, at least for the time being, that things like Flash won’t work on WOA devices, although it’s always possible that third party browsers or plugin workarounds may emerge.

Windows On ARM also means Microsoft will have even more devices to technically support; while there are many millions of potential x86 combinations of things like graphics cards, network interfaces and peripherals, for the most part external vendors handle those kinds of drivers. But you don’t — and can’t — change the graphics card on a tablet, and that means each iteration of a Windows 8 tablet will need its own updates. So far, it seems most likely that you’ll only be able to get Windows 8 on ARM pre-installed on a pre-approved tablet, so updates shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

In many ways, it’s identical to what Apple did with the iPad and iPhone. It’s theoretically possible that it could have ported the full OS X operating system across, but that would have had an effect on battery life — and not a good one. Starting afresh does mean dropping a lot of application compatibility, but if Microsoft can grow an application ecosystem to rival iOS, it should be able to overcome that particular hurdle. Microsoft has been very active in its developer community in recent years, and it’ll be fascinating to see what comes to WOA.


2012's Technology Secrets

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As I’m writing this, the last few hours of 2011 are ticking away, taking with them one year while ushering in another. 2011’s been an interesting year in the technology world, with touch interfaces — whether on smartphones, tablets or touchscreen laptops and computers — a most notable feature that defined the consumer technology landscape. But what will 2012 bring us?

Any kind of prediction about the technology landscape is inevitably one that involves a certain amount of guesswork, and that means I could be hopelessly (or even haplessly) wrong with any kind of prediction that I make. With that caveat in mind, let’s jump headfirst into the crystal ball, taking a look at three industry heavyweights and how they might fare in 2012.

Apple gets first place in my tea leaf readings, purely on alphabetical grounds. Apple’s widely tipped to update its iPad, iPhone and Mac lines this year; those things are pretty inevitable simply from a marketing point of view. On the Mac front, new chipset availability will allow newer Mac models (the exact same thing is true on the PC front), and it doesn’t take a degree from the dubious institute-of-psychic-studies-that-I-just-made-up (established eight seconds ago) to suggest that new iPhones and iPads will see money flowing into Apple’s coffers. That kind of repeat business latest-model hype is exactly what Apple does, and based on previous years, that’s clearly what it’ll continue to do.

One rumour doing the rounds here at the moment is that Apple will unveil an “Apple” TV. Not to be confused with the small set top box that the company already sells, this would be an Apple branded TV set, hooked into the iTunes store for video delivery.

I doubt it. I strongly doubt it, although I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that Apple had prototyped such a thing; big IT companies go through lots of prototypes during research and development. The reason why I’m doubtful is that while it sounds good in theory (Apple has a content ecosystem in place, it does good industrial design and as yet nobody’s really “cracked” a good Smart TV), it ignores one of the factors that’s made Apple a whole lot of money in recent years — namely that it likes repeat business. People drop iPhones and iPads all over the place, and new features prompt some buyers to replace every year. Who replaces their TV every year? Almost nobody. A TV is a long-term prospect, and as such Apple would need lots of content to make its model of TV compelling. The existing Apple TV set top box already provides a gateway to its iTunes ecosystem for selling and renting content; I’d be less shocked to see, a say, LG-presents-TV-with-integrated-Apple-TV than a genuine Apple TV.

Next on the reading of the livers of unfortunate animals (and next in the alphabet) would be Google. Google’s likely to continue chipping away at many markets, essentially doing what Microsoft’s done for years; subsidising some products via the massive profits made from just a few. In Google’s case that’s largely search advertising, and it’s funded all sorts of acquisitions (some of which Google shuttered during 2011) and startup projects, most prominently Android-based smartphones and tablets. I suspect 2012 is the year we’ll see a “Google” Android tablet. Previously this could have been one built by another company — in the same way that Google’s own Android phones have been HTC and Samsung models respectively — but with Google having gobbled up Motorola in 2011, it could be an entirely in-house effort. Google’s own moves in the netbook space with its Chromebooks seems to have stalled for the moment, as has Google’ own TV ambitions; I’d be surprised if either made significant headway in Australia, if they ever make it here at all.

Last in my prognosticating list is Microsoft. While it’s not definite, it’s highly likely we’ll see Windows 8 emerge sometime in 2012, although I wouldn’t put a pin anywhere in the calendar before June if I were you. Windows 8 is clearly part of Microsoft’s strategy to more closely align all of its consumer IT properties, from smartphones to consoles to computers under one well understood interface, and it’ll be fascinating to see how well (and how quickly) Microsoft manages this. Its coffers are immense (as are its spending habits when it comes to both R&D and marketing) and it’s got an easy head start in terms of Windows existing place in the market; while big businesses will no doubt take a slow approach to the new operating system and everything it may offer, the push for individual users to bring their own devices (and increasingly laptops) into work may make Windows 8 a very rapidly adopted operating system indeed.


Windows 8: Good For Laptops And Tablets

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Microsoft recently held its BUILD conference, a developer-only event at which the highlight was the unveiling of Windows 8. It wasn’t exactly a shock reveal; there’s been plenty of information on Windows 8 available up in bits and pieces, but this was Microsoft’s first peek under the curtain at the nitty-gritty of Windows 8 itself. As you might expect, Windows 8 is expected to run more quickly than its predecessors, but then, Microsoft’s very unlikely to reveal that it’d run slower. A lot of small details emerged, such as the fact that support for NFC (Near Field Communications) will be built into Windows 8, as will simpler setups for refreshing a system prior to selling it, removing malware more efficiently and a revamp of some standard Windows user interface sections such as the Task Manager.  Cloud syncronisation and a very Apple-like App store for Windows applications will also feature on the full desktop client, which at first glance looks an awful lot like Windows 7 does now. That could well change, but a lot of the real meat of what Microsoft had to show off was to be seen in how it’ll adapt Windows 8 for the tablet market.

Microsoft’s had tilts at the tablet market for years now, but outside certain specialised niches, they’ve never had that much success — especially in the era of the iPad. Windows 8 has a lot of tablet-specific features, including a full tablet user interface called Metro that Microsoft showed off at the Build conference on a Samsung supplied tablet that all attendees got to take away with them. Microsoft’s built on the interface ideas it first showed off with its Windows Phone 7 devices, and the results are quite spectacular. It’s also worth noting that while Windows tablets to date have all run on Intel hardware, Windows 8 will also run on more power-efficient ARM processors, although there will be tradeoffs for the ARM models, which won’t run legacy Windows applications, just the specialised touchscreen ones. Whether by whatever time Windows 8 launches it’ll be able to make a dent in the iPad’s near dominance of the tablet market remains to be seen; a good half dozen Android tablets haven’t managed that, and the rest seem to be bogged down in legal battles with Apple.

Microsoft haven’t announced a timeline for when Windows 8 will ship (except to say that it’ll ship “when it’s done”); at a guess I’d say we’d be lucky to see it on store shelves and in laptops, desktops and tablets before at least the middle of next year.


Windows 8 Might Just Dull Computing’s “Cutting Edge”

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It’s been something of a maxim in computing circles that processing power (however you choose to measure it) increases over time. This is a good thing, given that it enables faster performance and the development of new applications that would simply be impossible under older hardware. There’s Moore’s famous Law (really more of an observation, but I’m nitpicking) that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years. More transistors equals greater performance, in other words.

That pace of progress is a good thing in certain ways, but it does mean that systems can become obsolete from a technical standpoint long before they actually stop working as functional machines. The salespeople of the world would be delighted for us all to update our desktops and laptops every one to the three years, but there are plenty of PCs that manage service lives of a decade or more, even though what’s under the hood is well behind the cutting edge. They certainly won’t run the latest games, many of the latest applications or operating systems.

Except, that is, when they do.

Speaking recently at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in California, Tami Reller, corporate vice-president of the Windows division announced that the next version of Windows, currently known only as Windows 8, should have the same minimum system requirements as Windows 7 currently does. It won’t be quite the same experience across systems, as Windows 8 will dynamically adapt performance based on the system it’s running on.

Without a doubt, Windows 7 currently runs better on a high end system than a low end one, but the important detail is that Microsoft’s planning to keep the minimum supported specification effectively frozen for quite some time, especially when you consider that the system requirements for Windows 7 are essentially the same as they were for Windows Vista. A 1GHz processor is hardly cutting edge, but if Microsoft can keep to Reller’s claimed (and widely reported online aim) of “keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time” then Windows 8 might just run on some very old hardware indeed.

It’s early days yet — we won’t even see Windows 8 on store shelves this year, and there’s speculation but no strict timeline for when Windows 8 will launch.

It’s a fascinating move from Microsoft, especially in contrast to the software offering that (at the time of writing) Apple’s just about to launch, OS X 10.7, AKA “Lion”. Like its predecessor, “Snow Leopard”, Lion won’t run on older PowerPC based Macs, but it also drops the software that allowed older PowerPC applications to run from the operating system entirely, as well as not supporting some of the very first Intel-based Macs either.

There are catches here; obviously some systems do die a death faster than others whether due to wear and tear, design or even just old-fashioned bad luck. New hardware isn’t just about processing power; you can also add other new and interesting features to a system by updating it regularly, and depending on your use of a computer, that may make sense to you. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and need every last watt of power you can wring out of your hardware, Microsoft’s plans are certainly more appealing than Apple’s.


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