Review of 2011: Is the Wintel axis starting to buckle under pressure from Apple, ARM and Google?

By Dave Bailey
30 Dec 2011 View Comments
Microsoft Windows 8 DP legacy desktop

This past year saw a number of important operating systems released or previewed.

Further reading

It was also the year when the internet browser wars were rekindled.

The biggest OS announcement this year was the developer preview of the next iteration of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, Windows 8, and I travelled to Microsoft's BUILD developer conference near Los Angeles in September to hear what the company had to say about the operating system.

With its large icon 'Metro style' interface, optimised for touch screens, and with social media applications at the fore, Microsoft is hoping Windows 8 will go head to head with Apple's iPad and the Android tablets.

At the BUILD conference, developers were given a Samsung tablet device to keep, an announcement that not unnaturally raised the biggest cheer of the event [see picture].

Samsung Tablet PC with Windows 8 Developer Preview loaded
We found Windows 8 to be ideally suited to the tablet format, which suggests Microsoft has at last woken up to the threat from mobile devices to its desktop OS market share.

Things were not so rosy when we tried using the OS on a standard desktop with mouse and keyboard, which we found painfully slow compared with using the tablet's touch screen.

That said, when using the standard Windows 7-type desktop, running as an application in Windows 8, mouse and keyboard are better than the touch screen.

This is because the touch screen is limited owing to standard desktop user interface icons and font sizes being too small. OK the icon size can be changed, and font sizes can be increased, but at the expense of screen estate.

Shall we just say the touch screen is non-optimal when you're dealing with applications that haven't been rejigged to work with the touch screen.

The beta version of Windows 8 looks likely to be out at the end of February.

One thing Microsoft wouldn’t say at BUILD was what different versions of Windows 8 there will be. You can see them announcing home and enterprise editions of a tablet version and maybe still keep an edition for standard home and enterprise desktops.

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