Technophobe: What's up with Windows 8?

Megan Youngren/Sun Star Columnist
September 4, 2012

At the end of this October, the latest version of Windows will come out. It is the result of Microsoft’s frantic effort to enter the tablet market.  They hope to take advantage of their position as the main computer operating system provider to introduce a fresh but jarring start screen.  This screen makes accessing applications easier to use with a touchscreen. It replaces the long-used start menu, and there isn’t an option to switch back.

It seems bizarre that Microsoft doesn’t allow for one to re-enable the start menu. Businesses, Microsoft’s largest group of customers, are always resistant to change as it could frustrate workers and decrease productivity. It seems the goal with this new software isn’t to keep businesses happy, but to target consumers.

There will be an App Store in Windows 8. The 30% industry standard cut of app sales might still keep Microsoft in the black even if all of their commercial clients do not upgrade. Having businesses upgrade to Windows 8 would be a bonus.

Windows 7 may stay in widespread use for a very long time. It is the last in the long line of ‘standard’ Windows. Many windows can occupy the screen at the same time, a setup known as the ‘desktop.’ Windows 8 is almost completely different. Despite the presence of an ‘app’ that acts just like the desktop on Windows 7, the intent is for you to use individual, separated, full-screen applications, and switch in between them. Windows 8’s desktop is just one of many apps.

Pushing all users into an uncomfortable new setup will make sure no one sticks to the old system out of habit. It will make sense for people to use the Windows Store to buy new, touch-friendly, full-screen apps. The apps on the store will be safe to use and easy to find. Most importantly, they will work as Microsoft intends. It is possible to use Windows 8 and its apps with a keyboard and mouse, but they are easier to use with a touchscreen.

When you want to launch another app, you jump back to the start screen, a grid of large, touchable rectangles and squares. Some show relevant information from their respective apps, some just icons and all show their names. Microsoft has no intention of directly copying or being left behind by the competition. Quite specifically, the iPad.

Apple’s iPad was bound to be a success, with people already accustomed to the iPhone. At the iPad’s release, many users complained that the iPad was just a giant iPhone. It’s really the other way around. The iPhone is a shrunken version of their early designs for a tablet. It was wise to test the waters, and make sure that people would buy this new form of technology. By the time that Apple released the iPad, users had learned the concept of apps and how there can be an array of different utilities for one device.

App developers spent several years practicing with the iPhone and were consistently rewarded for their efforts with a mass of customers willing to pay a few dollars for their work via the App Store. On the iPad, bigger versions of current iPhone apps found strong sales and new apps made specifically for the bigger screen were received warmly as well. Apple took a 30% cut from the price of an app, and thus set the industry standard.

Microsoft may have to pay developers up front to create apps to compensate for the initial lack of guaranteed demand. That money can be the substitute for the momentum Apple used to great effect, and will be remade with their cut of app sales. Microsoft wants the same success Apple found, and might be able to achieve it by targeting the massive amount of people who use Windows.

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