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Windows 8 has a great story. Can Microsoft tell it?

It's two OSs in one, and a bridge between two worlds

By Michael Gartenberg
October 18, 2012 09:21 AM ET

Computerworld - Windows 8, the latest version in the long line of Windows products, is the most ambitious project that Microsoft has ever undertaken. The changes in Windows 8 -- among them a completely new user interface and separate versions that run on either Intel x86 or ARM processors -- are as dramatic and important as those that were introduced when Microsoft moved the world from DOS to Windows. It's an operating system reconceived for a world driven by ecosystems and personal cloud services, where the PC is only one device among many. By tackling that current reality, Microsoft may well be undertaking its most important product launch ever.

But while this might well be the best version of Windows that Microsoft has ever created, it's also the version that will need the best story ever told for an operating system.

At launch, Microsoft will have to tell that story well. I hope it does so. Because I have been trying out Windows 8 ahead of launch, I have had to uncover the story myself, and I'm someone who pays far more attention to this sort of thing than the average consumer, and probably a good deal more than the typical CIO.

Windows 8 has been out in final form for a few weeks now (although consumers won't have access to it until the end of October, and even as I write this, Microsoft continues to update both Windows 8 applications and the core system). But I hadn't written anything about it until now because every time I tried to encapsulate the experience, something seemed to be missing. The user experience seemed a bit schizophrenic. Using Windows 8 on a Samsung tablet provided by Microsoft was great; the touchscreen meshed perfectly with the icon-dependent interface that had been known as Metro before Microsoft banned the name. On an older tablet that had both a keyboard and a touchscreen (and pen), the touchscreen input seemed much more appropriate than the keyboard. Using a MacBook Pro laptop, with Windows 8 running via the Parallels virtual machine, the experience was mixed (and what was best about it was that Windows 8 has proper Retina display support).

The bottom line was that the new interface worked rather well on the touchscreen but was much harder to negotiate with mouse and keyboard. But Windows 8 offers the option of using the traditional Windows desktop (minus the Start menu), and as you might expect, it worked very well with keyboard and mouse inputs. On the other hand, it is a pitiful interface for touchscreens.

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