Microsoft previews Windows 8 as desktop/tablet iPad rival

Yesterday Microsoft gave us a brief look at its next operating system, code named Windows 8. The operating system will be aimed at not only desktop and laptop PC systems but also the tablet market. Will Windows 8 deliver enough for a Windows Tablet to become a real competitor to the iPad and iOS?

The answer at this stage is very unclear; Microsoft has previously claimed that older versions of Windows would work well on Table PC’s as well as desktop and laptop systems. Unfortunately a distinct lack of Windows tablet sales tell a completely different story. Apple on the other hand stepped in and released the iPad with a cut down version of OSX designed for touch input, all of a sudden Tablet devices were vogue and everyone wanted one!

Looking at the features of Windows 8, it could be a very appealing OS for Tablets. It integrates the Windows Phone 7 Metro UI with the full blown power of Windows . Any app you run on your desktop or laptop could be executed on a handheld tablet. That is very appealing; there is no doubt about that. What is a doubt however is Microsoft’s ability to deliver the full experience and make these apps usable with touch.

When I talk about experience I mean how easy the device is to use. Yes Windows 8 will be a great experience with a mouse and keyboard, I don’t doubt that. What I do have serious concerns over is how well that will work using your fingers. How will developers address the issue of not only writing their apps for a mouse and keyboard entry system but also for touch too? If they fail to do it, using a Windows Tablet will again be a frustrating experience.

Microsoft has a lot of work to do to bring all of this together. They need to consider every possibility with every app and interface. It needs to be standardized so users know where they are and how to get where they need to be without much thought. I really hope Microsoft can pull this off, they need to learn from previous mistakes and deliver a tightly integrated touch OS. Unfortunately history tells us they will fall way short of this goal.

If you want to see a short video of Windows 8, there is a demonstration video below from This Is My Next. Do you think Microsoft and its partners have what it takes to challenge Apple's dominance in the tablet space?

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

chrisoldroyd

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Microsoft previews Windows 8 as desktop/tablet iPad rival

86 Comments

I gotta say, this is verrrrry appealing. Too many people I talk to are confused about tablets and their restrictions, especially the iPad but Android as well.
I believe this could reach mass market where current tablets seem more niche than anything.

What's wrong w/ a fan? It is a really early release and they are targeting other processors for release so this may be temporary but still...it isn't really a big deal.
I'll take cool over overheated any day. :)

Win8 is ARM compatible. Plus all apps in the marketplace will be ARM compatiable too. If you never jump into legacy desktop mode, heat will be a non issue

You do realize that only a complete ignoramus would equate pre-beta hardware and software with "final shipping products," right? Win8 tablets will ship on high end ARM based tablets with processors and graphics chips supplied by nVidia--all of which obliterate the current crop of tablet specs. Kal El (quad core CPU, 12 core GPU) is already near to shipping in consumer devices, and the next version with even more cores will be out by the time Win8 ships.

They still have the wrong aspect ratio. Ugh. 4:3 baby. 3:2 maybe. 16:9 is just stupid. It's even bad for a laptop. It's bad for small desktop monitors. 20+ inches with 1024 vertical pixels ok though.

I love 16:9 on my Galaxy Tab 10.1. It is perfect for media consumption. My MacBook Pro is a 16:10 aspect ratio.
So...nothing wrong with it IMHO.

Minimum resolution for Win8 is 1024x768. That's 4:3.
At that, though, 16:9 is still smarter, providing we can get bigger pixel counts. 1920x1080 is a good starting point.

This tablet looks boring...but that's Microsoft typical offering. I mean look at their phones, those "tiles" are hideous. Microsoft's corporate saying should be "Our super functionality will turn you into a amoeba."

Their information tiles are "hideous" but a row of static icons is "pretty"? Unless you're comparing the tiles to Android widgets...

It's not so much whether Windows works well on a tablet. Win 7 works great on my HP 2740p tablet convertible. Unfortunately it's a 4G, 2.5GHz dual core with lots of hard disk and cost $2500 without the docking station. It also weighs 4lbs and has around 5 hrs. battery.
Compare that with a "Cadillac" setup for iPad: <$1000 64GB iPad 3G with BT keyboard, external video connectors, stylus, dock, cover and case. Plus all my iPod apps carried over. It's really the most cost effective mobile solution out there.
Win 8 could be great if they live up to their promise. Microsoft has a mixed track record there. Successes like DOS 3.3, Win 3, Win 2000, Win XP, Win 7, but on the other hand they also gave us DOS 4.0, Win ME and Vista.

I completely agree. I fell in love with Metro last December when I went to buy an iPhone 4 and walked out with a Samsung Focus (a choice I've not regretted). My iPad, I'm afraid, has been a major disappointment, and using iOS on it feels a bit like using Windows 3.1--stale and antiquated.
I'll definitely be picking up a Windows 8 tablet to replace my iPad, quite likely an ARM version (hopefully Tegra 4 will be at the ready by the time it launches :).

Finally a tablet OS that is not just a mobile OS. With all the talk about tablets being the future they have to have the same functionality of a Pc/mac and this appears to do that.

Re: "they need to learn from previous mistakes"
If Microsoft learned from previous mistakes, they would had dominated the "media tablet" market years ago. iPad wouldn't have had a chance.
But no, Microsoft didn't learn, didn't improve Windows for tablets (or slates), and now they're years behind. A new layer of sizzle on top of tired old Windows won't even move the needle.

I don't know about the consumer market, but this could be a big hit in vertical markets if the price and battery life are right, and -- the biggest if -- if the experience of working with a "legacy" Windows application on a Windows 8 tablet is any good.
For example, some of the medical offices I work with wanted to switch to tablets as they switched from some paper records to all EMR. Unfortunately, their billing/EMR software is Windows-only. (The vendor says they are working on an iOS version, but it may be a year or more away.) We tried a couple of Windows tablets, and found them lacking. iOS and Android EMR offerings from other vendors were simply just not good enough. We even tried using VNC and Citrix style solutions on an iPad, but the staff found them too clunky, so we eventually fell back to small laptops, even though the tablet form factor would have been much better in this case.
The point of the long-winded story is that there are a lot of business out there who would love a tablet form factor but are constrained by legacy applications. If MS can pull it off, this would immediately be a huge hit in those markets.

Too funny - they are attempting to pull off an OS that even Apple would fail to be able to deliver on.
There is simply no possible way that you can successfully combine touch input with a full pc experience in one device. The complexities are just far too great.. let alone for Microsoft, with it's appalling track record on usability and interface design.
And if I hear anyone else marvelling at the Janet and John toybox icon tiled interface of W8 I will throw up.

Apple cut the cord that Microsoft can't cut. iOS 5 will no longer need a Mac or PC to be activated or to sync, thanks to iCloud. iOS devices will be true post-PC devices.
And how did Apple do that? By building a massive infrastructure to support iPhone and iPad. iTunes + iTunes Store + App Store + iCloud took 10 years to build. Apple built all that from the bottom up, and iPhone and iPad sit at the top of it all.
Microsoft thinks that building a similar pyramid from the top down will fool people. But a flashy OS plus generic tablets from their hardware partners just isn't enough. Tip with no iceberg. Frosting without the cake.

MS is trying to "fool" anybody -- they are simply playing to their strengths, just as Apple is. Both have the broadly similar goal of making a tablet a standalone device, with different approaches:
Apple was an also-ran in the PC wars, so they are building a huge infrastructure specifically to make their tablet not require a PC. End result: a standalone tablet.
MS owned the PC era, so they are making the tablet itself the PC. They are not "frosting without the cake" because their model puts the cake and the frosting in the tablet. iCloud may appear seamless, but MS's approach literally has no seams because it is the same device. End result: a standalone tablet.
Does that mean MS's approach is better? Not at all -- the end result standalone tablets still have to go head-to-head. We have seen that a lot of the iPad's strengths come from its shedding of legacy requirements, and it remains to be seen if Windows 8 can run a credible tablet carrying that extra weight. Since MS has failed at least twice in making a tablet OS, I personally am skeptical. But they are giving it another legitimate shot, and any more credible competition in the space should be welcome.

Replying to myself, but Andy Ihnatko wrote a mostly positive piece saying Windows 8 could put a crimp in Apple's sales, if MS manages to pull off a few things. While it could hurt the iPad, he feels a well-executed Win8 tablet would devastate Android, at least on tablets.

He's right, too, especially if Microsoft wisely exercises the same level of control over the "Out of the Box Experience" as it does on WP7 :)

If cutting the cord = post-pc, we passed that two years ago on Android. ;-)
Microsoft has a chance here. I know a slough of people who would get one of these instead of their next laptop [especially college kids].

Microsoft already has everything place for the same system and content delivery. Zune Software+ Zune/Xbox LIVE Market places + Skydrive.

You seem to have missed some key points. For one, iCloud runs on what? Oh yes, Windows Azure. Why? Because Apple's server products are garbage. For another, Windows devices have been syncing to Skydrive since, oh, 2008. There's no denying MS is late to the party with regards to building a touch UI, but here's the truth of the matter: by being late, they were able to see everything the competition did right, and everything they did wrong, and as a result, Metro is a superior touch UI to the antiquated iOS.
Your analysis, if indeed it can be called analysis at all, is really just the raving of a fanboy. See, the problem with Apple's "standalone" tablet is that even once iCloud launches, if you want to do REAL work you'll need a PC or Mac to get that work done, because the ipad simply isn't a workhorse. Meanwhile, Windows 8 tablets, whether they run on ARM or x86/x64, will fulfill both roles. Need to just consume some media and relax? Snag the tablet and hit the couch. Need to do some work? Dock it, connect your bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you're working seamlessly. Need more screen real estate? No problem, connect an HDMI monitor and you've got twice the screens.
This isn't a pyramid upside down, it's not frosting sans cake, and it's certainly no tip without an iceberg. Your "analysis" however, is "words without thought," from top to bottom.

... and you need to be a complete ignorant idiot to even suggest that iCloud runs on that POS called Azure !! Either that, or check (and fire ...) your sources !

That's right, I've only been a Systems Engineer for 15 years and worked with every brand of server and OS on the market, what could I possibly know? Clearly an Apple Fanboy on a forum has far more knowledge than I do.
Retard.

One minor factual correction. Apple did not build entirely from the ground up. iCould runs on Microsoft's Azure and Amazon's AWS infrastructure. Oh the irony.

Every tablet is competing with every other tablet. Just because the US Olympic basketball Dream Team dominated every other country back in the day, that didn't mean the other teams didn't compete with them. Of COURSE I'm playing semantics The point remains that we've grown an attitude of thought that just because iPad is seemingly unstoppable no other team should even bother playing. I don't own an iPad because my co-worker has one & I see it as a large iPhone. What I see differently here is a familiar WP7 interface BUT is utilizing the ample real estate that tablets provide to truly bridge the gap between desk/laptops & smartphones.

It will, and in all probability it will destroy the iPad simply because it's more capable, more modern and more intuitive :)

More intuitive?! Look how many times they have to swipe from various angles to get it to do what they want, miss, try again, miss, try again. There's nothing intuitive about that at all, those operations are all RTFM material otherwise you'd have no idea.
I give my iPad to my 76 year old dad with the only instructions of press here to start this app, when you're done, press the home button... that's it, the rest just flows from there. That's intuitive.

I realize that looking at the screenshots and whatnot doesn't tell you the entire story. However, when you actually USE Metro UI device, you very quickly learn just how intuitive it is. In the 10 minutes it took for the slow-ass AT&T clerk to find an iPhone 4 in the back, I'd learned all the basics of navigating the Samsung Focus and was so swayed that it changed my purchasing decision just that fast.
Think about it: I was a 2+ year iPhone junkie who was completely sold on the superiority and simplicity of iOS. In the space of 10 minutes, Metro convinced me not only of its superior performance, but of its superior ease and utility, enough to sway me away from 2+ YEARS of iOS love.
You won't believe me, of course, because you're biased and beholden to an old fashioned system. But spend a few hours with a Metro UI device--particularly one running Mango 7.5 (I've been running it for almost a month)--and you'll see just what an amazing piece of work it is.

"You won't believe me, of course, because you're biased and beholden to an old fashioned system."
I'm very open to new ideas and certainly open to competition in this space, it'll make everyone happier eventually. Proof will be in the testing and I'm looking forward to trying it. I just can't see it being as instantly user friendly as iOS. If that suggests iOS is too basic and somehow therefore limited, then so be it, but then that clearly appeals to many.

I'm glad to hear you're open to the new. In any case, my suggestion is both that iOS is too basic AND iOS is too complicated, all at the same time.
It is too basic in the sense that it's incredibly limited at the things it can do. One app at a time, no significant integration between apps, no manageable storage system and so on.
It is too complicated, on the other hand, in that getting to information in iOS is a task that requires endless opening and closing of disparate apps, navigating icons that frequently are not descriptive of what they are or do, etc.
Windows 8 with the Metro UI addresses all of these shortcomings. In point one, applications all focus around "Hubs," so for example it's easy to manage and integrate a ton of different apps that center around certain tasks, as they can all be accessed from a central location and can share data across applications. This is SEAMLESS and incredibly convenient. This means that, for example, any task related to, say, picture manipulation, is all integrated, whether the apps are "core" OS apps or they are 3rd party apps, they can ALL plug into the Hub and access data and functionality. Same holds true for Music and Video apps (Zune, for example, is the hub for these functions and integrates any related app--YouTube, Voodoo, Hulu--you name it), People management (Contacts including multiple sources such as Facebook, Google Contacts, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, including piped-in and aggregated feeds of updates from all these services, previewed on an automatically updating Live Tile), all kinds of stuff. No equivalent capability exists in iOS, not even in iOS 5.
You may be thinking, "Damn, that sounds like a lot of stuff and a lot of need to open a bunch of apps!" You're right, it does sound like it--but it's wrong. Any app, and certainly the hubs, can support Live Tiles, which aggregate and report information without any need to open an app. Want to see the current temperature and weather report in iOS? Gotta launch an app. In the Metro UI? Just glance at the Live Tile. Want to see if your friends updated their LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter/etc accounts on iOS? Whoops, gotta launch an app for each. In the Metro UI, all such feeds are aggregated into the People hub and previewed on the Live Tile, from each and every service. It'll tell you the number of updates, who updated, and cycle through pictures of people. Want to drill down and just have a tile display, say, certain friends, family members or coworkers? No problem--just make a group, pin the tile to the Start screen and it'll update just with the people you want to isolate.
What's so phenomenal about the Metro UI isn't the simplicity of its color schemes or the speed it can be swiped around--it's how much data it presents to the user without ever needing to launch an app at all. Metro is much, MUCH simpler to use than iOS.
At the other end of things, iOS is too simple in that it lacks useful productivity features. Need to run 2 apps side by side for easily getting things done? Sorry, no can do. Want to get an extra monitor, not merely a mirror of your iPad display? Sorry, no can do. Want to dock the device and use it like a real computer, with mouse and keyboard? Sorry, no can do. Sure, you can type in a word processor or notes app with a bluetooth keyboard, but there's no mouse possibility, and the sophistication of available programs is extremely limited. With Windows 8 (and personally, I'm betting on the ARM versions, though most will likely disagree), your tablet can do all the simple stuff you want with touch--watch videos, listen to music, surf the web, etc--just as easy, if not easier than, the iPad. But when you need to sit down and do some real work, you won't need to swap devices--just dock your tablet, plugin a bigger monitor and get busy :).
Jesus, I sound like a fuckin' commercial :). But that's just how significant the Metro UI really is. You remember that feeling when you got your first iPhone, about how liberating and life changing the experience was moving from either a dumb feature phone or a shitty old Windows Phone 6 or 5? That's how moving from an iPhone to a Metro UI phone (WP7, and even more so 7.5) feels, and I anticipate the same will be true for the desktop/tablet experience too :)

But FYI, those are not "RTFM material" at all. You'll be taught those basics inside 90 seconds of logging into the OS for the first time. And there are only 4 edges to any screen, it's not like you have to read a manual to try swiping across 4 edges. I GUARANTEE your 76 year old dad will have Metro figured out in no time flat. He'll also appreciate that once he has his apps installed, he'll have more information available to him at a glance, thanks to the Live Tiles, without opening a single app, than he would in iOS by opening 10 apps.

People also need to see that windows owns the pc market not apple so this is going to sell well compared to the android tabs... windows will prob sell more tablets than android idk if it will sell more than apple tho...

This is the constant of every new tablet that comes to market. Will it be a real competitor to iPad and iOS? The answer is always the same, no. Just look at bottom line earnings. Look at the number of units shipped. It's not only improbable for a tablet to compete, it's impossible. Apple reinvented the tablet market. Thus, the iPad gen 1 was the first of a new breed. In order for another company to compete they would have to come up with a new innovation to reinvent the tablet space. Now this is highly improbable as Apple is constantly filing and receiving new patent rights. i.e. 3D/holographic/touch technology signed this week

I'm downloaded the Windows 8 preview. Its still a work in progress but I'm impressed with what I see. Plus they will have an app store as well and you will be able to also run in the classic desktop shell. Something Apple and android will never be able to do.

Broken record. Broken record.
The MBA 11" should be 16:10 (1280x800) at most wide, 3:2 better and 4:3 would be nice. For bigger screens, the wider aspect ratio is good. I'd even go with 25:10 on something like a 24" to 30" screen with 1200 vertical pixels.
But for 10" screens meant for handheld, any-orientation use? 16:9 is just wrong. Really bad in portrait. The look of webpages and many apps will be too wide in landscape.

I don't think Microsoft needs to put the "full" Windows 8 onto a tablet. But they could have a version that supports metro UI only, much like WP7 does right now, for tablet style form factors only. Traditional desktop UI should remain there.
With Windows 8 there would be; Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Windows Tablet 8.

And from the looks of things, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 use the same core. The new Windows OS core is only 20MB.

That's exactly what I said :).
http://www.itworld.com/virtualization/189289/windows-8-hyper-v-and-minwi...
Win7 is where the "MinWin" project began, and now it's taken some major steps forward in Win8. According to this and other articles, the new MinWin OS core is only about 20MB. Now, that doesn't meant the entire OS is, of course--there are a lot of things that go on top of the OS besides just the core--but at it's heart, this is why and where the new Windows will be much more efficient than any of its predecessors, and able to carry off its herculean task as an OS that can fit itself onto many different kinds of devices.
Since Vista, which, let's face it, was a bloated pig of an OS that they punted into the world purely out of the desperation that comes from being delayed for YEARS, Microsoft's major goals have been the reduction and optimization of Windows. Windows 7 proved that they'd done a good job, and from the looks of things, Windows 8 appears to take it to a whole other level.

4:3 is "90's" if you only use it in landscape. 4:3 is the best compromise when you take both orientations into account, as one should when designing a tablet.
16:9 fails hard in portrait mode.

The whole problem with Microsoft's Tablet Adventures™ is that they don't trust Metro enough, to go all-in with it.
Windows 8 should be kept for the desk/laptop.

The beauty of Windows 8 is that it can do all of that, and when you need more--it can deliver more. Ipad can't, and unless Apple makes a major, MAJOR overhaul to the antique that is iOS, it won't anytime soon.

If that's so, I'd love for you to tell me in what way :). I've owned an iPad for quite awhile now, and know numerous people who also own them. It can't replace a computer, only supplement it :)

It uses the same UI as WP7, and that's a GOOD thing. Metro is hands down the best UI on the market. I dumped my iPhone for WP7 and I've never been happier with a phone. It's faster, more fluid and more stable than any iDevice I've owned (which includes an iPhone, iPod touch and an iPad 3G).
Microsoft finally got the picture, and with metro they nailed it. This is the future of computing UI's.

I wonder on which planet you live. WP7 is too little too late ... should have been there 3 years ago (at least) !!! Faster ?? More fluid ?? You must have been using the iPhone and wrote it wrong, or whatever you smoked was really good ;-)

I live on Earth. I do prefer, however, to remain unbiased and honest. You might want to try it sometime.
Yes, MS was late to the party, but that doesn't change the fact that they got it RIGHT :)
And no, I wasn't using the iPhone. If I had, it would have taken twice as long to do :)

Microsoft was extremely late to the party. However, I too live on Earth and I can indeed confirm the faster/more fluid comments. I love many of the features on my Samsung Focus WP7, but the two best are when I'm standing next to an iPhone user who says "wow, that's fast" and "you have signal in here?". I know that will sound like fanboi trash talk, but it's an honest to God better UI and those are true life comments. I live in Portland and I've spent years enduring snide comments from my Apple hispter friends. I now have a WP7 Samsung Focus and a Win7 Samung Series 9 laptop (looks like a black MacBook Air). I now hear crickets from that crowd. Win8 has a lot of potential. I have no concerns about MS execution on x86. My hope is that they nail it with ARM. That's the real story with tablet/mobile. They need to get that right and into the market fast. The Win8 UI is superior. So is it's power and app ecosystem, but if the ARM support is botched, it will only be another nice desktop upgrade.

This looks promising...
Did you notice how much they struggled in the video to demonstrate the swiping, etc? I think that needs some work. I don't want to try 3 or 4 times to get it. But, then again, maybe they aren't familiar with it...

Wow, not just an Apple fanboy, but a coward, too. Nice lack of personality, "Guest"--just like all the other sheep in the Apple camp :P

Um, I'm saying the MBA 11" should 16:10 at it's most wide. In parentheses: 1280x800, that would be the resolution for the 11" 16:10 aspect ratio screen. This is the resolution Apple has been using on its 13" screens for a while now.
I was disappointed to see the MBA 11" have a 16:9 1366x768 screen and I wouldn't buy it. 768 vertical pixels isn't enough for most of what I do, and the negative space caused by the 1366 horizontal pixels on such a small screen is distracting, not helpful. It's poor design.
I don't dislike widescreens. Nay, I'd take a 25:10 30" screen over having 2 4:3 20" screens for a desktop display. But eyes on the prize. Tablets are any orientation handheld devices. The best natural fit for that would be something nearer to 4:3.

Just asking but wouldn't almost or all PC programs need to be rewritten to run on ARM devices? Why would a developer go through all that trouble? Just having the Metro UI would seem far better then having windows os apart of it. Kudos to Microsoft for doing something different though.

Where is this "90%" figure from? Wtf.. Aren't consumers content creators too? Of course they are... They (we) take photos, make a home video etc..

This is amazing! I had the iPad then sold it for the PlayBook. Both are okay but If ind there's just too much you rely on a traditional computer to do, so I end up whipping out my MacBook or ThinkPad to do other tasks. I love how with this you can use it as a tablet to do quick common tasks, but then you still have the ability to just jump back to the desktop and edit a document in MS Word or whatever without using 3rd party apps that "try" to show you the document as it's supposed to look.

It's a shame to see Microsoft sending up yet another pre-launch so-outdated-looking OS. It's better to fade away with some dignity.

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Hi guys! I watched your demonstration videos with flash video support on my HTC Desire, Android 2.2 I had an iPhone 3GS but I'm sick of Apples bullcrud, it stopped working and they wouldn't replace it even within the warranty period,, I loved your software tho, the games that come from it are great!