By Thomas Scott
The release of Windows 8 last Friday has peaked the interest of many current users of Microsoft’s products.
The Washington based firm has been canvassing television and cyberspace alike with ads touting the new operating system along with Surface, the company’s new line of tablets.
According to Forbes, Microsoft allocated up to $1.8 billion for the launch. In contrast, President Barack Obama and his supporters have raised $934 Million for his reelection bid. Nevertheless, the tandem release has been highly anticipated, which has been a boost for Microsoft, whose image was marred by the release of Windows Vista in 2007.
Yet Windows 8, whose development began before the 2009 release of Windows 7; is not like previous versions . One new feature allows users to boot Windows from a flash drive or some type of physical media other than a computer’s hard drive. This capability, dubbed Windows To Go, was previously only seen in open source operating systems such as TAILS or Knoppix. One of the most jarring differences from previous releases is the lack of an iconic start button which can be found in the bottom left-hand corner of previous versions of Windows.
The start button is not the only feature that was scrapped. The start menu has been replaced by Microsoft’s Metro User Interface which has a ‘charms bar’ that allows users to access apps in a manner similar to the start menu of previous versions.
The software package also includes a traditional desktop for nostalgic users.
Windows’ software will also autonomously set up mobile broadband connections when a SIM card is inserted. An optimized version of Adobe’s Flash Player, which allows users to view content such as Youtube videos, is also included with the software package. Apple’s IOS, which runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, does not support Flash, instead favoring HTML5.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which is bundled with Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2013, sports a detachable keyboard that also protects the tablet when folded. There are 2 types of keyboards available that vary in thickness. The keyboards also have an accelerometer and a gyroscope, which help the device determine when to accept an input.
The tablet has 32 Gigabytes of local storage and also supports both MicroSD cards and USB. Apple’s competing iPad does not contain either feature. Yet like the iPad, users whose tablets run Windows RT, an alternative to Windows 8, which caters specifically to Surface; all software that runs on the platform will be completely proprietary. What this means is that all applications that a user seeks to install on his or her tablet must be vetted by Microsoft and come from the Windows Store, a marketplace for Applications akin to Apple’s App Store. Programs in the Windows Store are designed to work best with touchscreen devices.
Microsoft’s new approach to computing is perhaps a recognition of the new dynamic of computing.
According to Forbes, the sale of traditional personal computers has been stagnant since 2010. Meanwhile, the sale of tablets has seen a surge in recent years, with Apple and Android operating systems dominating the tablet market.
Microsoft has timed the release of Surface and Windows at a tenuous period.
Apple’s iPad Mini is expected to ship out on November 2nd. The iPad Mini has a 7 inch screen with a higher pixel density than the iPad 2, which was released in March of 2011.
Surface does have price on its side, costing $499 as opposed to the iPad Mini, which costs $599 and sports comparable features to Surface.