Windows 8

Sep 19, 2013

Windows 8Most of us have had high expectations regarding Windows 8, as this operating system was considered to be the most important software upgrade from Microsoft, in the last decade. Even though there are still mixed feelings about Windows 8, the new operating system from Microsoft comes with a bundle of improvements, and a new perspective on desktop OS. More precisely, Microsoft improved the NT kernel (current version being NT 6.2), and this resulted in a more fluent user experience and better computer performances.

The boot time is significantly faster (sometimes 70%) - many tests have shown that Windows 8 is faster and smoother than Windows 7, while using the same hardware. This is quite an achievement, considering that Windows 7 is a fast and fluent operating system.

The desktop experience in Windows 8 is great, and although there are no major changes that the user can observe, the overall improvements provide a great user experience. Along the most important improvements, there are:
  - New task manager: which can be used to show basic information, for basic users, or can be used by experienced users in a more advanced mode
  - New dialog box for copying files: multiple downloads can be handled in the same dialog box, each individual download can be paused and resumed, file-name collisions have more options for resolving the conflict
  - Other features, such as: the new ribbon interface - which provides shortcuts for many useful commands, cloud-based account syncing, improved support for multi-monitor setups etc.

Security won't be an issue in Windows 8 due to features, such as:
  - Built-in antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials software is now an integrated part of Windows 8
  - Secure boot requires a valid digital certificate for the applications that run during boot and prevents software without a valid digital certificate from running
  - The Early Launch Anti-Malware (ELAM) loads anti-malware drivers before the applications, assuring that all that runs at start-up is properly verified

Also, Windows 8 has a good backwards compatibility with Windows 7 software and companies don’t need to purchase other software suites in order to replace the older ones. Also, some of the new features can prove valuable to any company:
  - Refresh your PC and Reset your PC: These options allow the user to revert the operating system to default factory settings. The Refresh option will maintain the user’s personal files and configuration settings, while deleting the applications. The Reset option deletes all programs, configuration settings and user personal files
  - An administrator can use Storage system to group multiple drives under the same logical drive letter and he can plug an USB hard-drive to expand the already present logical drive letter when more space is needed
  - Windows To Go allows the user to boot and run Windows 8 on any machine, from a supported portable storage device (Memory stick, external HDD etc.)

However, the biggest and most controversial change that Microsoft brought to Windows 8 is the removal of the Start Menu and the introduction of Metro[1], a brand new user interface that is suitable for touch screen devices. Microsoft wanted Windows 8 to reach both desktop and mobile market, so this hybrid operating system was the outcome. Although Metro was rejected by many users as being not very user-friendly (at least not for desktop), when using it on a tablet, the user experience is great, and even if it might take a while to get used to it, swiping through the tiles becomes very enjoyable.

The sales of Windows 8 were very weak in the first half of the year (even weaker than the sales that Vista had at launch), but things are getting better, and right now it has almost 7.5% market share. It seems that Windows 8 wanted to be the best of both worlds (desktop and mobile), but it still struggles to convince users to upgrade from Windows 7.

In spite of this, Windows 8 remains one of Microsoft's most innovative products, and with a new free upgrade (Windows Blue), this operating system will not leave the market for a while.

[1] In August 2012, it was announced that Microsoft will "discontinue the use" of the "Metro" naming, due to a possible infringement issue. Later on, in September "Microsoft design language" was released as the new official name of the design style.

Other articles in this series:

1. The beginnings
2. First steps in operating systems
3. Windows 1.0
4. Windows 2.0
5. Windows 3.0
6. Windows 95
7. Windows 98
8. Windows Me
9. Windows 2000
10. Windows XP
11. Windows Vista
12. Windows 7
13. Windows 8