Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer arrives to give his presentation at the launch of Microsoft Windows 8, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Confession: I am not a Windows User. I have been a Linux and MacOS user, but when I saw Windows 8, Microsoft's latest operating system platform, it seduced me enough to take a closer look. It has been packaged to look good and runs on the rock-solid Windows 7 base which has been around for sometime. Windows has evolved to be an OS that is minimalist, yet rich; beautiful yet productive, and seamless across devices -- be it a tablet, a PC or even a phone. Above all, the touchscreen functionality, the main selling point of Windows 8, rocks.
Microsoft says that Windows 8 has been re-imagined to focus on your life, and its fluid design gives you instant access to people, apps and stuff. It does this by using a new start screen that has live tiles with updated information. So you can launch a weather app by clicking on the weather icon -- and if you don't, it still keeps getting updated like an always-on TV screen. If you are playing music, the "Now Playing" title keeps getting updated similarly.
And when you launch Microsoft Word, you are back in the habitual Windows mode. You can finish work on your familar desktop and get back to the tile mode. This is a bit uncomfortable, perhaps but has been done to improve compatibility with apps. You could say you can swing between the comfortably familiar with an adventurous enagement with the new.
You can install old apps using the Windows XP / Windows 7 that you are used to, or install apps from the Windows Store, which has thousands of apps (and more coming in to catch up with the lag that it has compared with the Android and iOS/MacOS platforms). There is a "family safety" setting that helps you screen apps for your children. You can manage different profiles in the same household when there are several devices using the same system. Windows 8 Also integrates all your contacts in one place.
Whether they are on your Outlook.com mail interface, your Windows Messenger, Facebook, Twitter or Gmail, or a few other services, you can connect them or keep them separate, but if you connect them, you have a fully connected address book where not only do you see updates from your contacts, but you can communicate with them from right there.
The biggest problem faced by users migrating from one machine or platform to another is the business of keeping data and files in sync. Now, with an integration to the Skydrive (online storage) in the Internet "cloud" forming the backdrop, all your files can be accessed through the online storage. But do remember that this eats up Internet bandwidth. You need to have a high-speed data plan to transfer files easily. With the "family safety" approach, you can set up Web filters and monitor your children, get weekly reports on online activities and set up time restrictions. Just right for Cyber Age parents.
In performance checks with Windows 8, I found some machines worked much faster with it than with Windows 7. Since Windows 7 is in the background of the new software, there are no connectivity or compatibility issues. There is a built-in Windows anti-malware protection to enhance your security from start-up to shut-down.
The biggest pain point I had with Windows in the past was that I would start the machine and it would say the system needs a reboot to install updates. Microsoft has finally resolved this. Now you can set up the timings for rebooting to install updates.
Your productive time is guarded.
Windows 8 to me is a beautiful upgrade, and works. But only time can tell whether there will be significant bugs in it or not. I am still unsure as to whether I will shift to this as my favourite OS but I will certainly get myself a Windows 8 machine - especially a touchscreen-enabled one. The whole touch thing is well done.