Microsoft is welcoming around 5,000 developers to its BUILD conference today to unveil the most significant change in the PC space since Windows 95.
“It’s a launch,” explains Windows chief Steven Sinofsky. “It’s a launch of an opportunity for developers. That’s a lot, it’s a big deal to do today and tomorrow,” he says during an opening address to media and analysts in Anaheim California. You sense the sense of excitement in the room and the realisation that Windows 8 is a really big deal for Microsoft, a deal that cannot go wrong.
“We are very very excited about what we have to do,” says Sinofsky. Microsoft is only at the beginning of its discussions on Windows 8 after kicking off the product planning in June 2009, five months before the release of Windows 7. It’s clear that Microsoft is doing huge amounts of work behind the scenes for Windows 8. Sinofsky highlights the work in Windows 7 as a foundation for the building of Windows 8. “Windows 8 makes windows 7 even better,” he claims before explaining that Microsoft has designed Windows 8 with Windows 7 in mind, everything that runs on Windows 7 runs on Windows 8.
- Approaching 450,000,000 copies of Windows 7 sold
- Windows 7 usage greater than Windows XP
- 1,502 seamless non-security product code changes delivered
- Internet Explorer 9 is the fastest growing Windows 7 browser
- 542,000,000 people signing into Windows Live Services
“Windows 8 is a bold re-imagination of what windows could be,” according to Sinofsky. The “re-imagination” starts immediately from when a user switches on their Windows 8 PC. Microsoft has overhauled the Windows lock screen to match its Windows Phone one and it makes the experience functional and simplify beautiful. As you unlock a Windows 8 PC you’re immediately presented with the new Start Screen interface with its bold colors, live tiles and stunning look and feel. The interface replaces the aged Start Menu in Windows and hints at the future of Windows and computing in general. The simple fact that Microsoft has removed the Start Menu and created this unique and compelling interface is an incredibly risky strategy for the company. You immediately understand why Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, described the product at the company’s riskiest bet.
Microsoft isn’t leaving this risk to total chance however. The company has been validating all of the changes with Windows customers. The company showed some consumer research videos where every day folk get a hands on with early copes of Windows 8 and say what they see. “It looks cool,” says one female customer as she describes how she has to search for apps on her current desktop. One college student is excited at the prospect of Windows 8 as she can snap Facebook to the side of the screen during class whilst she uses Excel on the right hand site. The personalisation and customisation of Windows 8 is what will strike at the heart of end users. The experience of setting up a Windows 8 PC turns into an emotional attachment where your data is no longer static and hidden in apps but flows freely from app to app in a beautiful and well thought out way. Microsoft loves the idea of apps but in Windows 8 the company has an opportunity to reimagine how they work with each other.
The sea of change in Windows 8 is breathtaking and overwhelming. It’s difficult to understand how Microsoft will pull this off. The company is often accused of not being agile enough to switch directions or truly innovate. That certainly isn’t the case under Sinofsky. The clean and secretive development schedule of Windows 7 and 8 have created a new buzz around Windows. The world is waiting to see and hear what will be unveiled today, a historic day for computing and Microsoft. The software giant will show a number of features that aren’t baked into the developer preview build that attendees will receive but they demonstrate how much work the company is undertaking. This is a bigger vision than Windows Longhorn and a much bigger concept than Windows 95. Windows 8 is simply mind blowing.