Windows 8 – why it isn’t an iOS copycat

This week saw the latest step towards the release of Windows 8, the next major version of Microsoft’s operating system that represents one of the biggest changes in the history of the platform.

We now have a clearer picture of how Microsoft is positioning it to an industry that’s shifted its purchases from desktops to notebooks, and now portable devices like tablets and smartphones.

In short, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s big answer to that broadening landscape: a product that can power nearly all machines, with an interface that can adapt along the way. That right there is one of the biggest differences between Microsoft’s vision of computing and Apple’s, which created a separate OS to power its portables, while keeping the desktop OS for its Intel-based machines.

However that separation has led to a difference in the way consumers look at operating systems, particularly with how often that software is updated, bringing new features to hardware months and years after a purchase. By splitting up the two OSes, Apple was able to iterate quickly, rolling out major releases on an annual basis, while continuing to offer Mac OS X updates at their usual rate. Now the big question is how that will work with Windows 8 with regards to Metro, Microsoft’s touch-friendly UI that’s been designed for tablets running Windows 8.

Microsoft has traditionally released a new version of Windows every few years, but tablet users are now accustomed to more frequent feature updates. For proof of that, you can look at the iPad, which launched without multitasking and a number of other features the iPhone had, only to get it later with a software update. Android users face a similar future, with the promise of additional software updates.

Comparatively, Microsoft has saved those big feature updates for major releases, and charged for them too. This has created a cycle where developers in the Apple camp can depend software updates to build on top of: Mac OS X developers have come to expect a major update every few years, with iOS getting updates every year.

The major thing Microsoft has going for it with Windows 8 is how much more open it is to letting third-parties make adjustments to the operating system itself. On the non-Metro side of Windows this is unchanged, with backwards compatibility for apps, a bevy of third-party plug-ins, and software that can run behind the scenes to custom-tailor your computing experience. What’s unclear is how that will shape up on the Metro side of Windows 8.

The plan is to allow both users and developers to create and use applications that can tailor themselves to run on just about any hardware, and change the very deepest parts of Windows to a user’s exact liking. If Microsoft can deliver that with Windows 8, it will be treading ground that Apple hasn’t.

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About SCB Enterprises
System Solutions and Integration

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