Business

Microsoft re-imagines Windows software

By Paul Rodgers Business Editor rodgersp@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 26, 2012    

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Say goodbye to your desktop.

Microsoft launches its latest operating system, Windows 8, today amid assurances that it's going to be a "game changer".

And whether or not it will alter how we work, play and chat with our friends, it looks strikingly different from earlier versions of the world's dominant software.

Gone are the tiny, static icons scattered across a limited desktop space. Instead, Windows 8 has larger tiles bearing graphic logos, photographs or videos.

In many ways, it's designed to feel like the interface in Microsoft's Xbox game console.

"It's Windows re-imagined," said Marcelle Smart, the country manager for Microsoft Jamaica, during an exclusive preview for the Jamaica Observer earlier this week.

Many of the tiles present current data — such as reminders of meetings, the latest news bulletin, or the number of messages waiting to be read — without having to be clicked.

And they are presented on a "start screen" that scrolls left and right at the stroke of a finger.

"We used to think of Windows as a keyboard mouse and click interface," Smart said as she demonstrated Windows 8. "It's the fluidity and the interfacing that's new."

This "uncompromising" user experience begins with the logon screen, which you can unlock either by typing in a traditional password or by tapping or dragging your finger across the image on the screen in a sequence you have previously set.

"Consumers love it," she said. "Most prefer dots, often on the eyes, mouths or noses of their children."

Microsoft has designed the new system with the latest computer developments in mind, from touch-screens to social media. And it works across platforms, from desktops to tablets and even phones.

The whole system can be run from a 4GB USB thumb drive, allowing users to transfer everything from work to home to internet cafe.

Another change is the way it "seamlessly" integrates different applications, said Smart, pointing to the "people hub",

The hub allows users to stay in contact with friends and colleagues on different social media platforms without having to switch applications.

Beneath the user-interface, however, the operating system is similar to Windows 7.

"Any app that exists in the Windows 7 environment can be placed as a tile," she said. "Generally, apps built to run in Windows 7 will run in Windows 8."

Smart is hopeful that the new software will drive Jamaica's computer sector forward.

"Windows 8 is going to help to invigorate the ICT industry," she said. "It's an opportunity for developers."

Applications developed on the island will be available to customers using 750 million devices in 200 countries, she said. "For every dollar of revenue we bring to the market, our partners generate 12 times as much."

Microsoft says the new software has been welcomed by developers and hardware manufacturers alike.

Windows 8 set a new Guiness world record last month in Bangalore, India, for the largest hackathon — a meeting where developers compete to write new applications in a limited time.

Microsoft Jamaica will be hosting a launch party next month at Fiction's Lounge in Kingston.

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