Windows 8 First Thoughts

One of the best things about Twitter is the community that comes together for events. A good example of this was today’s Microsoft Built Conference where Windows 8 was unveiled to developers and those following the live stream around the world.

Three years I ago I owned a Windows PC and a Windows Mobile phone. The bulk of my hardware upgrade dollars went to Intel and most of my software purchases lined Microsoft’s pockets.

Today, my family owns two iPhones, half a dozen iPods, and two iPads. I haven’t upgraded my PC in a few years because I’ve migrated probably 40% of my computing time to Apple products. Tasks like email and reading my RSS feeds are done nearly exclusively on my iPhone or iPad. I watch videos, play games, and Facetime with my parents on my iPad. When I need to write a blog post or an email that’s more than a few sentences, I still prefer my PC.

When I think about it, the most important task my PC does is charge my Apple devices and sync them with iTunes.

Should Microsoft be worried about someone like me?

Maybe. But they should be scared to death that my four children are growing up without any need for Microsoft products. They’d rather play games on the iPod Touch or the iPad. My spouse, who had never touched an Apple product until three years ago, is hooked on her iPad and iPhone. She spends far less time on her PC than I do, and has been clamoring for an iMac or MacBook Pro for a year.

I still rely on a handful of products that work best on a Windows PC, and I enjoy selecting the components that go into my Lian-Li case. But the rest of my family has no such loyalty and specs don’t matter as much to me anymore. I just want stuff to work.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we spend more money in a month at Apple’s App Store than we’ve spent on Microsoft products in the past two years. That should be enough to get Microsoft’s attention because I’m sure there are thousands of families like mine who are in considering a switch.

This brings me back to today’s Build Conference where I was interested to see if Microsoft would showcase innovative features in Windows 8 that might keep a PC hanging around our home for a few more years.

With Windows 8 about a year away, according to rumors, my family will continue to frequent the Apps Store, further entrenching us into the Apple ecosystem. There’s no doubt that Windows 8 will be a hit on desktop PCs. Even the troubled Windows Vista sold hundreds of millions because Microsoft is still the dominant desktop OS.

But I’m not sure if Windows 8 on a tablet created by an OEM puts Microsoft on par with the iPad. A PC typically sits on or under a desk where build quality isn’t always apparent. But a tablet rests in your hands while you use it. How it feels to you is important, and the iPad feels sexy and oozes quality. Maybe Sony can pull of something comparable, but I don’t believe the likes of Samsung, HTC, or Dell have a clue how to design anything close to the iPad. If they can’t make a PC or a phone I’d want to buy today what makes me think they can design a tablet in the future?

For that reason, my early Windows 8 prediction is that it receives a warm welcome from consumer and business desktops when it ships next year. But with the iPad 3 launching shortly, I believe Microsoft will have as difficult a time competing with the iPad as they are currently having with Windows Phone 7 failing to curtail iPhone momentum.

And one suggestion for Sinofsky and his team: PICK 5 Features That Demo Well.  

The guy who showed the quick boot times was fantastic. He dove deep into his feature and showed quick boot times on a myriad of devices. But the first woman on stage was such a disaster that Sinofsky had to repeatedly correct her or add to her confusing descriptions.  I can’t recall a single feature she mentioned. Five killer features beat twenty lackluster features any time, and especially in a demo presentation.

I’m interested to test Windows 8 on my own PC. I’ve got it running in a virtual machine, and will follow up with my impressions once I spend more time with it. As much as I enjoy my Apple products, I want to see Microsoft compete hard with them. It’s good for consumers and our wallets if we have a choice among great products.

windows 8
This is your new desktop, the first thing you see when logging into Windows 8

Of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about with Windows Explorer

The new Task Manager. even the charts got the Metro treatment