Touching Windows 8

If you have an interest in PC software and, in particular, operating systems, you’ll probably remember the milestones in each consumer release of Microsoft Windows. You may have fond memories of some versions, eg, Windows XP. Others, like Windows Me, might bring back some hostile thoughts.

I have such memories from when I first used Windows back in the mists of time (it was Windows 2.0). Mostly, though, I like to recall ground-breaking moments such as the releases of Windows 3.1 (the version that introduced a new world of user experience), Windows 95 (bringing you genuine plug-and-play among its many innovations) and the current Windows 7 (getting the promise of the disappointing Windows Vista right).

As the hardware on which the software would run became ever more powerful, reliable and affordable, versions such as these changed the game in giving more people access to the tech tools that enabled them to be more productive, develop ideas and share them with others.

The forthcoming Windows 8  – to be released in 2012 – has a similar ground-breaking look about it, judging from a concept video released by Microsoft on June 1.

(If you don’t see the video embedded here, watch it at YouTube.)

This isn’t about look and feel so much as it is about touch and feel. What we’re increasingly accustomed to on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in how we interact with such devices and what we experience from that interaction will be central to the Windows 8 experience, complementing the traditional expectation of interaction using keyboard and mouse.

Microsoft’s optimistic vision clearly shows a path many people will want to travel along:

[…] And this isn’t just about touch PCs. The new Windows experience will ultimately be powered by application and device developers around the world — one experience across a tremendous variety of PCs. The user interface and new apps will work with or without a keyboard and mouse on a broad range of screen sizes and pixel densities, from small slates to laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, and even classroom-sized displays. Hundreds of millions of PCs will run the new Windows 8 user interface. This breadth of hardware choice is unique to Windows and central to how we see Windows evolving.

It got me thinking about my wife’s desktop computer she bought in 2009 – an Acer Aspire Z5610 running Windows 7. It has a 23-inch touch screen. I always thought it was a bit ahead of its time. Looks like the promise of what that device can deliver may be fully realized in 2012.

Read more about Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8 at the Microsoft News Center.

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