Window 8 has been unveiled, in a keynote speech at MWC by Microsoft’s president of Windows, Steven Sinofsky. Demostrating the OS on a range of devices, Sinofsky called the most radical redesign since Windows 95.
In the hours since, a free preview has been made available for PC users. But, you might ask, what’s all that got to do with mobile?
First of all, the fact that this happened at MWC is, in itself, hardly insignificant. Rather than choosing to take the wraps off its next big thing at CES in January, Windows picked a mobile event. That should send a clear message about where its thoughts are right now.
Although the public beta ‘preview’ isn’t available on mobile devices, the commercial release will be. There will be two versions of Windows 8 – one for PCs, and one designed for the ARM microprocessors found in Tablets and smartphones. And, based on Microsoft’s preview, both versions look to have been designed with mobile devices, and Tablets devices particularly, in mind.
The OS borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7, lifting its tile-based interface wholesale. The introduction of an app store, and the touchscreen-friendly design are also reminiscent of a mobile OS.
Craig Cartier, analyst for ICT practice at global consultancy Frost & Sullivan, thinks the cross-platform move is a tactical one. “While Microsoft dominates market share in PC operating systems, it has struggled in the smartphone sphere, never surpassing the low single-digits in market share,” Cartier says. “Windows needs a foothold in the mobile space if it is to continue to be one of the world premiere technology brands, and it is desperately grasping for one.”
Windows 8 is “the next weapon in Microsoft’s mobile arsenal,” according to Cartier. “Microsoft recognises the future of its business will be hugely affected by mobile, and that’s why Windows 8 is built to be a cross-platform OS: delivering the same experience on the PC, laptop and tablets. Tablets are an important and growing part of the mobile world, and while they have found their initial niche as multimedia-centric devices, the jury is still out on what role they will play in the future device ecosystem. But, for now, Microsoft is showing it will fight for this important and growing piece of the mobile space from its platform of historical strength – the Microsoft Windows OS family.”
Windows 7 users can access the ‘consumer preview’ release here.