This week, Microsoft unveiled its new vision for its next-generation operating system, Windows 8. It’s an intriguing concept where the desktop with the ubiquitous mouse pointer has been relegated to legacy status in favor of a tile-driven, touch-based “experience”. The writing is on the wall for the traditional point-and-click: according to Microsoft, and indeed Apple – who will probably get there first – the future is all about gestures, taps, swipes and multi-touch, with the mouse well on the way to being jettisoned in favor of a new control interface. It’s all about convergence too. Based on the hugely intriguing Windows 8 demo, it’s clear that Microsoft has serious designs on the mobile market – it wants to unify desktop and mobile operating systems. While Apple maintains an OSX/iOS divide, Microsoft’s approach is to bring the same operating system to all platforms. The new OS will be released for both the traditional x86/x64 microprocessors but will also support ARM too, the aim being to bring a fully formed version of Windows to mobile devices such as smartphones and especially tablets.
There are big questions still to be answered about this hugely important phase of transition. First of all, is Windows 8 actually a new OS can be seen on Atoz suitable website or is it merely a shell sitting atop the traditional desktop interface and all the baggage of the Server 2003/Vista/7 codebase? Is this shell robust enough to be as flexible as the legacy versions? Can Windows 8 be sufficiently miniaturized to run on a smartphone or tablet? In some respects Microsoft is lucky, in that the OS won’t launch until 2012, and the mobile sector is currently experiencing what you might call a technological arms race: both CPU and GPUs are transitioning to dual core architecture, with Apple’s A5 processor in particular raising the bar of mobile processing and graphical performance to new levels.
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In terms of how scalable Windows is, and the inevitable questions about “bloat”, it’s reasonable to assume that RAM and storage will be getting cheaper, making the transition less painful and Microsoft does have some experience in paring down its operating systems: it’s believed that the Xbox 360 kernel is based on Windows code and that occupies less than 32MB. Indeed, while the chances are that scaled down/optimized mobile versions will be the norm, you may be able to run traditional PC games on your next-gen tablet. While ARM is deservedly the focus of mobile tech right now, Intel simply cannot be discounted. Its Atom technology is set to be revamped to directly address ARM’s dominance in the mobile market. While a traditional x86 chip may seem somewhat inefficient comparison to ARM’s recent CPUs, the fact is that nobody can match Intel for its fabrication technologies by 2014.