Microsoft has unveiled its Windows 8 operating system, bringing the software giant fully into the world of the touchscreen user interface. Even on PCs, Windows 8 users will touch the screen to access familiar Windows applications. The touchscreen UI is designed, of course, with tablets and smartphones in mind. Microsoft’s new Surface tablets will run Windows 8, as will the next generation of its Lumia smartphones made by Nokia.
Windows Phone 8 appears to improve on some of the perceived shortcomings in Windows Phone 7. Some Lumia users have complained about not being able to change the look for their home screens, but Microsoft says that with Windows Phone 8 users will be able to have more tiles on the screen, and choose from more home screen colors.
Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, says these improvements could encourage some potential Windows phone buyers to wait until later this year, when the new smartphones will be available. “Because WP7 is not truly upgradeable to WP8, this could have a negative impact on sales of existing WP7 smartphones, Nokia’s Lumia devices in particular,” says Saadi. “Operators and users will hold on until the new devices are in the market this coming autumn. This will have a serious impact on Nokia’s financial performance this quarter as the company relies strongly on Windows Phones as the main platform for its smartphones.” Saadi also considers Windows 8 a true challenge to the “ageing Apple iOS.”
Unlike other mobile operating systems, Windows 8 will allow users to place two open applications beside one another on the home screen. Familiar applications like Word and Excel will be able to run right beside Microsoft’s newer, HTML 5-enabled apps.
The combination of the workplace tools that have made Microsoft so successful and the interactive applications that consumers now demand could make Windows 8 very attractive to enterprise customers. Corporate IT departments are spending millions securing iOS and Android devices that their employees bring from home and use for work. But Windows is already part of many corporate networks, so presumably connecting and securing Windows devices would be less costly.
Microsoft’s ability to convert dedicated Apple loyalists remains to be seen, but those who carry phones running Google’s Android operating system are probably an easier target. A recent study found that outside the iOS world, 75% of new handset buyers switch brands when upgrading.
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