Although a bit late, Microsoft, dominant in both the PC and office suite markets, broke into touch-screen computing last Friday by unveiling its latest Windows 8 operating system in Singapore.
Microsoft takes a new approach with the user interface for Windows 8.
At the launch, Microsoft labelled Windows 8 the new era of non-compromised computer experience.
"Users no longer need to choose between the fun and convenience of a tablet and the power and productivity of a PC," said Alvaro Celis, vice-president of Microsoft Asia-Pacific.
"When you are working on a laptop with Windows 8, on document or whatever, once you are done and want to look up any apps on the Windows Store with touchscreen, you can do that. With new hardware, you can have a new experience, can do anything, work with touch, you can have a keyboard, a mouse, websites, and Windows," he said.
Celis explained what Microsoft called non-compromised computing experience by showing "Ruang Lao Chao Nee", a Thai application available online at the Windows Store, that allows users to watch live programmes while working on their document with just one swipe.
Microsoft announced a suite of new software for download at the Windows Store with the launch of Windows 8. The store is the download hub for a variety of devices including Windows 8 PCs, notebooks and tablets.
Windows Store will be available in every language offered for Windows, and apps will be available in 231 markets around the world.
Apart from "Raung Lao Chao Nee", some other Thai applications available are Major, Thairath and Ensogo. Microsoft did not disclose how many apps are available on the Windows Store so far, it just mentioned that most of the top apps are being offered, and that new ones will be added, both for enterprises and consumers, and updated regularly.
Users experiment at the launch of Windows 8.
In conjunction with the launch of Windows 8 came the announcement of 50 different hardware models for Asia-Pacific, and 32 models in Thailand such as Sony, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, etc. Worldwide, more than 1,000 devices are Windows 8 ready. Launched at the same time was a new member of the Windows family designed for ARM-based tablets, Windows RT, which runs on thinner, lighter machines with lower-energy and longer battery life. These devices won't run any programmes written for other versions of Windows, they can run only applications downloaded directly from Windows Store.
In Asia-Pacific, Windows 8 is available at 2,500 retail stores. In Thailand, customers can buy it at any IT City and Com7 shop.
Windows is today the largest computing platform with 1.4 billion users around the globe, and there are more than 600 million Windows 7 users, so Windows 8 is a natural upgrade for them.
There is strong support from developers, Celis said, as Microsoft worked with 400,000 developers for the launch of Windows 8, 30,000 of them in the Asia-Pacific region alone.
Celis noted the price of applications is determined by the developers, ranging from free to paid to "freemium".
Windows Store offers developers unparalleled reach and the best financial deal available. Microsoft offers a 70/30 revenue share initially, which increases to 80/20 once the app reaches the $25,000 mark.
According to Microsoft, Windows 8 features a new fast and fluid start screen that gives people one-click access to the apps and content they care most about, the new Internet Explorer 10 built for touch, and built-in cloud capabilities with SkyDrive. With a capability of "work and play on the go", users can start a project on one PC and finish it on another. Users can collaborate freely and always have the latest version of their files.
Users can work together using free Office web apps to edit shared documents on SkyDrive and immediately see each other's changes. They don't need to have Office installed, and can share the files they choose with the people they choose and make the rest private. There are built-in apps for managing people, photos and music. Users can link their email accounts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more and be able to see all updates and photos from their contacts, browse through their music and access them at anytime.
Celis declined to mention whether Microsoft will have one operating system for all device platforms, but said Windows offers the best experience on different devices by trying to have optimisation, web browsing, productivity, security, management, with strong compatibility and synergy across the platforms.
"Consumers will see a very consistent experience in all Microsoft devices, the phone, PCs, laptop, tablet and X-box," said the vice-president.
TILES OF SMILES
Television host Woody Milintachinda mostly uses applications for photos, and he enjoys using Microsoft's Windows 8.
Most applications Woody deals with today are for marketing, movie schedules, and the foreign app called TuneIn Radio.
For TV host Woody Milintachinda, Windows 8 is ‘tiles of fun’.
"I have to work so much on photos, that's why I'm interested in the SkyDrive to have the photo files and contact lists of our guests stored on cloud computing so my team members are able to retrieve them anywhere."
The social media programme Woody uses most often is Twitter, and he is now exploring a similar app to the photo-sharing Instagram which is expected to run on Windows 8 soon.
The first day of testing Windows 8, the TV host felt a bit uneasy as he said it is totally different to what he has experienced before. "The difference is like the sky and the abyss." But when he engaged with the programme for a while, Woody found it is fun.
The tiles, the new icons which updates information in real time, were a big hit with Woody.
"What I'm interested in and enjoying in Windows 8 are the tiles of fun," said the host, who has four to five tiles open simultaneously, to follow developments in Thailand, overseas, with friends, family and news.
"Those tiles have movement, it's like you are watching the stock market board. You can adjust and structure your tiles and you can see your behaviour, tiles for me are like the pulse. Before, I used to waste a lot of time, but now the programme save me time."
Of the features Woody responded to, 90% were fun. Others may prefer to deal with the programme as they always did on a desktop PC, but overall he gave the new system nine out of 10.
BIG PHONE CALL
Nick Dillon, senior analyst, devices & platforms at Ovum, believes that the success of Windows Phone 8 is crucial to Microsoft, which has failed to make meaningful inroads with its re-designed mobile OS since its launch two years ago. Mobile is Microsoft's weak spot as the company is both dominant in the PC market and a leading player in the connected TV market.
One of the main reasons Windows Phone has struggled is consumer acceptance: while there is very little wrong with the software, its design is significantly different from the current status quo of the "grid of apps" user interface, and this change represents a perceived risk to potential customers.
However, in the last year Microsoft has built consumer familiarity with the new design by extending it to both its Xbox console and its PC and tablet operating system, Windows 8. Microsoft is reportedly spending US$1 billion on marketing Windows 8, which are expected to have knock-on benefits, generating greater interest in Windows Phone 8.
Another area in which Windows Phone has previously struggled is in sales and marketing support from operators, which have generally been lukewarm about the operating system, preferring the easier sell of iPhones and Androids. However, in contrast to the launch of Windows Phone 7.5, Ovum has noted an increase in optimism and support for the platform from both vendors and mobile operators ahead of Windows Phone 8, which is generally driven by the belief that Microsoft's proposition is now both unified and complete.
About the author
- Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer