Windows 8 optimize

10 reasons why Windows 8 may appeal to consumers

Will Windows 8 be a hit with consumers? Maybe. Here are a few things that could win them over.

We have talked a lot about how Windows 8 will mean significant changes for software developers and how Windows 8 will affect (or not affect) businesses. But it's important to keep in mind that plenty of Windows computers get sold directly to consumers, and those are the sales that are most likely threatened by non-Windows devices right now, like smartphones and tablets. Here are some Windows 8 features that consumers may find interesting.

1: Games

One of the things that struck me about Windows Phone 7 was just how many games were quickly brought over from Xbox Live. Windows 8, with a similar infrastructure under the hood, looks like it will be the same way. I have always been a sucker for unique, quirky games, and by bringing the Xbox Live game set over, we should see lots of those for a low cost on Windows 8.

2: Tablets

Tablets may not be for everyone, but if you are or may become a tablet user, Windows 8 has appeal. It is tough to see how you wouldn't want to consider a tablet that can potentially run all your existing applications (assuming you get an x86/x64 tablet). Microsoft has worked hard to give Windows 8 a touch-friendly UI, and having used the MetroUI on a Windows Phone 7 device for more than a year now, I think it is a great touch system. I'm eager to use it on a tablet.

3: Messaging

Windows 8 integrates messaging from common providers like Facebook, Live, and Twitter into one spot. It is nice not to have to go to different Web sites and leave a page open to monitor various data streams or get a bunch of third-party applications to do the same. The integrated messaging system is very slick and builds off of the unified contacts system. This is another feature borrowed from Windows Phone 7, and it is a great one.

4: App store

Windows has had an official app store in the past, though it was not terribly obvious and few people used it. With Windows 8, the app store is hard to miss. Not only is it the easiest way to load Metro applications onto Windows 8 devices, it will handle updates automatically too. The days of having out-of-date software or dealing with a zillion update applications is finally over! And if you need to replace a machine, there's no need to dig up piles of installation discs or remember what apps you installed and downloaded from what sites and hope you still have serial numbers -- you can easily reinstall them from the store.

5: Reduced security risk exposure, increased stability

The WinRT API that Metro applications are built on top of is designed to severely limit what Metro applications can do to the underlying system, as well as to user data and with each other. Internet Explorer running in Metro (but not the traditional Desktop) will not allow third-party plug-ins to run at all, either. This may be a curveball for developers, but for users it means that the risk of malware is significantly decreased. It will be very tough for applications to damage the system or affect user data maliciously or inadvertently.

6: Unified UI

Microsoft has been moving more and more of its systems to the Metro UI. With Windows 8, all the big form factors (PC, phone, tablet, and video game consoles) will be using the same UI principles and styling. That makes it a bit easier to get a handle on how to use new devices and new applications across platforms.

7: Cloud sync

Built into Windows 8 is cloud-based synchronization. By signing into a Windows 8 machine with a Live ID, all sorts of unified data is available across devices. For example, when I signed into a fresh Windows 8 Consumer Preview installation, all my Twitter, Facebook, and Live Messenger accounts were immediately established because I use the same Live ID on my phone. Changes I make to this data will instantly be reflected across the board as well. That's pretty nice. It is especially helpful when replacing a device, because you don't have to reestablish all these connections or re-import (or re-create) data.

8: Integration with services and applications

As I've mentioned, there is some neat integration around messaging and data in Windows 8. The integration goes much deeper, though. For example, My Pictures in Windows used to be nothing more than a directory that got special treatment from Windows Explorer. Now it has the notion of Albums and Libraries, which represent where the pictures come from. Services like Flickr and Facebook are integrated by default as Libraries, and third-party applications can tap into this functionality as well.

Likewise, the People Hub collects information about people you know from a variety of sources (Facebook, email accounts, LinkedIn, etc.) and puts it all in one place. Instead of an application-centric view of data, Windows 8 presents a data-centric view, minimizing the number of places you need to go to get access to data, while at the same time increasing the number of places it can be used.

9: Email

Windows Phone 7 gets a lot of kudos for its excellent email client. This email client has been brought over to Windows 8 and scaled up to the larger screen size. Unlike some previous versions of free email clients bundled into Windows, it is quite capable and for many people will be a significant upgrade. Like other parts of Windows 8, it provides a concentration of data from different places (in this case, email accounts) and presents a unified view that makes it easy to work with and respond to emails.

10: Simplicity

One of the key things in Windows 8 is that if you stick with Metro applications, it is a very simple system to deal with. Power users will not necessarily be thrilled about losing the control that they are used to (although they can still have it if they head to the Desktop on x86/x64 machines). But those who just want to sit down and "get stuff done" will appreciate how the OS gets out of the way and lets you do what you want to do.

Things like the highly reduced maintenance of applications (thanks to the app store), concentration of all email in one place (rather than the need for a native client and a few Web clients), and messaging add up to a simplified experience. You're no longer switching between dozens of applications and Web pages but working around a small number of Hubs on the system based on your current needs. It is a refreshing change from the current overload of system tray notifications, buzzers, noises, and flashing taskbar icons that typify the current Windows system.

Your take

Do you think the features covered here will be enough to win consumers over to Windows 8? Jump into the discussion and share your opinions with other TechRepublic members.

More on Windows 8

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

22 comments
rhslocum
rhslocum

don't like for windows to upgrade or use the same good ideas. As a user of all but apple I find the new approach by Microsoft to be a good attempt to get from old DOS to something new. Lets not nay-say the attempt just because it is still a "BETA" program. I concur with most of the points made in the article but I am not a fan of the "cloud' or Social Media. I could slam them if I was of a mind too. But it is the concept I have problems with not the programs.

zivavoda
zivavoda

Do wheels make a car an appealing thing to have? Flat wheels?

danbi
danbi

About all of what was listed has been available for years in desktop UNIX and Apple's OS X (ok, another desktop UNIX variant). What is new with Windows? Microsoft has finally reinvented the wheel??? For many people, the new Microsoft OS will be very different and foreign thing. They may find out, that say, Linux is more familiar.. Really, no compelling reason to use Windows, much less Windows 8.

jkameleon
jkameleon

The Windows 8 Kill Switch: A Hacker's Dream Come True http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2400985,00.asp About a year ago, I had to do some work urgently during the weekend. I had some problems with motherboard, which was replaced under warranty about week or two before that. And so, on Friday evening, Microsoft Office decided that my license expired. Normally, this is not a problem, but our local Microsoft support works only on weekdays, until 8PM or so. Luckily, I was already playing with Linux at the time, and had it installed as dual boot. Cursing, I fired up my mostly unused Linux installation, started using LibreOffice & Monodevelop for real, and managed to get the job done until Monday. From then on, I gradually used Linux more and more, and Windows less and less. At the moment, I'm booting Windows 7 installation only every other month or so, to prevent security updates from piling up too much. Naturally, my next machine will be Linux only.

cchd
cchd

Reminds me of the reasons (excepting games and tablets) I chose Android , though there were many more: price, speed, flexibility, access to the underlying system, the variety and power of the apps thanks to the inventiveness and freedom of the writers, lack of lock-in (but excellent integration with Google for those willing to sign up) and the very wide choice of form factor, of supplier, of carrier and of deal.

danbi
danbi

Yes, this is Microsoft chance to finally produce an viable operating system. But given how absurdly they try to push it on the consumers and the enterprise and given that UNIX already exists as an stable, extensive and extremely available platform (not to ignore costs).. Microsoft has to deliver some true miracle to have this happen...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"About all of what was listed has been available for years in desktop UNIX and Apple's OS X (ok, another desktop UNIX variant)." If all of this and more has been available in *nix for years, why do you suppose it's gone nowhere with consumers (the audience under discussion)?

andrew232006
andrew232006

It hasn't even been released, or installed and it's already infected with a back door.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Yes, this is Microsoft chance to finally produce an viable operating system." Looks like Windows has been viable for 25 years or so.

danbi
danbi

So who in your opinion uses Apples OS X and the various desktop Linux distributions? Yes, that is right, users. Most users don't care at all, what their "OS" is, as long as they can get their tasks done.

dayen
dayen

The security of my DATA come first if my computer OS has a backdoor I got a big problem I am about Security, my people are about security, if we can't secure it we don't buy it !

vucliriel
vucliriel

... That forces established users to totally relearn everything they've done for the past 20 years. Is THIS a viable OS? Not for long-time, experienced computer users.

bobc4012
bobc4012

Walart did that 10 years ago and did not push it aggressively. Given the state of Linux back then, it wasn't that much far past the command line stage. Over the past 10 years, the Linux GUI implementations have come a long way. Admittedly, the new Unity and Gnome 3 desktops (I guess aimed at the tablet market ala Win. 8) don't trun me on as a desktop user.

bobc4012
bobc4012

I guess I didn't get my point across. People are buying Android H/W. Android is Linux based. As far as other PC makers offering Linux, the only one I was aware offering a Desktop Linux was Dell (and they really didn't make an effort). There are companies, e.g., IBM, offering Linux servers. Of course, Red Hat does extremely well in the server market. But getting back to the point I was trying to make, if a company like Intel was to make its own PC (ala Apple) with a set Linux distro installed (e.g., an Ubuntu-based), sell it cheaper than a Win. 8 PC (along with their advertising), it could make headway. Even in the business market, companies are seeing the benefit of Linux servers and switching to them. Plus, Linux is lot more popular in other parts of the world - where being tied to MS is not a "plus". In addition, who is MS going to punish? The other H/W manufacturers have to abide by MS rules if they want the best price on MS S/W they install. Intel doesn't have that problem. It will be interesting to see how the Libre Office situation plays out. Of course, either Google or Intel could port Android to the Desktop, which could make it interesting.

danbi
danbi

It is true, that bundled Linux with various 'brand' PCs did not succeed much. But this is true because they did bundle typically one particular Linux distribution and that was unlikely the popular one. So in essence they would have been better to sell the PC without any OS, at all. Most corporations will install their own Windows anyway, with their preinstalled apps etc and their licenses. Same applies for Linux, PC BSD etc. The features present in UNIX have been largely copied by Microsoft in Windows. About any major "Windows" feature out there, has been copied and adapted from UNIX, starting with the TCP/IP stack, Active Directory etc.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Last I heard, you could still buy certain Dell systems with Linux pre-installed. You had to do some digging on their web site, but it was still an option. That was about 18 months ago, long after the push for Linux systems at Wal-mart.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

However, major PC manufacturers have offered pre-installed Linux through major distribution chains, as you suggest. They went nowhere. I agree the presence of W8 may not lure consumers to tablets, or any other platform, but I'm in the camp that thinks MS's attempts to have a single GUI across all platforms is a mistake. I'm only pointing out that features present in Linux for years haven't drawn consumers attention to it either. You're the one who dragged Linux into a discussion that had nothing to do with it, not me.

bobc4012
bobc4012

are NOT setting the world on fire in the Linux universe either. While I have not tried Gnome 3, I have tried Unity and Canonical can stuff it. Gnome 2 was a very good desktop from an user standpoint. It was also sufficiently easy to pick up if you knew XP (or 95/98). Ubuntu 11.10 put in the ability to switch back to a Gnome 2 like desktop, while close, there are differences. BTW, both Unity and Gnome 3 were designed both the tablets in mind (shades of Windows 8 - just catching up)!!! I believe Fedora is going with Gnome 3. A nice brief description of the two can be found at http://lifehacker.com/5853099/linux-desktop-faceoff-gnome-3-vs-ubuntu-unity . Jack Wallen also has a good article - see http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10things/10-things-the-linux-desktop-can-be-proud-of/3093 .

bobc4012
bobc4012

So many are not turning to MS based PCs because that is what their peers buy, it is because it is their only choice. It amy be true that those who use Windows at work (their only choice) end up with a Windows machine at home. Apples are lot more expensive and MS has a monopoly on the PC market of course, if they use an Apple at work, then they probably use one at home). How many PC makers do you see really pushing a choice between MS and some other OS. Remember what the other H/W manufacturers did to IBM and OS/2. DELL did offer a Linux alternative (don't recall what distro), but then (as I heard) MS started making threats about the pricing deal for DELL. Now that Intel is on the Libre Office bandwagon, it will be interesting to see how that plays out with MS and their MS Office offering. Maybe they will find some way to shoehorn it into Windows like they did with IE! I agree there are a lot of Linux distros out there, but the two distros most "average" Linux users have settled on are Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based Mint. As far as tech support, how many average users actually call MS for support (and pay them). Also, how many of them actually go to the MS site looking for help? Of course, if you go with Red Hat and buy there total package, you get support. If you go with a distro you downloaded, you have to rely on your peers and forums and the like. Now there are some @$$holes who do talk down to "newbies", but I have also found the same problem on the Windows forums. There are many great forums where the "experienced" (and even IT pros who work in IT) bend over backwards trying to help out a "newbie". And if you worked in the IT field where you have a few co-workers, I'm willing to bet you will find one or two with condescending attitudes. At least on the forum, you can post a "lighten up" to them - try it at work and it might have repercussions. I agree the Linux setup you described is not for the average user. The typical average user does e-mail, reads the news, maybe does e-bay or some other on-line shopping, maybe uses MS Word on occasion, maybe check on their 401K (if they still have a job), plays games, downloads and/or music/movies/TV, saves photos and maybe a couple of other things. Everyone of those things can be done on a Linux systemas easily as on an MS system. Granted, there are some apps that only run under Windows and won't under WINE Photoshop may still be in that category). It is not surprising that you can find 100 MS users vs 1 Linux user. First, as I previously mentioned, how many PCs are sold with a Linux distro pre-installed? If a person goes to one of the "box" stores where some salesperson who knows very little about Windows and absolutely nothing about Linux (ASSUMING the store sold a pre-installed Linux system) but knows you get a bigger commission on the pricier Windows box than on a Linux box, what are they going to push - especially when the manager says it means more money for the store? I ran into this in the past with the pricier Apples vs a MS machine. BTW, how many people do you see running out and buying tablets with MS Windows installed? I-Pads, of course, are huge and then you have the other tablets with Android. Do you really believe the average person is going to run out and replace their current tablet for one with MS Windows on it, just because its MS? I know quite a few people (average home users) who have bought I-Pads and now their Windows PC is collecting dust!

bobc4012
bobc4012

The magic words - Windows pre-installed - MS monopoly worked out with the H/W companies. How many people are buying I-Pads and other tablets with Windows pre-installed? Do you really believe those users are going to run out and buy a Win. 8 tablet as soon as one hits the market - especially if it costs $100+ more than an Android based? If Intel went into the PC business and started making their own PCs (with "Intel inside"), picked a Linux distro (like Ubuntu or Mint) and selling them cheaper than a MS loaded system (no fee back to MS), what do you think the average consumer would buy - two identical Intel PCs (H/W-wise), but one a lot cheaper?

mark.cooper
mark.cooper

The users I know have specific problems that are usually solved with specific programs. So many users work with Office at work they want Office on their home computer. The majority of people I know that have a home computer depend on someone else to help them with any issues they may have. So it's true they don't really care what OS they have, they still turn to a Windows based computer because that is what the majority of their peers have. Linux may be the best OS out there, but there are too many flavors. Linux tech support is horrendous for the average user, let alone a newbie. It's been my experience with Linux help forums where the 'pros' get so hung up with top-posting vs bottom posting that the newbie is going run away as fast as possible. The general condescension shown to people that don't post a question in the unwritten prescribed manner is awful. There is a vast Windows knowledge base, formal and informal. Until the Linux user base becomes vastly larger than at present, and until the early Linux adopters start showing more courtesy to the new folks, Linux will continue to be nothing more than a novelty to the vast majority of users, and that's if they've even heard of Linux. I set up and have been maintaining two home-rolled Linux firewalls for one of my clients since early 2004. I started with Red Hat 9 and am currently up to Fedora Core 14. I use Squid, Shorewall, Webmin, and NoMachine. It all works. It's free. It's not for the casual user. Of the hundreds of people I know and work with, one person has a dual-boot computer at home because his son is into Linux. I have a Windows Phone 7.5, W8 CP on a tablet, W8 DP and WS8 DP on virtual machines. Metro is great for consuming information. When I need to get deeper into things, going to the W8 desktop is easy.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

combined make up around 10% of the installed PC operating systems. I agree that most users don't care, but they're buying off the shelf systems with Windows pre-installed.