Microsoft Opens Up Windows 8

ArcticStartup is reporting from Anaheim, California this week from the Build event taking place until September 16th. I'm pretty excited about the new things Microsoft presented today to an audience of about 5000 developers. Why so, you may ask? With Windows 8, Microsoft basically outlined their tablet strategy and it has implications to their mobile platform as well. This of course makes the news extremely important for developers and startups looking at this space, including those working with Windows Phone and Nokia.

Microsoft began the keynote with Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, introducing the audience to Windows 8 and how it has come together during the past few months. To put things into perspective, he outlined that that about 450 million people have purchased Windows 7. In addition to this, over 540 million people sign into Live ID services on a monthly basis while over a 100 million people take advantage of Microsoft Skydrive.

All this spells one thing, the ecosystem is huge. This means very good things for developers and startups working in this space. Furthermore, with the announcement of Windows 8 and all its new features and extensions, it will have big implications for startups looking to better understand Microsoft's tablet strategy and how all this relates to the mobile ecosystem. Mind you, Microsoft did not mention tablet in any part of the keynote, but simply referred to the tablet devices as PCs in different form.

The big picture
The most important changes to Windows 8 are related to the fact that touch has been made an integral part of the operating system. The same version of Windows 8 that you're able to run on your desktop PC, will run on your laptop and tablet devices as well. This means, the exact same version of Windows 8 without any changes to the operating system.

There are quite a few changes to the usability side of things as well as taking advantage of the cloud in giving a better user experience and also new ways for developers to share their applications to the users. We'll be going through all of these issues in upcoming posts during today and the coming days.

Microsoft's tablet, I mean PC strategy
Microsoft pretty much outlined the way they are relating to smaller mobile computers with the announcement of Windows 8. While the same version of Windows is able to run on your tablet, it's also going to run on your desktop computers - meaning you're able to take advantage of the same application in many different devices.

What makes Windows 8 perfect for tablet devices is the work Microsoft has put into the speed of the operating system. Examples were given during the keynote were powerful computers booted the operating system in about 5 seconds. A 2 year old mini computer was also used as an example. To everyone's amazement, the mini computer booted the operating system in less than 10 seconds.

Sinofsky also gave examples on how little system resources Windows 8 uses. While Windows 7 used about 440Mb of memory and 5% of CPU, Windows 8 used only about 220Mb of system memory and 1% of CPU on the same system. This received a lot of applause from the audience.

HTML5+Javacript, XAML, C++ or VB - all equal
Microsoft is also betting big on HTML5 as developers are pretty much able to take advantage of HTML5+Javascript as well as XAML, C++ or VB. All applications will work in a similar fashion and look the same to the user, no matter what the language the developers use. All these then talk to a set of Windows RunTime APIs that are able to perform things much faster than trying to build all the performance into the application itself.

One of the more interesting things about developing for Windows 8 is also that applications are able to talk to each other in a very interesting way. Let's take an example they used in the keynote. You create a PhotoDoodle application, that will allow you to play with images. To pull up an image to play with you program the application to look for images from your system. Once you're in the view to look for images, you can dive in through other applications as well to look for images from Flickr or Facebook for example. For the user, the experience is seamless and for the developer, they don't even have to know which other applications reside on the system as Windows 8 at core is doing the work for you, combining the right kind of apps together for a better experience.

Usability and experience
I have to say, being somewhat of an Apple fan myself - Microsoft has done an excellent job with the usability of Windows 8 and how the different applications look and feel. many of the applications look extremely clean and enable you to focus on the most important parts with ease.

One of my favorite examples that was presented at the keynote was the example of sharing images through e-mail. You're able to e-mail your friends an image through the Photos application in a very streamlined way. Even the e-mail view for composing the message is well, beautiful. Microsoft has walked through a lot of wrong paths in the past, but this time they're definitely hitting a home run with their offering on Windows 8.

Concluding
All in all, Microsoft is very much back in the mobile game with their offering of Windows 8. Not only does it make the tablet wars a lot more interesting, but creating a simple approach to many different devices, will make developers applaud the ease of porting apps to different devices - as there's in essence no need for that.

While Windows Phone was not talked about at all in the event, my personal guess based on everything I saw is that Windows 8 will have huge implications on the whole Microsoft mobile space as well. The applications written for Windows 8 were easily ported in one of the examples to a Windows Phone 7.5 running on a HTC device with the removal of just one line of code. This basically means, that many of the applications that are available for the PCs will also be available for the mobile devices.

How Nokia fits into all this is still somewhat in the unknown. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Windows 8 fully expand to the mobile phone space in the near future. For Nokia, this means a huge market where they can grow into. Not only are they able to let users build mobile apps, but they're able to build apps that work throughout the Microsoft ecosystem where mobile is just one extension. We'll dig into this more during the week as more information emerges.

In the follow up posts from Build, we'll also focus on Windows 8 running on a tablet device, as well as how Microsoft's new cloud services will work and finally, the all new Windows 8 store for your applications.

Oh, and for all those interested - Microsoft is now offering the Windows 8 Developer Preview for anyone interested in downloading it. There's no activation required, but then again - there's no support. You can get your copy from the Windows Dev Center.

Full disclosure: my hotel and flights were paid by Microsoft and I'm extremely thrilled to be here!

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