Yesterday was the Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco where Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8. You may have already seen Windows 8 (for the desktop) which has been available in pre-release versions for some months (I think Devon Sowell has spent some time with it). You may have noticed that Windows 8 looks a lot like Windows Phone 7′s Metro interface. I’m not really a big fan of the Metro interface, although I haven’t used it. At the bottom of this post I have some links if you want to look through them to get an idea of what Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 / Windows RT are all about.
There are a few things it seems to do well, such as display content as part of the interface, expanding the concept of Widgets which Windows has used for some time, and sees greater use in Android OS. They call this Live Tiles, where the content of the tile updates automatically. This allows you to show content right on the desktop, without needing to click to get into a program. It’s probably also a huge memory hog, but today’s machines are pretty stacked with RAM. My new box has 16 GB, and not even close to maxed out.
Here is a screen shot of some phones with Win 7 using the Metro interface. Notice a whole lot of cyan in there.
This is important maybe not specifically for CAD users, but certainly for computer and mobile users. Especially when you combine it with Microsoft’s other presentation a couple days ago.
The name Microsoft Surface probably conjures images of that coffee table sized multi-touch interface that Microsoft was parading around a few years ago. The coffee table is great as a demo piece, but not so good to work from, and not very good to carry around with you.
So they created a new Surface, which is that intersection between tablet and laptop that companies like Asus and Motorola have been flirting with, but it looks like Microsoft is nailing it.
A lot of future addicts are fond of declaring things dead. Like Microsoft, desktop computing, laptops, Rock & Roll, and 2D drawings. I laugh every time I hear it. Ok, maybe the Post Office.
Anyway, what’s going on here is that Microsoft is unifying the OS kernel on all of these devices. The same file system, networking, drivers, applications, etc. This means that Windows Phone 8 will instantly be able to take advantage of the immense number of Windows developers already out there. You can run phone apps on your desktop, or on your tablet.
Does this scheme have the potential to really make it in the market? I believe so. Even though I think the interface (Start screen) is going to evolve to look less…opaque and monolithic, I think the underlying unified structure is very compelling. So compelling, in fact, that I’m holding off buying a new phone so I can get into Windows Phone 8 this fall. I’ve got an extra desktop sitting around, so I’ll put the Windows 8 desktop OS on that. The Surface also just makes a lot of sense to me as well, in a way that the iPad never did or will. Having a device just to look at stuff seems like a bit of a waste to me. The Surface would be a travel computer that combines the capabilities of a tablet and a laptop.
Another big advantage is that the Windows 8 OS will be multi-core capable, up to 64 cores, should that ever become necessary. It still remains for individual apps to have the same capabilities, but at least the OS won’t be holding you back.
The iPad with its wonky file system and lack of a real keyboard, not to mention Flash, and the nanny-like Apple parenting you no end is a big turn off. When there is a viable alternative, I think momentum will change. I’ve been a big Android fan for a couple of years, but mainly as an alternative to Apple. With the Windows 8 family, including Windows RT (for tablets) and Windows Phone 8 all unified, I think there is an even better alternative that makes sense with my other devices and data.
Will any of these run CAD? The big limitation is the screen, and your eyes. Portable projectors have not yet made the price break where they can realistically replace a big monitor. Do you really need CAD to be portable? I’m not asking if you can dream up some obscure situation where you could potentially use CAD in a portable situation, I’m asking if mainstream CAD will ever really need to be portable. While home offices are more popular, they are still not the norm, especially for people who have to work together. Technology will never really replace being able to just talk to someone face to face. It will always be a poor second choice.
There are some downsides to this transition. The first is that existing Windows Phone 7 users will not be able to upgrade. There seems to be a real hardware barrier there. But Windows Phone 7 is a distant 4th in the mobile market, and this change could spring Microsoft certainly to #3, and maybe to #2 within a couple of years.
Another downside is that they don’t have all the manufacturers on board. It might be obvious that Motorola (owned by Google) will probably not produce a Windows Phone 8 handset. The main manufacturers are Samsung, HTC, Nokia (which is all in with Microsoft), and Huawei (Chinese).
Probably the most serious downside is that Microsoft has been severely overcompensating for the failure of Vista. A lot of users are still using XP, it’s the second most popular version of Windows for people who visit my blog. People are slow to upgrade, especially when what they have is working. Windows 7 is pretty stable and to me works great, so there is no compelling reason to switch to Windows 8 on the desktop other than this device compatibility. Still, I’m just going to test that with a spare machine. Often I will have to upgrade to write a book. It’s a waste to write a book that won’t age well on an old version OS.
This fall, the new phone hardware is going to be available. I’ll probably make the switch, and set up a test desktop. I’ve been able to share files pretty well between Windows 7 and Android, but I’m guessing that Win8 will enable me to print to my home network from my phone. That would be a big benefit. It would also be nice to be able to re-use some of my existing Windows knowledge in tinkering with my phone. Learning Android customization has been a process.
Do any of you have experience with the early versions of Windows 8?
Here are some links about all of this, notice most of the news comes from cell phone sites: