Seeing as Microsoft have just hedged there future on cloud with Windows 8 announcements I thought I would add some context into the blogosphere on the subject.
Consumer cloud wars have officially begun, and with the Windows 8 release, the middle aged balding guy (sorry if your bald) has now gone out and finally bought a new mid life crisis Harley Davidson. According to the Redmond posee, Windows 8 apparently is “Windows re imagined” and when having a sneak peak myself I instantly see there is definately no lack of focus on end user experience.
Microsoft were beginning to lag with Windows, and this includes more recent releases of Windows 7. To me Windows 7 has been nothing more than Churna-gramming, with at best minimal side benefits to deploying it across an organisation. W7 was Microsoft caught between a rock and a hard place, it certainly was designed I imagine at least Two years before competition and Cloud Computing was beginning to grow in adoption, but with Windows 8, my initial impression from what I have been exposed too from the cheesy marketing pitches and product demos from MS Build 2011 are leading me to believe that this Windows release could well be the entrance for Windows into both developer and consumer cloud wars.
So why is this now the case with Windows 8? Most of what I have seen and read about the Windows 8 buzz are geek marketing pitches aimed at devops, with this being to be honest only the attempt to lay kernels for the next 12 Months. However from the demonstrations of basic UI and also based on the complete rewrite of application framework, I am beginning to think Microsoft has finally started to take note about the design rules needed to architect a cloud experience, and more importantly from an R&D perspective I think they are slowly realising there are now some harsh rules about design and architecture principles to support the modern day consumer of your product. So although you may have heard some of the below factors in many iterations before, across many other news and websites, I will iterate them in my own commentary;
Designing for a tablet and not a PC
Even though anyone with an Ipad may think the Tablet and touch devices are brand new form factor, it isn’t, they have been around in various incarnations for many years. However the difference then was that were designed in a a Frankenstein affair with the end user experience being dictated by functionality within a a legacy OS that was designed for use with a keyboard and mouse. Tablets of today such as the ever popular Ipad have had the end user experience dictated through the end user experience i.e. Touch, App store, instant on etc. Add into this fold the popularity of Android and the even larger device coverage and I believe Microsoft have realised that they have to up there game and say “They were a PC” and are now “Also a tablet” and provide to end users a tablet experience and not a PC one.
Cloud user presence
It is probably fair to say that in this arena Microsoft has taken a gigantic leap of faith with the all new Windows metro interface. Metro has the capability to project Microsoft away from the tarnished legacy of the point and click user experience from which we have all known (and hated) for the last ten years in the PC/Server architecture era to next gen Cloud. From what I have seen, Metro focusses more on presenting what is relevant to you all through a single personalised pain of glass portal from which the end user obtains instant visibility through relevant apps and widgets.
I see greater scope in this, and I expect we will see an ecosystem of hardware devices which utilise this to customise the view further, one potential scenario I could see is that you eventually are provided with a customised and relevant view based upon the relevant time/date or season even, and to boot you could even go as far as saying it will decide what applications and cloud services you may want to utilise, the possibilities (if embraced) are immense.
Leading on from the tablet and cloud presence design characteristics from which Windows 8 appears to follow, it is useless doing this unless the experience is delivered to work within seconds of requests or devices being initiated. With Android and Apple app store its clear that the consumer wants to access to downloaded applications the minute they finish downloading. In previous incarnations of Windows as Microsoft users will know, the OS has rarely been able to deliver on this consumer demand, with this in part being due to the legacy underlying architecture of both Win32 and Windows services. Introduction of Windows Metro applications means even Microsoft are now focused less on how the “sysinternals” of apps and services are running and more on focus of presentation of the running applications, again which is a big step for Microsoft who I expect have some exceptionally tired development teams who are transforming this architecture.
Microsoft have finally realised that they can use there core strength of designing an OS that can be supported on multitudes of devices. Microsoft have been the kings on the PC device at doing this and in the tablet/mobile world they have had to respond with the popularity of Android. I see Windows 8 being probably an OS if bought on a tablet to be sunk into the cost of the device in the same way Apple do this on MacOSX. Microsoft mobile 7 has not been great on uptake, however with Windows 8, this may provide Microsoft if they rub the vendors up the correct way with a means to gain more OEM agreements.
Consumer meet Enterprise
When you add all of my above factors up (and also the fact that you have to go and work for a living to pay for fancy tablets and OS’s) you will begin to now see ever an even larger push by consumers to support and provide the same levels of functionality that are provided by functions in Windows 8 in there day to day job. If IT in your organisation isn’t able to transform legacy IT within at least 2-3 years to meet this demand then you are going to certainly struggle. As most of Enterprise IT in organisations are finding out, the consumer is finding out about cloud a lot faster than the enterprises are without even knowing it, which is applying increasing pressure on Infrastructure, applications and the governance processes that underpin those services. Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 8 will now mean a tried and trusted household name has recognition just as Apple and Android have had with the consumer and will have the potential to accelerate the enterprise adoption of Windows 8.