To say that Windows 8 looks different would be a gross understatement. While previous versions of Windows were designed with the traditional keyboard and mouse input method in mind and with touch as a mere afterthought, Windows 8 was designed specifically for touch. As such, Windows 8 shares very few design cues from its predecessors.
Borrowing heavily from Swiss graphic design theories, Microsoft’s new Modern UI design language places an emphasis on the way content and typography interact. Animation also plays a large and crucial part to the overall look and feel of the user interface. On top of all that, the new design language must also make it easy for Microsoft's newly implemented touch gestures and also Snap multi-tasking feature, which quickly 'snaps' an application to the side of the screen such that it looks like a sidebar.
This is why the Start screen is now so different. And for anyone who has played an Xbox 360 or used a Windows Phone recently, Windows 8's new UI will be somewhat familiar. Rather than the regular plain 'desktop' that we have become accustomed to, the Start screen is now made up of many different tiles. These tiles are 'alive' in that they can display and update itself with information such as the weather, news, your latest email, and more. These tiles can also act as shortcuts to various apps. Clearly, it’s a radical and bold change from the Windows of old.
Windows 8 will also be getting its own dedicated app store known simply as Windows Store. Much like Apple’s Mac App Store, Windows Store will act as Microsoft’s digital distribution platform for both Windows 8 and Windows RT. The store will support both free and paid apps. Again, we can see Microsoft's new Modern UI design language at play, and there's a real uniformity in the way Windows 8 looks. For Windows RT users, the Windows Store will be the only means they can acquire new applications. This will allow Microsoft the chance to scan apps for security flaws and malware before being made available for users to download.
To get connected to your files, there's SkyDrive. As its name suggest, it’s Microsoft’s own cloud storage service. With it, users can access their files such as photos and documents once they sign into a Windows 8 system with their Microsoft account. SkyDrive will even save your system settings so that even if you were to log in on another PC, you’ll be greeted by your own desktop personalization settings, including wallpaper and mouse settings.
Windows 8 is also designed from ground up to provide deeper integration with Microsoft’s online services. Using their Microsoft account, users can synchronize their settings between multiple systems. Windows 8 also provides better integration with other Microsoft devices such as the Xbox 360, smartphones running the Windows Phone operating system, and the eagerly-anticipated Microsoft Surface tablets. For instance, the Xbox SmartGlass app is an application which allows Windows 8 or Windows Phone devices to connect with the Xbox 360, and lets them act as either secondary displays or remote controllers.
As you have seen, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s most radical operating system yet. From a design perspective, the new design brings a uniform look and feel to Microsoft’s existing products. The new Modern UI is distinctive to Microsoft, as users of both Windows Phones and the Xbox 360 gaming console can certainly attest to. From a technical perspective, the new operating system is also Microsoft greatest attempt yet at tying together all its varied products and services while staying relevant to today’s changing computing landscape.
While previous editions of Windows have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary updates, Windows 8 is revolutionary in the way it looks, feels, and even works. All the way till October 26, we'll be covering different aspects of the new OS in greater detail. In our next article, we'll be touching on the Modern interface, the new Start screen, and how to go about navigating Windows 8.