There has been much anticipation for the launch of Windows 8. All through yesterday and today, there were several events around the world to celebrate Microsoft's new approach to computing.
As part of the celebrations, I was invited by Microsoft Australia to attend the Windows 8 launch event in Sydney as a blogger. Since I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to play with the new operating system, I jumped at the chance.
Windows 8 launch event: The kick off
The day started off at around 9am at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, with registrations and welcome drinks (coffee and juice on offer) . Though I have overheard a handful of journos talking about getting a ride in red convertibles to start off their day, courtesy of Dell (one of Microsoft's hardware partners who have Dell machines with Windows 8 that are like laptop/tablets, hence are known as 'convertibles').
It looks like the attendees were mostly media types - ranging from blogs and web publications to huge newspapers and specialist magazines. I read somewhere that there were 100+ people in attendance. The place did look quite packed.
We were then ushered into the presentation area, where we ended up watching an introductory video to Windows 8:
There was then what I can only describe as interpretative Windows 8 dancing, where a guy moved as if he was manipulating the massive screen showing the OS in action (part of it is in the video above). Then , Pip Marlow, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia, came on to the stage to show how she uses Windows 8 in her personal and professional life.
There were a few fascinating bits, including seeing the picture password in action. Also thought the Westpac banking demo (though only with a fake account showing $8m+!) was quite interesting. It would be good to see many other banks develop such an app for Internet banking.
After Pip's presentation, Deeps De Silva, Windows Manager in Australia, then took the stage to show how he uses Windows 8 in his work and play. Though, mostly showing the ease of integrating the personalised screen for accessing music, movies, social media, and games.
Windows 8 Q & As
There was then a few minutes allocated to question time. These are the main questions and answers (please note that Q & As here are rephrased, as I remember them; also adding some of my notes/research):
Q. Why was the Start button removed and would that present a problem?
A. Windows 8 was designed to be intuitive. People won't miss the Start button.
[Note: Found out later on that people can also bring back the Start button by downloading an app. See Pokki.]
Q. What is the difference between Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT?
A. Windows 8 is the consumer edition. Windows 8 Pro is for more advanced use. Windows RT is basically a lighter version, especially optimised for mobile devices.
[Note: Not sure why some coverage from media seem to be complaining that this is confusing. Three editions seem simple enough. As this post from About pointed out, considering Windows 7 had six different editions, Windows 8 simplified this for the consumer. Unfortunately, the folks from Microsoft didn't mention this during Q & A. It would've been great if they did. Currently, Microsoft's Surface tablet is selling with Windows RT. It will be available later on with Windows 8.]
Q. What is Microsoft doing to help consumers understand the difference between the different versions?
A. Looking at giving information and support to retailers, so that they can provide the choices to the consumers.
[Note: I also learned later on during side conversations that there will be experiential sessions around some of the cities in Austalia - Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney, I believe. Mostly at Westfield shopping centres.]
Q. Can consumers purchase Windows 8 - or is it just currently available as an upgrade?
A. Microsoft is currently running an offer of introductory upgrade until January 2013. Basically, for people with computers running Windows 7, Vista or XP, you can download and install Windows 8 Pro for AU $39.99. If you just recently bought your computer (starting June 2012), the price drops to AU $14.99. Windows 8 Pro install DVD copies cost $69.99 (Harvey Norman or Dick Smith). Some also say that Officeworks is offering it for about $49.
[Note: There are some negative criticisms on Microsoft saying that it is silly to have Windows 8 only as an upgrade, as this prohibits people who are currently using other systems. Therefore, limiting their market to existing Windows users rather than attracting new ones. However, I read an article that says that yes, people can actually purchase Windows 8 'OEM' in some specialist computer shops. Not sure exactly what that translates to.]
After the Q and As were over, we watched another video, this time, focussing on some of Windows 8's Australian ambassadors: Rick Kelly (V8 Supercar Driver), Anthea Leonard (Sweet Art Owner), Jenny Manik Mercian (Jewellery Designer), and Jessica Watson (Sailor).
Experiencing Windows 8
We were them ushered to the Experiential area, where there were different gadgets, ready to be played with by the attendees. Including the highly anticipated Surface tablet. The Windows 8 ambassadors were all in their specified areas as well, showing off the devices that they are using.
I got to play with Surface (slate), the Samsung ATIV Smart Tab (convertible), Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (convertible), Samsung Series 7 AIO (all-in-one), Sony VAIO TAP 20 (all-in-one), and Dell XPS Duo (convertible).
Each type of device (slate, convertible, and all-in-one) holds its own attraction. I thought being able to play with a massive device with a touch screen was pretty cool. I like the convertibles because right now, I feel as though I do find myself using my tablet a lot more than my laptop, I still feel the need for my laptop for heavy duty work. But, the convertibles might make it easier.
The slates, though, seem too heavy for reading conveniently, like I do now with my tablet. I reckon, if I end up with a convertible, I might opt to get a Kindle Fire instead of a tablet or slate. But, will have to see.
What some people would love with these things is how extendible a lot of the machines are, what with most being able to take USBs and SD cards. I know many people who stayed away from the iPad because of the lack of extendibility (among other things).
Oh, and yes, I also got to meet Jessica Watson, sailor and Young Australian of the Year 2011, who seems to love her Dell XPS Duo. Very nice young lady.
So, what's my verdict on Windows 8?
With my brief experience of playing with the devices loaded with Windows 8, I was quite impressed. I like the fact that the response time seemed fast enough; that in spite some complaints of lack of apps, I reckon it has more than enough to work with for a launch; that it seems to support true multitasking (even on tablets/slates); that it has the potential to provide true life/play/work devices.
The ability to personalise your start screens seems like a much better option to me than the start button. You can make your screens as minimalistic and clutter-free as possible, or as fully packed as you want. I like the tiles. Especially the live updating tiles. And yes, the ability to have Flash in my portable device.
And, I am really liking where Microsoft is heading with their education apps and community support. Just like this story about a school in Thailand that has been using Windows 8 in their classroom.
I am definitely hopeful of the possibilities. Of improved integration with XBox Kinect and Office 365 live. And many more, as people adapt to this new way of computing using PCs.
Yes, the idea of adapting the brain to use a different system can take a little while. But, we'll see. I definitely will need to use it on a daily basis to see if I can readjust. Especially from being primarily a Mac user over the last 4-5 years (we're a mixed family, though, with mostly Microsoft PCs at home, but also have a number of Apple devices).
But, due to a number of reasons, including my increasing frustration with how Apple operates sometimes, I would like to give Windows 8 a go as my main OS again. Yes, even if it means needing to invest more of my dollars purchasing a new machine, new software and apps.
Will be on the lookout though of which one I will go for. Although I must admit, I did like the look of that Dell XPS Duo. Will have to see if I feel the need to purchase the Surface later on as well. Or a Windows 8 phone. Part of me thinks that if I end up with a convertible like Dell XPS Duo, I might end up with a Kindle for ebooks reading.
In any case, I'll keep you all posted!
- You can find a glimpse of me in this photo at ComputerWorld's Windows 8 launch coverage. Can you spot me? 🙂
*Disclosure: I was invited to the Windows 8 launch event by Microsoft Australia through the lovely folks at Social@Ogilvy. Basic transport and modest overnight accommodation were paid for. I also received a copy of Windows 8 Pro (as pictured above). But, I have not been paid to write this post. Also, as part of my full disclosure, in case you may not know yet, Microsoft is my client at Vervely.