I am at Microsoft Build where the company is taking the wraps off its new tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system. No freebies for influencers at BUILD (fail!) but the developers here will all be taking home the shiny. I can’t give you the specs of the machine – its under NDA til later on, but there are plenty of folks that will write that up in detail.
So let me focus on how I work, and how Microsoft can keep me using its tools. That’s right folks- I use Windows 7 on a Thinkpad, and I am pretty happy with it. I sweated XP to death, but have found Win7 to be a decent OS since I swapped over.
I am fan of Google Docs, which Redmonk runs, but I like Outlook, and the integration between those systems is sweet. I don’t really enjoy the classic gmail look and feel (I know, I know, it must be an age thing), so I was pleased a few weeks back when Google released a new offline client to run in its Chrome browser, with slick if limited functionality, and a more Outlook-like look and feel – namely with previews. The app is available from the Chrome web store – if you’re a Google Docs user you should definitely check it out.
Which brings me to Window 8 and the Build unboxing. One of the useful things about Android phones is the way I can just enter my password, and the phone has all my contacts, calendar events and email ready to go. Of course Microsoft has done the same thing with Windows 8, but because I don’t live in Windows Live, the authentication got me started, but no email and so on.
So what next? Try email. Because the developer preview tablet Microsoft is providing is aimed at developers it has a complete copy of Visual Studio running on it, but no Outlook.
First thing I did – went to gmail in IE.
Next thing I did – downloaded Chrome, which works like a champ on this standard Intel build, and the email app. Hey presto – I had email.
The Microsoft App Store isn’t up and running yet, so I can use Chrome app store happily on the machine. In some respects its obvious that Chrome would run on the tablet- after all, in its usual fashion, Microsoft is offering full backwards compatibility. If its runs on Windows 7 it runs on Windows 8. But the experience still felt magic, and that’s what really counts. Well done Microsoft. IE supremo Dean Hamovich wasn’t too impressed when I showed him, but browser competition is one of the healthiest vectors in tech.
Sadly – Chrome doesn’t yet support the touch elements in the way IE does, so I couldn’t pan on the email app, but it was still a good experience, and it was good to see Chrome as a tile on the new UI.
But the point is that from this users’ perspective, backwards compatibility is a good thing. The machine just works. That counts for a lot.