By David Worthington | Monday, June 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Windows enthusiast Francisco Martin got his hands on portions of a secretive “Windows 8” presentation, and posted some of the slides on his blog today. Microsoft allegedly presented the slides to computer manufacturers to preview the next version of Windows.
Microsoft wants OEMs to build PCs that rapidly wake up from sleep mode and are aware of their surroundings. The PCs should leverage hardware including Webcams and proximity sensors to recognize users and sense when those users are nearby their machines. It’s a logical step–not an innovative one so much as a necessary one.
The era of light computing has begun. Apple’s iPad is only the first among a new class of devices that turns on instantly, and gives the user access to the workflows that they want. The industry has been overselling hardware; most people don’t utilize their PC’s full capacity. Surfing the Web, writing an essay, or sending e-mails doesn’t require the latest and greatest hardware. The iPad’s popularity is an indication that people’s needs weren’t being met by the traditional PC paradigm.
That is not to say that the PC is going to be unseated any time soon, but its kingdom will be diminished. So, Microsoft has a challenging problem to solve: It needs to get Windows users to sit at their desks when more and more of their computing activities are happening with smart devices. “Always on” doesn’t fit that criteria; the iPad does that better than Windows can and did it first. The Windows interface also needs some work to work well on “slate” devices that it was not designed for. Don’t give me an elephant and call it a donkey.
There is however potential for an intelligent PC to really “know” its user and its environment, and it’s neat that Microsoft is looking into that. Windows 7 is selling well, and Microsoft has plenty of cash in its coffers. Windows Phone 7 demonstrated that the company is capable of fresh thinking. There is a similar opportunity with Windows, if Microsoft has the courage to press the reset button and try something new.