With the release of Microsoft’s latest operating system creeping ever closer, IT News Africa had a chance to sit down with Rajeev Nagar, Microsoft’s Principal Program Manager, for a preview of Windows 8 and what it is capable of.
While there was doubt over whether South Africa will get the operating system on release day, Nagar said that South Africa will be one of the top-tier countries who will start selling Windows 8 on 26 October. “There will be an upgrade version from Windows 7, which will cost $14; while there will be another version available for $40 in the Windows Store.”
More people have downloaded the Release Preview for Windows 7 than for Windows 8, but Nagar said that this is not an indication of general uptake. “People are enthused by the new capabilities of the operating system. I know it runs more effectively than Windows 7, with thousands of improvements we haven’t even touched on. I’m very optimistic about the release,” he said.
The operating system will be available for touch-based devices such as tablets; notebooks, desktop computers and smartphones, and Microsoft made sure the experience will satisfy users.
“I have to stress that there is only one version of Windows 8, and it’s all about delivering content to the end user, where customization is pervasive. We want users to feel they are always in control and always in power. If the design and touch technology is not fluid, users start to think that there is something wrong, and we worked extremely hard to make that happen,” he said.
A number of changes have also been made to the way in which users log in to the operating system. The login process can be coupled to Microsoft’s LiveID, where users simply input a password – but even that has been refined. If users are concerned that other might see their keystrokes, there is an option to hide it while typing a password.
The LiveID can also be set up to make use of a 4-digit PIN, which user will have to input in order to gain access to the computer. The most drastic change in the security is the ability to use Picture Password – a picture authentication tool where users need to tap, circle or drag lines across a selected picture in a predetermined way in order to unlock the device. “Its way more secure than a password or a PIN, and it’s pretty easy to do – it’s just an extra layer of security,” Nagar added.
Nagar also explained that Microsoft decided to make the side of tablets live as well, similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook where the black trim around the screen is active to touch. “It’s no longer a just a display screen, but a conduit for information. The sides are now live as well, and the left of the screen is like alt-tab, pinch will allow for zoom, and it creates the opportunity to view a lot of content very quickly.”
It also does not matter what input method users make use of – whether it is a mouse, track pad or touch, Nagar says that the system works just as well with all types and retains the functionality.
In terms of multi-tasking, users will be able to snap an app into another, with the main app occupying two-thirds of the screen, while the snapped app makes up for the remained. “Snap view will be able to make two apps available at the same time, and snaps to either side of the screen.”
Speaking about apps, Nagar revealed that Windows 8 will suspend any that that is not in use, resulting in a great battery life. He also said that Windows 8 will never download any Windows updates when it detects that it’s in a metered Internet environment.
When the operating system launches, a number of apps will be available for download, and good news for users is that all apps in the Windows Store will be available for a trail period when downloaded.
The store looks very similar to Google’s Play, with apps having a preview with screenshots, star rating, and the size, as well as reviews from users. “We want to encourage thoughtful reviews from users, which will increase their reputation.”
Nagar also revealed that apps are now licensed to users, and not devices. Users will be able to procure apps from one source and install it on a different machine, while non-metro apps will also pin to the menu as like normal apps and will be available to same way.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor