Windows 8: welcome back Microsoft
Steven Sinofsky bring that beautiful, bald head over here so I can give it a kiss. I’ve just watched Microsoft’s Windows 8 reveal and I’m happier than all 15 of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lawyers.
Last week I was whinging about how Ubuntu bored me. After promising bold reinvention, Canonical did the OS equivalent of rearranging its sock drawer. Well, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted Canonical to tip the drawer out; maybe throw some boxer shorts in there – hell, go mad, put the Spiderman Y fronts on hangers. Something, anything, that would make the OS market a little more interesting.
Well blow me down if Microsoft hasn’t done just that. Windows 8 in inheriting the Windows Phone 7 Metro UI, making it suitable for even the stubbiest of stubby fingers. (Incidentally, how on Earth has Microsoft R&D never got touch right in the past? Surely, if you’ve got the monstrous paws of sausage-fingered Steve Ballmer to work with, perfecting a touch interface everybody can use is a doddle).
There are other bits and bobs, of course, but in a funny sort of way I’m not interested in the feature list. What delights me is that a company of Microsoft’s size is beginning to do things that make me tingly in my tech nether regions. A company we long thought to have walked off the edge of the map is back and riding a bloody, big dragon it found in the mist. There’s ideas, innovation, a willingness to experiment. Most of all there’s a suggestion that Microsoft has a plan beyond wrapping its fat arms around that big pile of cash, and falling into an irrelevant, dreamless slumber.
Microsoft has a plan beyond wrapping its fat arms around that big pile of cash, and falling into an irrelevant, dreamless slumber
Of course, we’ve no idea if Windows 8 will actually be any good. But, it will though, won’t it? Apple’s too much of a threat these days for it to be awful, and Steven Sinofsky – who has begun dressing in jeans and black shirts, just saying – seems to have had a galvanising effect over at Redmond.
There’s also the fact that if you’re going to blow $8.5 billion on a company worth precisely 27p, as Microsoft’s just done with Skype, there’s no way it won’t find its way into your biggest product. My bet is that Microsoft’s laying the groundwork for people who own Windows Phone devices to effortlessly talk to people on Windows PCs and tablets, á la FaceTime – a name that’s single handily prevented me from ever using that feature simply because having FaceTime with my mum sounds so wrong.
Alongside this, you’ve got to believe that Microsoft’s app store thingy is finally about to hit the big time. After all, if you’re encouraging people to develop apps for your platform it helps if you’ve got something with the girth of Windows to flog them across. Still, I’m not saying Windows 8 will work. Microsoft’s taking risks. Microsoft. Beige, bland, boring, speccy Microsoft. It’s like finding out my dad spends his weekends skydiving into fields filled with swords and supermodels.
I’m also saying that from where I stand, Microsoft’s currently more interesting than Canonical, and that’s a very bizarre thought indeed. Perhaps, if Mark Shuttleworth was bald … it seems to be working for Microsoft and Apple.