What Android can learn from Windows 8

by Marty Gabel

Yesterday, Microsoft revealed a developer preview of Windows 8. According to Stephen Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division at Microsoft, the company has “reimagined Windows,” updating all aspects of the operating system from the chipset to the user experience. You can view his rather lengthy keynote speech from the BUILD conference right here.

The reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive for Microsoft, even with this being a preview. Microsoft is upping the ante, especially when it comes to interface design. Windows 8 will offer an operating system unified across all devices, whether they be tablets or laptops. You want apps, you can use them. But if you also want to run more complex software like Excel or Photoshop, you’ll be able to do that too.

And remember, this is more than just a unified operating system like Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich (welcome though that will be) which allows updates pushed out across all devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.). It’s about making the tablets we use function more like a regular laptop or PC.

All the essentials in the palm of your hand

One criticism levelled at Android tablets and, incidentally, even Apple’s dominant iPad, is that they are one-trick ponies. Sure, they offers some great features, but are they truly necessary or essential? Despite great apps being available for both platforms in their respective marketplaces, a return to a desktop or laptop computer is still required to perform more complex tasks.

Android tablets today are pretty powerful too with their dual-core processors, plenty of RAM, multitasking capabilities and decent graphics chips. Why shouldn’t they be able to do more than just run apps? With cloud computing becoming a regular part of our lives, there’s not even the need to store huge amounts of files on specific devices any more either. Microsoft bridging the gap between PC and tablet is a potentially winning strategy.

There is no denying that tablets are here to stay, despite being non-essential and somewhat ‘luxury’ items right now for many. Google needs to up its game and not only encourage better app development to make tablets more accessible and marketable, it also needs to take a page out of Microsoft’s book and build an OS that can be used seamlessly and pretty much do everything a regular PC or Mac can do.

There is much discussion about tablets having ushered in a “post-PC” world, but Microsoft, with its new Windows 8 software, is demonstrating that the PC is not necessarily dead, just developing. Whether its new OS strategy will be a roaring success remains to be seen.

The Windows 8 preview still has some bugs and is missing a few important features. But it is certainly giving food for thought to both Android and iOS developers everywhere when it comes to how we use our tablets.