Windows 8 Just Might Be the Next It Thing

The timing is perfect for Microsoft to unveil something fresh

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Microsoft will reveal its new Windows 8 operating system to developers today. "Products using the new software are not expected until next year. But the crucial effort to woo software developers to write apps for Windows 8 starts Tuesday at a four-day conference in Anaheim, Calif," reports The New York Times's Steve Lohr. Normally, you might not get too excited for a new Windows anything. It's not like back in the day, when Windows 95 blew your mind. In fact, if this new effort looks anything like Vista, you might prepare for disappointment. And, let's be honest, it's not an Apple product--or maybe that's a good thing. If, as competitors are arguing, Apple's a little less cool right now, Microsoft can take advantage. Window's 8 just might be the next it thing.

Acting HTC President Martin Fitcher thinks Apple's time might be passing (though he would hope that, right?).  Using some anecdotal evidence of what the kids are using, he said at the Mobile Future Forward conference that iPhones are for old people, reports Geekwire.

There’s an interesting thing that’s going on in the market. The iPhone becomes a little less cool than it was. They were carrying HTCs. They were carrying Samsungs. They were even carrying some Chinese manufacture’s devices. If you look at a college campus, Mac Book Airs are cool. iPhones are not that cool anymore. We here are using iPhones, but our kids don’t find them that cool anymore.

As Apple wanes in it-factor, the timing couldn't be better for Microsoft to release a cool gadget to first win the hearts of hipsters and then slowly seep into mainstream status. But that's just it: Windows 8 can't look like an extension of Windows 7--which really acted as a not very exciting band-aid to Vista--it has to present a shiny new something to lure users away from brands they already love. It looks like 8 might have that draw.

Windows 8 won't just be an improvement over Microsoft's last efforts. It looks like it will offer a new wave of computing, which is exactly what Windows needs to snatch Apple fans. It will have some nice features that match Apple's efforts: "most notably a touch-first interface and an app distribution mechanism and new business model for developers," explains AllThingsD's Ina Fried.  And users will love the eight-second boot-up time. But it also attempts to best the iGiant with its touch-friendly tile-based interface across all platforms, continues Fried. "All of a user’s programs can be viewed as tiles and clicked on with the touch of a finger. Windows 8 essentially supports two kinds of applications. One is the classic Windows application, which runs in a desktop very similar to the Windows 7 desktop." And those will run equally well on tablets and PCs.

Of course Apple already has something that takes the best part of a tablet and puts it on a computer: Lion. The latest iOS made computing more like working on an iPad, as The Atlantic Wire's Adam Clarke Estes explained.   Specifically, it incorporates swiping and pinching movements on the track pad and relies on apps. But it looks like Windows will take it a step further, changing the way you PC. "Taps and finger swipes on a screen, Microsoft executives say, will become a routine way to open, close and browse applications, even on machines that have keyboards. Touch screens, they suggest, could help revive excitement in the PC category," explains Lohr. And all of this will happen on the Windows system that has decades of Microsoft programs, that businesses, in particular love.

Not only will it keep Microsoft program devotees, but it could lure away Apple fans by fostering development of new, better programs. Unlike Apple, 8 opens up software development. "The goal, Microsoft executives say, is to reduce the skills that developers will need to write applications for Windows 8, which will run smoothly on both tablets and PCs.... That approach is in contrast to Apple, which often forces developers to rewrite their applications for its new products, like the iPad, favoring innovation over stability." Developers like this, meaning they will flock to Windows, not Apple, to create cool Windows-only apps.

The timing is perfect. If Microsoft leverages its decades worth of beloved programming with something fresh, they might just have the operating system that overtakes Apple's cool.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.