Windows 8 - Hello fingers. Goodbye mice.

Windows 8 moves heavily into touch screen territory and sports a desktop that looks a lot like Xbox Live.

Microsoft released a video giving a glimpse of what's to come in Windows 8. The presentation shows off an extraordinary amount of touch screen integration and a user interface that's a blend of Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live.

Andrew's Take:

It seems like only yesterday that Microsoft was sending out betas for Windows 7, but here we are with a sneak peek at Windows 8, which, according to Microsoft's first "Building Windows 8" video, is going to go tile-based rather than icon-based, at least for tablets and mobile devices. This will, of course, go hand in hand with touch-screen functionality that mirrors what we've come to expect from modern smartphones like the iPhone 4, the Samsung Galaxy, and others. According to the video, the proposed start screen won't be the icon-based desktop we all know and use, but rather, a big clump of tiles in the middle of the screen, which are presumably intended to work best with touch-screen setups. I understand that "mobile computing" (if you guys will let me use that term) is something that has increased exponentially in recent years and that Apple's iPhone hardware has basically been a bottomless pot of gold for that company. What I'm less excited about is the seeming possibility that Microsoft is more interested in touch-screen interfaces and less so in keyboard-and-mouse interfaces.

For those who missed it, I recently traveled to id Software to get GameSpot's E3 2011 exclusive preview of Rage, and for the record, I embarrassed myself pretty badly in front of the company's creative director and its president on a big-screen theatrical setup. Why? My official answer is jet lag (and fleeing from Oklahoma tornadoes), but the real reason is that I was playing the Xbox 360 version with a standard 360 controller, and when it comes down to it, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool keyboard-and-mouse man and still believe, like most right-thinking human beings on the planet, that keyboard-and-mouse is a flat-out superior control setup for first-person shooters (not to mention strategy games, role-playing games, and pretty much any game with nested menus).

I realize it's way too early to start freaking out here, but as someone who has preferred to play with a keyboard and mouse for many, many years, I have to say I'm a bit concerned if this early demonstration means that Microsoft will try to distance traditional mice and keyboards from future iterations of Windows. I literally cringed while watching the video when the touch-screen keyboard was used--I play my games on the PC to avoid having to hunt and peck like that. Aside from the obvious implications for hardware manufacturers that make gaming mice and keyboards like Razer and Logitech, I'm just not liking the (admittedly implausible) possibility that mice and keyboards might become second-class citizens for Windows PCs. Of course, mice and keyboards aren't going anywhere in the near future--everyone on the planet uses them for important work-related applications--but longer-term, I have to say, I don't like the idea of giving up on my mice and keyboards for PC games just yet…at least, not until a much better alternative (that ideally isn't a touch screen) arises. That's my two cents, anyway.

Sarju's Take:

Andrew's fear of change in this case might be misplaced. It's not so much that Microsoft is giving the proverbial finger to the keyboard and mouse as it is enhancing it. Those two devices are incredibly powerful in terms of accuracy and speed, but they're inappropriate for tablets and smartphones.

If we look just a little bit into the future, the Windows 8 demo signals a step in the right direction for Microsoft. The world is marching toward operating systems that need to be accessible through a variety of input devices, be they fingers, mice, or keyboards. At the moment, all of these methods reside in discrete areas. Fingers get used on smartphones, and mice and keyboards stick to laptops and desktops. This works fine if all of these devices never need to interact and stick to their specialties. But we're getting close to an inflection point, one at which these disparate devices might just merge completely.

If you haven't seen the Motorola Atrix 4G, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's a smartphone and portable laptop slapped into one. The phone itself is powerful, but when plugged into the dock (keyboard/touchpad and monitor, a faux-top if you will), it converts into a rather robust platform. The execution and price points are questionable, but the direction is undeniably sound.

Smartphone processors are set to increase in speed tremendously over the next five years, think orders of magnitudes (100x) more powerful. Their persistent data connections also remove the limit of paltry onboard storage when connected to the cloud. There's also nothing stopping manufacturers from popping a 500GB drive into a dock. The seamless merger of desktop and smartphone operating systems becomes a powerful selling point. Why buy two computing devices when one does the job? External monitors, keyboards, and mice fill in the gaps when you need to get accuracy and brute typing speed. On the go, the smartphone lets you carry everything you need without adding an extra pound (or five) of weight.

All of this convergence gets pretty cool when it comes to gaming as well. A single computing device allows for desktop and on-the-go gaming at the same time, all without losing where you are in the game. This all depends on how developers take advantage of the platform, and some genres (real-time strategy, first-person shooter) definitely won't transfer well. But imagine starting your gaming session on a game like Osmos or Castle Crashers at home, only to continue on a bus a moment later. Interesting times, they are a coming.

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Discussion

231 comments
nomadski69
nomadski69

Windows 8 = The Brady Bunch Movie opening credits.

aryeec
aryeec

...my Initial opinion?.......... it sucks b4llz.

videun
videun

Please not be like my DS Lite that had it's touchscreen not working.

dagrimmreepa
dagrimmreepa

@Count_Conrad Windows 7 was surprisingly decent.

dagrimmreepa
dagrimmreepa

I hate this, hopefully a traditional desktop is also an option otherwise there's no way in hell I'm buying this. Does anybody really find these tiles appealing? No wallpaper, no icons, just these ugly, square tiles... it's really terrible and actually stopped me from getting a W7 Mobile.

kikaazz
kikaazz

aachh.. No touch. Some people just aren't supporters of touchstuff. (me for example) I'd like to see a materialised keyboard and mouse!

Agronot
Agronot

It's good to see Microsoft being creative again. Like the new look and touch screen but nothing like a keyboard and mouse!

Kefka-
Kefka-

I assume there is also a traditional desktop setup you can use if your on a home pc. I don't want to use a touch screen imput on my pc. But I don't think that is going to happen, mouses(or keyboards) aren't going away anytime soon.

basangicu
basangicu

I don't give a crap. I like my Windows XP. It's only flaw is that it doesn't run Just Cause 2.

superxtreme101
superxtreme101

Well first off, isn't it a bit too soon for a new windows version. I think the classic view is better that the tile layout and much easier to use, especially if you you have a desktop, like myself, since touching the screen would be hard work so I'll stick with my mouse and keyboard. I hope the keep the WIMP format Windows Icons Mouse Pointer

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

@Baraq I saw another video and one of the people the Microsoft dude was presenting 8 to asked if they can simply use the standard version and the dude said it's very simple to switch to the standard type of desktop. Besides if you look at the video around 3:06 it obviously shows the standard windows 7 style desktop and then the host guys also pulls in a snap windows from windows 8 a few seconds later. If 8 works the way they're saying it does, and also works in conjunction with phones, tablets, laptops, AND desktops (and etc) all in 1 operating system, Microsoft will prove that you can easily have an OS that can work for anyone in any occasion. They'll definitely have beaten Apple with their 2 OS's (OSX and iOS). Besides with my phone and my home computer running the exact same OS it'll be SO much easier to fully customize my phone exactly the way I want it, and also allow it to fully integrate programs and features between it and my laptop at home. Seriously if Microsoft pulls this off the way they're implying...then Windows 8 will be incredible...

SweetSummer
SweetSummer

szafto is more stupid, dare to make an operating system! even win 98

Baraq
Baraq

I'm sure like all of Microsoft's stuff you can turn off the fancy UI and go back to the classic view. For those whom are complaining that is.

Baraq
Baraq

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

Right, enough of this Windows and Mac crap. I'm switching to Linux and moving to some backwater town.

Count_Conrad
Count_Conrad

@raptures330 @ronnet I never said Apple didn't copy. The small companies that most (if not all) consumers haven't heard of are the unsung heroes out there. The ones doing the hard work creating the unique ideas. Micro$oft and Appl£ are the masks that bring it all together. M$ normally does a 5h1t3 job of it and Apple has been churning out the 'i' devices. It feels like we only just had the iPhone 4 and the 'iPhone 5' is coming out soon this year with what I expect to be nothing unique to the 'series'. I'm no fanboy, I proudly own a Nintendo Wii, Gamecube, 64, Playstation 3, 2 and 1. However I don't trust M$ which is why I don't have a 360 anymore. It's just too bad that they have built up a reputation for me that they're just a marketing brand that churns out software and hardware with bugs, glitches and just plain problems.

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

this seems very intriguing. hope this works out. ^.^

termadoyle
termadoyle

@Reyveign It is a shame, isn't it? I remember it was like Christmas when we upgraded our rack from W95 to W98 or from W98 to XP.

ponorac92
ponorac92

@doktron Well... Theres only one problem- I dont have an xbox... I am more an PC fan... :)

ronnet
ronnet

@Count_Conrad, Did I say that Microsoft doesn't copy? They do that or they buy out the original company that came up with the idea. They don't have much of a choice either if they wish to remain/become again the leading ICT company. Even Google is now guilty of copying from others to remain on top, all of them do it. Microsoft just a little more evident because their glory days are long past and all we see of them now is copies from others. What I was pointing out is that these changes to Windows 8 are serious. They've copied from tablets and took the style of their yet-to-be succesful Windows Phone 7. Tablets are gaining ground but there are still more people without them that also dont see purpose to them or touch interfaces. So the changes they made to WIndows 8 are risky because it would have sold without these changes as well. That is all I was pointing out. On the subject of Windows Phone 7, I had to please to try out one a week ago and they are actually really good. The core idea behind it is great but the interface could use a little work, but if they get it right then it is worthy competitor to my Android. Not that I would get one because I've gotten so used to Android and WP7 is something else. So I guess it is the only original Microsoft product that I can think of right now.

raptures330
raptures330

@AndrewP As long as the gaming industry is healthy and generating silly amounts of money I do not believe you will have to worry about something getting phased out. If anything keyboards and mice might get phased into the consoles. 10 years down the line I hope there is way more going on in voice commands and gesture control than touchscreens. @Count_Conrad You mention copying... then mention the iPod as if it was the original of the lot. Or the iPad being original. Windows Tablet software/idea was out long before iPad was even an itch in Job's trousers. They just sucked at marketing it properly. Name anything Apple has done that they have not copied or bought out? I am sure you might think of a few, but I am sure I can think of more where it was bought out tech or copied. Original idea (or first on the market with the service): Kinect. XboxLive style service and making it a media hub that connects to the internet for more than just gaming. All companies copy, buy out, and borrow ideas. Don't vilify MS anymore than the others.

Count_Conrad
Count_Conrad

@ronnet Microsoft will always copy. It's what they're best at. I have an iPod and Tablet. *Looks at this video* Name me 2 things which were never copied from anywhere and never bought out that Micro$oft has done. They can do a great marketting job sticking their logo on whatever they can but as a company, they have never created anything new and interesting. This is just more of what we've seen. Plus cross-compatibility with mobile platforms built into the same edition of windows, I see bugs on the loose.

starduke
starduke

I happen to like my mouse and keyboard! I never liked touch screens. Heck, even with my DS I use a Stylus. Fingers leave FINGERPRINTS!

flashn00b
flashn00b

At least the desktop's still there, though I have to wonder if Steam will adapt to the new Start interface.

usedaw
usedaw

Sorry about this but I agree with Andrew, I did literally cringe during the video...

raptures330
raptures330

A desktop with a touchscreen? Ok...so... wait a moment. Now I need to buy a 3d 120HZ Monitor WITH touch capabilities? Not going to happen. This sounds like a netbook/tablet OS and it will work well there but on a desktop computer which moves hardly ever (cept for you LAN party people) having to be fingering my monitor all day is going to be rather tiring on the arm. Like permanently pointing at something. PS I don't care for "smartphones". Only function any of them have that is any good, for me, is the GPS and "bar finder in your vicinity" tech. Maybe being able to check emails out of office. The rest is just more social media induced narcissism.

XtremeDude09
XtremeDude09

@Defy_The_Fallen How many people had touch screen phones a few years ago? Things change. Things become cheaper. Once we're into say, the third generation of touch screen monitors, the first gen will be as cheap as a standard HD monitor is today. It will become the standard.

roams
roams

What Microsoft needs is a second OS product line. Or in reality... not a second OS so much as a second GUI line. Because right now they are scaring and pissing off the desktop people... AND they are attaching the Windows name to a product designed for people who have a very bad perception of that name. Keep Windows as... the standard "desktop/window" based GUI... and have a new line that runs on top of Windows but replaces the GUI by something tablet oriented.

SunSpot
SunSpot

Its sad that microsoft is as big as they are their OS'es usually suck, and this one will defenetively be like "PUKE"

DaividAngel
DaividAngel

i actually hate touch !!! dear microsoft plz don't ruin your name and make windows 8 only touch!!! pc gamers play the pc because of its mouse and keyboard!! and all u think about is useless programs! what about games? are games gonna get ruined because u force them 2 b touch? soo just don't do it keep the mouse and keyboard we all love and appreciate

szafto
szafto

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

jubaghutta
jubaghutta

They should just invent a mouseless mouse. That would be sweet.

santinegrete
santinegrete

I like the OS more stable and with less changes of an already intuitive design: Windows 7 only managed on the first one. Also, touchscreens are very expensive, am I right?

bastion11
bastion11

well, i think is a great technology ,, i'm totally agree with one comment , about that people whine to much. i am a victim of smartphones and multi touch tech, and i have to say , i like it, easy acces. lets approve this new improvement of microsoft like a new accessible, easy and smooth operating system for people who work with it. in the other hand, i think this is really stupid to improve for games. i will never play a first person shooter without my keyboard and mouse., or third person action, adventure, roll game. without joystick. is the best tech for games by far, not even a "kinetic" console, or some virtual game with body interactions, at least this kind of games , that we play.

far-dee-jay
far-dee-jay

Go touch the v@g1n@ of your mother bold @ssh0le , I've never would like to see fingertips over my 24" screen!!!

ree246
ree246

Why would I want a touch system for my desktop? I honestly hope this is not the future direction Windows takes.

Shardz7
Shardz7

There's no way in Hell I'm going to be fingering my desktop monitor while screwing around with their Sesame Street OS with an online STORE on my desktop ala STEAM. No, I don't think so. Windows 7 was rough enough on gamers (and everyone else), now you want to DUMB it down so that it looks like an interface for a Mattel toy. I don't know what they are smoking over there at MS, but it must be some potent stuff.

kungharry
kungharry

i can see why this would benefit laptop users, and maybe even desktops (occasionally), but is there any point in upgrading to w8, when w7 seems to have the same desktop experience? I'm not sure about which i should upgrade to... currently on vista, and planning to upgrade my computer components and software within a year.

brilhasti
brilhasti

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford

calum1984
calum1984

be nice to see if microsoft will ever make windows products for specific markets without the baggage of the others,.e.g a gaming OS that has none of the baggage from the business class windows or including a ton of stuff gamers will never use, or a home OS that doesnt include a bunch of stuff home users never use (and should NEVER be included so they cant mess around with them and moan later it isnt working....). Making the OS specific to the market it is being sold to would be a much better way to go imho everyone gets what they want, and possibly perform better without a ton of crud running in the background you never use

malakadil
malakadil

sorry but what was the difference between windows 7 and windows so called 8. buy new computer with touch screen and windows 8 .

Reyveign
Reyveign

@termadoyle When you can pretty much copy & paste an entire OS & add a couple of new features, take away some loved ones and slap a $600 pricetag on it, I don't think MS will ever think it's "too early" for a new Windows OS. Unfortunately.

Arcturuss
Arcturuss

@Xaiano and you mean to say that the ipad and the Wii aren't gimmicks? o.O

Demonizer91
Demonizer91

i hope it comes with a plastic screen so you can actually wash of the fingerprints or the dust from the screen.

talanto
talanto

PC means Keyboard and Mouse and we the gamers want them always in our pc.

AndrewP
AndrewP

@markypants Mark, prettiness of the tiles aside, and iPhone similarities aside, my real concern is as a game player. What happens to game interfaces should Microsoft decide to try phase out the mouse & keyboard in favor of touch screens? OK, sure, nothing will change in the short-term. Battlefield 3, for instance, will be released for Windows 7 and will obviously have support for all modern keyboards and mice. But let's say 10 years further down the road, MS pushes much harder on touchscreens as being the preferred way of interacting with your desktop...where does that leave Battlefield 5, or Civilization 7, or Diablo III? (See what I did there?) If PC and keyboard end up stuck with unreliable legacy support in favor of MS pushing hard on touchscreens, I don't see why game companies would bother trying to put the next Doom or the next Battlefield onto a platform whose control scheme wasn't up to the task. And the problem I was getting at is that Microsoft doesn't seem to care either way.

malatato
malatato

All Mass Effect 2 fans believes in what legion said. Legion: Windows are structural weakness, geth do not use them.(During the beginning of Legion's Loyalty mission)

Xaiano
Xaiano

There are a lot of people calling this a 'gimmick' but wasn't that what they called the wii? and the ipad? and the smartphone? I think the man who presumes to know enough to pre-judge the will of the masses if the greatest fool of all.