Today was a big day for Microsoft with two separate launch event. The first for Windows 8 and all of it’s hardware partners. The second was specifically to introduce the Microsoft Windows 8 Surface tablet. Below are some of the take-aways I got from the webcasts.
Windows 8 Launch
The three general area that Microsoft focused on were the release of the OS itself, the public unveiling of the Windows Store and the new devices available from its hardware partners.
The release of the OS focused on the fact that it will be available at mid-night tonight for both new PCs and for upgrades. I can’t say that this interested me that much since it was already known to most people. I think what they did show well was how easy the OS really is to use.
The Windows Store is also not a new feature to those of us who have been running the pre-release versions of Windows 8 or have owned Windows Phone 7 for the past 2 years. What was interesting is that the Windows Store launches with more apps available than any other platforms store at their respective launch. I think this says a lot about how Microsoft focuses on the ability of developers to create software and make it available. The of course were sure to emphasize that the Windows Store has better monetary terms for developers than its competitors.
The also showed off the fact that XBox Music streaming is available for to all Windows 8 user for free. Couple this with the Bing suite of apps that give you news, weather, sports and finance right out of the box and I think most people will find the environment a joy to use.
I think the hardware demo, while quick and furious, really show where Windows shine: CHOICE! They made a statement that over 1000 devices have been certified for Windows 8. They showed tablets, laptops, desktops, all-in-ones and convertibles. Since these devices have industry standard connectors they give a much wider variety of accessories and devices that you can use with them.
Steve Balmer then came on stage and tried to see how many times he could use the “magical”. He focused on how the Windows 8 OS is designed to integrate with SkyDrive, Skype and Outlook.com. He also enforced that they think Windows 8 is the best choice for the Enterprise when it comes to protecting data and integrating across devices including Windows Phone 8.
With that we were left to wait for the second event of the day.
The second event of the day started with kids with magnets. Ok, they were adults, but who doesn’t like playing with magnets. Steven Sinofsky detached and reattached the Surface keyboard repeatedly, clearly enjoying himself. It turns out that there are 4 magnets in the cover, 2 for alignment and 2 as connectors.
They then went to giving us the details on the display. The 10.6” display is optically bonded to the case and is optimized to reduce glare. I think this came through very well in the demonstrations.
The properties of the case were also a great selling point. The VaporMg allowed them to drop the device on stage, on purpose, and continue working. Of course they had to bring out the skate boards made from Surface devices.
“It just has to feel right” was the reason they gave for many of their design decisions from the weight and size of the device to the way the kickstand and camera work together. While this gave you the feeling that the whole process was trial and error you could tell that a lot of science went into the specs. This included making sure that the magnets were strong enough to hold the cover on and still have a 3 year old remove the cover without effort.
I am glad that they also decided the a USB port would be part of the spec since it give so many options. They made the point that this allows Surface to leverage over 420 million existing devices. That works for me.
The last feature that I really thought was important was the microSD port. Begin stuck with the onboard memory has been an aggravation of mine with many of the devices in the market today.
I think they did job of really getting the audience to understand why you want this platform and this particular device. Using personal examples like creating a video of a birthday party and being in it or the fact that the device was being used to live blog the event and control the lights and presentation. They showed very well that it was not only fun but very capable of getting real work done. Handing out tablets to the crowd didn’t hurt either. In the end I really wanted a Surface even though I really have no need for one on a daily basis. Great job Microsoft!