Windows is the most used desktop operating system of the world. Recent researches show that about 90 percent of computers use Windows as the primary operating system. This is a very remarkable figure, considering the huge user base of computers all over the world. Windows 95 was first operating system of Microsoft which created a paradigm shift for computer users. Windows 98 was an iterative step for Microsoft in terms of operating systems rather than being revolutionary. Critically acclaimed Windows XP was the revolutionary step. Windows XP replaced old windows kernel with modern NT kernel. Windows XP became incredibly popular and sold more than 400 million copies in about five
Windows XP was followed by Windows Vista. Vista released five years after Windows XP with high expectations. However critical reception for Vista was a mixed bag. There were lots of people who liked Vista, however there are also many people who hated it and they were very vocal about it. Vista wasn’t a failure in terms of sales, because it sold more than 400 million copies. However it was the first Microsoft operating system which got so much negative critical reception until that time. Microsoft executives made a serious move and appointed Steven Sinofsky as the head of Windows Division.
Windows 7 has been prepared under the command and vision of Sinofsky. It shares the same foundations with Windows Vista, however it solved many problems that Vista had and people complained about. Even some people humorously called it ‘Windows Vista Fixed’. Windows 7 became incredibly successful in terms of sale figures and critical reception. This success was enough to make Windows 7 is the most successful operating system of Microsoft history.
Windows 8: A Whole New Approach
Microsoft was very popular at personal computer side of the market; actually they were dominating the market. However things weren’t the same for mobile computing market. Apple was dominating market with IOS operating system which is used on Iphone, Ipad and Ipod Touch devices. Google was another big player in the market with Android operating system. Android became extremely popular especially in emerging markets. Blackberry was taking another remarkable market share in the market. Contrary to these success stories, situation was not too bright for Microsoft. Its mobile operating system Windows Mobile was constantly losing market share.
Microsoft wanted to do something to gain market share in the mobile market immediately. They decided to use their biggest strength to do that: their desktop OS. They came up with the idea of combining desktop and mobile operating systems and create one operating system that fits to every platform. Microsoft had the vision of using same operating system on desktop computers, notebooks, all in one computers, tablets and mobile phones. They thought that this would increase the scope of Windows ecosystem and this will attract more developers.
One Operating System for Everything
To create a hybrid operating system was not an easy task because of the limitations of both mobile and desktop systems. User interface guidelines that are widely used in desktop systems are created for traditional input systems like mouse and keyboard. They are not very useful in touch screen devices. Actually Microsoft tried touch screen controlled OS before with Windows XP and Windows 7 respectively. They were very successful at desktop market, but both failed miserably at touch screen market. Microsoft learned a very important lesson from this situation. They had to design the whole operating system from scratch with touch screen controls in mind
The design of Windows 8 reflected a simple philosophy: to create one operating system which can be used on everywhere. This design philosophy firstly affected the user interface. The traditional interface of Windows operating systems that we knew since Windows 95 has dramatically changed. Icons are replaced with tiles which are automatically reflects the updates. Contrary to static nature of icons, tiles offer regularly updated info bits all over the interface.
However the biggest change is the disappearance of start menu. Start menu has been a very integral part of Windows operating systems since the introduction of Windows 95 at 1995. It was an iconic part of Windows operating systems. Also it increases the OS usability and user productivity. However when it comes to the systems with touch screen input, its usability dramatically decreases. Microsoft was aware of this fact, so they wanted to replace start menu with something which could be used at traditional and touch screen input systems with ease. So the idea of start screen has been born. Start screen contains live tiles of installed programs on a big, single page. Since tiles are considerably bigger than icons in terms of size, it is much easier to select them on touch screen inputs.
Metro Design Language
An unified design language was main aim for Microsoft when they started to design Windows 8. As mentioned previously, they wanted to come up with a magical formula to come up with an optimal solution which would fit all kinds of devices. For the sake of reaching such kind of an unification level, they created a set of design rules and guidelines for Windows 8. The sum of these guidelines and rules are called as “Metro”. Metro is the design language which defined almost all user interface (UI) elements of Windows 8. Actually Metro isn’t created for Windows 8 in the first place; it was created for Windows Phone 7 initially. Microsoft liked the sophistication and usability that Metro brings so much they decided to use Metro in Windows 8 as well.
Metro is typography based design language. This means the use of text is a very vital part of Metro design language. Actually there are some basic principles that Metro relies on.
– Collecting common tasks together, so user can access them easier and faster whenever they want.
– All user interactions must be done heuristically. This means that when user makes something with the operating system, he/she should get feedback in form of an animation, transition or user interface element motion.
– User interface should be as minimalistic as possible. There should be no unnecessary extras which bloat the operating system. “Less is more” is the main philosophy at this stage.
– All elements of user interface should give user the impression of being responsive and alive.
– User interface can be used easily both with traditional input methods (keyboard & mouse) and touch input.
As you can see from the list, Metro brings some really serious fundamental changes to the design logic of Windows operating systems. Until Windows 8, they were mainly aiming towards computer users with traditional input systems. This time, Microsoft needed to win both desktop and mobile users. The main idea of Metro is really good in theory, but how they implemented such revolutionary changes in practice is another story.
– Windows Account Support
You can use your Windows Live accounts to login Windows 8. By using this method you can back-up and synchronize your data over internet. If you use another Windows 8 device with same windows account, you can access to all your previous data on other devices.
– Skydrive Integration
Microsoft’s online storage system Skydrive is tightly integrated to operating system. It enables you to automatically back-up your files on a third party Microsoft server and access to those files from any computer with proper internet connection.
– Internet Explorer 10
Internet Explorer 10 has completely embraced metro design language principles as well. It is completely compatible with the current user interface of the system. It is revealed by Microsoft that IE 10 will not support any third party plug-in. This puts many popular plugins’ future into danger, including Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in.
– Desktop Mode
A compability mode which provides support for legacy applications. It offers a similar user interface design with previous Windows versions, especially Windows 7.
– Redesigned Windows Explorer
Windows explorer at desktop mode has been completely redesigned in Windows 8. Familiar ribbon element from office 2010 programs has been integrated tightly to Windows Explorer. It is still possible to switch on/off the ribbon element