Microsoft's Windows 8 event: 5 key points

Microsoft's Windows 8 event: 5 key points

Summary: Microsoft formally launched Windows 8 during a press event in New York today. Here are five important points made during the presentation.


Microsoft formally launched its Windows 8 operating system today, sabering the champagne bottle (so to speak) on one of its two cash cow software platforms. (The other is the Office productivity suite.)

The event, which was live-streamed on the Web, featured chief executive Steve Ballmer, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, Windows program management chief Julie Larson-Green and Windows client and ecosystem chief Michael Angiulo.

Heavy on pomp and light on substance, the presentation nonetheless gave us a view into what kind of bet the Redmond, Wash.-based tech company is making with the announcement.

Five key quotes and what they tell us:

1.) "We shunned the incremental. We boldly reimagined Windows." (Sinofsky)

Thanks to the new "chicletized" user interface, anyone who looks at a Windows 8 computer will instantly realize that Microsoft is departing from the traditional desktop computing experience. It's hard to understate the importance of this, because it was Microsoft that popularized the old convention. (The company didn't do away with it completely -- look hard enough and you'll find the original tucked inside.)

Apple's success is due in large part to it bringing computing conventions to pocket-sized mobile devices; thankfully Microsoft mirrored those motives, and not just the UI.

Finally, the Windows 8 experience marks a significant step away from the fundamental idea of many-windows-on-one-screen multi-tasking, which was Windows' calling card for most of its life. Now, it's one vista at a time. (Pun intended.)

2.) "We see today as a grand opening." (Sinofsky)

Here, Sinofsky is talking about the Windows online store, which (like Google's) is modeled after Apple's App Store. But forget that detail for a second -- consider the fact that this is the final nail in the coffin for store-bought, disc-bound software, now delivered in bits over the air. For almost two decades, the Internet was the computer's killer app. Here, they are one in the same.

3.) "Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is." (Ballmer)

The term "PC" was popularized by IBM's 5150 but quickly became synonymous with Microsoft as it conquered the consumer sector. (Nowhere is that more clear than in the long-simmering argument "Mac or PC?" -- since when are MacBooks not personal computers?) Over the last decade we've seen phones move away from pagers and toward computers, likewise gaming consoles, likewise televisions, and likewise those funny things called tablets. Microsoft has always approached this from a desktop-first perspective; today, it's finally embracing the idea that a PC could be shaped like a pack of cigarettes or a Ford Fiesta, even if the needs are similar.

4.) "Picture your start screen filled with everyone and everybody who's most important to you." (Ballmer)

This is a minor quote in the grand scheme of the event, but it actually hints at something quite important. The term "social" has been thrown around quite a bit with regard to Facebook and Twitter and the like, but the point is that computers are regressing as simple machines to be manipulated and progressing as platforms to enable some of our most basic human needs -- such as communication. Other people (and their computers) were hardly on the radar of early Windows machines; today, we can't imagine computers without imagining the communities their users occupy. In some ways, people have replaced files.

5.) "Windows 8 is a major milestone in the evolution and revolution of computing." (Sinofsky)

Microsoft kicked off the event with this proclamation, but it's only partially true -- Windows 8 is a reflection of computing's greater evolution but it's far more of a revolution for Microsoft itself. It's hard to believe that the user experience we see today originated on the Zune portable media player, of all things, but in many ways that makes complete sense: Zune was, of course, portable, and that's the point. This is also remarkable for another reason: instead of Microsoft trickling down elements of its preeminent product, Windows, to other platforms, the reverse occurred: the Metro UI crept from Zune to Kin to Phone to Windows. For Redmond, that's swimming upstream.

None of these points are surprises, of course, but it's good to take a moment and reflect on what this means for Microsoft and personal computers in general. After years of incremental change (yet monumental declarations), we're finally getting a major leap to justify the bluster. There's no turning back now.

Photo: Sarah Tew/CBSi

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Good Points

    But - I would argue that the interface really originated with Medica Center. Back then it looked like no other application and bypassed most of the regular graphics APIs (it was DirectX based using a custom proprietary markup language).

    One failing of Microsoft is to not realize sooner that they were on to something with this UI language (back then called modern). Looking back I would say that the Windows team was stuck in security hell (Windows XP Service pack 2), which lead to quality issues with Vista, which they had to fix with Windows 7. Basically they were too busy playing defence.
    • MS Security is inversely proportional to profits.

      You don't see security discussions or security even being mentioned here. It's strictly a PR spread the glitter operation.

      People using Win8 and still suffering with TDL-4 and other botnets is OK with Microsoft, that is, as long as it still sells. After Viruses, zero day attacks and botnets are a normal part of life, right? And end users should be blamed for not being computer savvy enough to avoid them.
  • Zune + Windows 8

    Let's hope Windows 8 turns into the smashing success Zune was and Windows 9 will restore sanity to the desktop. One Vista, at a time, indeed.
    • Why?

      Is someone forcing you to upgrade or something?
      Why such hate for a computer operating system?
      Isnt it enough of that in the world already?
    • Zune a success??

      Excuse me! Was Zune a success? In which universe? I'm not saying Zune was bad, I'm not saying W8 is bad, I can even see that Windows Mobile 7 and 8 aren't bad, but Zune was never a success. iPhone, iPad and iPod were successes, Zune is something most people haven't even heard about, less seen and even less touched.
      • You obviously missed....

        ....the sarcasm in the post. Sorry to disappoint tswca@..., but Windows 8 will be a success. Embrace it or be left behind….
      • Zune was great

        Too bad there were too many MS haters out there. Zune was superior too iPod and iTunes in every way.
    • Zune

      BTW, I still have a 30GB Brown Zune which works fine which does things that even today's iPod doesn't. Success is measured different by each of us. I do not understand your anger toward Windows 8 - let it live or die on its' own merits...
      • So, success is measured by market share

        And the Zune never had much of that.
        • Huh?

          iPhone has a lower marketshare than Android. I guess it failed, right?

          Macs have a lower marketshare than Windows PCs.
          Linux desktop is lower than both.
          Michael Alan Goff
        • I still own a ZuneHD.

          Again, success isn't just about market share. Go troll elsewhere.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • smashing success Zune

      You forgot to mention the Kin. Yes, with such a pedigree Windows 8 is bound for greatness! XD
    • Honestly, do you use a Windows PC yourself? Do you even like them?

      Or are you justone more troll who in the end really dosnt give a flip flying crap what WIndows does because if you had your choice you would never use a Windows computer of any kind?

      The truth.

      That way we know exactly why you have such a skewed version of reality, which by the way clearly shows that most people who have tried Win 8 really like it.
      • Yet, those that have used disagree with you

        “which by the way clearly shows that most people who have tried Win 8 really like it.”
      • New toy.

        If you are really honest and analyze exactly what people do with computers.

        1. Windows 8 is unnecessary and irrelevant and benefits only Microsoft balance sheets.
        2. Windows 8 is Microsoft trying to obsolete Windows 7.
        3. Security is the most important aspect, which isn't seriously addressed (ever) by MS. (see below)
        4. Intrinsic OS security is inversely proportional to the need for any AV.
        5. Windows 8 offers basically window dressings and a significant learning curve to average users.
        6. No one can type faster than using AtariWriter on my 1.7 MHz Atari 800XL 64K computer.
        7 Fact: Sophistication and glitter has it's place (to a point), but beyond that it's just useless vanity.
        8. Fighter jets get expensive to take to the drugstore.
        10. Reveiw of Windows 8 "Features" show they are just preferential changes.
        • Joe.Smetona, long time MS basher, answer this...

          So every evolution of iPad, or the iPad itself was a new toy. Totally irrelevent. MS already had tablet PCs with good success much earlier.
          When Apple holds back features and releases new versions 2 or 3 times a year, where are you then to show your disgust at how they are filling landfills and just releasing uneeded new toys? Was the retina display needed, Joe?
          New Droid devices of all shapes and configs come out almost daily these days. By not mentioning those, are you saying they are relevant and each and every one needed?

          I've read many many reviews on Win8. It's much faster than win7, more stable, even though win7 is extremely stable over any OS I've used including Linux versions and OS X

          Most of all I call BS on the security factor. vista was created with security as the #1 driving force. It was written using SDL techniques. IE now is sandboxed and many other security layers were added to NT 6. You obviously know nothing about Windows.
          At the time NT 6 was released, Ars Technia wrote about the layered security and that even though Windows is targeted heavily around the world by massive numbers of "bad guys" some backed by governments that hate the US, it's security layers represent the best in the industry and OS X had ZERO security features in Leopard at that time.
          As many have said, Apple releases huge fix packs many times per year with hundreds of security fixes in each, many plugging (or hoping to plug) remotely exploitable problems. So they are real, they have had PoC shown on these vulnerabilities. Being that nobody has bothered to exploit the hole, does not make it go away or not be real.
          Apple software, the bits they add to the system they didn't write, is full of holes.
          The huge Mac OSX botnet in place today shows that.
          • Never learn.

            "This discovery of a new iteration of TDSS/TDL4 unveils a new domain generation algorithm (DGA)-based command-and-control (C&C) capability as part of its improving arsenal of evasion techniques. DGA-based C&C makes TDSS/TDL capable of generating unique "disposable" C&C domain names, making the C&C virtually undetectable by blacklisting and signature-based technologies.
            Believing to have emerged in May of 2012, the new crimeware has been confirmed by Damballa Labs to have already infected at least 250,000 victims, including 46 Fortune 500 companies, several government agencies and ISP networks. It appears that no binary samples of the new malware have been identified and categorized by commercial antivirus products operating at the host or network levels."


            Glad Linux isn't affected by this garbage.
          • Moving on, Money not very well spent.

            Instead of fixing security on existing Win 7, MS elected to introduce Win 8 with just as significant security issues.

            I don't expect MS to publish that using Anti-Virus products on Win 7 or Win 8 is absolutely unnecessary like the "About" section on the LinuxMint website does.
          • A new toy to pull people away from the reality of security failures.

            New glamour Toyz for the Windows Boyz.

            Really, do you think any of the security support groups / companies are going to disappear or diminish because of any improvements in Win 8? They are certainly not needed or ever used for Linux. (Clam, the major Linux AV program checks for Windows malware that only affects Windows computers.)
    • My purple screen Lumia 800

      I just do hope wp can resolve the problem of lumia 800 purple screen, so that i do not replace this expensive screen: