From the January 2013 Issue.
While much has been written about Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s personal computer operating system (including my article at bit.ly/bftwin8), the most important releases are Windows RT and Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has done a good job of creating a credible ecosystem to compete with Apple’s existing ecosystem and Google’s emerging ecosystem.
These ecosystems are described in the table below, and represent the approach of each company to providing software, services and devices in four major areas: mobile phones, tablets, personal computers and television/gaming.
While Apple and Google have been dominant recently in the mobile and tablet space, Microsoft is dominant in the personal computer space with Windows and Office, and is the clear leader on large screens with the XBox 360 platform. Many have written off Microsoft’s efforts to compete in the mobile space, but the new offerings are strong, and practitioners should consider these operating systems as part of their technology ecosystem strategy.
I realize many readers may be surprised to hear that Microsoft is making innovative products and services again, but in many ways, Microsoft has been more innovative than Google and Apple in the last two years. Windows Phone 8 is attractive, easy to use, available on most major mobile networks, and has beautiful phones like the HTC 8X. Windows RT is available on well-designed devices like the Microsoft Surface RT, and has a full version of Microsoft Office 2013, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (but not Outlook).
Both operating systems work seamlessly with Microsoft’s personal cloud services such as SkyDrive, Windows Live Calendar, and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail/Live Mail), as well as major social networking tools like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn.
I have personally worked from both of these mobile operating systems over the last few weeks (using an HTC 8X Windows Phone 8 device on Verizon and a Microsoft Surface RT 64 GB tablet), and the operating systems have features which are compelling to both novice and advanced users.
Windows Phone 8: HTC 8X
The HTC 8X is a thin and light smartphone running the Windows Phone 8 operating system. The hardware is fast, thin, light, and has good battery life. The user interface uses the so-called “Metro” interface implemented in Windows 8, which allows users to create a visual “dashboard” of their communication activities as a replacement for the Start menu. Users create and arrange “Live Tiles” which show a summary of new activity associated with the program, and are also used to launch the applications when they are selected.
Figure 1: Windows Phone 8 uses interactive "Live Tiles" to display key information and launch apps.
For example, when you receive new mail, the number of messages you have not seen appears as a number on the live tile for the selected e-mail account. The phone live tile lists the number of missed calls since you last opened the phone app. Users can "drill down" to the listing of posts, etc. by simply tapping on the Live Tile, and are updated in real time. The information your contacts disclose to you through social networks appears in your address book, and also includes options for texting or IM'ing your friends using SMS, FaceBook Chat, or Windows Live Messenger.