Microsoft is taking a radical new approach with its next operating system and it is clearly taking aim directly at rival Apple. The idea is that you can use the same interface and same operating system across all computing form factors-phone to tablet to desktop computer.
There are a few key takeaways from this approach in my opinion. First, is the obvious tablet strategy. People have been clamoring to see what Microsoft will do with this form factor to compete with iPads and Android tablets. Most agree the current Windows 7 OS will not translate. Apparently, Microsoft agrees because it has built this next version to be touch-friendly, and scale to any size form factor. The question really becomes: Will users be comfortable moving from the phone and tablet up to the desktop with a touch interface (although of course mouse and keyboard are still completely supported and optimized)? Personally, I wouldn't welcome the iPad interface on my MacBook, so it remains to be seen if this simplified scalable interface truly scales up as well as it scales down.
This brings me to another key takeaway from this preview. Of course, Microsoft is worried about the tablet market and the clear leader in the space is Apple with the iPad. Microsoft has adopted a strategy that is in stark contrast to what Apple is doing and has been so successful with. The next version of iOS (the iPad/iPhone operating system) is supposed to be unveiled at Apple's upcoming Developers Conference, and at the same time its next desktop operating system is starting to be previewed. It has kept the two platforms separate and if anything, they continue to diverge. Why it is that Microsoft feels it needs to meld the two together?
The biggest outcry you hear from iPad users is that the device is not truly a business tool and is not really ready for the enterprise. This is very true in a lot of ways. Maybe by melding the interface for all its devices, Microsoft feels it can get end-to-end control of your computing experience-both personal and business. On the phone and tablet side, there is most definitely a cool factor as seen in the preview video making the rounds. The interface in no way falls behind an iPad in that regard (of course the hardware form factor will go a long way to determine this as well). But what else is interesting about the video is that the person doing the demonstration (and by the way, he interacts with the OS using only the touch interface including the soft keyboard) makes sure to show traditional Microsoft applications running on the platform-specifically in this case Microsoft Excel.
Maybe it is just hedging its bets, or maybe it is trying to play both sides of the field, but either way, if Microsoft can manage to create an operating system that is both cool and appealing to the casual user, and robust and productive to the business user, it may just be on to something, and Apple may need to play catch-up for a change.