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Start Your 'Windows 8' Engines

The era of Windows 8, for better or worse, has begun.

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In early June, Microsoft briefly captivated the tech industry with some short demos of "Windows 8," the reimagined version of the OS that will run on Apple iPad-style tablets as well as Microsoft's usual array of varied PC form factors.

On Sept. 13, Microsoft held serve by releasing a developer preview of the OS at its BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif.

The conference occurred too late in our deadline cycle to get much detail into this issue, but look for us to unpack a lot of the partner angles next month. For now, though, let's focus on three key takeaways.

In more than two hours worth of demos, Steven Sinofsky and other Microsoft executives showed that they're taking a touch-first approach, focusing on performance and concentrating on delighting developers.

Implied in June, the touch-first strategy was completely confirmed in September. Sinofsky, president of Windows and Windows Live, called Windows 8 "touch-first but equally at home with a mouse and a keyboard." He went on to say, "The minute you use a touch device with Windows 8, by the time you go back to your laptop, your desktop, you're going to be hitting that screen, and I promise you'll have fingerprints all over your monitor if it doesn't support touch."

For performance, Sinofsky gave an impressive demo showing that a netbook he used in Windows 7 demos three years before ran Windows 8 with less memory and fewer processes. Also demonstrated were fast boots and a new power state called "connected standby."

For developers, the new OS brings streamlined development processes to help them quickly deliver apps using the "Metro" UI style, which includes features called "charms" to help developers connect with other applications and makes thoughtful improvements to app marketplaces.

It's obvious at this stage to say there are more questions than answers. Most of the important questions are unanswerable: Will Microsoft capture developer attention? Is there enough in Windows 8 for Microsoft to be the main contender against Apple in the tablet wars? Will corporate buyers be interested? When will the OS be ready to ship?

Windows 8 is primarily a developer story right now, although in the new app and cloud era, who in IT can afford not to be a developer? Microsoft is investing heavily in its development channel at the moment. That was illustrated most dramatically at BUILD with the Oprah-like moment when the developers in attendance learned they were getting a Samsung tablet loaded with Windows 8.

There's a long way to go until general availability. But with official OS code out for download, the era of Windows 8, for better or worse, has begun.

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About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.