After news that Microsoft and Nokia would use a pre-scheduled event to showcase the next Windows phone in early September ahead of the next iPhone launch, responses have ranged to being as apart as two extremes.

InfoWorld in an August 15 story titled “Windows 8 review: Yes, it’s that bad,” said, “From the user’s standpoint, Windows 8 is a failure–an awkward mishmash that pulls the user in two directions at once.” The reference was to reviews that the new OS for tablets [and hence for phones too] resembled a PC OS underneath the tiled GUI, while the one designed for the PCs forced a tablet GUI on users. (See:

The other extreme response was reflected in the fact that Nokia shares were buoyed up 7.5 percent after CEO Stephen Elop “promised to unveil a new smartphone using Microsoft’s latest Windows 8 software soon.” (See:

Between these contrasts of black and white, however, there actually are shades of grey when it comes to expectations on how Windows 8 would fare. Here are five questions, answers to which would hold the key to unraveling Microsoft’s new Windows OS:

Is it a work-in-progress OS? But that’s true of all Windows, isn’t it, with all those patches and service packs that typically follow? Well, in case of Windows 8, it could turn out to be more than that. While Windows 8 has been unanimously applauded as something of an engineering marvel, doubts have been cast on its ability to deliver smooth user experience. That implies the attempted integration between the PC interface and the tablet/phone interface is far from over yet. Possibly Windows 8 would be the prototype of a new generation of OS to come. And if that be so, it’s the reason I tend to see Windows 8 as a transition and as work-in-progress towards something more complete.

Would it be making life simpler for app developers? The criticism that Windows 8’s interface for the tablet under the hood [of a Metro GUI] is closer to that of a desktop OS is serious, but it also could be a result of Microsoft trying to work closely with app developers. Let me explain.
In a not-too-distant past, mobile app developers have been much upset and distracted by the fragmentation of otherwise successful platforms like even the Android. Developers hate to do it all over again for each new version or format of an OS platform and would breathe much easier if the OS makers could help them [developers] maximize the reusable portions of their app codes. For Microsoft, it would do additionally good if, along the way, it could give a mobile/tablet migration path to its partners who have developed apps for the PC form factors.

Does it assume that ‘touch’ is going to be the interface order of the future?One of the biggest problems critics foresee for users working with Windows 8 on the PC is that navigation may sometimes not be intuitive with mouse as a primary pointing device. That leads me into thinking that Microsoft is possibly building an OS for the touchscreens, where mice and keyboards would have lesser roles to play. Yes, that would require users to train themselves somewhat in getting up and running again, but I don’t buy the argument that one would dump off the OS just because of that. It’s akin to the ways in which users migrated from DOS to Windows in the good old days and started using mice along with the keyboards. Touch will take away some roles away from the mouse just as the mouse did with the keyboard. Of course, all this is would be applicable to users who are willing to migrate to touchscreens in the first place. And that brings me to the next two questions:

Will Windows 7 remain an option for PC users who desist migrating? That would be important, particularly given that Windows 7 is one of Microsoft’s best OSs ever. Even if Windows 8 turns out to be better, it should be left to the users to decide whether to migrate or not. More so, if the migration to the new OS implies migrating to ‘touch’ as well, as there would be an additional cost involved. To support the two OSs for a reasonable period of time would hence make good business sense too. And that brings to the final question, which seems to contradict at least one hypothesis discussed above.

Won’t supporting both Windows 7 and 8 burden app developers yet again? Not really, if Microsoft is able to manage the communication to partners well enough. Given that they already have the apps developed in these many years all they would need to do is support those through minor updates and the ilk. So  a bulk of their efforts and resources could safely be allocated to developing apps for Windows 8, for both the PC and the mobile & tablet form factors that is.

If Microsoft could aim to address these questions [and such others] convincingly, it sure stands to see adoption among users and developers alike [even if it’s in bunches and not by droves]. And that would ensure there would be life for Microsoft beyond the PC.

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