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Tech blog: Windows 8 — the future of Windows OS is multicoloured

Author: Jamie Millar
Depending on which media you read, Windows 8 is either a total failure, slightly undercooked, or the finest operating system (OS) Microsoft has ever produced.

We’re in the latter camp and see Microsoft’s direction as the start of a bright future of device agnostic functionality, technology integration and big leaps in enterprise productivity.


Windows 8 works across multiple devices

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Total Synergy gets the chance to work with new operating systems and applications in advance of general release. Our development team has been using Windows 8 since early 2012 and we rolled it out across the rest of the team between October 2012 and May 2013. Within that roll-out was Office 2013, including its unified communications tool, Lync, and Office 365.

Two defining shifts in personal computing in recent years are cloud computing and smart mobile devices. The proliferation of wireless internet, smartphones and tablets changed the way people connect, communicate and browse, not to mention their expectation of immediate online gratification (so-to-speak). With increased mobility came a need to not be tied to hard drives, desktop devices or on-premise servers.

Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, has been built with these things in mind — a mobile and tablet/touch experience for the desktop, tablet or smartphone and simple access to cloud storage and web applications.

The big adjustment for most Windows OS users is the shift from the familiar desktop experience — the ubiquitous ‘Start’ button, in particular — to the ‘Modern’ or ‘Metro’ style live tiles, designed for a touch interface and web app functionality.

This is, frankly, quite a big adjustment to take on for the massive global workforce using Windows OS. Yet, in the first version of Windows 8, the familiarity is not far away with a ‘Desktop’ tile taking a user to the desktop at a click and simple ‘pin to taskbar’ options for your favourite programmes and folders, keeping the most-used applications within easy click reach.

Despite this, Microsoft has announced that it’s readying an update — Windows 8.1 (code name Windows Blue) — in response to the huge amount of feedback received since launch. The changes offer a nod to the familiar with eyes on the future in what is more refinement than revision.

Windows 8.1 offers more personalisation

Windows 8.1 will introduce more personalisation in allowing users to apply custombackgrounds, moving backgrounds or scrolling photos to the start screen. There is a setting to boot straight to desktop and a modification to the return-to-start-switch — while not an actual return to the Start button and Start menu, a desktop anchor point since Windows XP, it’s a visual marker for where a user can switch back to the tile screen (where it always has been, in the bottom left corner of the screen).

Other updates include better search integration with Bing, simplified cloud connectivity, better mouse and keyboard options and centralised control over PC settings in a more familiar control panel, and much more. 

Whether viewing Windows 8 with suspicion or satisfaction, the future of desktop computing is changing. Microsoft’s new UI is moving towards the ubiquity of mobile devices and cloud storage; aiming for consistency across all hardware it’s installed on and software it integrates with.

The proliferation of tablet and mobile users continues to rise; rumours of a new Microsoft mini-tablet are circulating and the opportunity to have full-scale Microsoft Office functionality on a tablet — on the Microsoft Surface Pro, for example — means business professionals can’t ignore the efficiency to be gained from this type of device, interface and future.

Whether you’re nervous of losing the ‘Start’ button or not, sooner or later you’ll have to move on. May as well dive-in and figure it out.

Windows 8.1 will also bring several less known benefits such as wireless tethering, auto-triggered VPN and remote removal of business data. Check out this slideshow from Information Week to see more.