The iPad and its operating system iOS, are undoubtedly the most popular on the tablet market at the moment, despite the relative success and excellent interface of Android Honeycomb (which suffers from a bit of complexity and more importantly, lack of apps, both of which are pretty big deterrents to a wider adoption).
Microsoft is also playing catch up to Apple’s OS on the smartphones market, but with their latest Windows OS iteration, they have officially stepped into tablet territory, as well. Windows 8’s interface is clearly designed for tablet operation, and Microsoft themselves said that it will be a sort of universal tablet and desktop OS, like Android Ice Cream Sandwich is for smartphones and tablets. Moreover, it seems that Windows 8 will be ported to ARM processors, as well, with a few modifications to make it less desktop-like, which means that we’ll be seeing the OS on cheap tablets that are set to compete directly with the iPad and all of the Android tablets out there.
But can Windows 8 compete with iOS on equal terms? It would seem that it’s impossible or at least very hard at a first look, since you’d think that Microsoft has designed Windows 8 with the desktop in mind first and foremost, while Apple seems to have made iOS specifically for mobile devices.
But you’d be wrong if you think that – in reality, iOS runs the same core as the desktop Mac OS X, with heavy customizations, and it looks like Microsoft did exactly the same thing with Windows 8 and that will show most on the ARM version.
Windows 8 will use a new interface and a new apps engine, both of which have their roots in the Windows Phone 7 code. You’ve probably already seen Metro UI on WP7 smartphones – well, the Windows 8 version is even simpler to use and better looking – I doubt that even children will have problems using the tile-based interface, which is a lot like the simple icons in iOS, if you think about it.
There are a few demo videos out there showing Windows 8 on a touch screen, and it’s impressive to say the least – the sleek UI looks and works great, and everything seems intuitive, just as you would expect from a mass consumer OS.
Windows 8 will also be better at games thanks to the long legacy on the desktop, Web browsing will be better than ever, you’ll be able to run all your favorite Windows apps if you get an x86 tablet, there’s support for tons of external peripherals and accessories that simply don’t have drivers or were not even meant for the iPad or Android pads – all of that is very important and will make users think twice before choosing another tablet over one running Windows 8.
I believe that Microsoft can be more competitive on the tablets market than they ever will be on the smartphone market, and the demos of Windows 8 just prove that. I just hope they don’t go away from the desktop market, either :-).