Windows 8 is designed to tap into the shift in demand away from traditional desktops and laptops and toward phones and tablets.
Core to this strategy is making a shift to mobility and creating an application environment transferrable from device to device. The advantage: Massive blocks of code from an application written for Windows 8 can be readily repurposed for apps written or Windows Phone 8 -- making it feasible for these apps to be available on any Windows device.
Because Windows Store apps are written primarily for touch, their navigation is similar from tablet to notebook to phone. Applications are available for phones, tablets and laptops, and if you master them on one category of device, you've mastered them for all.
These applications, called Windows Store apps, represent a new category optimized for touch and for running on lower powered mobile machines based on ARM processors to promote longer battery life.
In addition, Windows 8 heavily promotes use of cloud services. It comes with cloud-based music free and integrates SkyDrive, Microsoft's 5-year-old cloud storage service that enables sharing data among devices and syncing them with each other. It comes with 7GB of free storage.
The bottom line is customers can access the latest versions of their data and all their stored files from whichever device they happen to have with them so long as they have Internet access.
The problem is that this elegant scheme is lost on customers, analysts and reviewers who don't buy into this view. With education, customers could be won over, but not in the short-term, and particularly with RT. Business customers will have to adopt Windows Store apps or virtualize, and that takes time.
"It will take 10 or more years before most organizations completely transition to WinRT technology, which, if successful, will represent the next 20 to 30 years of Windows," says Gartner in its report "Windows 8 Changes Windows as We Know It."
Beyond Windows 8, Microsoft has scored some hits and some misses this year with new products acquisitions. Here are four of each.
Windows Server 2012
Microsoft's latest version of Windows Server is to be applauded for how it simplifies many areas of virtualization, which leads Network World reviewer Tom Henderson to write, "What the Windows 2012 Server editions provide is a compelling reason to stick with Windows infrastructure, as many of the advances represent integration of management components that have no competitive parallels."
The software streamlines live migration of virtual machines for reasons of preventing performance of one instance degrading because it is overwhelmed by demand. Windows Server 2012 removes the need for designating failover clustering ahead of time and a separate SAN to share storage among instances that were required in Windows Server 2008.
Windows Server 2012 also offers replication of virtual machines asynchronously. Called Hyper-V Replica, the feature is ideal for replicating VMs from site to site over limited WAN links.
A new feature called Storage Spaces treats hundreds of disks as a single logical storage reservoir and ensures resiliency by backing up data on at least two physical disks. The feature sets aside a designated storage area -- called a space -- for a defined category of data within the entire available disk capacity -- called a pool.