Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system promises to take mobile technology to a new level and could potentially transform the way students and faculty use their devices and computers both on and off campus. To start, the Windows 8 user interface is a radical departure from the classic Windows aesthetic of the past 25 years, and its expansive touch feature puts Microsoft at the forefront of computing innovation.
Windows 8 will likely enter the IT conversation at your college or university in the near future. Should you supply students with Windows 8 tablets and PCs? Can you support them on campus? How is Windows 7 different from Windows 8?
A Unified Platform: One OS Across Your Devices
For one thing, unlike other operating systems, Windows 8 unifies all of your devices. It will work on not only a laptop or PC, but also on your mobile device, like a tablet or smartphone, or even extend to your TV. This means improved usability and easier information sharing across devices.
The million-dollar question is: will Windows 8 and its touch-friendly user interface will be compelling enough to get your students and faculty to switch out all their screens and standardize on one platform? Here are a few reasons they might.
A More Intuitive User Interface
Although Microsoft’s design language, Metro, has existed for some time, it’s only now being fully realized in a personal computer setting. For Windows 8 users, this means that the traditional Windows environment—the start orb, static desktop icons, the task bar, etc.—will be replaced by a panel interface. Even the boot and lock screens will represent this new format.
If you think you’ve seen this interface before, it’s because you have: Windows Phone 7 used Metro as well. Windows 8 will operate in a similar way, placing heavy emphasis on content, typography and motion, whereas previous Windows iterations—like Windows 7—simply delivered everything on a static, rank-and-file home screen.
The intent of Microsoft’s new direction is to provide a simpler, less cluttered interface so that the user can focus on primary tasks. College and university students often have to multitask—referencing multiple files and working on multiple applications at the same time—so this shift enables them to more effectively manage their workload. Vectorformlabs actually demonstrates these multi-tasking opportunities in a short video seen here:
More Speed and More Power—by Almost Every Performance Test
While the Metro interface may prove controversial for some longtime Windows users, they’ll have no problem whatsoever with the new operating system’s performance. According to a variety of tests conducted by technology publications and analysts, like PCWorld’s recent comparison study, Windows 8 outclassed Windows 7. Microsoft’s upcoming OS booted faster, browsed the Web faster and significantly outperformed Windows 7 in PCWorld’s comprehensive benchmark test, WorldBench 7.
Naturally, a faster, more powerful OS means your institution’s students and faculty can do more with their computers—whether they’re vigorously researching for a dissertation paper, updating a web design project in Photoshop, or moving between applications like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Another noticeable speed advantage Windows 8 has over Windows 7 is boot-up time. According to Gabe Aul from Microsoft, the “key difference for Windows 8,” as opposed to Windows 7, is that “instead of closing the kernel session, we hibernate it.” It’s much faster to resume a task from hibernation mode than from closing, so boot times are substantially shorter. This allows faculty to start their lessons more quickly, and thus keep students engaged.
Edge-to-Edge Touch Support like You’ve Never Seen Before
Although Windows 7 has touch screen capability, Windows 8 significantly expands on it. The new OS places special importance on edge response, so that it’s easier to use gestures to get to the home page or move between apps.
Windows 8 also introduces “fuzzy hit targeting,” which compensates for the fact that fingers are less precise than a mouse. Students who need to interact with very small areas—like annotating neuron pathways in a brain diagram—will be able to work more effectively with touch screens, without the frustration and distraction of selecting the wrong things.
We’ll be talking a lot more about Windows 8 in future posts, so stay tuned. Do you anticipate switching your campus devices to this new OS? If so, what do you find interesting about it? We’d like to learn from you, so please comment below!