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The message of Microsoft Windows 8: “Reimagined” diversity

As I sat in the crowd at Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch event before it began, the biggest question I had was “What story will Microsoft tell about Windows 8?” By and large the company did a solid job telling that story, but not in the way I expected. Instead of comparing Windows 8 and Windows RT computers to competing devices — think iPads(s aapl), Chromebooks(s goog) and tablets — Microsoft focused on the newness, touch-friendliness and supporting services to sell the new operating system.

Part of that pitch involved focusing on PCs with different form factors; this device diversity is something that can appeal to customers not looking for a “one size fits all” computer. Were some of the various devices a bit, say, gimmicky? Sure, but there’s always someone who wants a unique device that perhaps offers a swiveling touch display on a tablet, for example.

I’m not one of those people, but that’s OK in Microsoft’s eyes. “Take a look at any of the 1,000 PCs certified for Windows 8,” it might say. And while Microsoft has always enabled hardware choice in the past, the current and upcoming PC lineup appears to offer more usable touch devices and fewer gimmicky models than before. That’s because of the Windows 8 “reimagining” that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer alluded to on stage.

Simply put, this isn’t Windows as you’ve ever seen it before. In fact, as a one-time Ultra Mobile Tablet PC (UMPC) user in 2008, this is the type of touch interface that I longed for back then. Microsoft knows it’s late to the true touch game, but it’s trying to make up for it with a unique interface (which it has) that’s as easy to use as another touch device on the market today (it may be, but I’ll know for sure as I use a Surface RT tablet for daily use).

Microsoft Surface

Of course, hardware and software are no longer the only part of the story. The three-legged stool is now also dependent on services, and Microsoft spent a fair amount of time talking about those: SkyDrive, Xbox Live and Xbox Music to name a few. The company already had most of the pieces for the PC puzzle but it feels like only now has it been able to put them all together.

Completely absent from the message was any direct comparison to non-Microsoft devices, and that was done in a smart way. Instead of suggesting that Windows 8 PCs and tablets could do some of the same things as an iPad, Android tablet or Mac laptop, Microsoft simply kept the focus on itself, saying Windows 8 bridges both PCs and tablets.

With a Windows 8 device, you can do it all: that’s the message. You get the touch-friendly app experience, your choice of hardware and the ability to use Microsoft’s productivity suite and services in a single package. And of course, those services work across Windows Phone, which could use a sales boost.

Will this message sell Windows 8? Time will tell how successful Microsoft’s products are, but I think it provided a good story today with one minor exception: How it intends to educate the masses on the benefits, and limitations, of Windows RT. I’m now off to a Surface RT presentation where perhaps I’ll hear more of that story.

7 Responses to “The message of Microsoft Windows 8: “Reimagined” diversity”

  1. ishekhar

    I am very curiously looking at Surface tablet myself. Expectation is to get this tablet everywhere, as a full productivity platform;
    at home for not only watching & syncing multimedia but also creating content and trying out various applications.
    And at work, ability to do occasional “personal” stuff as well during my downtime and not to worry about corporate security policies.

  2. Perhaps, US is the only place on earth where people are crazy for costly products like Apple. This doesn’t mean Microsoft is not culprit of playing its role but yes, despite the fact that whether Surface or iPad or Tab all are just devices rich in features.

    All Bloggers tend to focus on feature, and I do term this as average blog.
    When would you bloggers tell me why I shouldn’t own Surface or iPad as it gives me this benefits or helps me doing this better than its competitors.

    Let readers know how to spend on what products…even crap MS webpage lists all features of Surface. What’s new in this Article?

    Why Om Malik let such articles degrade the quality of Gigaom?

  3. Arjun Yadav

    I might be one of the very few who is a windows fan but still hasn’t tried the beta version. I just wanted to wait for the full version so I could have it.
    It’ll be interesting to see how windows has provided the UI for this OS and hopefully they haven’t made is heavy by adding redundant graphics and animations as a part of the GUI.