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Dreaming of Windows

By Steve Jones,

I haven't been too excited about the Windows OS in some time. For the most part, I consider the OS a tool, and I was happy to run Windows XP for nearly a decade. The main reason I switched to Windows 7 was a friend noted it ran much more lean on hardware, and it was built as a 64 bit OS from the beginning. I've been happy with it, but overall I don't care. It's a tool that allows me to interact with the important things in my job: the data I use or create.

Windows 8 was semi-released this week at the Microsoft Build conference. Microsoft gave away 5000 tablets to attendees, proving once again that I am attending the wrong conferences. I almost wish I had had an excuse to go to this one. I'll have to come up with one for the next potential hardware release event.

There are a number of reviews out there of the early preview from various people, and so far the initial impressions are positive. I read Jamie Thomson's thoughts on the conference early in the week and found myself a little interested in what Microsoft has done. I wasn't thinking to upgrade to Windows 8 in 2012, given that I mostly deal with writing, email, and SQL Server, but I do know what I'd like to see in the OS.

I've come to really appreciate the interface on my iPhone/iPad. The scrolling, pinch/zoom, and a number of other features are very handy. For tablets, they are important, not because they're cool, but because they're intuitive. For a time I had a Windows 7 tablet, and the touch response, as well as implementation was horrible. In Win8, I really hope that they improve the experience with touch, and use similar gestures to what iOS/OS X use. However I don't want a touch screen in many cases. Having to pull my hands off a keyboard to use a touch interface is hard, unless they implement a pad like the MacBooks. That interface I like.

The live tiles interface works well for phones, but what I'd really like is an extension of the familiar ALT-TAB that will quickly flip among applications, which can easily run as full screen applications. I would also like to see a simpler development/deployment model that allows me to COPY an application to a machine, any machine I have, and connect to "the cloud" somewhere (or even insert a USB stick/HDD/SDD) and have my data populate the application. The idea of requiring local machine configurations should be a thing of the past. Moving my "experience" among machines ought to be as simple as moving a SIM card or signing into some service.

Lastly, be more open. I like the idea of a Microsoft "Virtual Store" where I can buy software, and I like the idea of using SkyDrive to move my data, but don't force me to use those. Give me a choice of Dropbox for storage, or Amazon as a software store. That's the one thing I think Apple could do better. Keep the AppStore, and I'll still use it, but give me a choice of other trusted vendors that can operate stores and manage the review of applications.

Windows is a tool for me, and one I interact with very little. The only thing I'm really looking forward to is getting SQL Server on Windows Core, where I can minimize the footprint and resources required to host the important stuff: data.

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