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Windows 8: Microsoft Finally Unveils OS Designed With Cloud in Mind
“Metro-style” user interface aside, upcoming Windows 8 operating system is set to feature some useful cloud capabilities while developers and top executives at Microsoft still decline to unveil its full cloud capacity. Most analysts focus on Windows 8´s ability to run all applications in full screen mode, just like all tablets do now, so the new operating system is developed with multiple devices in mind; it would run across desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and even ultrabooks, a product that is still to hit the market and prove its worthiness. Nevertheless, Microsoft have added interesting cloud abilities to their yet to be officially released OS, realizing that interconnectivity and interoperability of applications and services, namely cloud-based services and apps, are already reshaping the very structure of computing services and computing itself.
In Windows 8 applications will be allowed to collaborate and communicate with each other, enabling users to take advantage of several cloud services at once; using their social networking accounts to send messages or documents from multiple services like Facebook, Flickr, or whatever social network a customer is using.
Microsoft is to offer built-in cloud services (if we can speak of built-in cloud services at all) that are developed to communicate and work in real time with cloud-based solutions like SkyDrive. Thus, Windows 8 users will have access to online backup tools and storage space that can be accessed by various devices. In addition, Windows 8 enables such devices to easily communicate with each other, which is a step further in making a next generation OS distinct from older Windows versions that still rely on concept from the past, Windows 7 including.
On the other hand, it is unclear whether Windows 8, in its official release version, will be designed to support applications developed to run on cloud platforms other than Windows Azure and Microsoft Office 365. Apple iOS provides support for iPads and iPhones while a great number of smartphones run Google´s Android OS, and Microsoft should clearly state whether its cloud services will feature native applications that can run smoothly on such devices.
It looks like Microsoft is trying to open a new chapter in OS development with Windows 8, aiming to make an operating systems that would run everywhere on all devices connected to all available online and cloud services. Is it possible is an open-ended question, for we have not seen such an operating system before but Microsoft´s efforts should be encouraged. The software behemoth has been criticized for continuous attempts to monopolize the operating systems market but the time has come when even Microsoft realized that growing interconnectivity of computing devices no longer allows them to retain leading market positions without going to the cloud and sacrificing a fraction of its corporate and brand “sovereignty”.
Windows Live is not a new product, being introduced by Microsoft a few years ago, but in Windows 8 its cloud capabilities are significantly extended to allow users to keep their personalized desktop layout on any device they log in. Contacts from multiple cloud-based email services can be extracted by a People application that is embed in Windows 8, while SkyDrive connection is pre-installed on every Windows 8. The software supporting SkyDrive even enables access to remote devices that have been added to one´s SkyDrive account even across firewalls. How secure is this question is yet to be seen after Windows 8 hits the market on unspecified date next year.
On the downside, core Windows Explorer application is not permitted to have direct access and manage files stored on SkyDrive, forcing user to transfer and manage documents via web browser interface. It is an outdated concept, really, unless Microsoft developers have had particular security concerns in mind, designing the OS not be allowed to connect directly to the cloud storage.
Furthermore, apart from all the media hype and visual effects, Windows 8 is actually designed to run on currently available hardware – from desktop configurations, to tablets, to ultrabooks; while little can be said how it would run on devices that would appear within months. Hardware platforms and cloud services are accelerating at unparalleled pace recently, thus raising questions whether Windows 8 cloud capabilities are designed based on proper forecasts how the market would develop in the near future. Rivals Apple and Google already set foot on markets for personal music and photo collections introducing affordable cloud services to customers.
Microsoft is yet to launch such services, while the answer to the one million dollar question about the price of the cloud-enabled Windows 8 is still a mystery.
By Kiril Kirilov
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