October 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
This was a big week for geek news. Whew! If you are already planning your holiday shopping, you will have lot of choices for the tech-loving people in your life. I know my wish list just got much, much longer.
Today, Microsoft officially released Windows 8 ($40 to download. But check the specs of your computer before you install it. An operating system upgrade is not for the timid computer user.) It’s such a huge change– pretty, active, and very personal – that it has spawned a huge number of laptop, desktop, and tablet announcements to go with it.
If you have ever used a Windows 7.5 phone, you are already pretty familiar with Windows 8. In fact, if you have used any smart phone or tablet, you get the idea. This version of Windows is Microsoft’s push into the world of tablets and touch-screen computers. The interface is completely different from any Windows computer you have used before — and much easier — and more fun — to use. It is all about “live tiles” that you can move around. These tiles show you what is going on in your life: Facebook posts from your friends and family, emails, your photos, and the other things you care about are all right there on the screen. The information from your world updates (that’s the live part) right into the tiles so you have only to glance at your screen to know what’s going on with the people in your life.
Like other tablet operating systems (Apple’s iOS and Android) Windows 8 is built around apps. But it also runs the productivity tools you expect from a computer: Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote so you – or your student – really could rely on it for work or school.
Here’s a video:
Because Windows 8 works well with a touch-screen, the computer and tablet announcements it has spawned are wildly different from the laptops we are all used to. Touch screens that detach from the keyboard, screens that flip around and fold back to stand up on their own, screens that pivot, desktops with touch screens. It’s a fun time to be shopping for a new computer. I’ll try and look at some of those one at a time in the next few weeks. That’s the Dell XPS Duo ($1200) pictured. But you can browse them at the Windows 8 site.
In fact, Microsoft is launching its own tablet – the Surface ($499; you can pre-order it now) – as well. I am told it is “The physical embodiment of Windows 8.” And it is a thing of beauty. I have been playing with one all day and am completely smitten with it. It’s a great size (~11″ x 7″) to tuck under an arm or drop into an everyday purse. But also a great size for watching a movie in bed. And the optional keyboards ($99 to $120) not only double as a cover and snap on magnetically but are available in a choice of pretty colors. The Surface has a built-in kickstand so it stands up on a flat surface. With a keyboard connected, it becomes — pretty much — an ultra-light laptop.
In other news, Apple finally announced the iPad Mini (starting at $329). It’s just like the iPad but smaller. So if you thought the iPad was too big to fit in the purse you are willing to carry, this one – with a 7.9” screen – will fit.