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Windows 8 Launched in Kenya

The news that Microsoft have launched Windows8 in Kenya last week has had techies chattering about ‘new horizons’ and IT managers grumbling about ‘costs and benefits’.

From across Nairobi we have received a mixed bag of opinions over the new operation system, although the Business Daily was more positive and kindly says that it has “so far enjoyed positive reception in the international market”.

International accolade for sure – its Microsoft after all, but what will Windows 8 do for Kenya?

In order to answer this it may be instructive to know just what about Windows 8 makes it different from Microsoft’s previous incarnations, which lets face it, up to now, have just been piecemeal upgrades since Win95.

Touchscreen Interface

Windows8 however marks a radical change, the interface has been made with touchscreen capabilities, cloud computing is built in, and stylistically the top screen carries the same look from a business machine to a smartphone. The idea being that a user should feel at ease with the same ‘look’ whether in an office, in a meeting with a tablet, or on the move with a smartphone.

It is the latter which is of interest to Kenyan developers, and offers a ‘third way’ for app. development after Android and Apple.Indeed the Kenya Co-op bank have already released their first Win8 App. an online banking system with integration to MPesa and Airtel Money, and Kenyan mobile App. developers Virtual City have a logistics chain management system App. called Distributr™.

“This represents the largest opportunity available for software developers today. I bet you now the next app developer to hit it really, really big will be a developer on Windows.”

Kenya: The gold standard in App development

In Kenya the importance of mobile Apps. can’t be understated, 50% of internet connections in Kenya occur via smartphones and they are currently outselling computers by a factor of 4:1. Further to this, Kenya’s App. technologists are considered by many to be ‘the gold standard’  of Africas’ developers, with Mpesa and MFarm being notable world beaters.

So how is the Win8 platform going to stand up to Google’s Android and the Apple iPhone Apps?

Well we think quite well. First of all there is the Microsoft heritage, and ‘Windows’ is the worlds most popular operating system. Windows8, by shipping with new computers will eventually displace Win7, Vista etc…and the familiarity in the workplace or at home is bound to spill over to the mobile systems.

Then there is Windows 8 RT. the lightweight version (which can only be bought with the relevant device) which is effectively the look and feel of Win8 but designed specifically to work with ARM processors.

ARM (Advanced Risc Machines) chips are at the core of 95% of all mobile phones so the system is already adapted for mobile use, and both HTC and Nokia have already adopted the system on their new generation smartphones.

Nokia Lumia 920: A serious contender to the Galaxy S3 and iPhone5?

It is the launch of the Nokia Lumia 920 in S.Africa last week which we believe will really put Win8 OS on the map. The phone in our humble opinions with its PureView camera technology and HD+ screen is a serious contender to the Galaxy S3 and iPhone5. At its launch in New York in September Microsoft  CEO Steve Balmer said:

“This represents the largest opportunity available for software developers today. I bet you now the next app developer to hit it really, really big will be a developer on Windows.”

With Nokia and Microsoft now working together, and both having a strong presence in Nairobi, I think it quite likely that we’ll be seeing plenty of activity amongst our developers and some great Apps coming out over the next few months.

To moneterise this, Microsoft have established their own storefront for downloads and sales.

Whilst we think the system has legs in the mobile world we are not so so sure about the home and office environment.

As we said earlier Win8 will ship with all new computers so in time will displace the older versions, and we are equally sure that the large companies and corporations with the money and IT facilities to smooth the transition will also be early up-takers seeing the advantages of the seamless transition from office to on the move. But for the home or SMEs we have some doubts.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…

The Good:

Windows 8 can run on a relatively modest PC although to get the full features does need a screen size of 1366×768 or more. Its simple to load and has enhanced security features.

Cloud integration is built in via SkyDrive and Xbox support should appeal to the gamers.

The new browser offers a new experience in browsing the web and there is instant access to the Microsoft store for App. downloads.

The whole feel is more visual than before and there are some nice touches such as picture passwords.

The Bad:

We cannot criticize this new OS for its use on mobile devices but as the whole platform is built around touch we fail to see the advantage on the average home or office machine….the vast majority of which are not touch sensitive. (We see that HP have brought out a beautiful new touch screen integrated home/office PC but at 120,000 bob we wont be rushing out to get one)

Now you can get around this with mouse movements and indeed Microsoft have a new touch mouse which recognizes finger gestures giving you more of ‘the experience’ but there is a lot to learn.

One reviewer said that after ‘just a couple of weeks’ he was familiar with the system…but after all he is a full time IT journalist and Geek….how long will it take the average home or office user?

It is this aspect of training which we believe will keep the system away from the SME’s, most small companies just don’t have the resources for this level of staff support.

Try and find the START button and you’ll see what I mean. The interface is not intuitive.

The Ugly: (a personal view by the writer)

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and aethetics are subjective, and maybe somewhere in the world there is someone with so little taste and style that they actually like it, but frankly I cannot live with the new “Metro” design interface.

The annoying use of the word ‘Charms” (in the quick access charms bar) instead of icons compounds my feelings, that far from being the sophisticated use of urban design as claimed, this is just a lazy mans graphic based on childrens’ building blocks, its Lego for 2yr olds with a hint of Disney. On mobile devices it looks ok, but when put onto a full size screen the full infantile horror of it assaults the eyes….Not for me, thank you Microsoft…..


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