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Windows 8 – Beginnings of a Bridge?

The landscape is changing rapidly as we move closer to the eventual convergence of handheld devices, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs. What was once fantasy is now reality, while at the same time new technologies are around the corner that promise to dramatically shift our way of life.

Today’s TechRepublic blog featured a post by Patrick Gray about the Windows 8 tablet (Windows 8 tablet: Split personality OS is a potential killer feature). What I found interesting in this article was a description of how things were when DOS morphed into Windows 3.0. Back then, we were faced with the need to move forward while at the same time fighting it tooth and nail because of what and we were used to. This dynamic stretched some techies so much they scooted, no they ran, to UNIX because it still offered a robust command-line interface and full control over every aspect of their systems.

Now, 22 years later, we are again straining toward the future. Us old guys remember the fallout, but know that it is worth the effort to hang in there and take hold of what is coming. Gray writes:

If you were around when Windows 3.0 first began taking over enterprise computing, you probably remember the awkward relationship between text-driven MS-DOS and Windows. “Native” Windows software was a relatively new phenomenon, and DOS-based software running in a window was a very common sight.

With Windows 95 and NT4, the command prompt became a component of Windows and eventually faded from perception, with your average user rarely experiencing it or even being aware of its existence. Windows 8 represents a similar and even more complex evolution. Early versions of Windows changed how we interacted with our desktops, shifting from a text-based computing experience to graphical, mouse-driven interfaces. Metro represents an evolution in not only the interface — shifting from mouse to finger — but in form factor as well. In the Windows 3.0 days, laptops were a tool for corporate types rather than a common appliance, and tablets were a dream of computer scientists and sci-fi writers. Allowing the traditional desktop to coexist with this new computing paradigm allows users and developers alike to adapt to Metro.

Now we are quickly approaching the merge of hand-held devices and the desktop. When will this marriage consummate? Sooner than we may want but later than we may think. I do believe, however, that Windows 8 is sounding the clarion call that it is coming.

How should we respond? Should we, like the old guys of days gone by, cling desperately to our aging Windows XP systems because all of that new-fangled nonsense just doesn’t make sense? Or should we reach toward tomorrow with excitement and anticipation that all will be well?

As for me and my house… We’re reaching for the stars!