I spent the last few days in New York to take part in Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch. During his part of the keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called it “Windows reimagined,” and in my view, it’s a lot more than a tagline for a number of reasons. Windows 8 represents a pretty big shift as an OS redesign.

With Windows 8, Microsoft developed a unified OS to support a whole range of products from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets. Like I mentioned in my initial reaction blog post back when Microsoft discussed Windows 8 for the first time from the D: All Things Digital event, I like the bet. It’s an approach that makes sense in my book. Windows 8 brings a lot of new functionality to the table, without raising the bar for hardware requirements. As such, you can expect Windows 8 performance that meets and exceeds what you’re used to with your existing hardware running Windows 7.

In my view, Windows 8 does a lot of things well. If you’re new to it, I think two things stand out right away:

  1. It brings the touch experience to the forefront.
  2. It introduces Live Tiles as a core component of the Windows 8 Start screen and the Windows 8 interface overall.

If you have used Windows Phone before, you know that the touch experience is a smooth one. Windows 8 retains that same sense of responsiveness and fluidity. The difference is that touch experience is core to the operating system itself. Windows 8 was built from the ground up to be a touch-centric OS. I’ve used Windows 8 on machines like the XPS 12, our S2340T touch monitor, the XPS 10 tablet and the XPS One 27 AIO and the result is the same—the intuitive touch functionality works incredibly well. And even though touch is a prevalent part of the OS itself, you can still use the keyboard and mouse just like you’re used to. Windows 8 also brings gestures to laptop touchpads in a big way. In subsequent posts, we’ll dive deeper into touch, keyboard and mouse tips and tricks and will spend more time talking about touchpad gestures.

Windows 8 Launch - Pier 57

Windows 8 Start screen brings the concept of Live Tiles to laptops and desktops. I’ve been a fan of Live Tiles since Microsoft made them part of Windows Phone 7. Live Tiles are colorful squares that form the basis of Windows 8’s overall visual appearance. But they go way beyond aesthetics. The Live part of the name comes from the dynamic nature of the tiles. Live Tiles surface information in the form of images, news stories, email or text messages, or even status updates from social networks like Facebook. The cool part is that Live Tiles surface this information on their own. If you want to dive a bit deeper into the information, just touch the tile to see more. Together, your collection of Live Tiles help make your Windows 8 start screen come alive with activity compared to the static icon experience you’re used to on other operating systems.

If you read some of the articles out there regarding the Windows 8 launch, it’s pretty clear that the Windows 8 launch is a big deal to Microsoft. After seeing some of the launch activities here in New York for the past few days,it’s clear that Microsoft is putting an unprecedented amount of support behind it. First the October 25 launch event at Pier 57, then the awesome showcase and live product demos of Windows 8 hardware they have going in the middle of Times Square through the weekend, the ringing of the opening bell at NASDAQ yesterday, plus additional activities like the Microtropolis product hardware showcase they’re publicizing in the city for the next couple of weeks, I've never seen a launch like it. I’ll upload more of some of my pictures soon.

Update from Lionel: I recently added three sets related to the Windows 8 launch activities on Dell's Flickr page: Windows 8 Launch Event - NYCDell in Times Square - Windows 8 Launch, New York City and NASDAQ Opening Bell.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer -Windows 8 launch event in New York

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the Windows 8 Launch in NYC - Image from Lionel Menchaca

Speaking of the product showcase in Times Square, I can say firsthand there was much interest in the XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook and also the XPS 10 Windows RT tablet. Many people that I saw were surprised by the As a desktop guy, it was great to see a lot of interest in the XPS One 27 all-in-one desktop. The combination of the quad HD display and the smooth touch interaction that Windows 8 provides was a combination that lured a lot of people to walk up and give it a try. Some snapped self portraits  with the integrated webcam. Others made drawings using the Fresh Paint Windows 8 app. In both cases, lots of those images and drawings were featured on the big interactive screens around Times Square. Definitely a cool thing to be a part of.

Dell Windows 8 product showcase in Times Square New York

Here’s a quick video that gives a little idea of what it was like. I’ve got a bit more processing to do, but soon I will add images from the Windows 8 launch event, the Times Square product demo and more on Dell’s Flickr page.