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Windows 8: it's all about the apps

Apps are key to Windows 8's success

Like it or not, Windows 8 is coming. Buy a new computer this Christmas and as long as it doesn't have an Apple logo on it, you'll get a shiny new copy of Microsoft's latest operating system. See also: Windows 8 Advisor

We, along with many others, have voiced our concerns about how Windows 8 will work on a desktop PC or laptop. We can only hope that head honcho Stephen Sinofsky has listened to the feedback and made sufficient changes that the humble keyboard and mouse don't feel like second-class devices to the touchscreen.

Regardless of whether every single new PC and laptop will have a touchscreen (it won't) people will still want to use a keyboard and mouse as soon as they realise a vertical touchscreen is uncomfortable to use.

Plus, while apps designed for the new Windows 8 interface (formerly known as Metro) will be easier to use with a finger or two, legacy programs may not.

Apps

We can think of plenty of legacy programs which don't lend themselves to touch operation. Spreadsheet, word processing and video editing are just three categories of complex software which can't be easily rewritten for a touchscreen without being dumbed down.

Apple has proved with its iMovie app that it's possible to edit video on a touchscreen, but it's not without its compromises. Anyone serious about editing video wouldn't touch it. (No pun intended.)

The potential problem is that app developers will want to create one version of an app that will run on PCs, laptops and tablets. But not only is the hardware unequal, so are the aspirations of its users.

All we can hope is that apps will take advantage of a PC's high-resolution screen and powerful hardware rather than using a Windows RT tablet as the lowest common denominator and catering only for that. See also: Microsoft Surface tablet in video

Paying for such apps is another hurdle. If you've already paid for Photoshop, for example, you're not going to want to shell out again for a Windows 8 version. Especially if it's less capable.

One Store

Yet another major hurdle for Windows 8's acceptance is the fact that all apps have to be downloaded via the new Windows Store. This will have the advantage of being a safe, curated place like Apple's App store, but it means a far smaller choice of programs compared to Windows 7 (at least to start with) and is a step backwards in terms of freedom.

Windows Store

Locking everything down with a single app store is great for most people, but anyone who wants control will surely stick with Windows 7.

The apps themselves must deliver in order for Windows 8 to be a success, and we're sure that big names that are conspicuous by their absence in the Store now will be present in six months' time.

If they're not, or if the fail to deliver the features people want, it's not only Microsoft's success in the tablet market which is at stake.

 See also: Best Windows 8 apps group test

Follow Jim Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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