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Windows 8: success or failure depends on PC makers

Welcome to the Windows 8 era - will you enjoy your stay?

Windows 8 is here, but will it be a success like XP or a Vista-style flop? Rather than entirely stick my head on the block let me say that I think Windows 8 will be at least a partial success - but it all depends on the hardware.

Predicting the success or failure of a technology product is a tricky business. Trying to second guess the reaction to a new version of Windows is more difficult still.

Plenty of reviewers liked Windows Vista when first exposed to it. On a powerfully specified PC the updated design and new features seemed like worthwhile upgrades, UAC a sensible precaution.

Of course, Vista was a dog. But it took lots of users being forced to rely on it to pin-point the flaws. UAC was an irritant, not fit for purpose. The system requirements were ambitious, meaning Vista hobbled lower-specced PC s and laptops. And compatibility issues? How long have you got...

If Windows 7 was Vista done right, Windows 8 is only the second genuinely new Windows OS in 13 years. How will it fare?

PC Advisor editors have been using Windows 8 for months now in an attempt to get a true picture of its strengths and weaknesses. The response is mostly positive. Windows 8 is not without quirks and irritations, but for PC and laptop use the migration is smooth. Most people will spend most of their time in the Desktop mode, and may struggle to notice the difference. You get a little more zip as you browse, and there's no Start menu. And Windows 8 is stable. See also: Using Windows 8 on a PC: 10 things we've learnt.

Whether this means Windows 8 will succeed depends on the PCs, laptops and tablets on which it will run. Unlike Apple, which launches platforms on its own hardware, Microsoft has to trust Intel to make great components and then PC makers to use them and create interesting products.

Will Windows 8 be a success?

Windows 8 Start screenWindows 8 an OS of two halves. It is designed to be comfortable on desktop and laptop PCs that utilise mouse and keyboard, but also work well on touchscreen laptops, tablets and all-in-ones. As our feature 'What is 4G? A complete guide to 4G' shows we all now want to be able to access everything, everywhere. But even before the launch of the iPad mini relatively few Windows PC users utilised Microsoft software when they were on the move – Windows 8 is an attempt to redress that.

Microsoft needs PC makers to build products of various sizes and input devices. Get ready for thin and fast touchscreen laptops and tablets ranging in screen size from 5in to 25in and beyond. And expect to see slick living room all-in-one PCs gunning for the space occupied by your TV.

The Windows 8 laptops and PCs we have reviewed of late are a snapshot of those available as Windows 8 launches. They are not radically different to Windows 7 PCs, but already the signs are that computer makers are eager to embrace a platform that allows them to fight back against the smartphones and tablets that are eating away at PC sales.

Will Windows 8 succeed? It just might, although Microsoft will never dominate computing as it did when the desktop was king. The personal computing world is diversifying at pace, a process to which Windows 8 will only add. And if hardware manufacturers can stretch the platform to find the perfect products for sufficient numbers of PC, laptop and tablet users, Windows can be a big part of the computing world for a long time to come.

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