Will Windows 8 benefit business users?

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Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) next operating system, Windows 8, is slated to come with faster start-up and shutdown, improved data recovery built in and a Windows app store, but some experts are skeptical that it brings great advances for existing business users. 

The Windows 8 user interface, which resembles the tiled interface for the Windows Phone, may be good for touch-centric devices like tablets, but it doesn't make sense for PCs, writes Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet. "Why should the default interface, optimized for gestures and touch, be required on a machine that I never plan to put my grubby fingers on?" she asks.

It may be that Microsoft isn't really going after existing PC owners with Windows 8, but instead focusing on people who buy new PCs with the new OS preloaded, Foley speculates. "If I am a business user with Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed on my existing PC, will I want to upgrade to a touch-centric Windows 8?" she asks. "For a company that continues to play up how many more PCs are being sold than iPads and Android tablets, the new Windows 8 default UI seems like somewhat of an odd choice."

Some also question whether designing the next OS on top of the existing Windows makes the software too complicated. Microsoft may want to offer new features along with familiar old ones, but it can be disconcerting for users, writes John Gruber in a post at Daring Fireball. Running Excel along with new touch-based apps, for example, requires backward compatibility and complexity, which do not necessarily create a good user experience.

"They can make buttons more 'touch friendly' all they want, but they'll never make Excel for Windows feel right on a touchscreen UI," Gruber complains. "Windows 8 is trying to have it all, and I don't think that can be done. You can't make something conceptually lightweight if it's carrying 25 years of Windows baggage."

Other reviewers see the new Windows 8 design as a positive turning point for the operating system. It not only presents a new touch-screen user interface, but it introduces a new model of programming based on Internet-oriented technologies, writes Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity. "The old Windows of mice and icons is officially obsolete. That resets the playing field for everybody in computing," Mace writes. "To me, Windows 8 is the first sensible response by Microsoft to the strategic challenge it faces from the web."

For more:
- see Mary Jo Foley's post at ZDNet
- see John Gruber's post at Daring Fireball
- see Michael Mace's post at Mobile Opportunity

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Windows 8 will debut in 2012; more details could come next week