Windows 8 is Microsoft’s reaction to Apple’s iPad – but it isn’t just an imitation. Instead, Microsoft has taken the technology drivers that led to the iPad – trends like miniaturization, increasingly affordable solid state drives, mobile computing and multitouch – and used them to create a new vision for Windows computing. While Apple created a new operating system, optimized for the tablet form factor, Microsoft has tried to use new technologies to create a new type of Windows.
“We have reimagined Windows,” says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet.”
The first user interface is optimized for multi-touch tablet computing. This is the UI that you see in all of Microsoft’s advertising for Windows 8. The new user interface is bold, colorful and dramatically simplified. It also is a completely new user interface that doesn’t run your existing apps. Notably for musicians, it doesn’t support MIDI.
The second user interface is an updated version of the WIndows desktop. It looks fairly familiar. It will run your existing apps (some may need to be updated). It supports MIDI.
And, at least according to Cakewalk, running your music apps under Windows 8 could offer ‘significant benefits’. Their tests, with a preliminary version of Windows 8, found these performance benefits:
- CPU improvements were observed when using Windows 8 for Low latency performance tests. These gains mean you may be able to run bigger loads in Win 8 at low latency without audio glitching.
- Better multi-core CPU load balancing – Better balanced core workloads translate to more efficient use of multiple CPU core hardware and thereby better workload scaling for large projects.
- Memory use reduction – A 7.9% reduction in memory use under Win8 was observed when loading a large real world SONAR project under identical system configuration. Reduced memory load can be observed in most of the tests.
- Improved disk performance – A 78% improvement under Win8 was observed in disk read/write performance while reading large buffer sizes. Improvements were more moderate at smaller buffer sizes.
Windows 8 is available now for Intel-based PCs.
In addition to introducing Windows 8, Microsoft has introduced Windows RT. WIndows RT is a version of Windows 8 for ARM-based tablets and available pre-installed on new devices.
Windows RT is a closer competitor to Apple’s iPad. Windows RT focuses primarily on multi-touch computing. It only runs apps from the new Windows Store. It can’t run any of your existing Windows software. And at this point, Windows RT does not support MIDI.
By comparison, the $329 iPad Mini offers MIDI support, thousands of music apps and a significantly cheaper entry price. The bottom of the line RT devices offer twice the memory of Apple’s iPad mini, 32GB vs 16GB, but close to half of that memory is taken up by the operating system and its applications. Also, initial Window RT devices have been called ‘sluggish‘.
The Bottom Line
WIndows 8 is available now and, based on Cakewalk’s tests, it may offer performance benefits for musicians. If you’re thinking about upgrading an existing machine or buying a new PC, you’ll want to verify that your music apps are compatible with the new OS. You can download Windows Pro for $39.99.
At this point, Windows RT does not look like a good option for musicians. If you’re a Windows user and you like the idea of a combined tablet + PC, you’re better off waiting for Microsoft and others to release Intel-based tablets. Intel Windows 8 tablets are going to be priced more like a PC than a tablet, but will offer the benefit of compatibility with your existing software, plus the ability to be used as a tablet computer.
Got your own perspective on Windows 8 for musicians? Leave a comment and weigh in with your thoughts!