Microsoft Windows 8 Now Available

Microsoft today announced the global availability of Windows 8, the most radical change to its popular operating system since Windows 95.

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.”

Windows 8 offers two user interfaces.

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.

Windows RT 

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!

21 thoughts on “Microsoft Windows 8 Now Available

  1. As I understood things Windows RT was going to be the tablet version that could only run Windows approved apps from their App Store. But the full Windows 8 that will run on the more high end Surface tablets ( and those of other manufacturers) should be able to run most of the software that you already have.

  2. in other words, if you are into music production – stay away from it…
    Win 8 Pro edition Tablet is another story – it will run all of your existing software, but it remains to be seen how MIDI and Audio is implanted and handled by these Tabs… ASIO4ALL?
    To soon to make the final judgement on that – only time will tell i guess…

  3. its seems that from a performance perspective win8 might be a good DAW host, as the general windows environment doesn’t matter if the machine is predominantly used for making music. However, I imagine most people multi-task their pc’s these days and making music may only form a small percentage of its overall usage. For me win8 is a total fail for those who are familiar with previous windows versions, you don’t have to read very much to find out that win8 is a total nightmare to use for day to day computing. I’ll be steering clear until service pack 1 where they will be forced to bring back the standard classic start menus.

    1. I don’t know, it took me all of 5 minutes to get used to it. It works really well on multi monitor systems where you can have the metro interface on one monitor and the regular desktop on the other. Looks like it will be fantastic on hybrid touch devices as well (don’t have one to try out yet).

  4. I’m really excited about Windows 8. I’m an Apple guy first and foremost and only use Windows in college, but the entire design philosophy of Windows 8 is something that is really clicking with me.

  5. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out. I think RT for mobile computing will be fine with a lot of consumers that just want to check e-mail, post baby photos to FaceFook, and watch cat videos. They will be able to sync schedules and documents across Windows Phone, tablet and desktops so I expect a lot of businesses will be issuing these for employees who travel.

    The more high end Surface tablets with full Windows 8 is an unknown for mobile music makers. But at least it will have USB and SD slots so it seems like there is some good potential.

    As far as the learning curve goes, I have read that it is different, but not that complicated. Microsoft has needed to rewrite Windows from the ground for a long time. I am certain there will be teething problems and growing pains, like with any new product. Give it a little time.

  6. For all who wants to use a NATIVE INSTRUMENTS USB audio card on USB 3, Windows 8 is the cure !

    Surface Pro should run midi/audio the exact same way as a notebook does, cos both specs and OS are the same … I really cant wait to test it !

    Surface RT is just for all those MarketPlace apps, and not really usefull for serious stuff.

    Traktor and Ableton 8 are running very smooth on Windows 8 Pro, tested on my i7 DV3 Hp notebook.

  7. Microsoft are taking a huge gamble with this OS. For anything to progress, a set of balls is necessary and I applaud people who leave their comfort zone and at least try.

  8. This can’t be a news for musician until Microsoft will put the possibility of a zero latency virtual audio and MIDI routing like Mac

  9. I also think it’s crazy develope an operating system for computer that is similar to a tablet! If i want a tablet i’ll buy it but i don’t want a computer for running ‘tablet style’ apps. I want a stable computer that let me do what I want without shitty administrator permissions or Windows stuff like that

  10. I think it’s crazy develope an operating system for computer that is similar to a tablet! If i want a tablet i’ll buy it but i don’t want a computer for running ‘tablet style’ apps. I want a stable computer that let me do what I want without shitty administrator permissions or Windows stuff like that

  11. I’ve had the release version for 2 weeks now (my university offers it to all science and engineering students for free) and I’m honestly not impressed. there are improvements over the release candidate for sure, but overall performance is a bit shaky, particularly with music apps. I don’t like the metro UI, and I don’t think any amount of “getting used to it” will change that. It’s just inconsistent and poorly thought out. I’d be much happier if they got rid of all that and focused no security, reliability and usability, instead of forcing all of these touch-specific features onto the user.

    At least apple’s mobile feature integration sort of makes sense

  12. I’m not very excited about Win8. In my opinion Microsoft is overdoing it when it comes to their current quest for touch support.

    I can see how they consider touch to be important, can even respect that too, but it becomes obnoxious when all of that starts to negatively influence the way the current non-touch desktop environment works.

    For people using a mere mouse and keyboard Win8 is a major set back when it comes to functionality. I’m not going to upgrade anytime soon.

  13. Ballmer needs to go.

    Monkey dance anyone?

    Seriously, Microsoft has stagnated under his leadership. The company has enormous potential that is being wasted. We want multiple innovative tech companies bringing us the the best software and tools that the finest minds of our time can produce. Please Microsoft, get a new leader.

    1. I knew Ballmer sucked before he became CEO. I dont know if its a puget sound personality thing or what, but the guy just screams smug suburban ahole you can’t stand who sees creative people as quaint, but he thinks he’s the big competent power monster who really makes the company run. Tech companies aren’t like banks or missile companies, they need to be LED by lifetime creative people with the business guys UNDERNEATH or at best, equal associates, but a CREATIVE person needs to lead a tech company, and Ballmer hasn’t done a creative thing his whole life.

      BTW, it wasnt a whole lot better under BIll Gates, who wasn’t a particular creative guy either but was an extremely adroit business guy, who also benefitted from Paul Allen’s vision. Ballmer is a legacy frat boy who needs to be shown the door. MSFT has done nothing but rot since the glory days and its frankly embarassing.

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