The world as we know it is about to change

Enjoy the next couple months

because in a time not too far from now, maybe a year, maybe two, we're going to look back at the pre-windows 8 era fondly with a sense of detached nostalgia and say things like:

"Remember when we had to use a mouse for everything?"

"Back in my day, we didn't have touch screens on our laptops."

"Weird. This screen isn't touch?"

Mark my words, there's very few moments in time that are clearly foreseeable as a tipping point in societal change.

I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it really isn't.

Think about it...

Today we have the iPad and some android tablets, but let's face it, they are more novelties than utilities. I'm sure some engaging kid has found a way to take notes on his ipad or some cutting edge doctor has found a way to record patient records in his android tablet, but they are the exception not the rule.

Windows 8 will change this.

In a few years time, it will not be the exception, it will be the rule.

In education:

Paperless classrooms will become the norm. Students will be offered subsidized tablets with stylus entry. Textbooks will be digitally distributed, notes will be taken, shared and stored electronically. Apple tried to achieve this with iBooks but it was an unfulfilled promise. Why? Simply because the ipad is not a writing device, it's a reading device.

In healthcare:

Paperless doctor's offices. I've already seen a few doctors who prefer to take notes electronically, but they are still depending on laptops, lugging around a screen and keyboard everywhere they go. No more. Doctor's offices will become largely electronic. No more cabinets and cabinets of patient records. With standardized digital entry and handwriting recognition, doctors can just as easily carry around and take notes on a tablet as opposed to their clipboard. Heck, even prescriptions will probably be signed off electronically.

In retail:

This one's probably the furthest along, but things like full NFC enablement (hello wp8) in both mobile and tablet devices will make one-touch retail interactions ubiquitous. Ordering food, checking for local sales events, passing customer information (think today's keychain cards) will all be done via NFC, bluetooth, etc.

"Windows 8 will change things in ways the iPad never will"

I know some of you may be up in arms about this assertion, but this is why I think it is fundamentally true:

  • Multiple form factors: by building a flexible touch OS, win8 opens the door to multiple form factors, and therefore, multiple use cases. Student, doctor, sales person, novelist, architect, software developer, contractor, real estate agent. Today, some subset of these people could use an ipad to cover a subset of their needs. In the future, a combination of specialized apps and hardware will create windows 8 offerings that will meet all the needs of all of these people.
  • Distribution and adoption: today, iPads are very successful in their own right, but compared to traditional PC's they're still a minority of computing devices. Beginning in a month, every pc sold will have a touch first OS. Doesn't matter if it's a desktop, tablet, hybrid, whatever. It almost doesn't matter if the device has a touch screen. The key is in the sheer numbers of adoption. The usage paradigm is going to shift from keyboards and mouses to touch first mobility.
  • The living room: third reason why Microsoft will go where the iPad cannot? The living room. Try as they might, neither Apple or Google has yet to break into the most critical eco system yet for much of our home lives. Microsoft is there with the Xbox and as demoed with their Smartscreen technology, phones, tablets and the television will not only share your content but understand it and interact with it. This leads me to...
  • Natural user interfaces: while Apple has plenty of feathers in their hat, they are definitely missing one, a successful motion sensing device for consumers. Who knows what they have cooking up in their R&D, but without the living room, it doesn't really make sense for Apple to devote a ton of time, money and energy into NUI's. Unfortunately, I think that's a mistake for them. In the next generation, we may even look back at touch screens with nostalgia as devices won't even need physical interaction to engage them. I could wave at my computer, speak to it, tell it what to do. Shoot, i can already do that with Kinect, but in the next gen, this will be downsized for pc's, then for tablets then, ultimately for phones. Already happening with the Kinect for windows SDK, only a matter of time.

So in the end

I'm just really excited about the future. And it really is the future. Like, the future. The one we used to dream about as kids, watching sci fi flicks. We are going to be living that shortly if not already. My hat goes off to Apple for pushing a lot of these paradigms initially and winning widespread adoption (touch screens, specialized apps, tablets), but at the end of the day, that was just the undercard, the main event kicks off in 3.5 weeks. And I can't wait.