Key parts of Windows 8 developed in Ireland
WINDOWS 8 WHAT'S NEW:WHEN APPLE unveiled its iPad in 2010, it created a whole new market, one that left its competitors far behind. Consumers are leaving behind the traditional laptops as they turn to more convenient tablets for entertainment and media consumption. And the traditional PC and laptop companies have felt the pressure as a result.
But Microsoft is hoping to redress the balance in the coming months, as it tries to tempt consumers to switch to its latest software.
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s operating system that is optimised for touch screen devices, from tablets to laptops.
The new software was unveiled to the public last year, opening up the consumer beta testing in February 2012.
The impact has been seen on Microsoft’s financial results. The latest quarterlies showed sales were down 7.9 per cent to $16 billion and net income fell to $4.47 billion in the three months to September 30th.
In the same quarter, research from Gartner showed that global shipments were 8.3 per cent lower, down to 87.5 million.
The launch of Windows 8 will be Microsoft’s widest and biggest yet, Microsoft Ireland’s managing director Paul Rellis said, launching with 100 languages. There’s also an Irish element to this; before Christmas, Windows 8 users will get support for the Irish language.
That localisation has had a positive impact for Microsoft’s development team in Ireland.
“Getting a lot more local requires more work to be done in Europe,” Rellis said.
But, he added, it is more than simply adding in some extra languages. Some of the key functions, including the on-screen keyboard for Windows 8, were developed here.
Getting the keyboard right, particularly given that many Windows 8 devices will be touch screen, was crucial.
“It’s an integral part of the Windows 8 user experience,” said Patrick Ward, window business group lead for Microsoft Ireland. “There are aspects to the keyboard that are built in to make it more efficient.”
Developing the touch screen keyboard had its own challenges the team had to consider.
“We started working on it in early 2010. We were tasked with building a keyboard that was optimised for effectively typing on a sheet of glass,” said Ward. “When you’re typing on a sheet of glass, you don’t have the physical feedback that you get with a keyboard.”
Underlying the keyboard layout is software that will distinguish where you are pressing on a key, and will use that information in addition to what you’ve already typed to determine what key a user actually intend to press.
It’s also contextual, recognising a variety of input scopes that will change the keyboard layout appropriately for inputting different content such as email addresses, passwords and web addresses.
It also makes it easier to add special characters such as fadas, umlauts and accents. “We had to make sure this worked right from the outset, because people were testing it,” said Ward.