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Microsoft's going for gold

Windows 8
It may look purple, but Windows 8's gone gold

Did you watch the London 2012 opening ceremony? I did, and it was glorious - but I bet there was a moment, just before it all kicked off, when Danny Boyle was absolutely bricking it.

After years of work, and no doubt lots of sleepless nights, there was nothing left for Boyle to do: all he could do was cross his fingers and hope things wouldn't go tits-up. All that effort, all that money, all that hard work could all too easily have ended in disaster.

I bet Steve Ballmer knows that feeling.

Olympic medals aren't the only important gold things kicking around this week: Windows 8 has gone gold too, which means it's been released to manufacturing (RTM). The feature set is locked down, the DVDs are being duplicated, the OEMs are making their installation images and there's nothing more to work on: all Microsoft can do now is cross its fingers and hope Windows 8 isn't another Windows Vista.

Boyle only had to wait a short while to see whether his project ended in triumph or trauma.

Ballmer has to wait until the end of October.

Olympic lifts

If I'm going to drag the Olympics analogy out a bit more - and, of course, I am - then Windows 8 is the third, faintly baffling bit of the opening ceremony, the sitcom bit that didn't work as well as the enormously exciting Industrial Revolution section (that, I reckon, would be Windows 95, or maybe XP). On tablets, Windows 8's groovy new UI makes sense; on PCs, though, the jury's still out.

Like "Frankie and June say... Thanks, Tim", though, you still have to put up with it: as the redesigns of Hotmail and Office, demonstrate, Microsoft is putting Metro in everything.

It's a brave move, and a very risky one: people have invested a great deal of time and effort in the familiar Windows UI, and they might not welcome Metro in the way many tech fans have. While Microsoft says there are 7 million PCs running the Release Preview and a further 9 million with the Consumer Preview, it doesn't have figures on how many of those people went "good god! This is awful!" and threw up in a bucket.

Will Windows 8 be a triumph? I've no idea; I'm still trying to make up my own mind about whether I love it or loathe it. What I do love, though, is that Microsoft is bringing its A-game: Windows 8 is big and bright and brave and bold, and the fact that it could go horribly wrong just makes it all the more exciting.

Whatever you think of Microsoft, you have to admire Steve Ballmer's balls.

Carrie Marshall


Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."