It’s finally over, the window’s Start Menu is gone for good (though here’s at least one way to get it back) in the next version of Microsoft’s venerable desktop operating system: Windows 8.

Welcome to the era of the Windows Start Page.

Whether one likes it or not, the transition from the existing mouse-centric, task & productivity based computing model to the future of touch, location & action-based computing has begun.  This isn’t for the faint of heart, even though it is quite nice if you give it an honest try.

The new version of Windows launched last week in New York, with a glitzy two-part launch.  Windows 8, presented in morning, and the Microsoft Surface in the afternoon.  Both mark a new beginning for the company people love to hate.

I’ve been running various developer and consumer preview versions for the past year, and have seen an enormous amount of innovation and improvement along the way.  With the release of Windows 8 Pro last Thursday, I finally loaded up the official public version of the OS, and I have to say I’m greatly impressed.

Along with these Win8 Previews, I’ve been running a couple of Linux distros as well.  Namely, Ubuntu 12.04 and Mint 13 Cinnamon for comparison’s sake.  While I too like the traditional desktop metaphor for office productivity work, I do have to admit that the new Modern UI is growing on me.  I also happen to think that if a company would take either Ubuntu or Mint 13 Cinnamon under their wing and focus on the last remaining rough spots of either OS that Linux on the desktop could have a real, true shot. But it would have already have to have been underway by now, so that Linux desktop takeover is still a pipe dream.

In any case, the software company that has the most to lose in the game is taking the greatest risk right now.  Windows 8 is technically excellent, but will the drastic UI change make people think “Vista” and shun a truly great OS upgrade all because of the fear for change?

Either way, Microsoft will remain in the game, but whether Win8 will be perceived as a “winner” or a “looser” is purely in the hands of the consumer.

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