Here are Vic Miles (Industry Technology Strategist within Microsoft’s Retail Industry Team) perspectives on the Microsoft Build conference highlights and what it means to the retail industry: (Thanks for sharing, Vic)

1. An innovation bridge -- Tablet enablement is top-of-stack when looking at the Win8 changes.  By extending the traditional desktop mode to accommodate a new “Metro-style” Start mode, we were able to embrace the new and enhance the old.  The reassurance that all of the old apps will continue to work is a relief for retailers.

2. A focus on productivity – Windows 8 “Live Tiles” are kind of the “headline” of what’s going on underneath.  Once you select a tile, the application launches full-screen…no border controls, no chrome, just the beauty of the app.  This is where things really change and how retailers will take advantage of a UI tailored to the needs of the user.   The platform dictates that design and functionality are top priority while maintaining enterprise security and manageability.

3. Built in flexibility for retail scenarios – Whether you need a landscape or portrait work environment, Windows 8 “Metro-style” apps will enable retail developers to build once and enable scenarios with fixed orientation or allow changing orientation such as is the case in assisted selling environments.

4. Portable applications – The journey to cloud based retail operations will require that new applications run alongside legacy applications.  Microsoft takes this to the next level by endorsing a development environment that encourages a corss platform approach.  Writing a customer self-service application once and enabling in-store kiosks, website front ends and mobile phones is a big win for retailers.

5. Usability that encourages service – Allowing retail systems to expose non-sensitive information without requiring a logon is a key goal for the Windows 8 lock screen.  Developers will be able to show real-time hours of operation, marketing messages and other user content without requiring a logon.

6. Recovery is a breeze – the “Reset and Refresh” feature allows any Windows 8 retail device to be reset to the corporate standard build without requiring a service technician or potentially a help desk call.  It’s the equivalent of a self-service password reset for retail devices in the field.

7. Energy friendly – The tradeoff between instant-on for customer service and the constant consumption of power has been minimized.  Now retail environments with any number of client machines can use the Windows 8 “Connected Standby” mode to ensure that devices are available for use instantly while using the least amount of power possible.  This feature will even allow enterprise software updates to machines that are in a low power state.

8. Innovative hardware – Microsoft’s partnership with a broad ecosystem of partners ensures that Windows 8 will take advantage of higher speed communication protocols and advanced graphics acceleration when the hardware supports it.  The best part about Windows 8 is that it will support legacy devices as well with an expected baseline memory usage drop from 540 MB to 281 MB. 

Microsoft’s preview of Windows 8 gives retail organizations plenty of runway to ensure that they are ready to transform their business.