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Microsoft offers first preview of Windows 8

by Scott Bicheno on 2 June 2011, 09:58

Tags: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Windows 8

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Best of both worlds?

Software giant Microsoft publicly demonstrated the next full version of Windows - provisionally called Windows 8 - at the All Things D event yesterday and then subsequently at Computex.

Windows experience veep Julie Larson-Green was keen to stress that Windows 8 is a ‘reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface,' and that it's designed to scale from regular PCs down to touch-only small screens.

In order to achieve that Windows 8 seems to borrow heavily from Windows Phone 7, so much so that we have to wonder if the two platforms are destined to converge as some stage in the future. Given that Windows 8 will also support the ARM instruction set, that's not so difficult to imagine.

Here are Larson-Green's highlights from what was shown:

  • Fast launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.
  • Live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.
  • Fluid, natural switching between running apps.
  • Convenient ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so you can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows.
  • Web-connected and Web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that have access to the full power of the PC.
  • Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.

As you can see there is an emphasis on ‘apps' for the PC. How these will differ from ‘applications', ‘programs' or ‘software' remains to be seen, but it's probably more in the look, feel and delivery. People are becoming used to the smartphone paradigm of touching apps and having them launch instantly, so Microsoft seems to be rebranding the desktop shortcut to match the zeitgeist. It seems to have realised that the expectation now is for everything to happen instantaneously.

Meanwhile in Taipei, Windows planning veep Mike Angiulo said: "Our aim with ‘Windows 8' is to make the user experience a natural extension of the device, from the time you turn on your PC through how you interact with the applications you know and love. This represents a fundamental shift in Windows design that we haven't attempted since the days of Windows 95, presenting huge opportunities for our hardware partners to innovate with new PC designs."

But having said all that, Microsoft is understandably cautious not to alienate its core market and both stressed how great Windows 8 will be for PCs with traditional peripherals too. There was no talk of versions or release dates. Microsoft seems to have discovered YouTube at last, so here's a vid. Let us know your first impressions.



HEXUS Forums :: 29 Comments

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i think this shows a scared microsoft… with the smartphone / tablet market geting bigger and bigger and the interfaces of those being more widely used. They need to react so they dont get left behind. quickly,

I like the fact the ARM instruction set is going to be supported, some very low power chips those!

a lot of what was i saw has not really made me go wow, just oh right you guys are finally going to be doing that too…
It looked pretty cool to me - whether they are catching up or not.

If the embedded video doesn't work for you, try:
This is a really big change, I don't know if i want my start menu to be hidden from me…

Though i'm glad they've decided to take risks!
Bring back Xtree I say.
This is a really big change, I don't know if i want my start menu to be hidden from me…

Though i'm glad they've decided to take risks!

It all looks optional. They showed a standard Windows 7-style desktop, so I'd be staggered if one wouldn't be available by default. They're not going to alienate the desktop/workstation market to just to accommodate tablets - it would be commercial suicide.

I have to say, this looks good, though I'm a touch apprehensive. I was thinking the other day how good it would be to have an Active Desktop that people actually wanted - a Windows Phone/smartphone sort of interface with tiles or actual widgets as the desktop, rather than a flat wallpaper with some little icons on it. The Vista/7 widgets just didn't cut it - they looked, and probably were an afterthought - seldom viewable if you were in an application and with little in the way of real use outside of an application. It looks like Win8 could go some way to rectify that. It wouldn't be as good if it was a clear-cut touchscreen interface or keyboard/mouse interface, so hopefully they've managed to make it flexible and customisable (in the sense that you can get the interface you want, rather than just the one they think you want).

All the ingredients are there for them to give the GUI a complete overhaul. I think the time's right and Windows needs a bit of an kick up the backside. Let's hope it actually works in reality.