This week at its developer-focused BUILD conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft previewed Windows 8 in all its Metro glory and offered up new juicy details surrounding the upcoming sleek OS. Methinks they can be best presented in easily digestible bullet point format.
- Windows 8 doesn’t require the latest and greatest and most powerful computer guts to run well. At the conference Microsoft’s President of Windows Steven Sinofsky (above) showed off a Lenevo S10 running Win8 without hiccup. The S10 is an ancient netbook released in 2008 with a single core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, mind you.
- Sinofsky also showed off not-yet-released ultra thin-and-light notebooks running Win8 smoothly. These “ultrabooks” of the future will have no problem powering the OS.
- Win8 will come baked with NFC support. Microsoft demoed a tap-to-share feature whereby users can physically tap a tablet running Win8 to another compatible device and share information between the two devices. Just like HP’s “touch-t0-share” functionality between the TouchPad and other WebOS devices.
- Xbox Live is coming to Windows. The company promises that this new service will bring the console’s games, music, movies, and TV shows to Win8 devices. (Click here to watch a demo)
- The Windows Store (Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Mac App Store) will sell both Metro-style and conventional Windows apps.
- Metro apps can communicate with one another so long as the developer builds that functionality in. Microsoft offers this example: “You can easily select and email photos from different places, such as Facebook, Flickr or on your hard drive.”
- Windows SkyDrive support allows users to access content in the cloud across various Win8 devices with a Microsoft account.
- The company has given a name to the pane that houses Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings. A swipe from the right brings up those aforementioned “Charms.”
- The new OS will offer three different ways of logging into your account: password, PIN, or picture password. That last one is definitely the most innovative; you can select a picture from your collection and you will be asked to setup three touch points. When you go to login simply touch the predetermined points and you’re in!
- Expect much, much faster bootup times. Depending on the type of hardware, going from completely off to the login screen could take as short as 3-5 seconds.
- The ability to refresh and reset the OS from scratch is a new feature. If for any reason your system becomes corrupted due to, say, a virus you can wipe it out but keep all your settings in tact with a feature called Refresh. If things get really bad or you’re just looking to start anew again, Reset makes it easy to restore your OS to its original factory settings.
- Last but certainly not least I want to talk about the core of Windows 8. Microsoft continues to reiterate that the new Metro UI and its Live Tile apps is not a skin on top of the classic Windows 7-esque desktop. At the conference the company demoed how users will easily be able to switch back and forth between the new UI and what Windows enthusiasts are used to. Think of it like this. The traditional Windows desktop with Start menu and Quick Launch bar lives next to (not underneath or above) the new UI. To access it users will tap or click the “Desktop” square that lives among the apps that make up the Metro UI. Want to download and engage with new HTML5-based apps? Stay inside Metro. Need to pull up a spreadsheet in Excel? You’re probably going to want to switch into the classic Windows mode. Let’s hope that Microsoft eventually ports their Office suite to Metro like Apple built an iOS version of iWork. Once that happens, your eagerness to return to the dark ages will quickly begin to dwindle. Microsoft is firm in its belief that Metro is the future for their PCs and smartphones; don’t be surprised if one day they completely phase out the Windows interface of yesteryear.
- Update: Microsoft has announced that the Internet Explorer 10 running in Metro will not support any plug-ins. And that includes Flash. But why? Because they claim it “improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers.” Don’t fret, though; IE10 running in the classic Windows app will support plug-ins as usual. Though Flash maker Adobe says they are ready and willing to “drive innovation in HTML5,” they will also be working hard to enable Flash-based apps in Metro via Adobe AIR.
Windows 8 is expected to release in 2012. But what if I told you there’s a way to get your hands on Windows 8 right now? The Windows Developer Preview is out now! So for all you app-makers out there excited to start building apps for the Metro interface, don’t wait another minute and click that link. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about Microsoft’s next big thing, check out the Windows unveiled article posted back in June. Microsoft’s plan to integrate Windows 8 across all kinds of devices (desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, and tablets running x86 and efficient ARM processors) is discussed in more detail there and after the break in PR form.
Today Apple unveiled the developer preview of iPhone OS 4, the next major release of the iPhone operating system. OS 4 includes over 1500 new APIs for developers and over 100 new user features. Of these new features, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Senior VP of iPhone Software Scott Forstall talked about seven “tentpole” features. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
1. Multitasking: Apple has finally figured out a way to implement multitasking for third-party apps that preserves battery life and overall performance of the iPhone. The user interface for multitasking is simple. When you are inside an app, just double tap the home button to raise the window and reveal a new dock at the bottom of the screen. This dock houses all of your running apps, and you can jump in and out of them by clicking on them. When asked about how to close applications, Forstall replied, “You don’t have to. The user just uses things and doesn’t ever have to worry about it.” Though that sounds nice and cheery, there actually is a way to close out of an app if you are not using it. Tap and hold an app in the multitask dock and tap the minus button that appears; this confirms the app is now closed. Seven multitasking services were detailed:
Background audio – Now you can listen to third-party music players in the background just like you could with iPod. At the keynote, Pandora was demoed and worked without a hitch. While listening to your custom playlist in Pandora you can jump into Safari to browse a site or jump into Mail to check your inbox for new messages. Also, if you are in the lock screen you can double tap the home button and use the audio buttons to control Pandora.
VoIP – Now you can receive and hold onto VoIP conversations even if you jump out of the VoIP third-party app. At the keynote, Skype was demoed. Once a call is initiated, you can leave the app and jump into another without losing the call. A double-high status bar appears at the top of the screen that shows your still on the call. Also, you can still receive Skype calls even if you are in the lock screen; a notification bubble alerts an incoming call.
Background location – Apple says there are two classes of applications that like to use your location in the background: turn-by-turn direction apps (like TomTom) and social networking apps (like Loopt). With an app like TomTom becoming location-aware in the background, now you can leave the app and still receive turn-by-turn directions. For example, you can set and begin your route, jump into iPod to select a song, and TomTom will still read aloud the directions using GPS. Turn-by-turn direction apps are fairly power intensive apps, but most users have them running in the car when their device is connected to a power source. An app like Loopt, which is used more often when an external power source is not charging the device, will use cell towers rather than GPS to find your location. Privacy concerns are also addressed. Today, whenever an app wants to use location services, a notification bubble asks you to approve the service. In OS 4, a new status icon (shaped like an arrow) will appear in the status bar at the top of the screen to inform you exactly when an app is tracking your location. In the settings menu you can enable or disable location services per app. Also, an icon will appear next to the app name in the settings menu if that app has tried to access location services within the last 24 hours.
Push notifications – We already know all about Apple’s Push Notification service. A third-party sets up a server, they send their notification to Apple’s Push Notification server, then Apple sends it to the phone. Building on push notifications is a new service called…
Local notifications – These are just like push notifications except you do not need a server. The notifications can come right from the phone. For example, a TV Guide app can alert you to the premiere of a new TV program you wanted to be reminded of, and all this can be done right on the phone instead of going through back-end servers.
Task completion – This service works just like Xbox’s Active Downloads feature. Say you are uploading photos to your Flickr account. Today if you were to exit the Flickr app, the upload would stop immediately. With OS 4, if you leave the app the photos will continue to upload in the background.
Fast app switching – This is what allows an app to pause and save its state in the background when you leave it for another app. When you return to it, the app will resume exactly where you left off. So if you are playing a game of Tap Tap Revenge and decide to check your missed calls, when you return to the game it will start right where you left off. All this is done without using any CPU power. (Click here for more…)