Even if you aren’t a Windows aficionado, you should take an hour out of your day to watch this. Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team, took the stage at UX Week 2012, a user experience design conference. His presentation is called “The Story of Windows 8,” it details how Microsoft reimagined Windows for the next wave of PCs. He travels back in time to 1992, the year the Start Menu, Taskbar, and many of the other familiar facets of Windows were born. “They were designed to help people do things with computers that they did in 1992, not necessarily with what people do today with PCs, tablets, [and] phones today,” admits Harris. And this is what compelled the company to radically re-engineer the OS. Many things have been updated and refreshed over the years from Windows 95 to Windows 7, but “the basic elements of the user interface have remained the same,” he explains. Instead of waiting to be engulfed by the modern, his team decided to reimagine Windows by defining what is modern.
Over the course of the presentation, Harris gives a grand tour of Windows 8, interweaving and fully detailing the OS’ design principles (namely do more with less, authentically digital, pride in craftsmanship, fast and fluid, win as one).
He makes it a point to highlight the progression of Windows and what makes the latest release stand out from all the others. But what’s most fascinating about this intellectual and informative presentation is its overall theme which Harris calls “familiar usurped by modern.” Before diving into the OS, he spans the video game, smartphone, and automobile industries to compare and contrast “familiar” products and ideas to “modern” ones. It’s a course in shifting the status quo, being bold by leading by example, what it means to think and be modern. For design enthusiasts it’s a captivating watch, and along the way you might just learn all about the painstaking, detail-oriented effort that went into the making of Microsoft’s new OS.
Windows 8 is out, and Microsoft’s been pushing its own hardware dubbed Surface to highlight the best its tablet-friendly OS has to offer. When Surface was first announced, Microsoft detailed two different models: one running Windows RT and another with Windows 8 Pro. Surface for Windows RT was released into the marketplace the same day as Windows 8–on October 26. Surface for Windows 8 Pro would be saved for a later date.
We still don’t have a specific release date for the more powerful Surface, but this week Microsoft did announce pricing. As expected, the slate running Win8 Pro is pricier than its WinRT sibling (which starts at $499). Surface for Win8 Pro starts at $899 for the 64GB model; a second option with 128GB of storage space will go for $999. Microsoft is calling these “standalone versions” since they do not come bundled with an attachable keyboard cover. The Touch Cover and Type Cover sell separately for $119.99 and $129.99, respectively.
So you want to know the differences. Let’s start with software. As explained in a previous post, Windows RT runs off ARM processors and does not support legacy applications made for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and so on. RT will only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows 8 Pro, on the other hand, supports x86 processors and will run all legacy apps just fine. What makes this version of Windows 8 “Pro” are its enhanced security features including BitLocker encryption.
Moving onto the hardware side of things, Surface running Win8 Pro packs a more powerful processor with Intel’s third-gen Core i5 chip, double the RAM at 4GB, a higher resolution 1920×1080 full HD display, a faster USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort that can enable an external display up to 2560X1440 resolution, a larger 42 W-h battery, and it supports pen input. It ships with a pen and display tech called Palm Block that “prevent[s] your handwriting from getting interrupted if you accidentally place your palm on the screen as you write.” This enhanced Surface boasts the same 10.6-inch screen size, but its body is bigger and its weight heavier; it measures 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53in (compared to Surface for WinRT: 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37in) and it weighs half a pound more at 2lbs.
So there you have it. Surface for Windows 8 Pro is coming in January. Keep your eyes peeled at Microsoft’s portal, and when the release date becomes apparent you’ll know.
Three years after Microsoft’s last major OS release the next one is out of the bag. As of 12:01AM on October 26 the next version of Windows was let loose into the wild. Windows 8 is an entirely new OS, built from the ground up supporting touch input and a new Start screen that borrows its Live Tile look from Microsoft’s foray into the mobile smartphone space. Though the new OS begs to be touched, it has been proven to work just as well with the typical mice and keyboard setup. PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, and Lenovo are already selling devices running Windows 8 from desktops to laptops to tablets and convertibles.
This release marks the first time Microsoft is selling hardware of their own to promote it. Surface for Windows RT is out now, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro is coming soon. In case you don’t know the difference, Windows RT runs off ARM processors and does not support legacy applications made for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and so on. RT will only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store, open today. If your needs require such older apps, you’ll have to opt for the Pro version which does support x86 processors and apps designed with that chipset in mind. In a nutshell, Windows RT devices pack small ARM processors that allow for more compact, lighter PC designs and extended battery life; legacy apps won’t run. Windows Pro devices use x86 processors and these PC designs are typically thicker and heavier; legacy apps will run.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shared his excitement for the latest software release in a press statement: ”We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs. Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect for work and play and it is alive with your world. Every one of our customers will find a PC that they will absolutely love.”
To get Windows 8 today you have a couple options: you can either download it from Windows.com for $39.99 or purchase a physical copy for $69.99. Click here for more. There’s also a Windows Upgrade Offer available if you purchase a Windows 7 PC. Check that out here. Order a Surface here.
In addition to the PR, you’ll also find a couple videos after the break. Bill Gates talks Windows 8 and Surface in the first, and if you’re excited about this release as I am you’ll allot about an hour to watch the Windows 8 launch event hosted by Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky with an appearence by Steve Ballmer.
Happy Windows 8 Day! (Click here for more…)
Let Microsoft’s first Surface commercial dance right into your heart [Update: Pricing & specs revealed, preorder today, ships 10/26]
With the release of Microsoft’s radically new operating system coming out so soon, the company has let loose a fun commercial touting its in-house tablet dubbed Surface. Directed by Jon Chu (Step Up 3D) and choreographed by Christopher Scott and Jamal Sims, the spot incorporates an infectious track and aggressive dance moves to market its snazzy slate to a young crowd. Though it doesn’t offer specs and pricing, it does highlight the Surface’s ability to snap to a cover/keyboard hybrid the company calls Touch Cover and Type Cover, and it also puts the device’s built-in kick stand in the spotlight. It also screams that Windows 8 begs to be touched.
Surface for Windows RT releases day and date with Windows 8 on October 26.
Update: Now there’s even more to celebrate. Today Microsoft put up a product page for Surface with Windows RT and it includes a final spec list and pricing. Three separate SKUs are offered. The tablet starts at $499 and that gets you a 32GB slate. For $599 you get the same storage capacity and the slate is bundled with a black Touch Cover. And for $699 storage jumps to 64GB and you’ll get a black Touch Cover. The company is selling Touch Covers separately at $119.99 in a variety of colors including black, white, red, cyan, and magenta. Also sold separately is the Type Cover at $129.99 in black only. According to the site, the cheapest SKU ships “within three weeks” while the other two will arrive on your doorstep on Windows 8 launch day October 26. Preorder today.
When Microsoft announced Surface in June, they didn’t fully divulge all of the tablet’s specs. Now we’ve got ‘em all. Been wondering what the 10.6 inch display’s resolution is? It’s 1366 x768. For a full list of juicy specs, jump after the break for the official PR. Glance at new images that just surfaced below.
Flip on your Xbox 360 today and you might find an update waiting for you to download and install. Microsoft releases updates to its video game console every fall and spring, and we’re well into October so this refresh shouldn’t come as a giant surprise. Nor should most of its features since the most prominent ones were highlighted at this year’s E3. But let’s recap. With nearly every update comes a refreshed dashboard with user interface tweaks; overall the design and layout largely remain the same, but you’ll notice that each hub now houses more tiles. Some of them are tailored to your gaming habits, recent activity, and content ratings, while others are merely advertisements. You can create a personalized folder of “pinned” items; you can pin your favorite games, movies, TV shows, and music to an easy-to-access destination on the dashboard. Bing search has been enhanced to allow for search by genre; for example, you can speak to your Kinect and say “Xbox, Bing sci-fi” and related content will show up. And last but not least there’s the introduction of Internet Explorer; Xbox nabs a web browser. Where’s Xbox SmartGlass? Microsoft is holding off on the second-screen experience until Windows 8 launches; when it does users will be able to control their consoles via tablets and smartphones and interact with content in new ways. (Learn more about SmartGlass here.)
Here’s how the rollout will work, according to Xbox’s Major Nelson. “To ensure a stable release, this will be a gradual deployment across subscribers and regions over the course of the next week. Our initial deployment will reach approximately three million consoles worldwide, with additional users being updated over the course of a couple weeks.” So there you go.
Announced separately from this fall’s dashboard update is the rollout of Xbox Music. With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 on the horizon, Microsoft wants to forget the Zune era and start anew with a cloud-based music service that extends across the desktop/tablet OS, the phone OS, and the home console. Currently Xbox Music is available on Xbox 360. Users will notice a newly branded destination to browse, stream, and download music. In the Music hub there’s an Xbox Music tile that takes you to Microsoft’s collection of 30 million songs. To access the content, users must sign up for an Xbox Music Pass that goes for $9.99/month or $99.90/year. With the Pass, you can stream individual songs and full-length albums, ad-free. A free 30-day trial is offered if you feel so inclined to dip your toe.
When Windows 8 ships later this month on October 26, Xbox Music will be the destination for music consumption from Microsoft there, too. Unlike 360 owners, desktop/tablet users will have free unlimited, ad-supported access to the music database. Purchase an Xbox Music Pass and the ads go bye-bye; and also with the Pass, you’ll be able to save songs for offline listening. A feature called Smart DJ allows you to personalize a radio station based on your favorite artists. Since Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, your entire music collection (including playlists and Smart DJ data) is synced across devices including your desktop/tablet, phone, and console. Start streaming a song on your Xbox, pause it, and continue exactly where you left off on your tablet. You get the idea. Feel the urge to download a song for keeps? Purchase it in the Xbox Music Store, available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
Speaking of Microsoft’s phone OS, Xbox Music will begin to rollout to WP8 devices as they ship after the OS’ release later this month. Xbox 360′s rules apply to WP8 devices–an Xbox Music Pass is required to access streaming content. To reiterate, free ad-supported streaming is only available to Win8 users. Microsoft notes that they plan to expand the service to other platforms (think Android, iOS) sometime in the future.
In review: your Xbox is about to be injected with new life, and Microsoft is ready to take on the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Spotify with the launch of their very own cloud-based music streaming service and storefront. If you’ve got an Xbox, you can explore Microsoft’s new offerings today; for the rest of you it will come baked in Windows 8 when it releases in just over a week.
The next version of Windows is almost here. October 26 is under two weeks away, so what better time to reveal what the physical packaging looks like and flip the switch for preordering. Microsoft describes the packaging as “tak[ing] a fresh approach, in the reimagining of Windows.” It is made up of paper based materials which makes the box greener than in the past. Interestingly the company will ship Windows 8 in a variety of packages, each featuring a different “vibrant illustration” on the front. Check out the five options in the gallery below.
In addition to showing off the product’s package, Microsoft also announced that the Metro-fied OS is up for preorder. Consumers can reserve a packaged DVD of the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $69.99. However, if you can live without the snazzy new physical package, on launch day you’ll be able to upgrade online via the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (at Windows.com) for $39.99. The upgrade promotion runs until January 31, 2013. To be eligible for an upgrade at these prices you must already by running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Note that you can upgrade for even cheaper–$14.99–if you purchase a Windows 7 PC anytime between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. If you’re interested in viewing all the Windows 8 SKUs up for preorder, head over to NewEgg to see the lineup.
Mark your calendars. Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky has announced that the company’s next operating system–Windows 8–will release October 26, 2012. On this day consumers will be able to get their hands on the final version of the OS whether they are upgrading their current PC or wanting to purchase a new one. When it ships three distinct versions of Windows 8 will be floating around: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. For a chart that helps visualize the differences, click here. Note that RT will not sell in stores and will only come preinstalled on devices such as the Microsoft Surface.
Recently Microsoft also took the covers off the next version of their productivity suite. Office 2013 focuses on the cloud for saving and accessing content across multiple devices, social and new visual scenarios, and touch input for tablet accessibility. You can read all about the new Office right here, and you can even download a free customer preview of the software that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook and give it a test drive. Microsoft has not specified price and release date info, but it was made known that Office 2013 Home and Student edition will come preloaded on all Windows RT devices. Stay tuned.
At this year’s Windows Phone Summit, Microsoft lifted the veil off the next version of their mobile operating system. Codenamed Apollo, Window Phone 8 brings many new features and improvements to the platform. At the press/developer event, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore talked about eight new platform announcements; they are all laid out below in easy to digest bullet-point form.
- Latest and greatest hardware: Windows Phone 8 will support multi-core chipsets (up to a whopping 64 cores, to be exact), three screen resolutions including WVGA (800×480), WXGA (1280×768), and 720p (1280×720), and removable storage with MicroSD.
- Native code: WP8 introduces full C and C++ support which will help developers write apps for multiple platforms (including WP8 and Win8) faster. A native game development platform is provided based on DirectX, and this makes it possible for game devs to write the same game for the phone and the PC.
- Better sharing with NFC: A new Tap + Send feature allows users to easily share contact information between Windows devices; simply tap your phone to a Win8 tablet and instantly a contact card is shared. Also, peer-to-peer WiFi connections can be made between Windows devices and this allows for unique game experiences between phones and tablets. Initiate a game on a phone and tap it to a friend’s tablet and within seconds the two of your are participating in a multiplayer wireless game experience.
- The most complete wallet experience: Microsoft has built a wallet experience similar to Apple’s Passbook and Google’s Wallet. In this app users can store credit & debit cards, loyalty & membership cards, and access saved deals (read: digital coupons). With secure SIM technology, users can “tap to pay” at compatible checkout counters. Every Windows Phone running WP8 will ship with the Wallet hub, and it will be able to connect to third party apps. This means that even if your carrier blocks the tap to pay feature, you can still use the app for other functions such as storing and organizing your coupons. Wallet will launch in France with Orange first, and at some point next year it will make its way to the US.
- Nokia Map Technology: Every WP8 device will come with Nokia’s NAVTEQ Map data baked in. The maps experience includes offline map support, turn-by-turn directions, and map control for developers.
- Windows Phone 8 for Business: Microsoft is ready to make the Windows Phone platform fully enterprise-ready. The mobile OS includes BitLocker encryption and secure boot, line-of-business app deployment, remote management, and a customizable Company hub and apps.
- The Start Screen: The WP start screen has been reimagined to be more personal and customizable. “People are in total control of their Live Tiles,” says Belfiore. Users can resize tiles with three sizes to choose from and they can be moved around for a personal layout. A new palette of theme colors is part of the update, too. The new look makes for a more consistent experience between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. More on this in a bit… (Click here for more…)
With Microsoft’s next iteration of Windows on the horizon, the company has decided to go head-t0-head with its longtime industry competitor Apple by introducing its very own tablet. Though Microsoft is best known for its software, it has developed hardware over the years including innovative mice and keyboards. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made this case: “Much like Windows 1.0 needed the mouse to complete the experience, we wanted to give Windows 8 its own companion hardware innovation.” Meet Surface. And no, the company is not referring to its bulky, pricey multitouch Surface table; this is a brand new line of tablets running Windows 8.
Currently the new Surface family consists of two devices and two covers. Surface for Windows RT is powered by an NVIDIA-based ARM chip. It is 9.3mm thick and weighs 676 grams. It packs a 10.6-inch ClearType capacitive multitouch display, front and rear-facing cameras, a 31.5Wh battery,USB 2.0, microSD, and Micro HD Video ports, and 2×2 MIMO antennae for “the best WiFi performance possible” no matter how you hold it.
Surface for Windows Pro is powered by an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. It is slightly thicker and heavier than the RT model measuring at 13.5mm thick and weighing 903 grams. It too packs a 10.6-inch optically-bonded ClearType capacitive multitouch widescreen 16:9 display, but this one outputs full 1080p HD. Front and rear-facing cameras are present, as is a larger 42Wh battery, speedier USB 3.0, microSDXC, Mini DisplayPort, and 2×2 MIMO antennae. Surface for Windows Pro supports digital inking and comes with a magnetic stylus that sticks to the side of the device when it’s not in use. Built into the display are sensors that detect when you’re using the pen versus your finger on the touch display. The display won’t trip out when you’re drawing with the stylus while your palm rests elsewhere on the screen; Microsoft calls it Palm Blocking.
What the two models share is an extremely durable design Microsoft calls VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag). Surface is the first PC with a full magnesium case. Described as “incredibly strong yet airy,” Surface boasts a permanent search and ware-resistant design and the display has a protective layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2.0. Edges are beveled away at 22 degrees “so the PC itself fades into the background.” The design makes room for a built-in kickstand that morphs the tablet into a functional laptop. And every laptop needs a keyboard and trackpad… (Click here for more…)
The next operating system from Microsoft is almost here. After posting the Developer and Consumer previews, on May 28 the company let loose the Windows 8 Release Preview. In addition to packing bug fixes to make for a more stable and consistent user experience, the Release Preview includes improvements to existing apps like Mail, Photos, and People and introduces new Bing-powered apps Travel, News, and Sports. Also included is Zune Pass integration, Flash support in Internet Explorer 10, and of course a broader selection of apps in the Windows Store as developers start to hop aboard the Metro bandwagon.
The Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download today in 14 languages today; click here to access the free download. The final version of the touch-friendly OS is out later this year. PR after the break.
Microsoft unveiled their next major operating system release in June 2010. Then at the BUILD 2011 developer’s conference the company provided further details about the totally revamped, Metro-style OS. And now, this past Wednesday at Mobile World Congress in Spain, Microsoft has made available to the general public the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. According to a press release, this free preview “offers a more robust experience for testing the world’s most popular operating system and is available to the widest range of people yet following the initial release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview late last year.” In other words, it will provide a more stable Windows 8 experience for developers and consumers alike to check out before Microsoft officially releases the final version of the OS before the end of the year.
Ready to give Windows 8 a spin? Head over to Microsoft’s official download portal and click Get It Nowto, well, get it now. Can your computer handle it? The company released these recommendations: 1 GHz or faster processor; 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit); 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit); DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
Here it is, the official logo for Microsoft’s upcoming operating system upgrade Windows 8. Design agency Pentagram was tasked to come up with the logo and during their brainstorming sessions they posed the question, “your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?” Take a look below…
…and you’ll see that the Windows logo originally started as an actual window and evolved into a flying or waving flag. In a blog post Microsoft describes its intent to bring the logo “back to its roots” with Windows 8.
“Windows” really is a beautiful metaphor for computing and with the new logo we wanted to celebrate the idea of a window, in perspective. Microsoft and Windows are all about putting technology in people’s hands to empower them to find their own perspectives. And that is what the new logo was meant to be. We did less of a re-design and more to return it to its original meaning and bringing Windows back to its roots – reimagining the Windows logo as just that – a window.
What should strike you most, however, is the Metro influence that makes itself instantly apparent in the logo. The Metro style design philosophy was born in Windows Phone, it was recently brought to Xbox, and soon it will take over the PC with Windows 8. The blocky and modern Metro look is one element that ties together all of Microsoft’s consumer offerings, and so it makes sense that it would be prominent in the logo for the company’s next OS.
[Via Windows Blog]
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 Microsoft unveiled the next version of Windows; internally it’s being appropriately referred to as Windows 8. Microsoft’s goal with this iterative update is to bring one unified Windows experience to all kinds of platforms, including desktops, laptops, ultraportables, netbooks, and tablets. Note that this approach is fundamentally different from Apple’s; that camp separates Mac OS X and iOS as two different experiences and user interfaces–one is built around keyboard and mouse implementation, while the other is tailor-made for touch input. Microsoft says that the next version of Windows is being built with both methods of input in mind.
During the demonstration Microsoft did not dive all that deep into the flashy new UI but here are a few things to know. When you power up a Windows 8 device you’ll see a lock screen that provides the date and time and some notifications; the lock screen background can be customized. Swipe up and you’ll be brought to the Start screen we’ve been discussing. Microsoft describes this customizable space as a “personal mosaic of tiles.” Every app you install to your device will exist as a tile. Click Weather and the app opens full screen. Multitasking is seamless. When multiple apps are open at once, simply swipe from the left to push background apps into the foreground. Switching from the browser to videos to pictures is extremely fluid and fast. Apps can also run alongside each other. For example, if you’re watching a video and want to check on your Twitter feed, a subtle swipe from the left will snap your Twitter feed to the left pane so you can check it out and continue watching your video simultaneously. If you’re on a tablet or slate device a virtual keyboard will reveal itself when it’s needed. A standard keyboard can be replaced by a “thumbs layout” that splits the keyboard in two and makes it more ergonomically friendly for tablet users whose hands are grasping the device from the sides. Also, no matter where you are a swipe from the right will show a pane consisting of Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings.
Ready for an unfortunate surprise? The new interface discussed here is, at its core, an OS skin of sorts. The regular Windows desktop and file system you’re used to exists behind the flashy overhaul. During the demonstration Microsoft Excel was initiated from the tile experience and was instantly opened inside the traditional Windows experience–desktop, Start menu, taskbar and all. Since Windows 8 will be a hybrid experience consisting of the new touch-based UI and the traditional Windows interface there will be a divide when it comes to app development; devs will have the option to make an app for the new space, the old space, or both. What’s neat, however, is that “flashy” apps can run alongside “traditional” apps. For example, you can have a Word document open and swipe in from the left a Twitter or RSS feed at any time. Also demoed was the ability to explore app content from multiple locations within the OS. For example, pictures can be viewed from the local file system, connected networks, and other apps on the system. The thought of running two distinct UIs at the same time is a bit scary, but at least Microsoft is doing its best to tie them together effectively.
And now let’s bring things full circle. As stated earlier, Windows 8 is meant to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile device, to create one seamless and connected experience across multiple platforms. Whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse or your fingers the next Windows will work. Apps will be designed from the ground up to be touch-capable (as is the OS), but Microsoft reassures that traditional keyboard and mouse input will work just fine. The upcoming OS will work with both x86 and ARM processors; Microsoft has teamed with NVIDIA, TI, and Qualcomm so far on that front. The company promises that hundreds of millions of developers will already know how to develop for it by the time it releases. Speaking of which, don’t expect to see Windows 8 running on your machine anytime soon. First Microsoft has to teach developers how to make apps for the new UI; this will happen at their upcoming developer event BUILD this September in California. At that time more details surrounding the upcoming OS will likely come out. Obviously a solid release window has not been announced yet, let alone a final name for the product. Microsoft let on that consumers and businesses should not anticipate a fall release.
That about does it for now. Essentially today’s unveil was just that–Microsoft lifted the curtains to reveal the flashy aesthetic of its new OS and showed how brilliantly it performs on tiny ARM processors. Hang tight, September is just three months away! Go on and jump after the break to watch a brief demonstration of Windows 8.