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New Start screen

Weather app

Split "thumb" keyboard

Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Experience  (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft brings a little bit of Windows Phone 7 flavor to Windows 8

Apple's iPad may have a long head start in the tablet market, and Google is slowly starting to get its footing in the market with Honeycomb, but don't count Microsoft out just yet. The boys from Redmond today showed off what they've been working on when it comes to tablet functionality in Windows 8.

The entire Windows 8 operating system has full touch support and will scale from small screens (i.e. tablets), to notebooks, to desktops with their massive screens. Windows 8 can be interfaced using the traditional mouse and keyboard -- this is the "base" Windows 8 environment -- or completely through touch-based gestures.

But of course, everyone wants to know how Windows 8 is going to work with tablet devices, and Microsoft gave us a hint of that today at the AllThingsD conference. As previously rumored, the tablet-centric versions of Windows 8 have an interface that is modeled after Windows Phone 7's "Metro" UI.

The new Start screen includes "Live" tiles and allows you to swipe and flick your way through the interface like you would with Windows Phone 7 devices. Transitions are nice and smooth, and multitasking is accomplished by simply swiping your finger across the screen [video].

Windows 8 will be able to run traditional Windows applications that we've all come to know and love over the years, or more touch-centric full screen apps that are written in HTML5 and JavaScript. Microsoft plans to make tools available to developers to help kick start the app making process to ensure that Windows 8 doesn't have the dearth of optimized apps that plague the Honeycomb platform. 

Other tidbits that came out of today's announcement include the fact that Windows 8 won't require any more hardware muscle than Windows 7 to run properly according to Microsoft Windows president Steven Sinofsky. Likewise, the OS will be optimized for both AMD and Intel x86 processors along with the hard-charging ARM architecture

Internet Explorer 10 is fully baked into Windows 8 and is obviously touch optimized. A new on-screen keyboard is also available including a new "split keyboard" configuration to make typing with your thumbs easier on a tablet.

"And this isn’t just about touch PCs. The new Windows experience will ultimately be powered by application and device developers around the world — one experience across a tremendous variety of PCs," said Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President for Windows Experience. "The user interface and new apps will work with or without a keyboard and mouse on a broad range of screen sizes and pixel densities, from small slates to laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, and even classroom-sized displays. Hundreds of millions of PCs will run the new Windows 8 user interface. This breadth of hardware choice is unique to Windows and central to how we see Windows evolving."

All in and all, it looks like Microsoft has made a valiant effort with Windows 8 for tablets, but it's still more of an "additional layer" plastered on top of Windows rather than a fully fleshed out, tablet-specific operating system like iOS or Android. However, this "quirk" allows it to take advantage of new HTML5 apps and still have access to the unparalleled catalog of existing Windows applications.

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RE: This is risky..
By Belard on 6/1/2011 11:22:33 PM , Rating: 3
The important bothersome issue with touch screen desktops...

DIRTY DIRTY screens.

Its bad enough on phones and tablets... but they work way better than phones from the past.

But a desktop or notebook where there is room and power for a mouse, keyboard, etc...

I only need to use an LCD wipe on my 24" screen about once every 2 months.... my phone will out fingerprint it in a minute.

RE: This is risky..
By GuinnessKMF on 6/2/2011 1:55:52 AM , Rating: 2
A little dirt will do you some good, all these kids these days with their constant purell sanitizing, no immune system! Kidding aside touch screens have gotten much better at repelling dirt/finger prints. Personally I'm a huge fan of what's possible with devices like Surface and the DIY clones coming out of the NUI community.

And of course, as others have mentioned, you don't have to use the touch screen interface if you don't want to.

RE: This is risky..
By themaster08 on 6/2/2011 2:29:18 AM , Rating: 3
I think you're forgetting that Microsoft recently announced support for ARM CPUs.

I would imagine this interface has been designed with current sized tablet computers in-mind.

Having said that, I absolutely love this interface! Microsoft needed to create a metro-like interface for Windows 8, and they've done it. The only problem I have is that they have announced this far too early. They should have waited closer to the release date to show everyone. The hype will wear before release, and it gives time for Google and Apple to steal Microsoft's ideas.

But then there's the flip-side to the coin. They need to show investors that they have a solution to Honeycomb and the iPad.

I have a WP7 and it's absolutely fantastic. If Windows 8 shares any of the same traits, it will be the best OS from Microsoft yet.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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