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
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
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
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.