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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: No need to redesign
By Tony Swash on 6/2/2011 5:28:18 AM , Rating: -1
Leaving aside the actual software being delivered (which may or may not sell and may or may not deliver on it's technical promises) I want to talk about Windows 8 as a business. The scary thing for Microsoft about the the mobile/device/app/iOS/Android revolution is not just that they completely missed the boat by a very wide margin and are fantastically late to market. That's bad enough. The real problem is that this revolution or paradigm shift threatens to undermine Microsoft's whole business model.

Leaving aside all the loss making products and those that make hardly any return on capital Microsoft's business is still very, very dependent for the bulk of it's revenues and profits on its old core products like selling Windows licences and Office plus various bits of the enterprise server stack. The mobile revolution threatens to significantly reduce margins in all those areas.

If Windows 8 is licensed for inexpensive mobile devices can the current revenue model for MS OS licences survive? Probably not. The result is a likely drop in revenue for MS.

If Microsoft migrates to an App model for its own apps such as Office in order to compete in the inexpensive new app markets can it sustain the current price structure for Office and hence its current high revenue and profit rates? Probably not. The result is a likely drop in revenue for MS.

If the consumer world is being flooded by very powerful devices all running very inexpensive apps and if the various cloud offerings from the likes of Google continue to evolve can Microsoft continue to sell its own enterprise solutions at the current price and mark up? Probably not. The result is a likely drop in revenue for MS.

The world of technology is restructuring and the old metrics and models for success are being transformed, the old ways won't necessarily lead to riches anymore. Lots of Windows 8 devices could sell and Microsoft could still see its business and profits shrink.

Microsoft does not just need new products it needs a new business model.

I think John Gruber has some interesting stuff to say about the Windows 8 demo by the way.

RE: No need to redesign
By themaster08 on 6/2/2011 6:20:41 AM , Rating: 2
The world of technology is restructuring and the old metrics and models for success are being transformed, the old ways won't necessarily lead to riches anymore.
Maybe so, but what you seem to think is that the world of technology will change overnight. You couldn't be further from the truth.

Businesses are usually extremely reluctant to jump on-board of new technologies. By the time most businesses transition to new technologies, Microsoft will have established themselves. Sure, you might see a few iPads in some businesses, so what? On many occasions I find that iPads are bought by MD's for personal use.

Sure, the consumer space is fast moving and very fickle. It's always been that way, but you obviously have never worked in IT. The consumer market does not influence the business market. Consumer-oriented businesses such as Apple fail epically when creating business solutions. Remember Apple and the SEC?

Windows 8 will provide the transition that will benefit consumers, with an extremely easy-to-use, intuitive interface that plays extremely well with a touch screen, whilst at the same time supporting business and power users with power tools and legacy/desktop interfaces.

You also seem to forget about Microsoft's partner and 3rd party developer support. You seem to be comparing this to the likes of the iPhone/Windows Phone, but you know that it's nothing like that. In terms of application count, I expect the Windows 8 Marketplace to exceed iOS's app count in a matter of months.

This will bring in an entire wealth of new applications designed for the metro interface and touch input. Again, debunking your previous comments based upon legacy applications.

Windows 8 will also bring in tighter integration with other Microsoft's products, thus also propelling interest in those products and in turn increasing sales.

People such as yourselves seem to discount Microsoft due to the always-in-the-limelight companies such as Apple. If I was Apple or Google, I'd be watching very closely.

RE: No need to redesign
By Tony Swash on 6/2/11, Rating: -1
RE: No need to redesign
By Flunk on 6/2/2011 9:15:49 AM , Rating: 2
It seems you have forgotten to take into account the fact that Microsoft takes 30% off the top of all sales on their App Marketplace. That 30%, combined with a greater emphasis on buying via their marketplace could make this new model even more profitable than their current one.

Windows Phone 7 is already like this, although I admit it makes publishing apps much easier for me.

RE: No need to redesign
By omnicronx on 6/2/2011 11:14:44 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention MS is a software company, not a hardware company. The idea that they cannot compete in the low end market just makes little sense to me, when you consider they already control the netbook and low end market which have lower pricepoints than all current tablets.(and in some cases by a large margin)

OEM > Vertical Integration over the long term. Its the secret to Androids success, and one of the main reasons why I feel MS is hardly out of the game..

Even if they are late to the party, they have an advantage nobody else currently has. The support of millions of users worldwide. A Tablet PC that contains a full version of Windows with a Tablet interface could very well move MS past the realm of mere content consumption on tablets.

RE: No need to redesign
By Da W on 6/2/2011 11:23:50 AM , Rating: 2
True MS is loosing some market power. Even if they maintain a near monopoly in the x86 pc market, substitute products are keeping it in check. At least we won't see the price of windows 8 jump over what windows 7 was.

But, MS need to keep evolving. They need to put the PC in the living room. their Xbox IPTV project has the potential to be huge. Now just get rid of that set-up box, that blue-ray player, that sound system, that gaming console and just gimme a PC that does all these things and then some.

RE: No need to redesign
By robinthakur on 6/2/2011 6:21:43 AM , Rating: 2
Well you actually make some good points, but maybe they will market a reduced functionality version of Office for it like Adobe does on iOS with Photoshop for a reduced price. Even if they make a loss on that as long as they are still using the same office file formats which work with PC's ant the fuill version of Office, then whilst their revenue might decrease markedly, they will at least survive, (which was by no means certain) in the coming years. They also have compatibility on their side with their own Walled gardens like SharePoint and CRM etc, although by that logic current WP7 devices should be the best to use with Exchange, but that honour goes to Blackberry currently...

Unless the whole OS is built for a reduced power consumption and mobile devices from scratch, what is the logic of having the whole thing running in the background but displaying only a cut down interface and functionality to the user? It seems a bit inefficient to me...

However, the video is at least an encouraging sign that MS might turn things around. Once they have a genuinely good product (not a 80% there like current WP7) they will see the sales, though as Tony correctly points out, Google give their OS away for free...lucky that MS gets a royalty from them and their OEMs for each one sold lol.

RE: No need to redesign
By Aloonatic on 6/2/2011 7:11:05 AM , Rating: 2
I hear what you are saying about "the cloud" and people being happy to use cheaper or free apps to do certain things, but I'm not sure that MS hasn't got it's office suites in pretty decent order now, and that they are getting revenue from most people, even home users.

Gone have the days of most homes having a pirated version of Windows and Office. Businesses will still want a "proper" office application and when home users can buy a 3 user licence for Excel, Word and Power Point for £40 or so, then I think that cheaper alternatives are going to have to be very cheap or very good to get people to move away.

MS Office files are still, and will probably continue to be, the standard for text documents (which most people could get away with creating on a cheap text editor, really), spreadsheets (that I'm not sure are very "app" friendly) and presentation slides.

Even if people do go "app crazy" and lots of apps are being sold and lots of data is being stored on the cloud, rather than being created in Office and stored on a windows PC. The more things that go into "the cloud" the more servers will be needed.

Out of interest (I honestly don't know, and I'm not being sarcastic here) what OS do most servers use that power the iStore, Android Market Place etc? What will other servers that will be supporting cloud based services be running too?

At the end of the day, MS has always made a lot of it's money from businesses. While I agree that Apps etc might fly in the home, in the work place a good old fashioned PC with a monitor and copy of MS Office is still going to be the standard for a while.

That MS have come up with an interesting Win 8/metro interface that looks good for tablets and where the home market is going while also supporting a legacy desktop environment that business will like seems to be a pretty good way to go.

RE: No need to redesign
By superPC on 6/2/2011 8:40:53 AM , Rating: 2
you and that article you posted ( brought some good and interesting point. but instead of looking at it that way we can also look at it from a different point of view. the point of view of people who bought keyboard for ipad or eee transformer (for which there is a lot). people who bought atrix 4g laptop dock. all those people that expect to get more out of their tablet. people that also want create content instead of just consume. for those people windows 8 would be a perfect OS. for consumption or light use the touch interface would suit it well. other times they want to use keyboard they can switch to normal desktop. hell you can buy a viewsonic tegra 2 tablet for 300 ( attach keyboard and mouse to it and you can have the full windows experience when you want it or need it.

all the other stuff you mention about microsoft start bleeding revenue everywhere can also be look at another way. office can sure compete with similar apps. if it can't than it would already be replaced by numerous other productivity suite out there like open office, iwork, and other. even if they created a touch centric office with limited capability their main business wouldn't be affected (they've done this with windows phone 7 office BTW and apple has done the same with iwork). about web app and loss of revenue, ehm have you search for apps for windows lately? there's already millions of them (go to zdnet if you don't believe me). web app or normally installed app, free or paid. if it doesn't disrupt MS income right now why should it disrupt it when win 8 comes out? if anything it should increase revenue since MS can really leverage on the new product scout or windows app store (or whatever they ended up being named). about enterprise solution for server and stuff: MS is still fighting it out with linux distros. i fail to see how windows 8 would suddenly cause MS to loose the battle.

RE: No need to redesign
By Smilin on 6/3/2011 1:36:14 PM , Rating: 1
The real problem is that this revolution or paradigm shift threatens to undermine Microsoft's whole business model.

You are both right and wrong. The mobile space IS disruptive to on-premesis PC based Windows.

However, that is not Microsoft's business model any longer. What you are saying I heard Kevin Turner himself say six years ago and it wasn't a new idea even then.

Office before = buy licenses in bulk. Maybe or maybe not actually use them. Repeat in 3 years.
Office soon = pay a very low cost per user *per month* for what you actually use in the cloud. Overall money to MSFT over 3 years is higher, overall costs to customers is lower since there is no maintenance, rollouts, or upgrades.

You're also forgetting the Microsoft isn't just Windows. That mentality is even more out of date. Find a Mac running Office and Microsoft made more money on it than Apple did. iPhones are wildly successful? Cool...that's just more hits for bing. Sit back and watch Apple beat up MSFTs real #1 competitor, Google.

The MS Strategy is in the cloud via the three screens described by Ray Ozzy. The devices will become ubiquitous, cheap and fiercly competitive. It's not the market you want to be in.

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