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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 Aloonatic on 6/2/2011 5:43:27 AM , Rating: 1
When is the next space shuttle leaving for the planet that you live on where devices come with a "Good solid state hard drive" and no bloatware?

I need to get a ticket :o)

Or are you just saying that only expensive tablets and notebooks will be running windows 8?

RE: No need to redesign
By B3an on 6/2/2011 6:12:46 AM , Rating: 1
I would think that by the time Win8 actually comes out that ALL tablets will definitely have atleast decent SSD's in them. There will also be quadcore ARM CPU's and faster Atoms before the release of Win8.

But i'm sure MS have also made a lot of tweaks that will make Win8 run a lot smoother than Win7 on the same tablet hardware.

RE: No need to redesign
By Aloonatic on 6/2/2011 7:21:48 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that by the time Win8 is out, that hardware might be better, but I'm not sure about the decent SSD bit. Cheap SSD, maybe, but a decent one?

The rest about MS making "tweeks" seems a bit like wishful thinking though. Even if they do, aren't we getting back to the OP's original point, which was that MS need to make changes to the underlying OS, not just add another pretty layer on top?

RE: No need to redesign
By inighthawki on 6/2/2011 9:38:40 AM , Rating: 2
Half the problem with standard hard drives in windows is little to do with transfer rates, but access times and random read/writes. Even with a "decent" or cheap SSD, you should see a VAST improvement, and far less IO blocking waiting for disk drive access.

RE: No need to redesign
By B3an on 6/2/2011 3:00:07 PM , Rating: 1
MS will be making changes to the underlying OS. Obviously windows 8 wont purely be a new interface with no other changes. MS has already said that it will need the same system requirements or lower than windows 7.

In much the same way Windows 7 runs better than Vista on cr*p hardware, i expect Windows 8 to run even better on low end hardware.

RE: No need to redesign
By Samus on 6/2/2011 11:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
Not redesign? I disagree...

OS Install Sizes (average install with most security updates)

Windows XP SP3 3GB
Windows Vista SP1 12GB (64-bit)
Windows 7 SP1 9GB (64-bit)

Now, mobile (developement platform installs, usually missing apps, but offset with compilers and debuggers)
Honeycomb 3.01 346MB
iOS 4.0.2 504MB
WP7 7.0.1563 1.07GB

Windows 7, at best is already 9 times larger than the next closest mobile OS.

Keep that in mind when considering it needs to be powered by the same ultralight, similar power envelope already in use by RISC-based tablets. It's not clear why Microsoft is going to be RISC (ARM) compatible. It will reduce compiled OS size (by a lot, RISC applications are usually half the size of x86 compilations.)

But that will only get Windows 8 down by so much, assuming it is similar in size to Windows 7...

RE: No need to redesign
By B3an on 6/2/2011 5:46:17 PM , Rating: 1
They could never get it down to the sizes of Android and iOS even if they tried. It's a vastly more complex and far more capable OS. The included peripheral drivers alone probably take up more than iOS's total size. I would GLADLY give up a little space for all the extra functionality of a real OS.

RE: No need to redesign
By Smilin on 6/3/2011 1:45:42 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares? Go compare Moore's law against the development lifetime of each Windows iteration with the knowledge that 7 is ligher than Vista and 8 is lighter than 7.

My Samsung Focus today already has enough horsepower and storage to run Windows 7 if there were an ARM variant of it (like there is with 8).

Efficiency is always good, don't get me wrong but having something small at the expense of having features is just plain stupid. Given the pace of hardware improvements it would take longer to improve your code than it would for the chip manufacturers to make the need moot. Fortunately both are happening.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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