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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 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.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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