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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: I don't think it works.
By Arsynic on 6/2/2011 10:55:30 AM , Rating: 1
Why the fuck would you be banging out a spreadsheet or writing a 10 page report on a tablet???

RE: I don't think it works.
By psonice on 6/2/2011 11:33:36 AM , Rating: 2
Because sometimes you need to? You might not write a 10 page report on it (can't see why not if you have a keyboard for it..) but I've edited documents on my phone even before now. Besides, I used that as an example because they showed it in the video - swap spreadsheet for whatever else you use you computer for.

Anyway, the point was that the benefit of windows is that you CAN do things like this. If it doesn't work well, what's the point? Do you end up only using the tablet UI on the tablet, and the desktop UI on the desktop? Different apps for each device? If so, why not just use a scaled up windows phone 7 OS on the tablet?

RE: I don't think it works.
By acer905 on 6/2/2011 12:37:03 PM , Rating: 2
See, thats the problem that people are having. "Oh, this still has the desktop, how will you use that on your Tablet" and "Whats the point of the fancy new interface on a Desktop anyway" are pointless questions, because they stem from the wrong mindset. There may not be "Tablets" and "Desktops" as such, unless Microsoft decides they want to fail. Instead there will be one device, the best of both worlds. A fully powered desktop equivalent device that has the full mobility of a tablet. Plug it into a dock on your desk that has the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, plus any external storage options or other accessories that you have. Instant desktop. Pull it out of the dock and you have a fully portable tablet with an easy to use on the go interface. Take a small wireless mouse with you and maybe a portable keyboard (plenty of fold up or roll up ones available) and if you need to work on your spreadsheet on the go, you don't have to learn two different office suites.

RE: I don't think it works.
By psonice on 6/3/2011 5:14:39 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, that sounds great, but... is it possible? Current tablets are generally light and portable with good battery life, but ARM based (likely a HUGE compatibility issue) and underpowered for desktop apps. Or, they're big and bulky, with short battery life, but reasonably powerful. In neither case are you going to get the best of both worlds.

Maybe in few years, but by then ipad/android/both/maybe-even-webos-and-playbook-but -probably-not will have dominated the market.

Even if we do get decent performance intel/amd chips that are competitive with arm on power, there's still a massive problem with software. To get both good performance and good battery life on mobile, the software has to be designed for it (and I say that as a mobile software dev). You have to hardware accellerate everything possible, you have to optimise heavily for minimal CPU/memory usage, and you can't afford to leave stuff idling in the background (especially stuff that constantly chatters over the network, updates files, and does a bit of processing).

Does that describe many windows apps? No. Many popular windows apps would be really bad news on a low power tablet. Maybe MS have fixed this in windows in a way that's compatible with existing software, who knows, but I think it's somewhat unlikely.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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