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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: Something to consider...
By Smilin on 6/3/2011 1:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
I'll save my opinions about the Windows 8 Demo for when a product is actually released.

Awesome. You're demonstrating wisdom that is rare on the intarwebs....
I think that in the end this product is a total dud, not for its own failings, but because it assumes that device makers will play along, and I just don't see much reason for them to do so.

...or maybe you're not.

Why would a device maker sign up for the Windows 8 Mobile platform, when more money can be made using Android?
Because even after paying Microsoft so that you're allowed to load Android you are still not immune to any other patent violations Google may be guilty of. If you load Microsoft you'll pay just a fraction more and MSFT will eat the bill if there is a patent violation.

Microsoft has already picked the hardware, so each device maker will have to source components from certain companies.
Not true. MS is picking hardware specs, not hardware. In the longer version of this presentation you see it running on qualcomm, nvidia, amd, intel processors with wildly different form factors.

Apple doesn't have to pay royalties on the processors they build.
Yes they do. Despite what Jobs likes to imply, Apple did not magically invent the architecture used in their A4 processors. In fact the owners of the architecture know that apple is 100% dependent on them so they may get charged a higher licensing fee that Microsoft who can walk across the street to Intel if they don't like pricing. Wild speculation on my part but the objective fact is that Apple *does* pay royalties to ARM.

Not to mention Apple has much better economy of scale - these will be competing with Android, and probably won't sell well.

The economy of scale takes place at component manufacturing and only has a lesser impact during assembly. Did you see HTC switch from super amoled to LCD when supplies became tight? Windows and Android manufacturers can do this. Apple can't so they sign long term contracts for first dibs on components. Economical, yes. Flexible, no.

iPads have sold like hotcakes because they are super neat devices that do certain things well. Androids have had wobbly success. However there is serious pent up demand for a full-OS tablet. You can see this with the sales of the ASUS and HP Windows tablets: They frankly suck but still are managing to sell. Go figure.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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