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Next gen MyFord Touch successor reportedly built on Win 8 variant; Win8 consumer release preview coming in June

Windows 8 is a critical reinvention for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).  It ventures boldly into many new directions -- tablets and ARM processors among them.  Critics have plenty to complain about -- the mandate that every Windows 8 PC be equipped with touch, the love-it-or-hate-it Metro UI, and the lack of emulation for legacy x86 software on the ARM-centric Windows 8 RT.

But there's also a lot to praise with Windows 8.  It represents not only technical improvements (Windows 8 boasts numerous core app, system admin, and performance improvements over Windows 7), but also creative panache in craft a colorful, intuitive new brand of user interface.

I. Release Preview Lands in June

All Things Digital's Ina Fried reports that Microsoft's Windows President Steven Sinofsky has pegged the first week of June for the release of the third major test build of Windows 8, the Release Preview.

The first public Windows 8 test build was the Developer Preview, which aired for developer partners (much beloved by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, of course) in Sept. 2011.  Over 500,000 downloads were registered within 12 hours of that early build going live.  

The second (and current) preview was the Consumer Preview.  Microsoft has done a bit of renaming from the Windows 7 test build process -- the Consumer Preview fills an identical niche to Windows 7's consumer Beta build.  The Consumer Preview featured 100,000 changes and bug fixes from the Developer Preview and has been downloaded more than 1 million times.

With the new OS slated for an October launch, the Release Preview will likely be the final test build -- akin to Windows 7's Release Candidate.  It is expected to include tens of thousands of improvements based on the Consumer Preview feedback, easily surpassing the 2,000+ improvements generated by Windows 7's public beta process.

Windows 8 Release Preview
The latest test build of Windows 8 will soon be upon us. [Image Source: All Things Digital]

The announcement by Mr. Sinofsky was delivered at the Windows Developer Days event in Japan this week.  For better or worse Mr. Sinofsky has driven the UI revolution at Microsoft.  Coming in on the tail end of the Vista launch, he had a tough task ahead breathing life into the Windows team, which some members of the media and analysts claimed was "dying".

Delivering products such as Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7.x showed Mr. Sinofsky to be a leader who is unafraid to take risks and disrupt the status quo.  That's precisely what Microsoft needed and it has propelled Microsoft's Windows 7 to the most brisk sales of any operating system in history.  Mr. Sinofsky hopes to best that success with the revolutionary new Windows 8 product and further cement his status as a front-runner for the chief executive spot when Steve Ballmer steps down in 5-10 years.

II. Sources: Windows 8 Takes UI, Touch Load Off Ford's Shoulders

Our sources close to Ford Motor Comp. (F) recently indicated that a Windows 8 variant will likely drive the next generation successor to MyFord Touch.

This is an interesting, but not altogether unexpected development.  Microsoft has long produced the OS used by Ford -- Windows Embedded Automotive, and the latest version (v7), was built on a trimmed down version of Windows 7.  

But the information is also interesting because of the highlighted implications for Ford, and the industry in general.

Windows 8 in many ways represents a solution to many of Ford's headaches.  While Ford is undeniably the leader in automotive infotainment with the most features and the most cohesive user interface, it also has suffered from growing pains.  As the feature set grew, Ford has been compelled to contract out user interface development to third-party partners at times, and has found those partners to not always produce work of the same high quality as Ford's.
MyFord Touch upgrade Metro UI
Ford is reportedly preparing to use a customized Metro UI (right) in the next generation successor to MyFord Touch (right). [Image Sources: My Microsoft Life (right); Ford (left)]

The perfect example of where third-party software burned Ford is the early versions of MyFord Touch which suffered speed and stability issues, issues reportedly (according to my past sources) largely attributable to third party code.  The issues were finally addressed when Ford essentially redid its partner's work, revamping the OS and committing to a costly internal rewrite.

The answer to Ford's frustration is Windows 8.  The Metro UI is seemingly a perfect fit for a next generation Ford infotainment system.  In terms of current products, it will be kind of like Windows Phone on your car.  With its built-in XAML/C# (and possibly Silverlight although Microsoft is shifting towards HTML5) APIs, Microsoft has taken a lot of the grunt work out of UI graphics/coding/design and multi-touch support for Ford.

If you want to imagine a next generation Ford OS simply think of a Windows 8 tablet or Windows Phone embedded in the dash with MyFord Touch-like menu options and a customized Metro UI tile-based interface.

For all the Windows 8 skepticism Ford sounds like it is solidly in the believers camp.

Source: All Things D [Consumer Preview announcement]

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RE: Only a few more months
By InvertMe on 4/24/2012 11:45:29 AM , Rating: 3
Or you could.. you know.. switch it to classic mode maybe?

RE: Only a few more months
By snook on 4/24/2012 11:58:41 AM , Rating: 5
There is no classic mode. You can't re-enable the Start menu, you can't turn off Metro. You buy Windows 8, you're "all in".

RE: Only a few more months
By tamalero on 4/24/2012 12:01:34 PM , Rating: 2
as far I know.. only the ARM version will be locked to METRO.

RE: Only a few more months
By MrBungle123 on 4/24/2012 12:10:35 PM , Rating: 1
They removed the start menu and have no intention of putting it back.

RE: Only a few more months
By kleinma on 4/24/2012 12:13:35 PM , Rating: 3
Stop your crying. If you are that in love with the old start menu, then you having been using your computer wrong for years. The start menu was nothing more than a piece of the windows shell to allow you to find and access programs.

Likewise the new start screen is a part of the windows shell that allows you to find and access programs, plus lots of other features.

Why do people like you keep acting like they ripped the desktop out from under you? I have been running Windows 8 for months now on my laptop, with no touch interface, and it works just fine.

RE: Only a few more months
By tayb on 4/24/2012 12:28:57 PM , Rating: 1
There is no wrong way to use a computer. The new "start screen" is annoying when compared to the standard start menu and Microsoft's stance on the subject is idiotic when you consider that a simple registry "hack" returns things to normal.

I like Metro. It's a great UI. It's different, in a good way, than anything Google or Apple have done. But I'm not interested in seeing it, at all, when I'm trying to do real work. If I have a tablet and it's detached from the dock I think Metro is a GREAT solution. When it's docked I want metro to go away. Completely.

I've been running Windows 8 off and on since last fall and I straight up just won't use it if they try to cram the Metro UI down my throat in all use cases.

RE: Only a few more months
By tayb on 4/24/2012 12:37:07 PM , Rating: 1
Apparently the ability to switch back to the normal start menu was removed in the consumer preview. I'm not running that so I guess that statement is false.

RE: Only a few more months
By Mitch101 on 4/24/2012 12:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously everyone's reaction to something new is cry like a baby about it and demand nothing change. God forbid if anyone needs to use the keyboard or buys a Kinect for PC to navigate the UI which is talked about being integrated into laptops for virtual gesture navigation when touch screen is not an option.

Windows 8 grows on you the more you use it but if you don't like it stick with Windows 7 no one is forcing you to upgrade.

Just start typing - Windows 8 gives you a faceted search of what your looking for.
ALT+F4 to close the App
ALT+TAB to switch between apps.

Problems solved.

RE: Only a few more months
By dubldwn on 4/24/2012 1:05:25 PM , Rating: 2
Just start typing - Windows 8 gives you a faceted search of what your looking for. ALT+F4 to close the App ALT+TAB to switch between apps.

This is understood. How do I view multiple programs at the same time in different windows?

RE: Only a few more months
By hankw on 4/24/2012 1:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
This is understood. How do I view multiple programs at the same time in different windows?

The same way you do it today. The desktop is still there in Windows 8. You can run any apps that ran on Windows 7 in the same manner. It's only Metro specific apps that run in the Metro style.

RE: Only a few more months
By dubldwn on 4/24/2012 1:17:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah if you go to the shell of a desktop mode, but once you get there you seem to be relegated to pinning all your programs to the desktop or task bar (that's what I'm doing). It's not a huge deal, but it's certainly a lot more cluttered.

RE: Only a few more months
By tayb on 4/24/2012 1:35:45 PM , Rating: 1
No one cried like a baby when Microsoft enhanced the task bar in Windows 7 so drop the sensationalist nonsense. When I am using a mouse and keyboard I don't like Metro and I don't like the start screen. Progress for progress sake is silly and in this instance the UI "improvements" are anything but improvements. If I'm rocking a touch-only interface Metro is welcome otherwise it slows me down.

Windows 8 grows on you the more you use it but if you don't like it stick with Windows 7 no one is forcing you to upgrade.

This is an article about a consumer preview. The purpose of a consumer preview is for potential consumers to whine about the current state of the OS.

Just start typing - Windows 8 gives you a faceted search of what your looking for. ALT+F4 to close the App ALT+TAB to switch between apps. Problems solved.

Except if I have Visual Studio open in one Windows and SSMS open in another Window I can't just "start typing." I have to go to a freaking hot corner and then start typing. If I want to find a program I have to launch the start screen and find it in the Metro interface. It was simple to go to start -> all programs and find it. It's more complicated now and for no apparent reason.

I get it that you like Metro but that is your opinion. Not liking the latest UI effort from Microsoft doesn't mean people hate change or are crying like babies. I don't know why you find criticism of Windows 8 so offensive.

RE: Only a few more months
By hemmy on 4/24/2012 1:48:22 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have to use the hot corners...ever. Every operation can be done with mouse, touch, or keyboard.

Also, please provide an instance where Metro slows you down...Just because you aren't used to it doesn't make it less efficient.

So far we have:

1. Reading something while searching for it

RE: Only a few more months
By Reclaimer77 on 4/24/12, Rating: -1
RE: Only a few more months
By RufusM on 4/25/2012 10:21:00 AM , Rating: 1
Don't know why you were downrated. Your opinion is as valid as the others.

RE: Only a few more months
By MrBungle123 on 4/24/2012 12:46:13 PM , Rating: 3
Why do people like you keep acting like they ripped the desktop out from under you?

Probably because "people like me" do more than launch a browser and surf the web with a computer. Maybe I need to read something as I'm navigating throuh my old start menu is that possible when the start screen takes over the entire monitor? What if I don't have/want/have a use for a touch screen? When im at work why should I have to use a cell phone interface on my workstation with three 24 inch monitors? People are unhappy because you have no choice if you install windows 8 you will use metro even if it just gets in your way.

You know how I know that even the devlopers at MS think this enitre touch based UI thing is a pile of crap? Look at Visual Studio, the program that was probably used to create most everything you run on your computer... ribbon menus? nope. Giant tiles and a touch centric UI? nope. A different interface that throws everything you know about the program out the window with every new version? nope, its been pretty much the same since 2002. Still uses dropdown menu strips, still layed out the same as it was back when it was just called "Visual Studio.NET".

Its great that you like spending your time relearning everything you already know how to do, but for those of us that use our computers for work and are expected to get things done its a headache and a giant waste of time.

RE: Only a few more months
By NellyFromMA on 4/24/2012 12:46:55 PM , Rating: 2
All I gather from your posts are that your PC skills originated from Windows 95 and now you're mad that nearly 20 years later you might not translate those skills that well..

Well, no one is forcing you to not use Win 7 are they? Don't take it so personal; I think you're in the 1% on this one.

RE: Only a few more months
By Mitch101 on 4/24/2012 12:56:03 PM , Rating: 2

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available and has taken the Windows interface to a whole new level. Unfortunately, the preview did not come with a desktop feature that the world makes use of billions times a day, the “Start” menu. Luckily, we have a solution!

Start8 brings the “Start” menu back to Windows 8. This product is free and is available now! Enter your email address below to receive a download link.

- Adds a “Start” menu to the Windows 8 taskbar
- Enables quick access and searching of your installed applications
- Adds Run... option via right-click menu
- Adds Shutdown... option via right-click menu
- Choose a custom Start button image

New in v0.86, March 21, 2012

- Adds control over the "Start" menu size on the Explorer desktop
- Adds option for the "WinKey" to show fullscreen "Metro" desktop

RE: Only a few more months
By acer905 on 4/24/2012 1:21:12 PM , Rating: 3
Lol, leave it to StarDock...

But seriously, I am looking forward to Win8. I would love a tablet/laptop hybrid to replace my POS laptop. A nice 10" would be great.

RE: Only a few more months
By PrezWeezy on 4/24/2012 2:43:22 PM , Rating: 2
I have two 22" monitors here on my desk at work. I've been running Win8 as my full work/dev machine since the consumer preview launched. On my start screen have an 11x6 grid of program icons for all of the programs I use. I don't use any of the Metro programs while working, so I've removed them from my start screen. That gives me 66 program spaces, of which I use around 25. I consider myself to be a power user and I use far more programs than any of my clients. I thin an average client could use between 10 and 12 programs on a daily basis. And that is probably the high end. So I can easily setup a start menu with only the things they use on that screen for them.

I hated Windows 7 because it adds more clicks to do everything. There are more layers between me and what I want. With Win8 I have 2 clicks between me and my program. I am far more productive with Windows 8 than Win7. I have run into a few things that I don't care for (for instance printing is weird in Metro apps which really annoys me) but all in all I think Win8 is probably the quickest OS I have ever used as far as getting to my stuff. I don't generally need other windows open when I open the start menu, so your point may be valid, I just can't think of a time I have ever actually required that ability.

As for your point about VS, I have to say I think it could really benefit from a UI change. I'd love to see a ribbon interface on that. But I think it will be the very last thing to change. Not because, as you assert, they see it as being unnecessary, but because they focus on the consumer products first, and are spending more time keeping VS up to date that they haven't been interested in spending the time to change the UI. And their core market is willing to put up with a poor interface so they don't have to "learn" anything new. We are a picky group.

RE: Only a few more months
By Valahano on 4/25/2012 11:46:17 PM , Rating: 2
VS interface did not change?! Did you see 2010? Plenty of changes and I like nearly all of them. Ribbons is the last thing Visual Studio needs. And what kind of programmer works with VS by clicking toolbars with mouse.. O.O

RE: Only a few more months
By MrBungle123 on 4/24/2012 12:16:55 PM , Rating: 2
I guess I should add to that... The "Start Screen" is the "Start Menu" for windows 8. Unless you want to spam your desktop with an icon for every program you have, or pin everything to your taskbar you will need to use metro to launch your programs.

RE: Only a few more months
By StanO360 on 5/23/2012 12:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
The concept has been since Windows began that you could set up the desktop any way you wanted. App links, Documents, Web links etc. If you're not doing that now, then a huge feature is being wasted on you.

Just like the real world, your desktop is the focal point of your work, not the file cabinet.

RE: Only a few more months
By amanojaku on 4/24/2012 12:19:21 PM , Rating: 2
The classic desktop is embedded in the Metro desktop as an app. This allows for backwards compatibility, as well as a familiar interface for existing software.
Windows 8 features an extensively redesigned "Metro-style" user interface, optimized for touchscreens as well as mice and keyboards. A new "Start screen", similar to the one in Windows Phone 7, includes live application tiles. The start screen replaces the Start menu and the Start button, being triggered by the Windows key, and is also the first screen shown on start up. The user can go to the regular desktop, which is treated as a Metro app with its own "Desktop" tile on the Start screen. Starting a traditional desktop-based application also switches to the desktop. The Start screen also displays the user's name and picture.

The Windows Store will also allow developers to publish their Win32 or "traditional desktop" applications; however, the store will only provide links to such application on their websites.

RE: Only a few more months
By MrBungle123 on 4/24/2012 12:49:10 PM , Rating: 2
its a less functional bastardized version of the "traditional desktop" since you have to use the metro start screen to browse or launch programs you dont pinned to your taskbar.

RE: Only a few more months
By Techguruguy on 4/24/2012 1:37:33 PM , Rating: 2
You know usually I just read the articles here and never reply to any of the comments, but looking at how many people put windows 8 down without either trying it or giving it enough time, gives me the sense that you just can't take change, specially when it is this significantly and would rather keep with the old. I am a tech kind of person, but I also have non techie family and friends that I have also shown off and let them try. I have played with Windows 8 developer understanding the audience it was aimmed at. With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I installed it on my main system wiping my Windows 7 (I don't like duel booting, and instead use Virtual Machines). Yes I had some gripes at first due to not understanding the charms bar and fully how the start screen worked. After playing with Windows 8 and familiarizing myself with everything, I am loving it more and more. And before you say that Windows 7 is more productive than Windows 8, I beg to differ as I use real apps, such as Word excel, Outlook, Onenote, Photoshop, etc. They work seemlessly on Windows 8 without much of a hitch at all. I have my office apps seperated on the Startsceen and with one click they are up and running quickly. no problem. If I don't see what I am looking for, I just start typing and Find it within seconds. The shutdown and restarting of the OS feels more responsive, and remember that over time more real apps will transition to Metro. Windows 8 gives you the best of both worlds and has been improving with each update. Somethings are even better in it, than they were in previous versions of Windows. I also like the fact that Hyper-V is part of Windows 8, as it is one less 3rd party app that I have to install to run any VMs I may have. All I am saying as I use Windows 8 more, it has gotten better. I have not one had the need to go to the start menu once for anything as it is all found in the start screen. PS. If your screen is a wide screen display with a supported resolution, you can view both a Metro app and non metro app side by side. As being a less functional bastardized version, That is false .

RE: Only a few more months
By geddarkstorm on 4/24/2012 1:04:44 PM , Rating: 2
If you've used Windows 8, then you'd understand what he's talking about. The "desktop app" does not have the full functionality of the Windows 7 desktop. It also has some weird behavior when it comes to window priorities and alerts (which hopefully the Release Preview has fixed). And since there is no start menu (unless you use the third party program Start8), to launch a program you have to -completely leave the desktop-.

What this means is that you can no longer monitor your programs or work flow and alerts while you are in the Start Screen to launch another program. The desktop is turned into a simple tile. It really jars multitasking. Not to mention, if you want to use any other app you're out of luck, as they are full screen and you can't be in both the desktop and a metro app at the same time.

Again, Start8 fixes this very nicely, and I have never used the start screen since I got Start8. I've been using Windows 8 Consumer Preview since it came out.

I so hope the weird behaviors some programs have due to the desktop being an "app" is cleaned up in this next version. It's minor stuff I can live with, but don't know how well people like programmers would deal with it.

RE: Only a few more months
By Trisped on 4/24/2012 6:19:31 PM , Rating: 1
There is no classic mode. You can't re-enable the Start menu, you can't turn off Metro. You buy Windows 8, you're "all in".
All the reports I have found which stated this did not have anything to back it up (except that it is not available in the preview). Unless someone has something from Microsoft which clearly states you cannot disable the Metro UI (which previous reports indicated that you could) I expect that this is a problem with sensationalism. Look at the change made to the start menu from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. Most people I know immediately switch to the classic menu, but within a few years everyone was using the new menu. With the transition to Vista it was even more pronounced, as I only saw one person switch back the the XP style (they quickly switch back when I showed them how to use it).

So anyways, please post an official Microsoft statement indicating that Metro cannot be turned off.


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