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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 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.

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