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Smaller live tiles, new Internet Explorer 11 browser, and multi-monitor "snap" views are among highlights

Details have already started to trickle out regarding Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTWindows Blue -- the somewhat ironically named (BSOD anyone?) sequel to the coolly received Windows 8, a refresh which sources indicate will land later this year.  But a leak of a partner test build from earlier this month shows us the most explicit details about the Windows 8 UI makeover yet.

I. The Leak 

The leak came courtesy of photos posted to a Polish language forum in WinForum.eu. The leak also fell on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's 57th birthday.  Mr. Ballmer has shaken up the Windows team after Windows 8 received mixed reviews, with the biggest change being the departure of Windows President Steven Sinofsky.  The shakeups are expected to have a sizeable influence on the end product as Microsoft moves towards a shorter schedule of releases with Windows Blue.

The leaked build -- Build 9364 -- was compiled on March 15th, and is one of the builds that Microsoft sends to certain trusted partners in the months leading up to a Windows OS or service pack launch.

The build is current 2.63 GB

II. The Features

One of the biggest changes showcased in the leaked screenshots was an expected one -- smaller live tiles.  Much like Windows Phone 8, Windows Blue gives developers and customers more flexibility by allowing them to adopt a smaller/leaner footprint for seldom used apps' tiles.

Windows Blue

Microsoft has also borrowed Windows 7's desktop "snapping" and inserted it into the Windows 8 UI to allow snapped Windows 8-style apps.  The concept has been extended to allow a 4-app snapped configuration.  What's more, the snap-fest can extend to up to 8 simultaneously snapped apps in a multi-monitor setup.

Windows Blue

Windows Blue snaps (2)

The screenshots also show off a series of Windows 8-style apps --alarm, sound recorder, movie moments, and calculator -- which will come pre-loaded with Blue.  

Windows Blue

And there's new style options to allow users greater flexibility in customizing the look of their Windows 8-style GUI.

Windows Blue styles
 
Windows Blue Styles 2

The Windows 8 menu's controls have been streamlined and expanded to offer more intuitive control over hardware, uploads, networking, and other options so as to minimize the instances in which you have to return to the desktop control panel.

Windows Blue Control Panel (1)

Windows Blue Control Panel (2)

Windows Blue control panel (3)

Windows Blue Control Panel (4)

There's new gestures for touch users:
  • swipe up from the bottom -- gives a list of all apps
  • swipe up or down (in Desktop Mode) -- gives toolbar w/ access to Snap
Another highlight is a test build of the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.  The new browser has tab syncing, presumably to sync tabs between your mobile Windows Phone Blue device and your various Windows Blue tablets/laptops/desktops.

Windows Blue

Wrapping up the changes, there have been modifications to the "Charms" feature.  There's a new option in the Share Charm, which offers a quick shareable screenshot option for use with other apps like messaging and email.

Windows Blue Charms

Windows Blue Charms (screenshot)

The Verge and R27 (Italian) both reported on these leaked features.

Source: WindowsForum.eu



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RE: craptastic.
By robinthakur on 3/26/2013 8:32:20 AM , Rating: 2
That may well be the case, but tablet sales are certainly not slumping, and here MS has no defence. We were trialling MS win8 tablets from HP recently. Nobody wanted them as they already have iPads and didn't want to learn something new. One of them died and wouldn't boot and had to be sent back. On both, full screen apps can be easily manipulated, but the more powerful desktop mode is unwieldy and the keyboard (which does not pop up automatically when you tap on a text field in Desktop view) just doesn't really work properly on things like Chrome because you can't see what you are typing. The icons in Chrome don't do anything when you tap on them either, and the whole experience just doesn't feel cohesive compared to what users have been using since the first iPad launched. In terms of workflow, I also question what Win8 brings to the table. Yes you can join it to a domain, Multitask properly (in desktop mode) run MS Office on it and plug in a USB device, which is kind of nice in a novelty way, but we've been using iPads for so long, that ways have been found to work around the lack of office, using third party apps like Quick Office HD and to a degree multi-tasking. True MS might have better SharePoint/Exchange integration etc, but as far as users are concerned, they can send and browse email and make minor edits of office documents already and the rest, they aren't really interested in. Only IT really got excited about them, and after spending the weekend with the device I was bored with how fiddly it was to use. I've used Windows 8 since last November and know it well on a desktop machine (whenever I need to use it, less frequently these days!)but expected its natural home to be on a tablet.

I'm not really sure what we were expecting in Windows 8, MS did about as well as they could have, but the ship has already sailed in many ways and they are massively late to the party with an imperfect product. Perhaps Surface is better to use, but speaking as an end-user and an IT professional,and considering how long it took for MS to get a competing product out of the door, this is not that impressive nor does it really give people confidence in MS and the rest of the product stack.


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