Microsoft Demos Windows 8, New Interface


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Microsoft Demos Windows 8, New Interface
By Thom Holwerda on 2011-06-02 00:39:27

It's 2am here (edit: I'm done writing, it's 2:38am now), and I really ought to be sleeping right about now, but for some stupid arbitrary reason, the D9 conference is held at honestly irresponsible hours for us Europeans (and we rock, damnit). So, here I am, MacBook Air on my lap, camomile tea (the Empress of Teas) in my cup, because Microsoft just had to show Windows 8's new interface for the first time at this ungodly hour. Oh, and they unveiled some more interesting stuff about Windows 8. Update: The videos from D9 are up. Mossberg talking to Steve Sinofsky, and [URL=http://video.allthingsd....]the Windows 8 demonstration by Larson-Green.

When the first bits of information came out about Windows 8 having an additional user interface just for tablets, inspired by Windows Phone 7, I always assumed we'd be seeing a separate, tablet-oriented version of Windows NT for both ARM and x86. Today though, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, and the ever awesome Julie-Larson Green unveiled that there will be one version of Windows, and it'll have both the new tablet interface, as well as the classic Windows interface just for those applications that need it. However, the tablet user interface is not a mere layer - it's all a bit... Weird, really.

Look at this video of it, and you'll understand. Look what happens when they show Microsoft Office. Other things to look out for: how it handles multitasking. I have to say - pretty damn awesome

As you can see, the old Windows desktop kind of becomes part of the classic application, integrated into what I would reluctantly call its 'window'. It's kind of odd and jarring, but at the same time, I kind of get the idea that Microsoft is pulling a UAC on third party developers - UAC was designed to be annoying so that application developers would clean up their code. This jarring classic application handling? The exact same thing. Do you really want your application to be labelled as 'classic' and look like that?

Sinofsky was also asked if OEMs could forgo the classic interface altogether, and the answer was - "just don't use any desktop applications". My understanding is that Windows 8 is taking the first steps towards obsoleting the current Windows start menu/etc. paradigm. In these demos, it's already something that's relegated to classic applications alone; it doesn't seem to be possible to 'minimise' the new UI and reveal the classic desktop, nor does it seem to be possible to call up the classic desktop as an application. It looks like it's part of classic applications.

Interestingly, the new interface, and its applications, are touch-optimised (clearly), but they work equally well with a keyboard and mouse, according to Microsoft. Being a Windows Phone 7 user myself, and a devout admirer of Metro, this new interface jiggles in all the right places, but I do doubt this whole talk of 'optimised for touch, works equally well with mouse and keyboard'. Of course, this user interface is spearheaded by Larson-Green (the driving force behind Office 2007 and Windows 7's user interfaces, and thus, the best thing to have happened to Microsoft since, well, forever), but still.

The new interface comes with a whole boatload of new APIs, and makes heavy use of standard HTML5 and JavaScript, using Internet Explorer 10 which is built right into Windows 8. I'm curious what this is going to mean for other browsers - assuming this is indeed standard HTML5 and JavaScript, can I kick IE10 off Windows 8, and run these new applications in, say, WebKit?

As far as system requirements go, Sinofsky stated that Windows 8 will, once again, lower the system requirements compared to the previous version. Windows 7 was already lighter than Vista, and now Windows 8 will be lighter than Windows 7. I tip my hat to Microsoft for that one - but at the same time, they didn't really have a choice here since it'll have to run on tablets and other constrained devices.

Another question: what about a transition path from Windows x86 to Windows ARM? Well - there isn't one. No virtualisation or other compatibility layers. You'll just have to suck it. This gets a big thumbs up from me.

That's about everything I could gather from the Engadget liveblog. Sinfosky did talk about Windows NT, but not being interested in the nitty gritty like we are, Engadget skipped over it (bad Engadget! Bad Engadget!). Hopefully that part will be shown in videos on the D9 website over the coming days.


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On Thursday, Microsoft gave its first major public demonstration of Windows 8, and showed how it would be used to bridge the gap between PCs and mobile devices.

To the surprise of many guests attending the event, Microsoft says that the new operating system's hardware requirements will actually be less than the requirements to run Windows 7.

Windows 8 Optimized for Varying Screen Sizes and Processors

Microsoft recently confirmed that Windows 8 would run on the ARM processor: a low-powered CPU (central processing unit) commonly used on mobile devices such as tablets, and mobile phones.

In stride with the mobile revolution, Windows 8 has been designed to adjust to different hardware scenarios, particularly the type of screen. This is key in having Windows 8 running on both PC and mobile devices, as well as current-generation high definition monitors -- though, older hardware won't be left out.

For example: Windows 8 would run optimal on a 16:9 aspect ratio of 1366 x 768 to show off its new user face. But for users with an older type of display with 1024 x 768 (for example), Windows 8 would show a "standard desktop mode".

As well as adapting the user interface to different screen sizes, Windows 8 will easily and smoothly switch between a standard monitor and a touch screen display. This would make it easily adaptable for any environment, especially mobile tablet computers. (Source: Reviews and News on Tech Products, Software and Downloads | PCWorld)

Optimization for Each System Could Prove Tricky

Not all features in the system will work on every computer, so Microsoft is giving PC manufacturers clear and detailed advice about what they'll need to do to make sure their new products make the most of the system.

Windows 8 is an attempt to avoid Windows Vista's problems, where some computers were technically able to run all features, but did so in a compromised and disappointing manner.

It's notable that Microsoft is effectively trying to standardize new PCs, an approach it adopted with its Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, and something that's much closer to the Apple model where developers have complete control over the relationship between software and hardware.

HTML Apps Now An Option

Another big change is that software makers will now have a choice of two ways to produce applications: the traditional Windows program, and smart-phone style applications which use a combination of Javascript and HTML5, which are, historically, more associated with websites. (Source:

The company will strongly encourage developers to produce software that works effectively, whether the input device is a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen display.

Source: Microsoft Demos Windows 8 at First Public Event /

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