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Microsoft Lifts The Lid On Windows 8

David Gilbert


Windows 8

If you think about what Microsoft is trying to do with the next version of Windows, it is pretty radical. Not only is it making it compatible with x86 and ARM architecture, it is also giving it the largest visual overhaul we have yet seen.

Microsoft has finally given us a look at the next version of Windows, tentatively code-named Windows 8 at the moment. Microsoft will be targeting everything from 7in tablets to powerhouse desktop PCs with the new OS and it is clear from the start that the design team has taken a lot of cues from the Windows Phone 7 interface. Starting up the new Windows, you will get a series of tiles, the same as those seen in WP7, which have replaced the Start menu. This will all be customisable and each tile represents an app on your system. Apps will be web-connected and web-powered and built using HTML5 and JavaScript and work alongside traditional Windows programs.

Windows 8 tablet start screen

Windows 8 tablet

Information from these apps can be seen in the tiles, including weather, tweets, stocks etc. Choosing one app takes you to a full-screen version and to switch between apps, a simple swipe from the left will bring you to your next open app. A swipe from the right will bring up a menu to let you navigate back to the start screen. The UI is completely designed around a touch interface and while it will work with a mouse and keyboard too, it is clear that Microsoft sees touch devices as the main use for the Windows 8 platform.

Windows 8

Of course one of the advantages of working on a PC is the ability to do a couple of things at once and Microsoft has built in a system, called Snap, to allow you to do this. While you are in one app, swipe from the left until the other app appear and if you pause for a second, it will snap in place next to the open app. You can dynamically change which app appears bigger by simply sliding your finger across. For web browsing, Internet Explorer 10 will come with Windows 8 and has a “touch-first UI” allowing for easy panning and switching between tabs. One new innovation from Microsoft comes with the touch keyboard. The guys over at Redmond noticed that on some tablets typing can mean straining your thumbs to try and reach the keys at the centre of the keyboard. So Microsoft has come up with a “thumbs layout” which is more ergonomic and apparently “really natural to use” by splitting the keyboard in two.

Windows 8

But what of my existing Windows programs? Well they seem to sit alongside the new Windows 8 apps, and once open can be used alongside one of the new apps. “The full capabilities of Windows continue to be available to you, including the Windows Explorer and Desktop, as does compatibility with all Windows 7 logo PCs, software and peripherals.” While this is certainly a first-look at what Windows 8 will bring, we are excited about the radical new look. It is a statement to all the nay-sayers who believe Windows would not work on a touch device – albeit the platform won’t be available until at least 2012.

On the hardware side of things Steve Ballmer announced at CES in January that Windows 8 would support ARM-based chips as well as x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Today Qualcomm is the first to announce details of its dual- and quad-core chips which will work with Windows 8. First up is the dual-core MSM8960 Snapdragon, which will have integrated 3G/LTE support with speeds of up to 2.5GHz possible. This will be followed next year by the quad-core APQ8064 Snapdragon processor. Fellow ARM-licencees Nvidia and Texas Instruments will also be bringing out chips for Windows 8, though no details are available yet.

So there it is folks, Windows 8, Microsoft’s first touch-enabled UI and we have to say that on first viewing it is certainly appealling, though whether it will appeal on non-touch devices we’ll have to wait and see. Microsoft will be giving us a lot more information at its BUILD developers’ conference in September.

For all the latest news and articles on Windows 8, head to our Windows 8 topic page.

Source: Microsoft

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