At the keynote address of its BUILD conference in California today,
Microsoft has outlined how the Windows 8 operating system will work with
both tablets and PCs.
The new OS, which may or may not be called Windows 8, is a
complete redesign of Microsoft’s best known product and has been designed in
such a way as to work with both touch and non-touch interfaces.
The company revealed that Windows 8 will be a touch-first
user interface with the Metro-sytle interface built especially for use with your
fingers. It will run on machines based on x86 and ARM chipsets.
As wee saw when Windows 8 was first previewed in June, the first thing users will see is a tiled interface which will be familiar
to those who have used the Window Phone 7 software.
Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live
Division at Microsoft told the audience of developers that Windows 7 had sold
450m licences in the last two year but it still only accounts for a third of
Windows machines out there, with many people still clinging to older versions – meaning there will be a lot of people looking to upgrade to the new OS.
All developers at the BUILD conference received a free
Samsung tablet pre-loaded with a test version of Windows 8, which they will use
to test their apps on prior to submitting them to Microsoft for approval. The hardware is basically the same as the Series 7 Slate we looked at recently.
The tablet contains around 30 different apps written by
Microsoft interns over the summer, some of which were shown off on stage during
the keynote. These all looked slick and very much optomised for a tablet form
NFC support will also come with Windows 8 with tap-to-share allowing users to share content between a variety of devices.
Microsoft also showed off Windows 8 on a variety of other platforms including all-in-one desktops, Ultrabooks and professional set-ups including dual screens. Also shown off was the new task manager which detailed how applications you are not seeing go into a ‘suspended’ which saves on battery life.
“We re-imagined Windows,” said Sinofsky in his keynote address to
the thousands of developers in attendance. “From the chipset to the user
experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise.”
Microsoft was keen to point out that today was the launch of
the developer opportunity for Windows, not the launch of a product – and
certainly not the launch of new devices.
In relation to ARM devices, Microsoft said that everything it
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showcased at BUILD also runs on the ARM-based Windows PCs currently being
created by ARM partners and PC manufacturers.
“Windows 8 running on ARM will
ultimately be available with ARM-based hardware that you can
purchase. ARM requires a deeper level of integrated engineering between
hardware and software, as each ARM device is unique, and Windows allows this
uniqueness to shine through.”
Applications for the ARM version of Windows 8 will only be available
through the Windows Store and only apps compiled to its Metro touch interface
will appear there.
With this in mind it seems that the ARM version of Windows 8
may be the one we see on tablet devices, though the Windows Desktop will still
We expect to see the first Windows 8 devices coming online in about 12 months time and we can’t wait. Let us know in the comments what you think of what you’ve seen so far.