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 factor.
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 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 be present.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.