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Windows 8: full details revealed

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By Barry Collins in Los Angeles

Posted on 13 Sep 2011 at 17:05

Microsoft has revealed full details of Windows 8, with an all-or-nothing approach to touch technology, writes Barry Collins in Los Angeles.

All versions of Windows 8 - whether used on a touchscreen device or not - will use the operating system's new Metro interface, which was first developed for Windows Phone 7 devices.

The familiar Windows desktop, which has been the cornerstone of the operating system since Windows 95, has been effectively demoted to an "app".

Microsoft insists that the touch-oriented interface is suitable for any device, regardless of whether it has a touchscreen or not. "We envision an OS that scales from small form-factor, keyboardless tablets, all the way up to servers," said Windows president Steven Sinofsky, at a special press preview of the new operating system.

Every screen needs to be touch. A monitor without touch feels dead

What's more, the company believes that every device should have a touchcreen. "The UI is the same UI, whether you use a mouse, keyboard or touch," said Jensen Harris, director of program management for the Windows Experience. "Every screen needs to be touch. A monitor without touch feels dead."

New app model

The advent of Windows 8 sees Microsoft introduce a new style of application, dubbed Metro Style apps, and its own app Store. The Metro Style apps are run in full-screen mode, with no Windows taskbar or other menu items getting in the way.

"Every single pixel of your beautiful screen is for your app," said Harris. "You're just immersed in the content."

Metro Style apps have more in common with the lightweight web apps found in Google Chrome than traditional Windows software. They can be written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as well as the more traditional C and C++ programming languages.

Microsoft will automatically syncrhonise a user's Metro Style apps across their Windows 8 devices, and allow users to pick up an app from where they left off on another device.

Internet Explorer 10

The Metro Style apps will be downloadable for the Microsoft Store, which offers developers the chance to offer "free trials" of their applications to customers, automatically wiping the app from users' machines when the trial period expires. All software distributed through Microsoft's Store has to be vetted by the company first - a process that the company claims will take mere hours, not the days and weeks that developers wait for software to be approved by Apple.

Old-style desktop

There will still be a place for traditional, desktop-style applications. These will run from the Windows 7-style Desktop, which now appears as an app on the Windows 8 Start Screen. "The Desktop is just another app that you can launch when you want to," said Harris. "There are no compromises. When you want a mouse and keyboard you can have it."

Microsoft insisted it wasn't trying to phase out desktop software in favour of the Metro apps. "There's no new conspiracy here," said Steven Sinofsky, in a spiky exchange with journalists who questioned Microsoft's motives. "We don't think the Desktop is some old place that you will never want to go."

Traditional x86 software will also be sold in the Store alongside the Metro apps.

No version announcements

Microsoft hasn't announced a release date, price or even which versions of Windows 8 will be offered to consumers and businesses. Sinofsky did however suggest there will be an element of differentiation between the versions of Windows that run on traditional x86 processors and the version running on ARM-based chips.

Windows 8 Lock Screen

Despite showing off versions of Microsoft Office running on ARM processors earlier this year, Sinofsky claimed the "vast library" of x86 software "is not an asset we're going to port to ARM."

New Metro Style apps coded in HTML/JavaScript will, however, run equally as well on ARM processors as x86, suggesting Microsoft views the ARM versions of Windows as a pure tablet play.

Now click here for further details on:
The new interface
Apps and the Store
Performance
Windows 8 on ARM

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User comments

Dead Monitors

"Every screen needs to be touch. A monitor without touch feels dead."

I can't even reach my monitor when I'm sitting comfortably at my desk. Also, why would I want smudgy finger prints all over it?

By Pozzy on 13 Sep 2011

@Pozzy

Dammit I was going to comment on the exact same MS statement but with words equating to 'Bullocks'.

By rhythm on 13 Sep 2011

Risky

Risky move by MS but balmer did state that they were going to do something with risk many, many months ago.

Good luck to them :)

By rhythm on 13 Sep 2011

@Pozzy & Rhythm

Taken the words right out of my erm keyboard.

I can't think of anything worse than being forced to use touch on my multi screen setup.

I reserve judgement till a later date though.

By JStairmand on 13 Sep 2011

well as a developer, the thought of using javascript and HTML to create business applications terrifies me.
I know that the desktop is still there but they're demoting it to the background and so.. oh I don't know. I'm not happy. Maybe if there were decent debugging and development tools for javascript I'd be happier.
I'm fancying moving to Apple

By TimoGunt on 13 Sep 2011

Expecting to see keyboards with large touch pads appear just in time for the launch of Win8. MS surely aren't so stupid to think that touch screens are really a mass market option for desktops?

On another thought, any word if MS are going to have Kinect like integration with Win8?

By Firhill on 13 Sep 2011

Microsoft are clearly **** scared of tablets and the so called "post PC" world hence why they are making this move.

Personally, I don't like the idea of apps jury rigged for touch and traditional controls because it will most likely mean bad/mediocre apps in the end.

I think ultimately the question will be, do we have a new evolution of windows, or another MS BOB?

By tech3475 on 13 Sep 2011

Microsoft are clearly **** scared of tablets and the so called "post PC" world hence why they are making this move.

Personally, I don't like the idea of apps jury rigged for touch and traditional controls because it will most likely mean bad/mediocre apps in the end.

I think ultimately the question will be, do we have a new evolution of windows, or another MS BOB?

By tech3475 on 13 Sep 2011

correction:
1) ignore the repeat
2) It's my opinion (forgot to enter that in my post).

By tech3475 on 13 Sep 2011

The way I see it

Win8 will use touch for Home / Tablet and Mobile devices.

Business PC's and devices via GPO will be common place to use standard desktop. I also couldn't imagine myself administrating Exchange or other business apps through a touch screen device

By DaChimp on 13 Sep 2011

A bit of Vuda je

If I remember, prior to the release of Win 7, pc mavens were, then too, touting the impending virtue of touch screen implementation. I never did buy that body scanner.

It all seems fatally ill-conceived, Windows 8 standing on the jetty with its trousers round its ankles after the Apple and Android flotilla has sailed.

I will be going Linux if the only alternative is to get trapped in someone's app store.

By Alperian on 13 Sep 2011

!!!Shock!!!

TimoGunt moving to Apple??? Now I've heard it all...

But then, the XCode development environment and the iPhone SDC do have Javascript development tools included IIRC.

(There's always ReactOS of course)

By SwissMac on 13 Sep 2011

@TimoGunt

You don't have to use HTML/JS. You can use C#/Silverlight or C/C++ environments to create metro apps too. You can still create non-metro apps too - all windows 7 apps will run on Windows 8.

By TheBigM72 on 13 Sep 2011

Overall

I think a great break through from microsoft, i love the ui, This is more aimed for those less technically able person i feel, since i prefer the windows 7 look (the old look) but since its easily switchable (to be seen) i do not mind. ease of use and navigation has been primary success for iphone, and the windows phone too starting to bring that into the market with the tiles view. I cannot wait until the beta is released so i can test this out fully, but so far it looks fantastic, i think if Microsoft do a little bit more of the hard work they are doing then they can completely seal up the monopoly in the OS market. I think with this Microsoft will no longer be the Need to use OS, but cool and stylish too..

By mobilegnet on 13 Sep 2011

Ridiculously non-business focused

Its difficult enough trying to convince businesses to get off XP and now this interface will make the computer experience in most offices completely alien from the 'consumer' experience. Who is MS targeting this at? The odd Apple geek or the millions of actual real users in offices around the world using proper applications built around a familiar interface.

I think it shows that they have entered the realms of cloud cuckoo land just to make the OS look 'trendy'.

It doesn't matter how 'easy' or 'natural' it is to use, businesses simply won't want to retrain millions of users to utilize it.

By alanmort on 13 Sep 2011

Mixed bag

Straight off the mark, I'm really liking a lot of the details coming out about Windows 8. The new metro interface will be superb on the tablet form factor.

My concerns come with the same interface being in play for a desktop computer as well. If all apps will be full screen, this is great on small screens with limited pixel real estate, however on large desktop screens with much larger pixel counts i'm really not convinced. having all apps full screen would defeat the object of a large desktop monitor for me.

I actually think in terms of this, Apple have struck the better balance for desktop form factors, where you can go full screen if you wish, but you default to using the classic style OS interface.

MS is taking a big gamble, and as I say there's a lot I like especially for the tablet form factor.

By hjlupton on 13 Sep 2011

a flop

This will be ok on tablets, but on the desktop they are taking this touch fad too far.

If they force us to use this "Metro UI" on the desktop then I'm afraid that I'm sticking to Windows 7 and will seriously have to consider which Linux distro to switch to.

Looks like this may be the "Vista" or "ME" release that you might want to skip.

By broccauley on 14 Sep 2011

Hmmm

I'd think that the reason that Windows is so dominant in both the domestic and business environments is because people either grew up with it in work or similar. Then when they came to buy a personal device it made sense to buy the same type of system to save them having to learn something new.

I just cant see business going with this because of the retraining required. Also most people have decent sized monitors and run more than one "app" at a time so the metro UI on a desktop just doesn't make sense.

Like others in the comments I reckon that it will be fine for mobile devices such as phones, tablets etc but certainly not for day to day desktop practices.

By GhillieDhu on 14 Sep 2011

Panic over

Yeah it's ok I've had a good look at the Build keynote and although Silverlight is not supported for Metro, XAML is. Also I've seen a few HTML5/JS programming demos and the new visual studio and blend handles that beautifully. Sorry SwissMac but Microsoft have won me back, they're just better for developers

By TimoGunt on 14 Sep 2011

When I'm cleaning windows

The problem with touch is that screens are forever dirty.

Most of the day I'm rubbing my HTC Desire up and down my sleeve. In the evenings I'm rubbing the iPAD over my stomach.

With MS insisting that all screens are now 'touch' it's just as well I've got a fat arse so I can keep my 30inch NEC MultiSync in tip top condition.

By SparkyHD on 14 Sep 2011

I Must Be Getting Old

Because I can't remember reading/hearing about millions of PC users clamouring for touch screen capability.
Who in there right mind wants a pre-school looking desktop like the latest i-whatever.
Yes a touchscreen interface is great. But on a phone.
This "apps" touchscreen nonsense is getting beyond a joke. It's like 3D TV, a fad for people who drive minis, eat tapas and have an attention span measured in micro-seconds.
If a standard working desktop cannot be set as default on a PC then I for one will not be getting Windows 8.

By ThatsMe on 14 Sep 2011

Netbooks

Is there a starter version that will run on lower powered netbooks like windows 7??

By Warrenj on 14 Sep 2011

I think this may just work...(but don't sell your iPad just yet..)

Firstly, I think MS have to be commended for their efforts. They've actually done something truly original and unlike certain other competitors, shown real innovatation here.

It's abundantly clear that they see the tablet form factor to be the real growth driver for this 'post-pc' age. And yet in typical fashion still retain legacy support for traditional systems.

Now all they need to be able to do is follow through and deliver.. Let's not forget this is all preview stuff and won't likely reach the market as actual products for at least another year. And then probably at least another to have all the kinks worked out with a service pack and humming smoothy on the ideal hardware..

That's 1 1/5 to 2 years away. That's a long time.

Even with those reservations, I do think they'll pull it off. Just lets also not forget, their competitors aren't static targets..

By ihsan on 14 Sep 2011

Oh dear...

Win 7 just became the new XP. Businesses will still be wedded to Win7 in 10 years from now.

It seems with this, M$ has brought into the iApple hype.

By fingerbob69 on 14 Sep 2011

@Warrenj

I have installed the W7 Professional on a Samsung N150 netbook. Runs absolutely fine. If W8 is going to indeed run fine on Atom with 1GB of RAM, there is probably no practical need. But don't worry, Microsoft will no doubt indulge us in a variety of versions and pricing options.

By Josefov on 14 Sep 2011

Lets consider a few things: Windows 8 will still support the full windows application set as we currently know it with keyboard and mouse control.

Also remember that currently the Windows 7 GUI is pretty much just an appliucation: explorer.exe. You will see it on task manager, so Windows 8 running the old GUI as an application is not actually anything different!).

Businesses will no doubt opt to run the old style interface, but forward thinking ones will probably have some nice ideas of using metro combined with options to launch applications in the old interface.

Overall, we are all happy using web broswers, so just view the whole desktop as Web application, happier now? There will be no need to use a touch display on your main desktop, fine if you have one and want to, otherwise the mouse will happily scroll left/right up/down and click to select.

Personally I think it's a breath of fresh air and will accomodate all devices and give variety.

I am open minded and willing to look forward to it rather than trashing it in advance when I haven't actually seen or used.

By AndyPC on 14 Sep 2011

@AndyPC

You haven't seen the Gallery of 20 images of W8 posted on this website that shows you what it looks like?

You wait and see what it looks like then.

By SwissMac on 14 Sep 2011

desktops probably won't use touchscreen but then it is only one click to get straght to the windows desktop.
Laptops, I think will be handy with touchscreen. You don't have to use it because you'll have a trackpad but after using a touch phone for the past few years, on occasions I actually put my finger up to tap on my laptop screen only to remember that it isn't touch enabled.
You should all watch the build keynote speech before trashing it but I respect your decision if you still aren't sure of Win 8. It is a massive change to the Windows environment and will scare a lot of people.
I'm actually looking forward to installing it tonight and having a go

By TimoGunt on 14 Sep 2011

Lets consider a few things: Windows 8 will still support the full windows application set as we currently know it with keyboard and mouse control.

Also remember that currently the Windows 7 GUI is pretty much just an appliucation: explorer.exe. You will see it on task manager, so Windows 8 running the old GUI as an application is not actually anything different!).

Businesses will no doubt opt to run the old style interface, but forward thinking ones will probably have some nice ideas of using metro combined with options to launch applications in the old interface.

Overall, we are all happy using web broswers, so just view the whole desktop as Web application, happier now? There will be no need to use a touch display on your main desktop, fine if you have one and want to, otherwise the mouse will happily scroll left/right up/down and click to select.

Personally I think it's a breath of fresh air and will accomodate all devices and give variety.

I am open minded and willing to look forward to it rather than trashing it in advance when I haven't actually seen or used.

By AndyPC on 14 Sep 2011

Watch a demo

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/09/14/micr
osoft_unveils_windows_8_tablet_effort_with_samsung
_prototype.html

This Flash demo looks a lot better (and sometimes a lot worse) than the static screenshots reproduced here. Check it out - and wonder why the full demo is on an Apple website and not on a PC one?

By SwissMac on 14 Sep 2011

The way forward for desktops ...

is surely to use a tablet-like device flat on the desktop AND a large-screen non-touch display. The large screen will show application content only and the controls will all be rendered for touch operation on the tablet.
Ultimately I believe we will all carry tablets about with us and these will be able to "throw" application content wirelessly onto large screens at fixed sites (as well as working locally when we are out and about). Some of these large screens will be "workstations" with keyboards and some will be even larger "media" displays for entertainment and presentations. But either way the processing and local file storage will be on the tablets.

By JohnAHind on 14 Sep 2011

JohnAHind +1

I agree with your thinking. Nobody really wants 2 disparate devices. When Laptops were lower function we docked them to a keyboard / monitor when in the office; this idea is a natural extension of that. Microsoft will address the lower processing power of tablets by using RDP and running big-metal apps on servers in the datacentre. Obviously some taks require multi-monitor setups or very high power graphics but they are typically less than 5% of most users - the sort of people who might use a Mac ;)

By milliganp on 15 Sep 2011

Touch Screen - get a life

Who on earth wants to use a touch screen all the time, leaning forward from a nice comfortable chair. I have enough trouble with the swish of my ebook reader giving me thumb ache after a couple of hours and that's in front of my nose. Give me a good screen,good keyboard and mouse any day of the week. Sorry Microsoft, just not interested. Might be alright on the Ipads of this world but not full blown desktops and I don't think I would be even interested on a laptop.

By valbatty1 on 15 Sep 2011

Touch Screens. been there - don't like

Greasy paw marks on my touch screen phone are bad enough.

So.. no thanks, I'm happy to stick with keyboard and trackpad (netbooks are great)

By technogeist on 15 Sep 2011

It seems to me that whenever Microsoft releases something that is really good, the next version is really bad.

From my own experience of using and supporting Microsoft software, I noticed the following: --

Office 2.0 - brilliant
Office 95 - stank
Office 97 - brilliant
Office 2000 - stank
Office XP - mediocre
Office 2003 - brilliant
Office 2007 - stank
Office 2010 - mediocre

Windows 3.1 - brilliant
Windows 95 - stank
Windows 98 - brilliant
Windows Me - stank
Windows XP - brilliant
Windows Vista - stank
Windows 7 (or 6.1) - brilliant
Windows 8 - we'll see

By John_Greythorne on 21 Sep 2011

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