Windows 8 revealed: live tiles and fast-launching apps

2 Jun 2011

Microsoft has unveiled the most dramatic overhaul of the Windows operating system in its 25 years. The new Windows 8 can function just as well on a powerful desktop as it would on an 8-inch tablet and its tile-based interface borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7.

The new operating system was unveiled in the US at the All Things Digital D9 conference.

The OS has been described by Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice-president, Windows Experience, as a re-imagining of Windows.

“A Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse,” Larson-Green explained.

Features of the forthcoming Windows 8 OS include:

·         Fast-launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customisable, scalable and full-screen view of apps

·         Live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from apps

·         Fluid, natural switching between running apps

·         Ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so users can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows

·         Web-connected and web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript

“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.

“Although the new user interface is designed and optimised for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard. Our approach means no compromises – you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose, to run the apps you love. This is sure to inspire a new generation of hardware and software development, improving the experience for PC users around the world.”

Windows 8: an OS rebuilt from the ground up

Larson-Green explained that Windows 8 apps use HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML.

“Windows 8 apps can use a broad set of new libraries and controls, designed for fluid interaction and seamless connectivity. Apps can add new capabilities to Windows and to other apps, connecting with one another through the new interface. For example, we showed today how a developer can extend the file picker control to enable picking from their own app content or from within another Windows 8 app, in addition to the local file system and the network. We’re just getting started.

“And this isn’t just about touch PCs. The new Windows experience will ultimately be powered by application and device developers around the world — one experience across a tremendous variety of PCs.

“The user interface and new apps will work with or without a keyboard and mouse on a broad range of screen sizes and pixel densities, from small slates to laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, and even classroom-sized displays. Hundreds of millions of PCs will run the new Windows 8 user interface. This breadth of hardware choice is unique to Windows and central to how we see Windows evolving.”

To give an idea of how much Windows 8 is a complete rebuild from the ground up, Larson-Green pointed to earlier announcements by Microsoft about how Windows 8 will run on system on a chip (SOC) processors and Internet Explorer 10 will be native to the new OS.

“Windows 8 extends these innovations and re-imagines every level of the Windows architecture – the kernel, networking, storage, devices, user interface – all building on the broadest and richest ecosystem of software, peripherals and devices,” she said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years