Microsoft shows off Windows 8
So 14 hours of travelling, one two-hour delay and a missing bag later, I’m in Anaheim for the Build conference.
Build is Microsoft’s developer conference, and this year, it’s all about Windows 8. What it will do, how it will look, but not, unfortunately, a definite date when we’re likely to see it.
Let’s get one thing clear. This isn’t a minor tweak with a new name. It’s a complete overhaul. Yes, it builds in the good stuff from Windows 7, but as Microsoft was at pains to point out, it’s a “reimagining” of WIndows from the chipset up.
So this is the end result: an operating system that can be used across PCs, netbooks, slates and smartphones. It’s compatible with ARM devices too.
This is the developer preview device – shown here side by side with an iPad – Microsoft gave out yesterday on loan. It’s a Samsung 11.6-inch tablet, with a dock that charges, brings USB, HDMI and ethernet capabilities to the tablet. (Excuse the iPhone picture.)
Windows 8 looks a lot like Windows Phone 7 – especially when it comes to customisation. The desktop becomes an app, dumping the traditional start menu default view. Instead, when you start up and go through the lock screen you get this:
But you can switch to the desktop if you want to run software like Photoshop.
It’s built for touch, but also for use with a mouse and keyboard too, and the Samsung tablet came with a dock that added vital connections such as ethernet, USB and HDMI. Regardless of how you are interacting with it, the Lock screen and the main interface remain the same.
Swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left brings up what Microsoft is calling Charms – Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
You can scroll back through the active programs by swiping from left to right.
Microsoft is bringing in something called contracts for metro-style apps, which will allow apps to share with each other and become conduits for sharing.
First impressions? It’s not bad. The desktop-as-an-app might throw the average user at first, but you quickly get used to the idea. And while it’s unfamiliar, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Windows has kept the same interface style for years, and it doesn’t hurt to shake things up a little.
A few notes: not all Windows 8 devices will be able to run the desktop applications. ARM-based devices won’t suddenly gain the ability to run Photoshop, so there wil be some differences across the different categories of devices able to run Windows 8.
Also, the version of Windows 8 loaded on to the tablet is not yet final, so there were some omissions. I’ll reserve final judgment until we see a finished copy.