Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Windows 8 Preview Unveils New App Model


Windows 8 Preview Unveils New App Model

Microsoft offered a first look at its Windows 8 operating system and its new touch-enabled interface designed to run apps based on HTML5 and JavaScript.

Microsoft unveiled its next operating system, code-named "Windows 8," at the All Things Digital D9 Conference this week. Windows 8 is designed to run on multiple form factors including tablets, laptops and desktop PCs.

Windows 8 applications will be optimized for a touch-screen user interface. The Start screen looks a lot like the tile-based interface found on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. The familiar Windows start button no longer exists. It is replaced with "live tiles" that show updated information from social media, services and running apps. One of the tiles connects to what appears to be an app store.

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, said at D9 that Microsoft is introducing a new app model for Windows 8 applications based on HTML5 and JavaScript, which will be discussed in more detail at Microsoft's BUILD conference in September in Anaheim, CA. BUILD is a one-time event for developers, according to Microsoft, that will replace this year's Professional Developers Conference.

Windows 8 will support applications that currently run on Windows 7, and users will see that same familiar Windows 7 interface for those apps. The Windows 8 applications will be optimized for a touch-screen user interface, and other sensors in devices, although keyboard and mouse inputs will also work, according to Microsoft. Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps describes this approach as a "touch first" emphasis for developers. Windows 7 supports touch, but it lags somewhat in current tablet designs, she indicated.


Windows 8 Preview Unveils New App Model

[Click on image for larger view.]  

The Windows 8 start screen uses a tile-based UI approach, like the Windows Phone 7 OS. 

Microsoft described new libraries and controls for developers "designed for fluid interaction and seamless connectivity." For instance, the file picker control can be used to get info from an independent software vendor's application or from another Windows 8 application, and also tap the "local file system and the network."

Microsoft's Sinofsky told All Things Digital reporter Ina Fried that Microsoft had been planning the new OS ever since Windows 7's completion in July 2009 and that Microsoft was "influenced" by mobile phones in creating Windows 8. Sinofsky, along with Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president for the Windows experience, told D9 Conference hosts and journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher that Windows 8 represents the biggest Windows change since Windows 95, according to a transcript.

As noted in January at the Computer Electronics Show, Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to run on system-on-chip architectures, including x86 (AMD, Intel) and ARM Holdings designs. Chip partners include AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. It's thought that Windows 8 on ARM chips will open up new possibilities for low-power devices with different form factors. However, it's not clear if current Windows 7 applications will be easily ported to the new ARM-based hardware. Intel last month raised questions on that point, but Microsoft objected that Intel's comments were inaccurate and misleading.

Microsoft has not yet said when Windows 8 will appear on the market. CEO Steve Ballmer dropped the year 2012 for Windows 8's release, but Microsoft spokespersons later characterized his comment as a "misstatement." Epps suggested that if Microsoft can get Windows 8 to market in 2012, it will "stave off defection from OEM partners to alternative operating systems, and from consumers and enterprises tempted by Apple's platform."

Microsoft's bloggers have just gotten started sending out additional information about Windows 8. For a summary thus far, check out this Microsoft blog. Information on Microsoft's new upcoming Build conference for developers can be found here, where registration is currently open.

Microsoft describes Windows 8 in greater detail in this video.