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Microsoft posts Windows 8 preview with docked apps, app shop

updated 01:15 pm EDT, Tue September 13, 2011

Full Windows 8 UI and app store shown off

Microsoft at its Build conference showed off a Developer Preview with a much more complete view of Windows 8's interface than it showed in June. The new OS is built to uniquely take advantage of multitasking and has a new option for "dockable" apps: every Windows 8-native app has both a full-size and docked mode that lets them run side-by-side, such a social networking app next to a video. In full touch mode, users can swipe in from the right to get to the Start menu or similar core tasks and switch apps from the left.

The Start menu itself is organized into user-made groups and can use multi-touch to zoom out for a wider view. Microsoft also addressed a common complaint of Windows 7 tablets with a truly touch-native control panel and settings for individual apps that appear without interrupting whatever's taking place. A lock screen replicates some of Windows Phone's interface with notifications but a more advanced login process.

Microsoft envisions a "web of apps" where software has many more connections than it does now. Apps can make their content available to search or use, such as when picking photos, and can create "charms" for special uses, such as a sharing charm to take content from the web and post it through the app.

Core, under-the-hood settings have improved. Some account settings and media syncs through SkyDrive. Tablets and other devices designed to be always on have much more efficient standby and low-power states, particularly on ARM processors. Memory use is also much more efficient: a Windows 7 install that uses 404MB of memory uses just 281MB and can actually run faster on aging hardware. UEFI fast boot lets PCs with newer firmware boot up within a matter of seconds.

Microsoft also detailed some of how the Windows Store, its parallel to the Mac App Store, will work. Apps will need certification, but unlike the Apple store or the current Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft will have a detailed view of where an app is in the approval process and check against requirements. Both legacy Win32 apps and native Windows 8 apps will be sold, Microsoft said. In a dig at Apple, it also noted that it wouldn't require a change in licensing systems.

Apps can be written in a choice of multiple developer languages, including C, C#, C++, and Visual Basic, with Microsoft's self-made but open XAML as a common base. They can also be made through HTML and JavaScript. When published, native apps are pushed through a WinRT layer that translates them, including to ARM and x86.

The Developer Preview should be available late Tuesday at the Dev Center for registered developers. Public access hasn't been outlined but is widely rumored to be ready for CES in January. Developers at Build are getting a Samsung Slate PC Series 7 with the preview already installed to help them test apps on a touch-native device.

All of the changes are consciously designed to keep the PC relevant in the tablet era. Microsoft is considered the pioneer of tablet PCs but was almost immediately dwarfed by Apple, which sold more iPads in its first nine months than all Windows tablet PCs to that date. Executives at Microsoft have insisted that PCs would carry on but have done so even as HP considers abandoning home PCs and Acer has collapsed in an overall flat or declining market.

by MacNN Staff



  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looks good

    I love the Metro UI, but until I see it actually running on a real machine doing real, day-to-day work I will hedge my bets.

  1. BlueGonzo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Vista Reloaded

    I watched the whole keynote. Oh boy if this is really the new windows, we get the same scenario again: Most people stick with the current windows (now 7 or even xp) and Microsoft is running again into the same disaster like with windows vista.

  1. Herod

    Joined: Dec 1969


    looks like po

    op. well done M$.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Microsoft is trapped in the past

    In the year 2001, to be specific. Windows XP was released more than 10 years ago, and in the meantime what has Microsoft done? Vista, then the Windows 7 service pack for Vista.

    Vista did too many things differently. And Windows 7 does things differently enough that there is an "XP Compatibility Mode." And doing things differently means rewriting all those Win32-based apps. And businesses hate wasting money on useless busywork like that. So they'll stick with XP (or 7, if they bothered to upgrade.)

    XP will simply never die. It was "good enough" in 2001, and it's "good enough" now. It'll be "good enough" for another generation of office workers. Backward compatibility is a b****, isn't it, Ballmer?

  1. mytdave

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It will be interesting to see if people will buy into the new apps vs old apps on the Windows platform. Apple users had to make the change when moving away from System 7/8/9 to OS X. Sooner or later such a shift becomes inevitable. I'll be watching to see how Win people spin this one.

    I personally don't like the Metro UI at all. I think it's terribly ugly, and it's unclear what elements are supposed to be touched. Well, yea, you touch the squares, but in other places you touch text. And in some places it looks like you are supposed to touch text within a square. It's disjointed. The user can't form a clear expectation of what will happen when something is touched. It looks like a collection of banner ads instead of logical buttons, sliders, etc.

    I have to say one thing for MS though, and I never thought I'd see the day... But this time, they did not copy Apple. I've not seen this UI anywhere else, so it looks like they actually came up with something on their own! h*** must be getting cold, I wonder if we can go skiing yet. ;)

  1. mytdave

    Joined: Dec 1969


    stop auto-censor

    The auto-censor is obnoxious! The word H311 was used as a noun to describe a place, not as profanity. Ugh!

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You mean heII? Look, I can type it, no problem: heII.

    (hint: upper-case "i" makes a heIIuva "l")

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Once again, Microsoft proves they have no clue when it comes to designing a decent user interface. This just sucks. Glad I don't have to use Windows personally (just at work). But with Lion beginning to suck, Ubuntu is looking better all the time.

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