BitDepth 800 - September 20

The Windows 8 Developer Preview launch promises a new, touch friendly version of Windows.
Microsoft introduces Windows 8
Microsoft’s Michael Angiulo and Steven Sinofsky show Intel-based ultrabooks running Windows 8 at the company’s Build conference for developers. Photo courtesy Microsoft.

On Tuesday last week, Microsoft lifted the veil on the newest version of Windows to an auditorium full of developers at its Build conference in California.
For those interested in the details on the new product, particularly if you develop for Windows, you can
view archived videos of the keynotes and other presentations here.

Introducing the software was Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s President, Windows and Windows Live Division and the good news for his audience was the announcement that Windows 7 had surpassed installations of Windows XP with 450 million copies of the operating system sold.
The company also boasted that there were more than 1,500 changes to Windows 7 between its release in October 2009 and the release of the first official service pack in February 2011.

The days of languid, perfunctory updates of Windows are clearly behind us now and the accelerated schedule of development for Windows 7 seems to have only sped up for the new version of the operating system.
Much of Sinofsky’s presentation spoke directly to the back engine work that’s gone into improving Windows 8 and much of it spoke directly to the needs of the programmers present.

But there’s also interesting stuff for ordinary end users in the presentation, the most obvious of which is the company’s emphasis on “small slate computers,” or Windows tablets.
“Touch,” Sinofsky told the Windows programmers, “is not just for small devices.” The software manager showed the software running on a range of computers, from superpowered desktop workstations to new superthin, Intel powered ultrabook systems to the tablet PCs that seem to be the real focus and intended destination of the newest iteration of Windows.

The new OS is still very much in development but much of what Microsoft shared during the launch seemed specifically focused on tablet and mobile development and the interface of the product favours that kind of use.
Terms like “touch first” and “full-screen” pervaded the launch presentations, and at one point, Sinofsky, pointing out the lack of intrusive features in the prerelease version of Internet Explorer 10, described them as “chrome-less,” which got a big laugh from the audience.

The launch also emphasised the kind of improvements that developers eyeing the growing market for tablet computing want to hear. An OS with leaner memory requirements that spawns fewer system processes is good for system performance, but an app store that directly targets the most notable failings of Apple’s market leading digital storefront is even better news for programmers. 

The new software store will also allow time-limited demos of products, a transparent approval process and software products with their own licensing systems can simply use the planned Microsoft app store (currently unnamed) as a show window.
Many of those programmers will want to take advantage of this early version of the software (
downloadable here- no activation, no support) to begin adapting their products to be used on touch screens, but Microsoft’s mantra is that if it runs on Windows 7, it will run on Windows 8.

The new touchscreen focused style of application developments are dubbed Metro apps, and they move interface elements out of the way of the viewing experience. Menus and key preferences, now dubbed “charms” appear when you touch the right borders of the software’s screen.
If all the liberal hints of a new tablet focus weren’t enough, at the end of the California keynote, Microsoft announced that 5,000 units of a Samsung Web Developer Preview tablet would be given away to Build attendees.

Oh, and one more thing...800 columns ago in September 1995, BitDepth began with a review of Windows 95.
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