Microsoft unveiled a preview of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system at the D9 conference which the firm dubbed a ‘reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface.’
The software giant described future Windows 8-based PCs as " a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse."
Taking a break from the classic Windows Start menu, Microsoft unveiled a tile-based Start screen reminiscent of the UI of the firm’s Windows Phone. Microsoft described it as a "customisable, scalable full-screen view" of applications.
The Start street tiles are not merely larger touch-friendly icons, although this is clearly part of Microsoft’s design philosophy, but rather rather the ‘Live tiles’ provide a window into the status of each application including notifications.
Microsoft were keen to highlight the fact that the radical new UI was equally at home under touch control as with control by a mouse.
"Although the new user interface is designed and optimized 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," said Microsoft Windows Experience boss Julie Larson-Green.
The UI is not, the firm claims, the only aspect of Windows to be overhauled. "Every level of the Windows architecture – the kernel, networking, storage, devices, user interface," would all get the Windows ‘reimagine’ treatment, the firm said.
Another of the interesting new directions Microsoft demonstrated for the next-gen OS is that of allowing developers greater ability to enhance the operating system.
"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," Larson-green said.
In a demonstration Microsoft showed how an extended file picker UI made it possible to select the developer’s application content from another application. Even before Windows 8 Microsoft was known to be looking at ways to move beyond the tradition disk filing system but such research was bumped from previous Windows.
It seems Microsoft has instead decided to let developers decide how best to provide access to the content from their applications to the user.
Microsoft promised a series of videos on "Buildings Windows 8" over the coming months, the first of which can been seen below: